The Joys of Europe and More Aboard Viking River Cruises
Welcome aboard Viking River Cruises, where guests discover an incredible experience sailing through the rivers of Europe, China, Egypt and Southeast Asia. Cruising since 1997, Viking has become the world’s leading river cruise line and voted 2017 Best River Cruise by USA Today.
On Viking’s Danube Waltz, guests explore a seven-day journey that starts in Passau, Germany with stops in Linz, Melk, Durnstein and Vienna, Austria; Bratislava, Slovak Republic, and ending with three days in Budapest, Hungary. Viking has created a masterful experience – from the first-class surroundings to the exquisite dining to the port stops to the evening entertainment. Viking not only offered an extraordinary historic and cultural experience, but an outstanding value as well.
The beauty of river cruising is the opportunity to visit multiple cities, towns and countries, but unpack only once. With just 190 passengers on board, Viking creates a truly intimate setting. It’s open seating at every meal, so guests get to sit wherever they want with whomever they want. One of the unique things about the river cruise is the contrast between visiting the small, charming towns as well as the cosmopolitan cities. On Viking, you get to do both.
Included excursions in every port
Viking includes a complimentary excursion at almost every port, giving guests the opportunity to engage with a knowledgeable tour guide whose commentary enhances their understanding of history, culture and geography. Indeed, there is ample time to explore the cities independently. Or, guests can take off on exciting optional excursions like expansive city highlights, home visits, winery tours and classical concerts.
The chef-inspired meals were a delectable combination of local cuisine and wines as well as more traditional culinary choices. Guests could dine in the main dining room or the Aquavit Terrace for lighter fare with great views. The highlight was the Taste of Austria that featured authentic Austrian cuisine from hot pretzels with dipping sauces to hearty stews and pastries, and of course, beer! Servers were dressed in lederhosen, while an accordion player and his band entertained with festive tunes.
Every night, Viking offered enrichment programs, ranging from lectures, live chamber music, opera, folk dancing and more to enhance guests’ cultural understanding of the ports.
Austria comes alive
The Viking Longship Tor stops in three Austrian ports. Discover the history of Linz on a morning walking tour (included), a city that dates back to the 1st century as a Roman castle settlement and today serves as the capital of Upper Austria. Visit the heart of Old Town where Hauptplatz was once the largest town square in Austria. Be sure to taste the famous Linzer Torte. Walk around the square and see the works of painter Gustav Klimt (“The Kiss” and “Woman in Gold”) in every shop window and on every imaginable souvenir. Tour the 900-year old Melk Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery, still in use today. Admire the frescoes, courtyards, medieval manuscripts and the 365 windows in this splendid treasure.
Vienna: City of Waltzes and Gustav Klimt
The wide boulevards of the Ringstrasse will beckon with its grand, elegant architecture. Highlights of this imperial city include standing in awe of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Hofburg Palace, the Vienna State Opera and the Gustav Klimt Museum. Like the locals, sit at an outdoor café, sipping coffee and savoring their famous Sacher Torte. In the afternoon, guests can choose an optional excursion to the glorious Schönbrunn Palace, the summer home of Empress Maria Theresa in the late 18th century. To complement the experience, a fabulous presentation on the history of the Hapsburg Empire will be especially meaningful back on board the ship.
Budapest: Two Cities of Grandeur
Sailing into Budapest at night with the Parliament, Castle and Chain Bridge lights all aglow is a sight guests will long remember. Budapest is actually made up of two cities, divided by the Danube; Buda and Pesht. The morning tour highlights both sides of the city, including Heroes’ Square, the Castle and amazing thermal spas with people soaking in them or playing chess on large floating boards. In the afternoon, take an optional walking tour of the Jewish Quarter to the magnificent 19th Dohany Street Synagogue, complete with the Raoul Wallenberg Garden and Tree of Life memorial to those lost in the Holocaust.
The ship was also docked close to the “Shoes on the Danube.” This 2005 Holocaust memorial pays tribute to those who were shot on that site by the Arrow Cross and fell into the river. Today, the 60-pair of permanently bronzed 1940s-style shoes are covered with flowers and candles.
Extend your stay in Europe: Hotel Kempinski Corvinus
Spend a few extra days in Budapest at the luxurious Hotel Kempinski. The hotel is conveniently located next to Erzsébet Square, featuring the all-new Budapest Eye Ferris Wheel. From here, guests can hop the bus, train or walk everywhere. The welcoming lobby is a great place for coffee and sweets, but the grand dame is ES Bisztro with its sumptuous breakfast buffet. For more upscale dining, enjoy the only NOBU restaurant in Central Europe, Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s new-style Japanese cuisine. Check out the hotel’s special packages.
Dining at Spinoza Café
The Spinoza Café is highly recommended and provides a menu of Hungarian specialties, among them roasted goose breast with potato dumplings and a traditional Jewish Flodni with plum sauce for dessert.
The Budapest Card
Be sure to order this card that offers free transportation on buses and trains as well as entry to six top museums, Buda Castle, guided tours, plus discounts. Available at the airport and hotels.
If You Go
Featured Image Credit: Viking River Cruises