WIT Agent Debbie recently sailed with Viking on a cruise on the beautiful Danube River. The Danube Waltz cruise embarked from Budapest and sailed to Passau. Here is her report:
Viking Cruise, Danube Waltz, Budapest to Passau
At the start our European adventure, we stayed at the Radisson near the Portland PDX airport, taking advantage of their park-and-fly rate. It was so lovely to wake up leisurely, have a calm breakfast and got to the airport in time for our flight on Delta.
We took the Amsterdam connection (Portland – Amsterdam – Budapest) and since I don’t walk too well, I had a wheelchair meet us to get between gates. They were wonderfully friendly and it worked really well. The flights, although long, were comfortable enough in the regular coach section of the plane. We were offered food and drink often and the entertainment was free and plentiful.
We had a chance to stay in Budapest for 2 nights prior to the cruise in the Corinthia Hotel Budapest. It’s the same hotel that Viking uses, and is a grand, historic hotel with some pleasant renovations. The pool and spa in the bottom of the hotel were wonderful, it was so refreshing to have a swim after those long flights. We walked around a bit in Budapest, but mostly relaxed and recovered from jet lag.
Nancy from WIT called us at our hotel the day before the cruise to tell us that the Danube was too low to allow ships to cruise into Budapest. The Viking Vilhjalm was instead docked in Komárno, Slovakia, about 60 miles west of Budapest. Thankfully, Viking had buses all ready to take us to our ship, where we spent the night. The next morning, the buses were back to take us on our tour of Budapest. There were many people exploring the city, and our Viking tour was a great overview of the main sights. As it was the middle of a summer heat wave in Europe, it was a relief to see the town then stop for lunch on another Viking ship that was docked in Budapest. After lunch, the passengers had the choice of seeing more of town or going back to our ship that was docked in Komarno.
In the wee hours of the morning, our ship sailed for Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital. Breakfast was heavenly on the river, gliding past the beautiful scenery. We explored Bratislava at length with the Viking tour, enjoying amazing views from the Castle on top of the hill. Our ship was docked near Old Town, so we could walk in and see some great and unique shops. We found a candy store that specialized in handmade lollypops. We left mid-afternoon and sailed one of the most beautiful parts of the Danube on our way to Vienna.
Our ship docked a little on the outskirts of Vienna, but public transportation made it easy to reach the center of town. The Viking tour gave us an overview of Vienna, with time to see St. Stephens Cathedral and walk around the area. We stopped for coffee and a sweet treat at a Viennese coffee house–definitely a highlight! That evening, there were a few optional tours, the most popular which was a concert. We did not attend as we were tired, but everyone that did had great things to say about it.
From there, we continued along the Wachau Valley. Even though it had been a hot summer, the scenery was absolutely lovely. They took us up the hill to the Gottweig Abbey, a working Benedictine Monastery. The locals take a very different view on planned forests than we do, planting many different kinds of trees together. It makes for a healthier and very beautiful forest.
My favorite excursion was from Linz. It was an all-day trip to the Bohemian town of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Our guide told us stories of what it was like growing up in the communist era. The shortages of goods and the bureaucracy opened my eyes. Český Krumlov is a very old town with many historic buildings, and the castle on top of the hill was so stunning. We wandered, shopped and enjoyed a great lunch, what more could you ask?
In Passau, the tour took us to another St. Stephens Cathedral, this one was famous for their pipe organ. It was interesting to hear and the Cathedral was lovely, though I think I had seen enough churches at this point. 😉
Viking does an amazing job at organizations. The ship’s food was delicious, and they make it easy to get to know other travelers. I enjoyed most of the enrichment programs. The evening entertainment was predominately classical music. At the end of the evening, I saw more than one nodding head. Our stateroom was smallish, it did encourage me to get out of the room and see the sights from the lounge.
“I felt very spoiled by all of them”
I think what I took away from my cruise experience was how hard every one of the staff worked. All of the staff were approachable and never too busy to answer questions. The tour director was always available, and the Maître d was always assisting in the dining room. I felt very spoiled by all of them.
We took a taxi from the ship to the rail station in Passau. From there, it was a 3 1/2 hour train to Munich. I love the trains in Europe, so efficient and clean. I chose the Courtyard by Marriott near the rail station in Munich, so when we arrived, we simply walked 3 blocks to our accommodation. It was a nice hotel in a diverse neighborhood. But we quickly learned that if you don’t want housekeeping to come in right away, you need to put the “do not disturb” sign on your door! 🙂 Efficiency, indeed! 🙂
I enjoyed the hop-on, hop-off tour of Munich. It took us all over Munich and out to the Olympic park and the BMW museum, an amazing place! We stopped and had lunch in the city center Viktualienmarkt, or what I call the “Eating Street.” This is Munich’s Farmers’ Market, fantastic for outdoor eating and people-watching. It made for a great introduction to Munich.
Because our flight home was so early, we spent our last night at the Hilton Munich airport. I was expecting an airport business-type hotel. It was that, but so much more. The Munich airport has a bier garden and even an outdoor area, where they had set up a bicycle moto-cross area for the kids to get some exercise. What fun to watch! It made for a pleasant last night in Munich. The next morning at 4:00am, we were out and on our way home via Amsterdam to Portland.