Is there a better way to celebrate an anniversary than a romantic river cruise on the Danube River? My husband and I went on a trip over New Year’s Eve to discover the answer.
Our cruise began in Budapest, Hungary where we spent a few nights before the cruise exploring the end of its Christmas market still filled with authentic Hungarian toy, clothing, and food booths. Our wanderings led us to sample mulled wine and Krutoskalacs, chimney bread that originated in Transylvania and is served hot sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar—delicious! The Viking tour guide (our river cruise company) took us via bus to visit Pest and the Caslte district of Buda before we boarded our boat. (Yes, we were surprised to discover that Buda and Pest were actually two towns!)
I have to say that our time onboard was cut short due to high waters on the Danube which made it impossible for our boat to fit under the ancient bridges; however, Viking made alternate arrangements and we missed very few of the sites.
Our next stop, via bus since the boat was still docked in Budapest, was in Vienna, just in time for New Year’s Eve. Viking always includes at least one excellent excursion in each stop. The tour of Vienna included the stables of the Spanish riding school where we saw the famous Lipizzaner horses and then a visit down the Ringstrasse (Ring Boulevard). We toured St. Michael’s Church, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and then headed to Schönbrunn Palace, but our favorite part of the visit to Vienna was dancing the Viennese waltz, however badly, at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve on Vienna’s main street.
The next day, still via bus, we made our way to Melk Abbey to see its beautiful library and enjoy a scenic view of the Danube, which we still weren’t floating on! We did have meals at cozy Austrian inns along our way and we finally joined our ship, the Viking Odin, where we were greeted by smiling staff members handing us mulled wine.
We sailed to Passau through some of the many locks where we had a walking tour of the Old Town to see the baroque St. Stephen’s Cathedral with its 17,000-pipe organ. Our next stop was Regensburg, a great example of a European medieval city. In spite of the constant drizzle, we enjoyed walking around the old town and eating sausage topped sweet mustard at Germany’s oldest restaurant, the Alte Wurstkche.
Our final stop was Nuremburg. The city may be best known for its ties to Nazi Germany, but the town has an excellent Christmas market which, thankfully, still had portions open during our visit. Viking provided an informative tour of the town and gave us enough free time to buy toy souvenirs and sample the “3 im Weckla” 3 small sausages on a bun with mustard for which Nuremburg is famous.
The ship had excellent cuisine. Lunches were generally buffets while dinner was a seated meal with 3-4 options for each course. The cruise line provides options featuring local cuisine, but it also offers options for those who want more standard American fare. (Think Roasted Forest Mushroom Velouté versus Lettuce and Caramelized Pear Salad.) The chef and staff were extremely attentive and eager to meet dietary needs and food preferences.
Even though we only had four nights onboard instead of the seven we originally planned, Viking provided us with an excellent experience and we would definitely do this trip again!
Have you been on this or another Viking river cruise or have you taken another river cruise line? Please share your insight with us in the space below.