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Spring on the Seine: What Viking's new longship Viking Radgrid is really like

Author: Vicky Mayer

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Viking cruise line is adding eight new longships to its river cruising fleet this spring. World of Cruising enjoyed culture galore on an action-packed mini-cruise down the Seine aboard new ship Viking Radgrid.

Riding a bike. It’s easy, right? Well of course it is, if you know-how. But here I am, nearly 20 years since I last sat in a saddle, smiling nervously as my fellow guests and we choose our bikes, strap on our helmets and set off in the direction of Giverny, the pretty village on the Seine where the great impressionist painter Claude Monet made his home.

It’s hardly more than a couple of miles from our ship – Viking Radgrid – to the village, on a straight, car-free path. So it’s not the most difficult of bike rides, but for rusty old me, it’s a trip I’ll never forget.

Why? Because apart from a wobbly first few yards, I soon remember that cycling is not so hard, and in the 20 minutes it takes us to reach Giverny, all my confidence comes back.

If you’re acquainted with Viking cruises, you’ll know that one of the big attractions is their extensive list of complimentary excursions.

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And on this mini four-night taster version of their popular destination-packed ‘Paris & the Heart of Normandy’ cruise, cycling to Giverny is just one of the many fun things to do as you sail down the Seine.

Though I’ve visited Paris many times, I’ve never ventured beyond the 20 arrondissements that define its centre. I can’t wait to see what lies beyond, and what better time to do it than spring?

- READ MORE: Full list of maiden river voyages this year -

The journey by Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord is easy, taking a mere two hours and 16 minutes. And unlike air passengers, we arrive in the city centre, ready to begin our French adventure.

Viking is known for its luxurious river ‘Longships’, and this spring the line is adding eight new vessels, bringing the fleet up to an impressive total of 80. Among them is Viking Radgrid (named after one of the legendary horse-riding Valkyries) which now awaits us at her mooring right in the centre of Paris, almost under the Eiffel Tower.

Viking Radgrid awaits us at her mooring right in the centre of Paris. Credit: Viking

Viking Radgrid cabins

Along with her new sister ships, Radgrid has been beautifully designed in the light and airy Scandinavian style, and my veranda stateroom – though compact at 205sq ft – is delightful.

The bed is super comfy, there’s plenty of room on the balcony to sit and read or admire the passing view, and the bathroom, with its underfloor heating and power shower, is one of the best you’ll ever enjoy on a river cruise.

- READ MORE: How to pick a river cruise cabin -

Viking Radgrid public areas

At 125 metres in length and carrying 168 passengers, Viking Radgrid offers her guests plenty of space, both indoors and out, in which to relax and enjoy their holiday.

In the public areas, you’ll find a well-stocked library, with books specially selected by London bookshop Heywood Hill, plus some striking original Nordic artwork.

If the weather gods smile on your cruise, the Sun Deck is the perfect place to sit back and relax with a coffee or a cold beer as the ship glides quietly downriver.

Alternatively, the enclosed lounge and bar offer roomy areas to meet friends, whatever the time or the conditions.

Viking Radgrid: The Sun Deck is the perfect place to sit back and relax with a coffee or a cold beer. Credit: Viking

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Viking Radgrid dining

We’re not due to sail until the next morning, so our first night is spent enjoying a three-course dinner in The Restaurant, the ship’s main dining room.

Here the menu changes daily and includes many regional specialities – in this case, hearty boeuf Bourguignon and tempting chateaubriand – as well as classic favourites such as Caesar salad and steak frites.

- READ MORE: How to pick the river cruise line that’s right for you -

Vegetarians and vegans are also well catered for, and there is a wide selection of wines, which are complimentary at lunch and dinner.

Unlike some of today’s oceangoing mega-ships, where it can often take you a quarter of an hour to get back to your cabin, river cruisers such as Viking Radgrid are a delight because you can polish off your nightcap, bid farewell to your travelling companions and be cosily tucked up in bed in less than two minutes. Joy!

Viking Radgrid: Afternoon tea is just one of the repasts you can enjoy onboard the ship. Credit: Viking

Viking cruise excursions

The greatest attraction of river cruising is, of course, the sightseeing, and on our mini trip down the Seine and back we get the chance to enjoy guided tours around Paris, a private tour of the Louvre museum, a walk around the royal town of St Germain-en-Laye, plus a visit to the Palace of Versailles and an afternoon out in Giverny. As a lover of French culture, I’m in heaven.

Monet knew a good thing when he saw it, too, and the moment we cycle into Giverny I realise why the great artist made his home here. The landscape is dreamy, the elegant sandstone houses line up majestically along the main thoroughfare and the light is beyond compare.

The house itself, with its wonderful garden, doesn’t open until April, so we miss the chance of taking a selfie on the green bridge and admiring the famous lily pond. But a visit to the nearby Musée des Impressionnismes is a total treat, and an exhibition showing the similarities between Monet and the US abstract artist Mark Rothko gives us all cultural food for thought.

- READ MORE: How to get the most out of cruise excursions -

Climbing back on our bikes, we head towards the old mill on the medieval bridge at Vernon, the subject of a thousand postcards and even more delightful sight in real life.

If you love small independent shops and boutiques as much as I do, St Germain-en-Laye is a great place to visit. The town is home to wealthy Parisians who’ve retired from the city and brought their shopping habits with them. The window displays in the interiors and clothes stores would give Selfridges a run for its money, and everything you buy is gift-wrapped to perfection.

If Marie Antoinette were alive today, this is where she’d shop. She’d also be one of the world’s top interiors influencers – though in a way she already is, such is the sheer splendour of the palace she shared with her husband, King Louis XVI.

Sited some 12 miles west of Paris, Versailles sets the all-time benchmark for regal opulence, and as I stroll from the Hall of Mirrors to Marie Antoinette’s bedchamber, I marvel open-mouthed at the decadence on display. Outside, nearly 2,000 acres of gardens look equally impressive, with their smart displays of topiary and French-style formal planting.

Paris: The moment we cycle into Giverny I realise why Monet made his home here. Credit: Shutterstock

Viking Radgrid: Verdict

Is there such a thing as cultural overload? Not in my book, and I’m delighted to be soaking up every last drop of France’s amazing art, history and architecture. Which is why on the final evening I’m the first to board the small party boat that will take us for a trip along the Seine by night.

Wrapped up in soft blankets, with glasses of champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries in hand, we’re a chorus of oohs and ahhs as we pass the illuminated Eiffel Tower, the gothic pinnacles of Notre Dame and the banks of the Seine, where Parisians gather to meet under twinkling lights.

I always think river cruises get an unfair rap, but even ocean-cruise purists would be impressed by a voyage down the Seine on Viking Radgrid. C’est magnifique!

- READ MORE: Best world-class cultural cruises -

Get on board

Seven-night ‘Paris & the Heart of Normandy’ cruise aboard Viking Radgrid, round trip from Paris via La Roche-Guyon, Rouen, Les Andelys and Le Pecq, departing September 27, 2022, from £3,795.

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