ABOVE: Another view of the MS Maribelle
in Chalon-sur-Saône, where the ship was moored
along the downtown waterfront.
MS Maribelle: The ship
Anders and I caught our first glimpse of the
Viking Burgundy, as MS Maribelle
was then called, when the cruise line's transfer bus arrived in Chalon-sur-Saône
after a 90-minute drive from Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport. The ship was moored at
the river's edge in the town center, and the boarding process was simple: We
just crossed the short gangway, identified ourselves at the reception desk, and
picked up our magnetic room keys.
A different kind of ship
The MS Maribelle is
smaller and more intimate than an oceangoing ship. The hull and superstructure
are combined into a long, low, narrow box-shaped vessel with a streamlined bow.
The ship has just three enclosed decks, plus a sundeck with a wheelhouse that
can be lowered hydraulically to fit under low bridges.
All of the MS Maribelle's
public rooms are on the Upper Deck. As you step off the gangway, you enter a
spacious reception area with a desk and self-serve beverage area where you can
get ice water, coffee, and other beverages such as ice tea or fruit juice
throughout the day. Turn toward the bow, and you'll see a tiny shop with Viking
River Cruises logo wear and a variety of gift items. On the other side of the
reception area, a left turn will lead you into a small library with comfortable
seating, a modest selection of books, and a rack filled with up-to-date
magazines and English-language newspapers such as the International Herald
Tribune, The Times, and Wall Street Journal Europe.
Go through the shop or the library, and you'll find yourself in
the lounge. This is a large room with floor-to-ceiling windows, a bar, a small
musicians' area and dance floor, and plenty of tables with upholstered chairs.
(The lounge is used for the cruise manager's announcements and port talks,
afternoon tea, nighttime entertainment by a one-man orchestra or guest
performers, watching the sights when the ship is
cruising, and the occasional catnap.)
On the other side of the reception area, steps lead to the
passenger accommodations. Follow the corridor past the Upper Deck cabins, and you'll
arrive at the restaurant, an attractively furnished room in the ship's stern that has open
seating at tables for four, six, and eight guests.
Other public areas include the Sun Deck (with lounge chairs and a
handful of tables) plus a sheltered open-air promenade deck that wraps around
the forward third of the ship on the Upper Deck. On the MS Maribelle and other Viking
ships that cater to American travelers, smoking is permitted only on the Sun
Deck and the Upper Deck's open-air promenade deck. (On ships that are marketed to Europeans, the smoking
rules are less restrictive.)
MS Maribelle staterooms