Don’t you find it fascinating that everyone knows what a Viking River Cruise is and everyone you know wants to take one. I will chalk that up to the great commercials that air during Downton Abbey. Today, I am sharing with you our recent cruise down the romantic Danube River from Budapest to Nuremberg.
This is the cruise for people who swear they’d never cruise. In fact, you can’t really feel the ship moving as it cruises down the river. Viking River Cruises is the brilliant idea of Torstein Hagen, who created a fleet of “longships”, each one only holding 180 passengers. The design is divine Scandinavian and the attention to detail is remarkable. If you take one of these voyages, you will indulge in three meals a day and enjoy carefully planned small tours through beautiful, historic towns. You can taste local fare, wine and beer in each port of call. The local guides are each experts on their towns to the point that we learned more during this cruise than most history classes had offered. You will find that the passengers on board are cultured, educated and seeking to learn.
I have already detailed our excursions in previous posts and I have linked them in order of our trip below. Each day the 180 passengers are divided into smaller groups of 25 to 30 people. In addition to giving passengers a thorough introduction to every port, passengers have the option to remain in the city to explore it on their own or join an additional excursion for a small fee. These include Schonnbrunn Palace tour in Vienna, tour of the BMW factory in Regensburg, the WWII tour in Nuremberg and more. All of this is carefully orchestrated by your Program Director. On board the Jarl, we had Chantal de Goede, a stunning dobbleganger for actress Brigitte Nielsen. Her enthusiasm infused the guests and sets the tone for the voyage. If there is a hiccup in the giddy up, she will come up with Plan B and do it with a smile.
Aboard your ship, you retreat to gorgeous staterooms that are laid out with a place for everything including a mini-fridge, a safe, a digital flat-screen TV and L’Occitane products in your bathroom. The cabin service will be done while you’re at breakfast allowing you to return to a freshly made room before you depart for your shore excursion each day. We were in a french balcony room on the 2nd floor (stateroom 202) which allowed for stunning views and fresh air. There are many people who make this work like clockwork but none more important that Captain Miroslav Hacunda. He has been captain of the Jarl for two years with 25 years experience in river cruise work. Moroslav is from Slovakia and boating is in his family. His son also works on the Jarl. The Hotel Manager will make sure that your every need is addressed while on board. Joerg Grossmann hails from Germany and keeps his staff on their toes. Did I mention the food? Chef Robert Behan, also from Slovakia lead a team of 15 in his kitchen to make sure that every meal was perfect. One day, we got to see the local food delivery come on board like a precise military operation. Chef Behan receives fresh food from the market in several of the ports.
This is a cultural trip. If you are hoping to get your party on, you have boarded the wrong ship. The people you will meet are lovely, mature and thirsty for knowledge. Pete and I thought that we would be the youngest couple on the voyage but we weren’t. Evenings were spent having dinner conversation with successful, accomplished people. Tables are unassigned allowing you to meet and mingle with various patrons and exchange daily stories. By the end of the journey you will have made new friends with whom you will stay in touch and everyone will feel like they know each other. We met great people like Shelly and Greg from Chicago and 16-year-old Kyra was traveling with her grandmother Joanne. Each evening we would recap what we enjoyed that day. Almost like family dinner time.
We did experience a “ship switch” with the Viking cruise ship Atla due to the low river level of the Danube. Basically, midway through we got off the Jarl and switched to the Atla (same layout as our ship) because our ship could not pass through part of the river. It is a small inconvenience but we did not lose any time or miss any excursions. We simply traveled by bus to get to Passau, Germany. This is one of the “plan B” things that our Program Director Chantal de Goede handled beautifully.
There are a few drawbacks on a Viking River Cruise that you might want to take in to consideration. They offer free WiFi but I would definitely say that it is not at an optimum speed or readily available (especially when you are trying to blog). Additionally, there is no workout facility, room service or hair salon/spa services. They do offer laundry service at a very reasonable rate and it was delivered to our stateroom within three hours.
This is our Viking River Cruise itinerary on the Danube River. It will link you to blog posts about our ports of call.
Day 1: Budapest, Hungary
Day 2: Budapest, Hungary
Day 3: Vienna, Austria
Day 4: Melk, Wachau Valley, Austria
Day 5: Passau, Germany
Day 7: Nuremberg, Germany
Would we do it again? Absolutely! In fact, we were just discussing what our next river cruise might be. Perhaps St. Petersberg – Moscow, Russia. Viking River Cruise is an excellent way to see and learn a lot while staying put in one place. Be sure to check their site often. They run specials like 2-for-1 pricing and can handle all details of your travel, including airfare and transfers.
Where would you go? Bon Voyage! xoxo- Tanya
Photo credit: Pete Foster
Viking River Cruise