It’s easy to see why Aussies are falling for Viking with a delightful itinerary and stylish riverboat combining to create a wonderful way to explore France’s south-west corner.
Have you heard of the Viking god Buri?
No? Don’t fret, because you’re not on your own.
I only learn about this character when I board the Viking Longship Buri for a week of river cruising in the south of France and receive a crash course on Nordic legends after spying the big guy’s portrait crowning the lobby staircase.
It turns out he’s the first god of Norse mythology, and while I’m sure Buri had fancy digs back in the day there’s no way his quarters could compare to the Viking vessel named in his honour.
I’m spending a week exploring the section of the Rhone that sweeps between Lyon and Avignon and boarding Viking Buri in France’s third-largest city couldn’t be easier with a crew member collecting my luggage at the gangplank and one of the three expert concierges aboard presenting my room key.
Another crew member leads the way to my stateroom and details a few features – how to adjust the air-conditioner and tweak the ensuite’s under-floor heating, where to find the life jacket, the location of the safe – and then points to the restaurant where lunch is ready for early arrivals.
Viking Buri boasts four decks with the 95 passenger staterooms spread across three levels and public spaces – including the Viking Lounge and Aquavit Terrace – occupying area forward of the airy two-level lobby.
There are eight cabin types, from Explorer Suites to the standard water-level lodging, and I’m occupying 211 which is a Veranda Stateroom with a snug ensuite featuring a shower and a private balcony.
It has everything a traveller expects from a studio on a top-end vessel with a comfortable bed and fine linen, in-house movies on the cabin TV, fragrant products in the bathroom, and ample storage space.
And, thanks to a happy coincidence of weather and room location, I’m on the starboard side of the boat which means my cabin is soaked in springtime sunshine on the three consecutive afternoons Viking Buri makes the downstream drift.
I expect the riverboat that joined the fleet in 2014 to be all about Scandi style, but it’s more sophisticated than that boasting the handsome elegance of a five-star hotel brand like Park Hyatt or Mandarin Oriental.
Pale wood, cool blue accents like the cushions on the couches, breezy curtains, panels of polished glass that let the springtime light flood inside, and potted orchids all combining to create calm interiors.
There’s a herb garden on the sundeck that chefs visit to source ingredients for every meal, a library nook with engaging titles packing the shelves, and an on-board musician who tickles the ivories at different times of the day.
But it’s the Aquavit Terrace that’s really special with this casual dining area above the bow not only offering passengers another place to eat every meal but a location to graze outside during sunny days like the ones I’m enjoying on this March departure.
Viking’s Lyon & Provence is one of the regional journeys proving popular with those returning to river cruising after completing the traditional route between Amsterdam and Budapest and most passengers on this cruise have made multiple voyages along Europe’s famous inland waterways.
There’s the opportunity to linger in every location, because great distances need not be covered, and during my eight days on board I visit eight destinations while completing a sedate journey that a flying crow could cover in less than 230km.
My downstream drift starts in Lyon, where there’s an excursion to Perouges as well as guided tours exploring the city, and then there’s time to discover villages from Vienne to Arles as we make our way to Avignon.
- READ: 5 hottest destinations to book a river cruise in 2020
- READ: 6 ways Viking are changing the game in Australian cruising
- READ: Viking Orion sails into Australia for the first time
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