I want to tell you about two weeks of the most demanding travel that I’ve ever anticipated. Altogether, the trip spans 17 days, sees me on five ships, in five hotels and on 15 flights from North America to Europe to Asia — and back.
The sheer number of cities I am visiting is breath-taking, literally. Miami to Asheville, Asheville to Charlotte, Charlotte to Washington, Washington to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Marseille, Marseille to Avignon, Avignon to Bordeaux, Bordeaux to Porto, Porto to Lyon, Lyon to Dubai, Dubai to Colombo, Colombo to Singapore, Singapore back to Colombo, Colombo back to Dubai, Dubai back to Lyon, Lyon to Copenhagen and eventually Asheville. Exhale.
To make the trip tolerable for my extra-large frame, I will fly Business Class, thankfully, between North America and Europe on United Airlines and to Singapore and back on Emirates (a first for me), the latter impressing me to no end.
For about half the price of Lufthansa’s Business Class, at around $3,200 for a cushy seat up front, Emirates includes private car service between my destinations and the airports that I’ll be flying to and from. That’s right. Emirates will pick me up in Lyon, deliver me to my hotel in Singapore (the Conrad Centennial on one night and the famed Raffles on the second night), return me to the airport in Singapore and deliver me to my destination in Lyon. The process of booking the cars was efficient, easily manageable — and at no additional cost — on emirates.com.
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Why would I put myself through the rigors of such extreme travel? I’m traveling to cover three christening events. The first begins on Tuesday, March 18, in Avignon, France, where Viking River Cruises will somehow manage to christen 16 river cruise vessels. Yes, you read that right, sweet 16. See details about the christening here or better yet, follow us on Tuesday at Live Voyage Reports, where we’ll have all the juicy details for you.
My journey takes me from Avignon to Bordeaux for a mini-cruise aboard Viking Forseti, which was christened last March, along with a bunch of other Viking ships. Traveling with my colleague, Aaron Saunders, I’ll be on board for a firsthand-preview of one of Viking’s newest itineraries.
Next stop, Porto, for an overnight stay on Viking Hemming and perhaps a few surprises in store.
From Porto, I travel to Lyon and onward to Singapore, via Dubai and Colombo (yes, that’s Sri Lanka), for the christening of Silversea Expeditions’ third vessel, Silver Discoverer.
Silversea Expeditions is quickly becoming one of my favorite cruise companies. The company certainly delivered one of my most memorable voyages, to Antarctic on Silver Explorer. You can read all 17,000 words with photos and video about the voyage if you wish at this link. Meantime, anticipate, as I will, some exciting coverage as I enjoy a reception with Silversea brass (and the guys who work in the trenches to deliver great Silversea Expeditions’ itineraries) at the famed Raffles Hotel Monday March 24, and the christening of the new vessel the next day.
I’ll head back to Lyon for yet another river cruise christening, Uniworld’s SS Catherine. Christened by her godmother and namesake, legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve, the new vessel will will sail the regions of Burgundy and Provence on two of Uniworld’s most popular itineraries. I can’t wait to step aboard this beautiful vessel in one of the world’s most intriguing cities.
It is interesting to note that all of the vessels I will be on board, if only for a night on some, carry fewer than 200 passengers each. In fact, if you totaled the capacity for all 18 ships being christened, you’d end up with a number equivalent to the capacity of a single Celebrity Solstice-class vessel.
It’s 9:06 p.m. here at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. One hour to go before boarding United Airlines Flight 932 to Frankfurt, connecting to Marseille and transferring to Avignon. “It it’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” is the title of the 1969 movie about Brit Charlie Cartwright, who sets out on a nine-country, 18-day bus trip from London to Rome. I won’t be in Belgium on either of the Tuesdays during the next two weeks, but I think I know just how old Charlie Cartwright was feeling at the outset of his travels — and eventually, I’ll know how he felt at the end.
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com