Despite the fact that someone in my coaching community believed I was going on a cruise to see Vikings, I actually took a Viking river cruise on the Danube from Nurenberg to Budapest, with stops in Germany and Austria at Regensberg, Passau, Klems, and Vienna. We had never taken a river cruise, thought we should try one, and were inundated by Viking since they sponsored Downton Abbey which we watched weekly.
Viking knows what they’re doing. We took the largest stateroom, the Explorer, which is what I always do when we travel. This is a really good idea on cruises like this, where regular staterooms are small and those without balconies claustrophobic. We had a living room, bed room, vanity area, and full bath, with a wrap-around balcony on the main deck at the stern. There were no engine fumes or noise, these are state-of-the art ships (ours was three years old).
The crew all perform several duties, and our “bellman” (who turned out to be our waiter) realized midway to our stateroom that he wasn’t allowed to show us that particular suite. This required the “hotel manager” who turned out to be a tall, slim blond who looked like a runway model in a naval uniform with three stripes on her sleeve. She was cordial and all business, and ran the entire cruise like the place was the Four Seasons. (We stayed at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace in Budapest, a magnificent property overlooking the Danube.)
The food was very good, and we had choices of the formal fare or lighter dining on the foredeck, called the Aquavit Lounge. I purchased a package which was, in essence, all the liquor you can drink, and was well worth it! There was light entertainment at night, included tours and extra tours (we chose one so that I could see the old Hitler parade grounds and Nuremberg trial courtroom). The local guides were excellent and we had our own “listening boxes” which enabled us to hear the guide without being close at all. We also opted to wander around by ourselves and had a wonderful dinner at probably the best restaurant in Vienna (Mraz und Sohn), a two-star Michelin. The ship has a concierge to make any arrangements needed.
Going through 11 locks on the Danube was fascinating (I could touch the wall of many from my balcony) as the ship was raised and lowered over a hundred feet. We had a tour of the “bridge” which had no wheel, but a joystick.
Viking did a great job. They are very aggressive in their promotions, but I can’t blame them for their marketing efforts. The staff was incredibly well trained (everyone participates in gratuities) and the passengers (186, only two in every stateroom) were about 75% affluent retired and 25% just affluent by most standards. I met only one unpleasant person—a clinician doing missionary work, no less, a really insecure, obnoxious woman—while having dinner with a wide assortment over eight nights. There were two nuns who were so popular we couldn’t manage dinner with them!
We may do this again, though we’re in no hurry, since there are a lot of things we intend to do. But if you’re considering a river cruise, Viking is a great choice, though you probably won’t see any Vikings, be forewarned.