Destinations & Articles
Cruising the ‘Romantic Danube’ with
Article by Natalie Ayotte, Photography by Michael Morcos
My husband and I have enjoyed spending our summer vacation for the last few years traveling across Europe, discovering charming cities by foot, car and train, but this year we would be trying something different… We would be spending our vacation aboard the prestigious and renowned Viking River Cruises for a 7 day journey along the Romantic Danube River through the Bavarian region of Germany, Austria and Hungary.
VIP treatment all the way…
Unlike our other trips, this vacation would be worry free. All our travelling arrangements, including booking flights, hotels, restaurants and destinations was all taken care of by the good folks at Viking River Cruises – VIP treatment all the way!
Within days of confirming our booking, we each received our very own personal Viking River Cruise “Kit” which included Viking cruises luggage and name tags, itinerary and departure information booklet, and finally, a brochure to help prepare for the Danube River, detailing the majestic and scenic adventures awaiting us– Wow, I was impressed! I couldn’t wait to read through all the information and dream of my upcoming journey…
Dream becomes reality
Upon arrival, following a 6 hour flight across the Atlantic, we were in Nuremberg and excited to commence our voyage. Luggage in hand, we exited the airport with our personal shuttle service provided by Viking en route to our boat the “Viking Longship” named “Atla”, which would be our home for the next 7 nights. After freshening up in our superb cabin, we joined the rest of the Viking guests in the ship’s lounge for cocktails and our welcome briefing with our Program Director Mario!
Intimate, insightful and incredible – life aboard the “Atla” Viking River Cruise
Life aboard the “Atla”: There are only 96 rooms on board, of which 52 have their own balcony. No big crowds on this cruise! Each room is meticulously organized to maximize space and includes bath and body products from the famous l’Occitane en Provence Company! The bedding and linen are of the highest quality to ensure a peaceful and restful sleep – luxuriously magnificent!
Viking Staff: The crew is ready to please and will adapt to your personal need. English speaking, courteous and resourceful, you only but to ask and they will do everything to make your journey memorable…a special thank you to Demitri, our cabin attendant, who kept our cabin spotless and rewarded us with all sorts of personal services including replenishing our cabin with fresh fruits everyday !
Dinning aboard the “Atla”: Viking tailors to everyone’s appetite, whether you are a meat lover or a vegetarian, you will find something to appeal your palate! Enjoy a continental breakfast everyday between 6:00 and 11:00, where you can choose from the immense variety of foods available, and even a chef ready to cook your favorite egg dish to suit your desire.
Lunch on board is usually served between 12:00 and 2:00 pm in the restaurant section and is served either buffet-style or a la carte. Enjoy your meal with wine, beer or other beverages.
Dinner aboard the Viking takes place around 7:00 pm – the menu is usually inspired by the local favorites prepared with infinite care. The meals are arranged to perfection to please every guest on board. Dress code is casual, and there are no preset seating arrangements, so you can enjoy your meal with new friends every night!
Guided city tours are included: We enjoyed learning the historical and cultural charms of each city with a knowledgeable local guide provided exclusively by Viking River Cruise. There is no better way to discover the treasures of each city! There are optional tours available for guests who wish to extend their excursions, prices are reasonable and always include a return fair back to the boat.
Daily briefing on board: During cocktail hour, all guests are welcome to join in a 15 minute briefing provided by the program director. It is a great time to unwind, relax and listen to the upcoming destination, activities and events. No worry if you miss a meeting, Viking provides its guests with a “Viking daily news bulletin” which summarizes the upcoming day’s activities.
The journey begins…
Our scenic adventure along the Danube River started with:
As our bus drove through Nuremberg, we could visibly see the transformation of various eras that survived the city. From the vestige Romanesque time (1050) we glimpsed remaining round arches set on pillars, then onto great Cathedrals and Abbeys built during the Gothic times, making way to harmonious and symmetrical architecture built through the renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical periods, ending our tour in the Art nouveau district of Nuremberg – what a magnificent city. We also enjoyed some free time to further explore the city on our own before heading back to our ship.
Another medieval jewel located in the Bavaria region of Germany that has much to offer its thousands of yearly visitors. It is the oldest city on the Danube and also one of the best-preserved towns in Europe that thankfully survived the devastating World War II bombings. Walking through the city with our well-informed guide, we passed through the old city gates built in Roman times still standing tall after 1800 years. I was most impressed by St-Peter’s Cathedral, a splendid historical building which dates back around 700 AD! While we tend to spend most of our time inside churches, I encourage you to stroll outside along the streets, and observe the numerous sculptures set in various biblical themes - it is an impressive historical monument to visit.
Welcome to the «city of three Rivers». Passau is connected to the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers, and while part of Germany, it is but a few kilometers away from Austria. This little gem is known for its devastating floods. As we began our guided tour in the lower part of town, we could still see the effect that past floods had left on some buildings, particularly noticeable after the flood of 2013 where the water level reached heights of 20 meters. Walking through its narrow streets, you will come upon picturesque squares, soaring towers, and beautiful Baroque churches. We really enjoyed the old town city square center filled with small cafés, restaurants, and souvenir shop before continuing our tour. In the months of April to October, there are organ concerts at the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. For half an hour, we listened to music performed by the world’s largest cathedral organ. As I closed my eyes, I could hear the power of this17 974 organ pipes, 233 stops and four carillons organ – this was a memorable moment!
Our next stop was to the Melk Abbey located in beautiful Austria in the picturesque Danube Valley. The abbey is situated on an outcrop rising above the Danube, and it stands majestically resplendent with its crowned towers. The view is as impressive from the Atla Viking as it is from the top of the Abbey. Before commencing our tour, we took an enjoyable walk through the luscious Abbey gardens with sensational views on the countryside. There are plenty of shaded benches to entice rest, reflection, tranquility and peacefulness while listing to birds singing in the August heat. The Abbey was originally constructed in the early 1700’s as a royal palace with ceremonial courts, guests apartments, grand halls and library built in. Today, the abbey is inhabited by Benedictine monks who have been part of the Melk community for more than 900 years. Throughout our visit, we entered rooms filled with treasures kept by the Benedictine over time. There are also two prestigious library rooms each with painted frescoes ceilings. The reader in me longed to linger on and browse through the rare books. The tour ends with a visit in the lovely Abbey’s chapel.
When I think of Vienna, I think of its delicious pastries and its wonderful coffeehouses. Over the years, I have visited many European cities and for me, Vienna is still my favorite place to have a coffee. Where else can you enjoy a coffee with your favorite pastry in a coffeehouse decorated like a museum, while listening to a stringed quartet. There are many famous coffeehouses in Vienna that were courted by the likes of Peter Altenberg, Sigmund Freud, Max Reinhardt and are still serving the same high quality coffee today. But of course Vienna is not just about coffee, as our Viking guide showed us while walking around the city. Vienna is also about the Hapsburgs empire and it’s European influence in the early 1800’s, it’s palaces, museums, music halls, historical buildings, gardens, and the majestic St-Peters Cathedral. Vienna is a city to enjoy and discover! As an additional excursion, Viking provides its guests an exclusive evening at the Opera. And highly recommend! We were treated to the Mozart’s famous Opera “the marriage of Figaro - what a perfect way to end a day in Vienna…
As our journey came to a close, we had but one destination left on our Viking cruise – the beautiful city of Budapest! Once in the city, we visited the Fisherman’s Bastion for a spectacular panoramic view of the city, the majestic parliament building, the Danube River, the famous Elisabeth and Queen Bridges, and much more. We left the palace grounds for some lunch at Gundel restaurant, renowned for its traditional and elegant Hungarian cuisine, which boast of having served none other than the Queen of England, the Dali Lama, President Clinton and many other famous personages. Following this lovely meal, we spent the rest of the afternoon touring Budapest; enjoyed a walk through the city along the famous Vaci Utca – there are so many things to do…Budapest’s main pedestrian shopping streets, visiting one of many museums or participate in one of two excursion organized by Viking cruises: either taking a bath at one of Budapest’s famous Neoclassical thermal mineral pools, or visiting the Lazzarus equestrian farm for a typical Hungarian horseshow. So much to do with so little time!
After a great day in Budapest, it was back on the boat for a final dinner and farewell to our new found friends. Following our delicious five-course meal, we were all invited to join the crew on the boats terrace, for a final cruise of Budapest by night. We were greeted with spectacular views as the boat passes under the famous Elisabeth Bridge, you can see the lit-up parliament building from afar. The sheer magnitude of this building at night takes your breath away – get your camera ready for this memorable sight. What a way to end a trip!
Ships photos courtesy of Viking River Cruises
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