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Top 10 Best Things about a Viking River Cruise
Above: Viking River Cruises Longship Tor docked in Passau Germany
I admit it. I cannot say enough good things about my recent “Romantic Danube” cruise aboard Viking River Cruises’ Longship “Tor”. I consider myself to be well-travelled. I’ve had the good fortune to visit 6 continents, many in great comfort and on the company dime during the course of a long career in Advertising. And of all the trips I’ve taken, I would have to say that this particular journey is certainly in my Top Ten. It is simply an extraordinary way to travel. The hospitality aboard ship rivals or bests that of most resorts. The ship itself is breathtaking. The staterooms are models of Scandinavian design genius. The crew cannot do enough for you. My fellow passengers were fantastic people. And virtually everything is included in the fare. But I should save something for my list. In no particular order, here goes:
Shöenbrunn Palace, Vienna. Photo by David Jackson
1. The places you’ll see
Every day, I wondered how the next stop could possibly best the last one. Could Vienna live up to Budapest? Could the Abbey at Melk be surpassed by the one in Wiltenburg? Amazingly, every day lived up to the one before it. Except, of course, the last day when we had to abandon ship and return to reality.
Who doesn’t love a ship with its own Herb Garden?
2. The ship you’ll love
The glass-walled ship glistens. Light fills every nook. The lounge holds every one of the ship’s 180 passengers at once. So does the Dining Room. There’s the Aquavit Terrace at the bow where you can have a light breakfast, lunch or dinner. There’s a whole deck filled with lounge chairs, a walking track, even an herb garden. No other river cruise ships we passed, and there are a lot of them, comes close to a Longship.
3. The stateroom you’ll call home
Whoever thought that luxury could be contained in 210 square feet?
That’s the average size of a Viking River stateroom. Somehow it holds a supremely comfortable bed, a 40 inch wall-mounted television, a refrigerator, enough drawer space that this single traveller could not fill them all, and a bathroom that even larger passengers found perfectly comfortable. But do spring for a balcony. There’s something wonderful about slipping out there in your bathrobe any time of day or night.
Gravlax, Salmon mousse and Salmon roe with Blinis
4. The food you’ll eat on board
If one eats first with their eyes, you’d never go hungry here! The presentations are spectacular from appetizer to dessert. The local specialties, the tapas-sized plates that the Maitre D’ brings to the table daily, add to a menu that’s filled with favorites. And every single meal is enhanced with generous pours of local beers and wines that are all included in your fare.
Bratwurst and Sauerkraut at the oldest restaurant in
Germany, the 800 year old Wurstkuchle in Regensberg.
5. The food you’ll eat ashore
Every guided tour gives you enough time to sample local culinary delights like Hungarian Goulash, Viennese pastries, the best of the wursts in Germany. And if you miss out on these shoreside treats, the Viking River galley do a very good job of making their own versions of these local specialties.
The Maitre D’, Peter Pasko of Slovakia
serves Apfelstrudel at an Austrian
6. The crew who can’t do enough for you
They hail from all over. There are stewards and stewardesses, servers and serveuses from Hungary and Slovakia, from Serbia and Montenegro, and from the Phillipines. They seem to genuinely enjoy their every contact with the passengers. They also have an uncanny knack of figuring out your preferences, (red, white or rosé ) within your first two meals. It will take a while for me to get used to not being called “Sir Monte” every morning and asked if I’d like a Mimosa with breakfast. (Why not?)
Our local Guide in Passau Germany in
Bavarian dress, holding the “Guidepost”.
7. The local tour guides at every stop
In a stroke of genius, Viking River Cruises staffs their luxury fleet of Mercedes Benz coaches, ( supplemented in some stops by local providers), with great tour guides. These locals not only have a sensational grasp of what sights they’re showing, they are founts of information about history, art, architecture, and politics. And some of the best of them share details of their own lives that bring the whole sightseeing experience to a new level of personal understanding of their lives and culture.
The Abbey at Melk, one of the “Castles in the Sky” you sail by
on the Romantic Danube itinerary.
8. The scenery you’ll sail by
Fortunately, there are (not long enough) stretches of the river when you are not in any port and where you can sit almost anywhere on the ship and watch castles go by, small towns appear and disappear, and wave to people on the shore. These lovely mornings and afternoons are everything I’d imagined they would be, straight out of the Downton Abbey commercial.
The Baroque interior of the Church at Wiltenberg Abbey, Germany
9. The things you’ll learn
Whether your passion is for art or architecture, music or cuisine, there’s something for every interest on this itinerary. An Opera in Vienna or an optional Art Deco tour there, Palaces and Cathedrals, it’s all there for you–even a trip to a BMW factory! And on-board, wonderful talks about everything from Viennese Coffee Culture to an Apfelstrudel-making demonstration.
The 10 Fabulous Canadians from Nanaimo BC
10. The people you’ll meet and the fun you’ll have
There’s no Casino. There are no formal nights. There are no art auctions or announcements in five languages. These cruises are for people who normally wouldn’t be caught dead on a cruise. Instead you’ll be surrounded by accomplished, interesting people who likely share a lot in common with you. That is if you are a life-long learner of any age. But the most amazing thing is how much fun you’ll have, the stories you’ll hear, the jokes worth re-telling,
David and Margaret from
Louisville KY and Chicago IL.
I learned more about photography
from David than I learned since I left RISD
the lovely low-key entertainment or the late night revelry, if you’re so inclined. And so I end here. I wish I had pictures of all the wonderful friends I met but here are some of them along with a special treat.
One day, the ship was abuzz about a spontaneous Talent Show that was being planned by a passenger named Carol Fargo from San Diego CA. That night, after dinner, we gathered in
Mona and Bob of New Orleans, LA
the lounge for an astonishing evening of passenger entertainment.
Lyricist Shelli Frydman Brosh and husband Doobie
The singing was amazing and one passenger outdid herself. Shelli Frydman Brosh of Reston VA, wrote the lyrics and sung it to the tune of Johann Strauss’ The Blue Danube Waltz. And now as a special treat here it is:
World’s Greatest Crew…From left to right,
Daniel Pavlukovic, Capt. Geza Heder,Jodok Greger,
the lovely passenger services head whose name I
do not have, Chef Laslo Bata, and Peter Pasko
Arnie and Sharon of Sarasota FL
formerly of Little Rock AR
Moi and the Horsts of St. Louis
Rev. Al and Marilyn Horst of St Louis
flank Fayth of the Phillipines
Dan and Debbie (D E B B I E) of Ladue, Missouri
aka Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge
Anne (with an “E”) and Doug of Ladue, Missouri
aka Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
and HRH Queen Elizabeth