Having never been on a river cruise before, I had no idea what lay ahead for a week's adventure with Viking River Cruises. I had seen the commercials on Downton Abbey, the smooth crisp colors of the rivers and the many quaint towns that dotted the banks of each country. But what was it really like to be on board and set sail?
With Viking River Cruises, my mother and I took off for the Romantic Danube that started in Budapest, Hungary and finished in Nuremberg, Germany. It was set for 8 days of sailing on the Danube River, stopping along some of the most scenic towns and cities of Hungary, Austria, and Germany.
The concept of cruising was new for me. I had ventured on a large ocean cruise ship before and remembered my discomfort with a large boat in the middle of an ocean packed with too many people. A river cruise, though, was appealing. It was a smaller boat (180 passengers), it docked frequently and close to the towns, and it felt more like floating house.
After the experience, I am really excited to share with you what it's like on board a Viking River Cruise. There are many dynamics and aspects of cruising to take into consideration so, before going into the details of the Romantic Danube itinerary, I want to break it down for you.
Here's what you can expect on a Viking River Cruise:
Aboard the Viking Atla (the boat we were on):
It's an architecture lover's dream. Clean lines, neutral colors, and modern simplicity with lots of glass making it a bright and cheerful space to call home. It beckons travelers who crave luxury, modern amenities and quiet spaces. During cruising hours I found myself often relaxing in a lounge chair on the sun deck of the ship. At night, I would be in the corner spaces of the atrium near the library reading through the books on the many cities on the itinerary (along with a few competitive games of scrabble with mom). The boat was large enough where you didn't run into people very often and most of the time people retreated to their rooms.
One of the highlights of the cruise, was the food. The chefs prepared incredible, three-course dinners that changed each night with a dish from the local area you were sailing in. For breakfast, one could join in on the buffet area which also offered other special dishes made to order — this made for a nice blend of consistency and surprise. Lunches on board featured a menu made to order or an extensive salad bar with fresh produce. During lunch and dinner, house wines, beer, and soda were complimentary which added a special touch to the service. I loved the glass-enclosed Aquavit terrace which allowed you to take in the views of the river. And the restaurant's floor-to-ceiling windows made sure you never missed a sight.
Having stayed in a Verandah Stateroom, we had a lovely patio with two chairs to retreat to. I loved starting the day outside taking in the morning slowly and quietly. The room had a large closet to settle into and drawers to put clothes into so that your space was organized. The private bathroom with shower was spacious and included hairdryers and outlets. I loved having the television in the room packed with favorite classic movies — like Sound of Music — and an array of other entertainment if one felt like calling it in early for the day. Overall it was spacious, the beds were comfortable, and we didn't feel crammed when we were both in there deciding on the day's outfits and hanging out on the patio. Of course the daily servicing of the room made sure it was always clean and tidy! (All rooms have a river view)
It was relaxed, and the service was impeccable. Whenever you needed help, someone was there and they always remembered your name. We felt like we were part of the family. The guests were interactive and always loved to partake in a conversation. We met a family traveling from Canada, and spent almost every dinner with them. We truly made some lasting friendships. Though the stigma of an older crowd for cruising is a common conception, there was definitely younger guests and surely no lack of people to connect with. Some of the nights there was entertainment, with the last night having opera performer on board singing multiple classics.
Sailing with Viking River Cruises means having guided tours included. Often these tours have headsets and a local guide who takes you through a walking tour into a heart of the city. You have an opportunity to learn the history and the culture from someone who truly knows the destination. It taught you the importance of many buildings and brought the town you were in to life. With a few optional tours at additional cost, we took part in the Weltenburg Abbey Tour in Regensburg which we thoroughly enjoyed. Each guided tour had different groups with some at faster and slower paces, making the choice right for you and the pace you enjoy. The Director made the trip fun and each night we got learn about the next day's activities and plan in detail so we could choose what we wanted to go do and be informed.
There is quite a bit included on the 8-day Viking River Cruise on the Romantic Danube.
+ Complimentary Wi-Fi (speed may vary)
+ 6 Guided Tours
+ All meals (7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners)
+ Visit 4 UNESCO Sites
+ Coffee & tea during the day
+ Complimentary wine, beer, and soda during lunch and dinner
For those interested in doing a river cruise, this kind of travel is designed to keep the planning to the minimum while making it easy to see many sights. It allows you to unpack, and call one place home while traveling between multiple destinations. It's the kind of travel where you get to sit back and relax. It offers amenities that are second-to-none, and the service onboard Viking is luxurious and friendly. Sailing with Viking River Cruises is scenic and memorable, bringing you to some of the most incredible places in the world.
+ Bon Traveler was welcomed as a guest of Viking River Cruises. As always, all opinions are own.