Danube’s Gems Aboard a Fancy River Cruises
The Viking Tor swiftly glided through the river. It was smooth sailing down the Danube as my husband and I sat on our balcony, watching the ever- changing vistas of castles, churches and small European villages pass by. Centuries of history now became part of my memory as I thought about the thousands of vessels that sailed the same routes.
Each day was a new adventure
Our eight-day journey on The Danube Waltz started in Passau, Germany with stops in Linz, Melk, Durnstein and Vienna, Austria; Bratislava, Slovak Republic; and ended with three days in Budapest, Hungary. This is the beauty of river cruising – the opportunity to visit so many lovely cities, towns and countries but unpack only once. Viking created a masterful experience – from the first-class surroundings to the exquisite dining to the port stops to the evening entertainment. The ship had only four decks with 190 passengers, creating a truly intimate setting. With open seating at every meal, guests had a chance to meet in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. Perhaps that’s why so many guests re-book for future cruises. Upon talking to others, I discovered many of them have sailed on several Viking cruises and felt the line offered an extraordinary experience and outstanding value.
Dining and entertainment
The chef-inspired meals were a delectable combination of local cuisine paired with 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 menu that featured authentic Austrian cuisine from hot pretzels with dipping sauces to hearty stews and pastries, and of course, beer! Servers were dressed in leather breeches or lederhosen, while an accordion player and his band entertained with festive tunes.
Every night, Viking offered another enrichment program, ranging from a lecture, live chamber music, opera, to folk dancing, to enhance guests’ cultural understanding of the ports.
Exciting ports with local guides
Having cruised on ocean liners before, I had not come to expect complimentary excursions. But Viking includes a local excursion at almost every port, giving guests the opportunity to engage with a knowledgeable tour guide whose commentary enhanced our understanding of history and culture. Indeed, there was ample time to explore the cities on our own or choose from optional excursions like expansive city highlights, home visits, winery tours and classical concerts.
Austria comes alive
In Linz, we set off for an all-day excursion to the Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. We toured the castle, walked around the main square filled with Renaissance buildings and enjoyed a lunch of wild mushroom soup and goat cheese salad. When we returned, we walked around Linz and discovered works of painter Gustav Klimt (most famous for The Kiss and The Woman in Gold) in every shop window and imprinted on every imaginable souvenir.
With a stop at the 900-year- old Melk Abbey, we explored the famous site of this Benedictine Monastery, still in use today. I admired the frescoes, courtyards and medieval manuscripts and yes, the 365 windows in this splendid treasure.