I have been home 10 days from the most wonderful adventure that I cannot get out of my mind. My husband and I headed down the Danube on a Viking River Cruise. We meandered through Hungary, Austria and Germany.
It was just magical.
I shared the Budapest beginning last week HERE. This week is more with detail about the beautiful boat and the rest of our itinerary.
From the moment we arrived at the dock in Budapest the service was 5 STAR. Our bags were whisked to our stateroom and the staff completed a speedy yet thorough check in and tour of the ship.
The longships are simply luxury resorts on the water. The Viking Jarl and Atla are essentially identical ships. Due to water levels in the Danube we ended up spending time on both of these brand new boats that were launched by Viking in 2013.
The main Lounge area is large with a well staffed bar and plenty of seating with great views. There is an outside deck area off the lounge at the front of the ship and the top level has excellent outdoor seating areas for easy sightseeing. There is room for 190 guests on these vessels, which are approximately 440 feet long. The staterooms are large compared to typical ocean cruise ships and most have balconies with room for two people to sit outside privately.
Getting around on the ship is fairly simple with a long center corridor to access the staterooms, a sizeable central staircase with seating, coffee & snack stations, central reception desk and concierge. Most meals are served on the second deck in the large main restaurant. Breakfast includes a range of prepared, buffet items, along with an omelet station, and also cooked to order options. The dinner menu has a variety of high end, chef features each evening, along with a set of standard dishes if the chef’s selections do not suit your taste. Lunch is either organized as part of a shore excursion or is a lighter buffet of options in the Lounge area. We found the food to be excellent and full of variety at all times. One note on the dining is that the main dining room is comprised of 6 and 8 seat tables only. This gives you the opportunity to meet new people at each meal.
The crew is extremely helpful and eager to please. Shore excursions offer options that suit various interests. We were eager to walk as much as possible exploring cities by foot daily. I had 8 blisters to prove it. The guides on shore are well informed, and keep the excursions interesting, while also allowing time for exploring places on your own. All of the activities are coordinated by a Program Director. For our particular cruise, this was a Romanian named Mario, who was exceptional and made everything run smoothly.
We found the trip to be a great way to see many places without the hassle of travel, un-packing, re-packing, and multiple hotels. We certainly would do a Viking River Cruise in the future and highly recommend it.
After Budapest, our next major stop was Vienna, which included an entire day of activity including both Schöbrunn Palace, the Belevedere, Saint Stephen’s, Sacher Café for Sacher Tort, which was conveniently right across the street from the Opera House. Vienna is a must see on the Grand Tour or even a one-week option like our trip. A great mix of modern and exceptional historic sites. I would recommend a couple of hours for wandering the streets between St. Stephens and the Opera House, to discover even more about the Austrian Capital.
A highlight of the travel between Vienna and the German border is the Wachau valley. I strongly suggest making time to just sit on your balcony and watch the old castles, churches, and villages drift by. There is too much to see on the shores of the Danube in this area of Austria so have your camera ready.
After stops in Melk and Passau for additional excursions, including the conservatory from Sound of Music (I am Sixteen growing on Seventeen, yes you know the words) hidden in the garden at a monestary near Melk, and cuckoo clocks in Passau, we arrived in Regensburg.
Regensburg is a bustling city with modern industry and an ancient downtown that experienced minimal bombing during WWII. Shore excursions included a tour of a major BMW plant, and great walking tours of the well-preserved city center. Be sure to visit the sausage stand near the Old Stone Bridge, both date from the 12th century.
Our trip concluded in the more well known city of Nuremburg. We spent some time viewing the city from the castle in the middle of the Old Town area and later explored many of these streets for some final shopping needs. The excursions also included a more expansive tour of the city including major WWII historical sites. Although this city was virtually destroyed during the war, it has restored most of the Old Town and developed into a major city.
The schedule of excursions and sightseeing during the Danube cruise on the Viking Atla is packed but well organized and efficient. It would be hard to imagine a better way to see so much of Europe so easily.
More adventures to come in the next month. I hope to partner with Viking again to explore more of the globe.
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and then back home to these little and not so little people…