Viking River Cruises
We get a weekly travel discount letter from Travelzoo.com and happened to come across an offering for a Viking River Cruise, something we've had on our "bucket list" for awhile but just never found the right price. The listing was with the Online Vacation Center in Florida and was for Viking's "Romantic Danube" cruise. We called OVC for the details, whipped out a credit card, and booked it. Besides the cruise, the package included round trip air for two, airport/ship transfers, taxes, and travel insurance.
This was our first river cruise which also made it the smallest ship we've ever cruised on at 190 passengers (50 crew). We've done 18 "big" ship cruises before this one so we were often asked how they compare, something I find difficult to do because they are completely different experiences.
It doesn't take long for one to realize that Viking is a class act in the river cruise market. The pre-departure packet, representatives at the airport, the buses, the ship, the crew, everything was focused on making your experience a good one. It should be noted that river cruising is different in that you are never out of sight of land. The ride is also smooth for those who have seasickness concerns. Navigating the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal and the Danube River involved lots of "locking through", an activity that occurred day and night.
Our overnight flight to Europe got us to the ship around noon, just in time for lunch and some free time in Neuremberg. Viking provided a free shuttle into town for anyone who arrived early so we spent a couple hours poking around on our own. Our pre-cruise information said cabins wouldn't be available until 3pm but, much to our surprise, we were escorted to our cabin immediately after registering. Turns out, this was TOR's first cruise of the season so there were no disembarking guests before us.
information on the ship and the ports visited can be found embedded in
descriptions attached to some of the images.
The Ship: Viking TOR
Viking has added a number of these "longships" to their fleet in recent years. TOR is one of them and came into service in 2013. The decor aboard is light and airy with pastel colors and glass. We especially enjoyed lunching in the Aquavit Terrace and hanging out with new found friends in the lounge. Included here are a few images of the ship but Viking's website has many more including some 3D images.
Our Cabin, 114
These ships have a variety of cabin types to satisfy the needs of travelers at all price points. All of the cabins were located on three decks. Our cabin, 114, was located on the lowest deck, essentially below the waterline, and provided the most economical alternative. The cabin did have a window which made it several steps better than the insides we've had on big ship cruises. We found the cabin to be of more than adequate size and with ample storage. There were a number of nice touches: Electrical outlets at end tables, lots of lighting options, a flat screen TV with a nice selection of programming, a heated bathroom floor, and a glass enclosed shower to name a few.
Ports of Call....
As mentioned above, we arrived the day before and spent the night aboard. You might say that the following morning was our official Neuremberg day. Following breakfast we all went off on the included city tour. This was our first use of the wireless receivers which made it easy to hear the guide without staying in a tight huddle. These receivers were great because we were able to wander a short distance from the group to take some pictures.
While on the tour we visited the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, Neuremberg Castle, St. Sebaldus Church, Frauenkirche Church, Schoner Brunnen Fountain, to name a few.
tour was a combination bus tour, guided walking tour, and some free
time. The ship was moved through some locks while we were
on the tour so we re-boarded in Roth and got underway after lunch.
We went off on an optional 5 hour excursion (49 euro/pp) to Weltenburg Abbey. This involved taking a boat cruise through the Danube Gorge to the abbey. While on the boat, drinks (beer, coffee, tea) were provided along with a pretzel, a local custom even on a Sunday morning. Our tour of the abbey was on Palm Sunday and we were able to enter the church before the processional arrived. A few in our group sat in on the service but we chose to climb the hill and check out a small chapel. The church and chapel were both pretty spectacular. Just outside of the church entrance is a beer garden that we are told is pretty packed in season when the weather is warmer. Our guide led us into town where we boarded buses for the return trip back to the ship.
We have no images of Regensburg because we were off on the optional excursion billed as a "Bavarian Cruise" via Scharding Austria. The included Regensburg city tour took place while we were away on the Bavarian Cruise tour. We could have toured Regensburg on our own following the excursion but, frankly, we were pooped and decided to chill out for a couple hours before dinner. We spent the day on the 4 hour optional (49 euro/pp) Bavarian cruise. This involved taking a bus to Scharding for a walking tour followed by a boat cruise on the river. While aboard, we were treated to beer (or coffee, tea, etc) and some cake.
We spent the better part of the morning on the included walking city tour of Passau followed by some free time. The walking tour began in the rain giving us a new found appreciation for the rain coats and rain pants we packed. Passau was a picturesque place in deed and, like most places visited, had a pretty substantial church in the center of it. The area experienced some near record floods in 2013 and high water mark evidence could be seen in several locations. One place covered in the walking tour was what we would call the town hall and it's meeting room. The walls and ceiling of the meeting room were covered in paintings and our guide explained the significance of each one. A marriage ceremony was in progress in another room and the guests spilled into the meeting room for pictures following the ceremony. Among the wedding guests were a couple of the most adorable kids that several of us discreetly tried to photograph. We elected to stay in town, following the tour, to do some exploring on our own during which it began to rain and SLEET as we walked back to the ship.
In Melk we went off on the included Melk Abbey tour. The abbey was a large imposing structure perched high on a rock overlooking the Danube and town. The place is brimming with history and priceless artifacts collected over the centuries. The guided tour took us through a museum, several rooms, and the library and ended in the church itself which was overwhelming in its beauty. Unlike many of the churches we visited, this one was large and is impeccably maintained with every detail bright and literally gleaming in the light. We elected to take a short walk through town on our way back to the ship.
Wachau Valley, Austria
Sailaway from Melk was just after lunch. Some of us braved the cold, wind, and rain on the upper deck for some picture taking as we cruised through the Wachau Valley on our way to Vienna. Our Program Director, Daniel, provided narration. Later in the afternoon the wheelhouse was open for tours.
Our day in Vienna started with the included 3-1/2 hour city tour. We started the walking tour in cold, rain and SLEET, just plain miserable conditions, but we trudged on. What impressed us the most was the sheer size of all the structures and how there were rows of them lining the streets. Fortunately, the precipitation stopped before the tour was over but a biting cold wind remained. We elected to spend some free time wandering around on our own for a couple hours. We ducked in/out of the cold by looking around in some of the shops and even stopped in a cafe' for some coffee and apple strudel. There were two options for getting back to the ship, taxi or the underground. We elected to check out the underground and made our way back without issue. There was a bit of a hike from the underground station to the ship which made us appreciate the ships warmth and comfort all the more.
We sailed into Budapest in the morning and went off on the included city tour shortly after docking. The tour included stops in "Pest" and across the river in "Buda" where we had a little time for exploring some of the shops. Hungry is known for it's paprika so we had to buy some in decorative tins to bring home. We learned that there is a HOT paprika and a SWEET paprika so we ended up buying some of each. Most of our time was on the "Buda" side which provided some scenic views of "Pest". BTW, "Pest" is pronounced "Pesch". We really wanted to head out for some evening pictures but it was to blasted cold, however, the captain saved the day by taking the ship out onto the river for an evening cruise. Budapest at night is simply spectacular!
spent the afternoon on the optional (49 euro/pp) Hungarian Horsemen
excursion. This was worthwhile but, frankly, we should have spent
the afternoon exploring Budapest on our own. We did our best to
enjoy the show but a cold wind blew the entire time making for an
uncomfortable time in the outdoor arena.
We traveled light and captured images with our Nikon P7700, Nikon P7800 and our iPhone 6's. Most of the images were geotagged with a Sony GPS-CS3KA. Clicking on the above thumbnails will usually take you to flickr where the image is larger and some additional information can be found. Email questions and comments are always welcome.
Money Matters: We have been asked about the money side of things. Click here for our comments.... Money Matters
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