A couple weeks ago we had the privilege of traveling down the Danube River from Nuremberg to Budapest, courtesy of Viking River Cruises. It was a Christmas markets river cruise that we won’t soon forget. This post will be a quick recap of our trip, and we will have some video and pics of the river cruise as well.
Whether it was the warm towels to greet us after a day of walking in the brisk weather or candies and treats to greet us in our stateroom, we felt like royalty on this ship. But after a week on the Danube the crew and other cruisers feel like family as well. This is in part due to the smaller cruise ship but also due to the fact that the staff was so friendly and cordial.
First let’s talk about the ship itself. We sailed on the Viking Delling, one of their 52+ Longships, but once you’ve sailed once with Viking you will be very familiar with the layout of any of their other ships, as they have the same layout and design with a few slight differences.
Our video tour below will give you an idea of what your Viking ship will look like:
Even with just a few dining options on our Viking ship we were in a perpetual state of stuffing our faces with some of the finest food you can imagine. I actually preferred the simplicity of dining choices, and the service in the main restaurant was hard to beat. Whether it was an early breakfast or a 7pm dining experience, Viking’s 5-star treatment extended to every facet of our meals. And if you’re a steak guy like me you won’t be disappointed, but make sure you save room for the decadent desserts.
If we wanted a lighter meal we could always visit the buffet at the Aquavit Terrace and soak in some sunlight through the glass ceiling while enjoying the views along the river. There is an outside sitting area near the bow of the ship as well that extends Aquavit to the open air.
Keep in mind there is no room service on these ships, but if you want a quick snack you can always visit the coffee/tea station that also has fresh varieties of cookies at most all hours.
There was no need to get all formal for these meals either. Viking has adopted a more relaxed attitude towards attire, so I didn’t need to bring my suit or tuxedo to feel welcome.
Activities and Entertainment on the Ship
Unlike an ocean cruise that is full of Broadway shows and endless entertainment options, our Viking ship took a cozier and more relaxed approach to fun on board. The Observation Lounge was the location of live piano music throughout the day, and nightly entertainment like singing duos, comic opera shows, classic dancing, and educational slideshows about Europe and our destinations. Other activities were optional as well, and the ship’s chef showed us how to make gingerbread houses.
The Veranda Stateroom
After a long day of exploring the historic sites of Europe it was nice to have a wonderful stateroom to come back to. As you can see in the video above, there was ample room to relax and unwind. With lighting options galore you can set any mood you want or even use the reading lights built into the headboard to cozy up with a book.
Each side of the bed has a 110 a 220 outlet and there are a total of 5 outlets in the room, including the one in the bathroom. The 40 inch TV was huge for a cruise stateroom, and it was super bright too. Infotainment options included all the seasons of Downton Abbey, a selection of free on demand movies, and a few TV channels like CNN, PBS, National Geographic and more.
The veranda wasn’t used much on our cruise since it was barely above freezing during our Christmas markets cruise, but it was nice to have floor to ceiling views as we enjoyed the Danube.
There was plenty of space in our closets, which also had automatic lights come on as soon as the doors were opened. The safe was handy for keeping our valuables and passports safe. Passports were not needed once we were on our ship for this cruise, but Viking recommends making some copies of them to keep handy.
The bathroom’s heated floors were always a treat after a long day of walking, and I just loved the way everything was laid out. The glass shower doors opened up all the way and there was a good deal of pressure and heat in the shower water as well. The well lit vanity and lovely sink made it feel less like a cruise ship bathroom and more like a luxurious WC.
This is one of the coolest parts of river cruising. We went through more than 20 locks, and it was always fun to see our ship sinking or rising and seeing just how close we were to the walls of the locks. From the stateroom you could literally walk onto the Veranda and touch the slimy walls as we sunk down more than 30 feet. Keep in mind that when going through locks you will often lose cell phone or Wi-Fi access.
Our Danube River Itinerary
Offshore excursions are included in the price of your Viking river cruise, but you also have the option to get a second excursion in the afternoons if you’re feeling especially adventurous and want to see more of any given port. For all except one day we went on the second excursion as well and soaked in every moment of it. We were pretty worn out after doubling up our excursions, but with Viking you can simply do whatever you feel like during your cruise, making it your own customized trip.
Here is a little more about each stop on our river cruise:
Our stop in Nuremberg was a great way to start this Christmas markets cruise. This old German city hosted the largest Christmas market on our itinerary and it was easy to see why this was such a popular Yuletide shopping destination. But the pristine settings all around the markets were not the only draw here. The old city walls that lined Nuremberg’s historic district heightened the feeling of what once was. Castle towers above and caves beneath that once held many works of art (as seen in the movie Monuments Men) pointed to the significance of this location. Nuremberg is full of a darker side of history as well. The city has more Nazi buildings and landmarks than any other city in Germany. While some wish to see these locations torn down our tour guide explained the importance of remembering and learning from the past.
Regensburg’s skyline is dominated by the towering spires of St Peter’s Cathedral. After crossing one of the oldest bridges in Germany we walked through the cobblestone street and experienced the regular marketplace of the city. Upon Seeing St Peter’s Cathedral up close it was hard not to stand in awe of the towering architecture that overlooked the city. The cathedral also has the world’s largest pipe organ which has more than 5,00 pipes. The Christmas markets were nice and cozy with Christmas carolers filling the air with sound, along with the smell of pretzels, sausages, and other tasty treats that are common during this season.
Passau was one of my favorite cities in Germany with a population of 15,000. The quiet streets, colorful houses, and converging rivers make this a romantic stop along the Danube. The smaller Christmas markets were quaint and even narrow alleys were lit up with Christmas lights and decorations. Across the river is a hillside with stairs that we climbed in order to get some better pictures of the city. At the top of the staircase was Oberhaus Castle which is a great place to reflect on the more medieval side of Germany. St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Passau has some of the most ornate detail inside and taking in the scene was just awe inspiring.
This Austrian city is known for its monastery. Melk Abbey is a hilltop architectural marvel that overlooks the small town of Melk. Viking included a tour of the Abbey which allowed us to walk through the museum, library, and beautifully decorated church with figures lined with gold leafing. Give yourself plenty of time to walk through the church and look at all of the detail in the paintings and sculptures that abound. The main city of Melk is not very big and only takes a 20 minute walk to see most of the downtown area. There are coffee shops, restaurants, and a few vendors selling goods and treats in the streets as well.
Vienna, Austria’s capital, is a much larger city with a population of 1.8 million people. The stop at Vienna allowed us a glimpse into a past shaped by the Roman Empire and medieval times. On our first night in Vienna we went to a Mozart and Strauss concert performed by a fantastic orchestra. The pristine venue was perfect for the rather lively concert which delighted listeners for over an hour with music that was born in the same city in which it was being played.
The next day we opted for the “up close” tour which involved more walking but took us closer to some of the landmarks inside the city. After taking a quick subway ride into Vienna we saw places like the opera house, ancient Roman ruins, the Spanish riding school with the famous white stallions, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and more.
What a magical city. Budapest has been called the “Paris of the East” and it’s easy to see why. The architecture, romantic streets, and breath-taking views make this a must stop along the Danube. In 1873 the cities of Buda and Pest, divided by the Danube River, united to form Budapest.
The first building you will notice is the parliament building which is the 3rd largest in all of Europe. On the “Buda” side you will see the Royal Palace that overlooks the river and in the castle district you can experience wonderful views of the “Pest” side of Budapest. Matthias Church is surrounded by the Fisherman’s Bastion that offers scenic views of the city from its castle walls.
Hungarian residents are credited with inventing color television, the ball point pen, the rubik’s cube, holograms and other inventions. The country’s language is one of the hardest to learn and is very unique. Most younger residents are bilingual and many understand English.
Viking set up a bus tour of Budapest which was fantastic. It took us through both sides of the Danube and we were able to see things like the Eye of Budapest (213 foot ferris wheel), Heroe’s Square, a Transylvanian style castle, Budapest’s famous bath houses, and more. And of course at night we visited a couple Christmas markets (of the 20 in Budapest) and loved the festive spirit in the air, along with the aroma of delicious treats.
Check out more photos in our gallery of our Christmas markets cruise with Viking River Cruises below: