Think History Is Boring? Try A Viking River Cruise

 Learning about history; how it affected the world and the lessons for future generations is a classic learning model everyone who has the ability to read this should relate to. Regardless of when and where the topics of world history and geography were taught, some people come away from the experience inspired to learn more. Others get through it and move along. Then there are Vikings.

Ancient Vikings explored Europe by its seas and rivers for trade, raids and conquest. Simply following their expansion, those curious about such things can learn a great deal about the settlement of Iceland, Normandy,Scotland, Ireland, Russia and more. Commonly regarded as bloodthirsty pirates, ancient Vikings were also traders, settlers and farmers with a solid artistic culture and legal system. Tagged as a barbaric and brutal bunch early on, their affect on how the world turned out is undeniable.

Also undeniable is the effect of today’s Vikings, those of Viking River Cruises, on the world of travel. Longship by longship, they are changing the landscape of options available to travelers, enabling them to see and do things never before thought possible. On Viking River Cruises we get up close and personal with iconic landmarks, UNESCO World Heritage sites, our past and other like-minded travelers. But Viking is not the only river cruise company in the world, there are many others. So why is Viking able to build and launch 20+ ships in one year? What drives their growth and popularity?

Getting those travelers on ships is accomplished by a huge marketing effort to spread the word about what they do. Colorful, well-produced video paints a picture of what one might see on a Viking cruise. Sponsorship of Public TV’s Masterpiece Theater and a close association with Downton Abbey add more exposure. A nicely done website, rich with information and easy to navigate is a plus as are brochures sent in the mail to interested parties.

But there is a huge difference between getting travelers on a ship and engaging them once there. Viking does both.

A core element ofthe Viking experience is preparing travelers for what they are about to experience. It begins with those marketing efforts mentioned above and continues with pre-cruise literature specific to the part of the world travelers will visit. On board Viking ships, elements of the experience range from a geographic-specific culinary focus to sourcing crew members from places their ships visit. The ship’s Viking Daily newsletter drives it home.

On a recent trip overseas for the christening of 18 Viking longships in France one day, followed by two more in Portugal, I saw the modern day Viking plan in action. Starting in France on the Rhone River, the Viking Daily brought travelers up to speed then pushed their minds beyond “I’m on a cruise” to “I am living history and the world is a great big beautiful place”.

Consider this:

The Rhone river runs 505 miles from its beginning in the Swiss Alps and its eventual end in the Mediterranean. For a drop of water to make the journey, it will go through the French Alpilles, Lake Geneva then the Rhone Valley which shares a climate with the Mediterranean. At Aries, where the Rhone splits into two branches, that drop of water will either go down the Grand Rhone or the Petit Rhone. As it does, it will pass through the Camargue region, a delta formed by those branches and one of the most fertile in the world.

That information came from the Viking Daily’s River Portrait, a featured element of the publication that engages travelers with bullet point facts about the river they are about to travel on. It’s the same river that was and still is traveled for trade, commerce and recreation now as it was centuries ago. To help appreciate the experience, Viking packages that information to be of interest to the culturally curious travelers on board.

As this was our first stop in France, the Viking Daily provides useful background information in the form of Fast Facts and A Bit Of History as well as A Few Helpful Words in French. If we have been paying attention and walk off the ship on the included tour that rolls it all together, the world starts to make sense, geographically anyway. Walk off the ship in the adventurous spirit of the ancient Vikings, (minus the plundering) and we gain a tiny new perspective on not only the world but ourselves as well.

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