Travel Tidbits: Fly to Paris, cruise the Seine

The Stuck at The Airport cruise team recently sailed as a guest on the Viking Radgrid on Viking’s Paris & the Heart of Normandy itinerary.

Here are some snaps and notes from the trip in case you’re thinking of heading that way once all the stories start flowing about the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics and the June 4th anniversary marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings along the Normandy coast during World War II.

We took advantage of a day and half docked in Paris to join a walking tour, visit a museum, ride the Paris Metro and take a food tour during which we drank wine and ate cheese and macarons, of course, but also spied some other edible treasures.

A few stops to savor

The village of La Roche-Guyon, about an hour from Paris on the Seine, is home to Château de La Roche-Guyon, a curious 12-century castle that’s been transformed over several centuries.

Fans of Vincent Van Gogh make sure to visit Auvers-Sur-Oise, the town where the artist painted and drew 74 pictures in a fervish 70 days and where he is buried alongside his brother, Theo.

Rouen, France

Joan of Arc, the patron saint of France, was burned at the stake in a marketplace in Rouen, France in 1431. But the town is also known for the Notre Dame of Rouen Cathedral, a much-photographed 14th-century astronomical clock, museums, and more.

Normandy: Caen Memorial Museum, American Cemetery, Omaha Beach

Many book this cruise for the full-day excursion that includes a visit to the Caen Memorial Museum, the Normandy American Cemetery and the Omaha Beach Memorial.

The museum is immersive, with sections (often very graphic) detailing events the causes, consequences, key players and decisive battles of World War II, the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy.

It is shocking and difficult to see some of the images and read many of the documented stories in this museum, but we were heartened by the sight of this crystal radio receiver hidden inside a vegetable can that and used by a French Resistance fighter.

The cemetery contains the graves of 9,387 military dead and, On the Walls of the Missing, an additional 1,557 names, with rosettes marking the names of those since recovered and identified.

And at Omaha Beach, the Les Braves (The Brave) memorial by Anilore Banon was installed in 2004 as the offiical sculpture of 60th anniversary commemoration of the World War II Normandy landings.

Way slower than flying

The Stuck at the Airport cruise review team has been on assignment on a ship for the past two weeks making our first transatlantic voyage from Rotterdam, The Netherlands to New York City.

We’ve been on Holland America Line’s Rotterdam, which is recreating the line’s very first voyage, which took place exactly 150 years ago.

These days, of course, flying from Europe to the United States is the way to go. And the journey, by plane, is perhaps 7 hours. If the flight takes much longer, modern-day travelers start complaining.

On this journey, though, the crossing has taken 7 days.

It’s always thrilling to see the view of New York City when landing at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

But early this foggy morning, sailing past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is an entirely different, and oddly emotional, experience.

Museum Monday highlights from Viking.TV

Courtesy Kon-Tiki Museum

We’re setting off for Iceland in a few weeks to join Viking for one of their Welcome Back cruises. So we have been poking around the company’s website.

One impressive resource there for the general public is Viking.TV. It was created in response to the pandemic and this channel is chock full of videos about art, culture, history, food, music, architecture, and destinations around the world.

Our favorite feature is Museum Monday. Stop in and you’ll see that there are now more than 60 videos about museums and collections. including some wonderful behind the scene tours.

You’ll find your own favorites, but here are a few of the videos that captured our attention and our imagination this week. We started with a visit to the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway, home to Thor Heyerdahl’s original Kon-Tiki raft and the papyrus boat Ra II.

We also went down a rabbit hole at London’s British Museum learning about how prepared the museum for lockdown and toured the collection of the Alaskan objects at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, England.

World’s first hybrid electric-powered cruise ship arrives in North America

When it comes to the environment and sustainability, cruise ships and many cruise ship operators get failing grades when it comes to controlling carbon emissions, recycling and treating water, waste and sewage.

But thanks to new technology and the scrutiny of passengers, government agencies and environmental groups, the tide is beginning to turn in favor of the earth.

Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten is on the leading edge of that effort with the world’s first hybrid electric-powered expedition ship, which recently made history as the first ship of its kind to traverse the Northwest Passage.

The 530-passenger MS Roald Amundsen is named for the Norwegian explorer who was the first person to navigate the Northwest Passage by boat and the first person to cross Antarctica and reach the South Pole.

Hurtigruten’s sustainability policies include a ban on single-use plastics and the goal of being totally emission-free within 20 years. The Roald Amundsen moves the company towards that goal by featuring a hybrid operating system that uses large banks of batteries to supplement the power of the main engines, which run on low sulfur marine gas oil.

“Excess, unneeded energy from the engines is stored in the batteries and when the engine needs extra energy, we draw it back from the batteries and feed it into the engines,” Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam told NBC.

That reduces fuel usage, allows the engines to operate at their optimum levels and lowers CO2 emissions by 20 percent.  

The ship also has the option to run on battery power alone for limited periods, during which time it uses no fuel and creates zero emissions.           

Charging the batteries from the ship’s excess energy is essential, said Skjeldam, because there are currently no power charging stations for ships to plug into in port.

The company’s next hybrid ships will be different, he says.

Those ships will have plug-in capability and be able to recharge at power stations Skjeldam expects to be set up along the Norwegian coast and elsewhere.

The world’s first hybrid-powered cruise ship set sail from Norway in July and is now in Vancouver, B.C. preparing for a season of expedition cruises in Antarctica. Hurtigruten will debut a second hybrid-powered ship, the MS Fridtjof Nansen, in 2020. A third, yet unnamed hybrid-powered ship will be delivered in 2021.

Hurtigruten’s next generation of hybrid ships, along with a half-dozen of its retrofitted existing ships, will run on a mixture of battery power, liquified natural gas (LNG) and biogas made from organic waste, such as dead fish.

“Bio-gas is like a Kinder Egg of fuel; it is like those chocolate eggs with treats inside,” said Skjeldam. “Passengers on our ships will eat fish. The waste from that fish and from the fish farming industry will go into a production plant that generates gas for our ships and creates fertilizer for the agriculture industry.”

Skjeldam says that, for now, Hurtigruten’s hybrid ships and its commitment to far-reaching sustainability practices is an expensive proposition.

“We expect the technology to be cheaper in the future. But we know passengers don’t want to visit beautiful, pristine places on an operator that is not taking the nature they sail to seriously. Some cruise lines say they’re green, but passengers can tell the difference.”

Other cruise lines do their part – or not

The world’s largest cruise company, U.S.-based cruise ship operator Carnival Corp., was in court this week to address charges that it continues to violate environmental laws by discharging plastics, food, or “gray water” into protected areas.

“Compliance, environmental protection, safety — it’s the first thing,” Arnold Donald told the court. “Without it, we don’t have a business.”

On the positive side, though, Norwegian Cruise Lines Partners recently announced that it is on target to reach its goal of replacing all single-use plastic bottles across its fleet by Jan. 1, 2020.

Lindblad Expeditions announced its intention to become a carbon-neutral company starting this year by making investments to offset 100 percent of its emissions.

And the global cruise industry is working as a group to meet a goal the Cruise Lines International Association announced in 2018 of reducing the rate of carbon emissions across the industry fleet by 40 percent by 2030.

(My story about the world’s first hybrid electric-powered cruise ship first appeared on

Cruising with astronauts in Italy

I’m incredibly fortunate – and very starstruck – to be sailing this week on Viking’s fifth and newest ocean ship, the Viking Orion, during its maiden voyage with her ceremonial godmother, American chemist, emergency room physician and retired NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher, who brought along dozens of special guests, scientists, astronomers and more than a dozen of her fellow former and current astronauts.

The 930-guest, 47,800-ton Viking Orion is named after the Orion constellation and in honor of Dr. Fisher’s work on NASA’s Orion exploration vehicle project.

I’m prowling the decks with a print-out of the photos of the astronauts and other space experts hoping to meet them all and ask them questions about everything from travel tips learned from space travel to memories of their first flights. (Getting them to sign my press release would be awkward, right?)

Their answers will appear here and in various assigned stories I’ll share links to later, but in the meantime, here are some photos and tidbits from the spectacular naming ceremony that took place in Livorno, Italy that included musical performances, tributes to Nordic mythology, a flying ‘spaceman’ who traveled over the crowd and around the ship by jetpack and fireworks.



In Livorno, the ship was docked beside the city’s historic Medici-built Fortezza Vecchia (Old Fortress) and a special interactive exhibit was set up inside to tell the stories of exploration technology throughout history – from the Vikings’ solar compass to Galileo’s gravitational and projectile motion experiments.

Among the special features on this ship is a  26-seat planetarium-like theater called the Explorers’ Dome – showing special panoramic films about exploration, such as “Journey to Space” and “Life Under the Arctic Sky” in a fully immersive environment.

Viking Orion continues her maiden season sailing itineraries in the Western and Eastern Mediterranean this summer before heading east to sail Viking’s newest itineraries in Asia, Australia and Alaska.

Stay tuned for more.