Viking’s Bordeaux, Part One

Peter Knego heads to Bordeaux to sample a portion of the new cruise itinerary offered by Viking River Cruises VIKING FORSETI Longship. Highlights include an overview of the ship, walking tours of beautiful Bordeaux and a visit to the Medoc wine country.

Viking River Cruises

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: A new DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2014.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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MV VIKING FORSETI at Bordeaux.
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A Viking Welcome!

A familiar apparition greeted us upon boarding Viking River Cruises VIKING FORSETI Longship at Bordeaux after our brief flight and transfer from Avignon.

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VIKING FORSETI Stateroom 209, facing starboard.

We were assigned the identical Category B Veranda Stateroom on the FORSETI as we had on the HEIMDAL on the two prior nights, so instantly felt at home.

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VIKING FORSETI Stateroom 209 WC.
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L’Occitane product.

Aside from a different counter top in the loo, were there any significant variations in the FORSETI’s stateroom décor, fittings or amenities? Stay tuned for a future Decked! feature for more on that…

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VIKING FORSETI on the Garonde.

We would have time to unpack and settle in after the first walking tour. With the FORSETI berthed at the historic Quai in the heart of the bustling city, several key attractions were mere steps away.

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Miroir d’Eau.

Our first stop was the Miroir d’Eau, which gently floods and emits mist at regular intervals throughout the day. In the summertime, it is choc-a-bloc with revelers but on this balmy winter day, we had an almost unencumbered view of the Customs House and Stock Exchange.

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Totally Random Mascarone shot #1.
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Totally Random Mascarone Shot #2.

Our guide pointed out the mascarones, the stone faces of mythical characters that grace the facades of Bordeaux’ myriad structures.  So many to revel at, so little time…

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St. Catherine Street.

We continued onwards to St. Catherine Street, the city’s busy pedestrian artery, then around to the Hotel de Ville and Opera House before returning to the ship for dinner.

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VIKING FORSETI upper level of Lobby, facing aft from port.

Back on board, I noted the different decorative elements in the lobby and reception area of the 2013-built FORSETI from her three slightly newer sisters in Avignon. The decking was a simulated wood versus the cool linoleum tones of the other ships and the FORSETI had wooden slats in lieu of veined marble framing her stairs.

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VIKING FORSETI Restaurant, facing forward.

The restaurant (like the rest of the ship, a study in Scandinavian modern, minimalist elegance) can accommodate all 190 guests in one leisurely seating.

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Amuse bouche.

Another four course dinner accompanied by a pair of included Bordeaux wines began with a beautifully presented amuse bouche.  Throughout the week, the food on Viking was on par with or even slightly better than some of its highly rated ocean-going competition.

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Orb versus The Custom House and Stock Exchange.

The night was still young enough to join a small walking tour, retracing our steps from hours earlier but with the caveat of dramatic lighting.

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Le Cafe Francais.

Places we had passed earlier in the day without taking much notice took on an entirely new life.

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Giant bronze in Place de la Comedie.

Even the modern bronze face near the opera house seemed especially pensive and mysterious under a rising moon.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

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VIKING FORSETI Totally Random Carpet Shot.

I took advantage of being up far too early to document our handsome river ship.

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VIKING FORSETI Observation Lounge facing forward from port.

The Observation Lounge has floor-to-ceiling windows and a wooden bar reminiscent of the hull of a genuine viking longship.

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VIKING FORSETI Aquavit Terrace, facing port.

And the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace might be seen as the river cruise ship’s answer to the ocean-going Magrodome with its retractable glass screen.

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VIKING FORSETI forward Deck Four, facing aft.

Up on Deck Four, the amount of sunning and observation space is mind-boggling. After all, even minus the foredeck and crew area at the stern, it is almost 400 feet long and 37.5 feet wide. Note the telescopic wheelhouse, which can be lowered to allow the ship to pass under certain bridges.

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VIKING FORSETI midships Deck Four, facing aft.

Sheltered loungers, open sunning space, a walking track…

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VIKING FORSETI aft Deck Four.

…shuffleboard, putting and a spice garden, too. But, alas, no exercise equipment, which for those of us who depend on a daily cardio routine, is a challenging omission.

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Omelet.

For breakfast, it was another perfectly prepared omelet, sensibly cooked in olive oil. Now, if I could only make them like this at home…

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Bordeaux’s Medoc wine country.

Our full day tour of the Medoc wine region was a combination of the included tour Viking provides on its new Garonne itinerary with a special visit to the famed Chateau Mouton-Rothschild winery thrown in for extra good measure.

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Chateau Margaux.

Into the Margaux region in Medoc’s “left bank”, like Hemingways, we ventured, even stopping for a quick photo of the famed Chateau Margaux winery.

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Prieuré-Lichine cellars.
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Wine tasting at Chateau Prieuré-Lichine.

We enjoyed a tour of the vast cellars and a tasting at the friendly and prestigious Prieuré-Lichine winery, followed by lunch at a cafe in the village of Lynch-Bages.

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Chateau Mouton-Rothschild.
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Gardens at Chateau Mouton-Rothschild.

It was a rare treat to be able to visit Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, which ranks with Chateau Latour and Chateau Margaux among the region’s (and world’s, for that matter) finest.

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Yaacov Agam and Paul Delvaux labels.

Our lovely guide took us through the cellars and then allowed plenty of time for us to peruse its remarkable museum and gallery of original Rothschild label art by everyone from Picasso, Chagall, Agam and Haring to film director John Huston. Alas, no photos of the originals allowed!

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Mouton de Rothschild tasting room.

Next came our chance to taste three Rothschild “reds” before we returned to the coach.

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Carrelets (traditional fishing huts) on the estuary.
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VIKING FORSETI at Blaye.

While we were off hurtling through the Medoc countryside, the VIKING FORSETI had sailed downriver. We took a short ferry ride from the town of Lamarque in Medoc across the estuary to meet the ship in Blaye.

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Viking Sunset on the Garonne.

Our arrival on board the FORSETI was marked with a pensive sunset.

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Wine tasting with Susie Barrie.

After dinner, we almost called it a night but decided to stop in and see what was going on in the Observation Lounge, instead. At first, the thought of another wine tasting seemed gratuitous after a day at wineries and a lavish dinner accompanied by more of it. But after just a few minutes, we knew we were in for a treat with UK-based television broadcaster and writer Susie Barrie at the helm. The godmother of VIKING HEIMDAL gave us some great tips, all the better when the wine, itself, is accompanied with delicious cheeses. Fortunately, we could sleep it off a bit in the morning!

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VIKING FORSETI Lobby.

After a night of dining and wining, going straight to bed was not an option.

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Aaron Saunders presents “Giants Of The Seas”.

There was some down-time to visit with friends in our press group. One fellow blogger, Vancouver-based Aaron Saunders of From The Deck Chair, has just published his first book on cruise ships. The beautifully illustrated and well-written-and-researched tome is entitled “Giants Of The Seas (The Ships That Transformed Modern Cruising)” and includes a pantheon of ships from 1988’s SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS to the Viking Longships launched in 2012. Not your usual cruise industry recap, it covers new territory and brims with excellent images and insightful text. For more information, please go to
From The Deck Chair
.

End of Viking’s Bordeaux, Part One

Much More To Come…

Special thanks: Sara Conley, Martin Cox, Ian Jeffries

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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