Our Viking European River Cruise

Viking River Cruises, Viking Longship, Viking Modi, Danube River, Grand European Cruise

Passing another Longship on the Danube river

Regular readers will have noticed that posts on The Next Phase blog have been scarce over the last two weeks. The reason for that is simple: my husband and I were out of the country. I would have put up a notice in advance but I don’t think it’s wise to broadcast that you’re going to be far away and your house will be empty. Susanne and I did write some posts in advance and they were published on schedule but I wasn’t able to promote them on social media as I usually do. (Watch for the monthly roundup.)

So where were we all that time?

We took the Grand European cruise from Viking River Cruises, which started in Budapest and ended in Amsterdam. (You can also do it in the other direction.) We followed it up with two extra days of world-class museum hopping in Amsterdam. 

Highlight of Our Viking Trip

This was our second Viking Cruise and we loved it even more than the first. If someone asked me what the highlight of the trip was, I would have difficulty pinning down one specific thing because there were so many wonderful experiences. How could I choose among:

  • Listening to a concert of music by Mozart and Strauss in Vienna that included ballet and a Strauss waltz performed by members of the troupe.
  • Making weisswurst sausages by hand in the cellar of the Ratskellar of Regensburg. (I have a certificate!)
  • Taking a private tour of the roof of the cathedral in Cologne that included going out on the catwalk and looking down on the flying buttresses.
  • Climbing through the steep and narrow passages of Marksburg Castle high above the Rhine River.
  • Walking through the beautiful Abbey of Melk with its Baroque decorations and multi-floor library.
  • Taking an impromptu gondola ride with three other couples over the Rhine River from the city of Koblenz up to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, which was all lit up for a local event.
  • Taking in the ceiling of the Prince-Bishop’s Residence in Würzburg, painted in trompe-l’oeil style by Giovanni Battista Tiepelo—and preserved after WWII by American Lieutenant John Davis Skilton, one of the Monuments Men.
  • Sailing into Budapest at night with the city lit up brightly all around us.
Marksburg Castle, Viking Modi, Viking River Cruises

Marksburg Castle from Viking Modi and the Longship from the Castle

Small Pleasures

Even with all those wonderful experiences, some of the best parts of the trip were small pleasures, like doing early morning yoga on the Sun Deck while we passed small villages or sitting outside on the Aquavit Terrace at the bow after dinner with friends.

Viking River Cruise, Viking Modi, Danube River, Aquavit Deck

The peaceful river

We talked while the waters of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal slipped silently past us and the sky glowed brightly, long after the sun had set. Our Longship, Viking Modi, moved through one lock after another, lowering us to a new water level with each one.

There’s an amazing restfulness to watching the water go by and knowing that you don’t have to do anything: get directions, drive on strange roads, read road signs in a foreign language, arrive at the train on time, wrestle your luggage, or check into a new hotel. When the night grew late and we grew tired, we simply went to our rooms. Even there, I could sit out on the balcony in my pajamas and watch the river go past.

In fact, I started to do this as we were leaving Würzburg when I heard some loud noises in the city. From our balcony I watched (barefoot and in pajamas) a fireworks display set off to honor the President of Germany, who had come to a celebration at the cathedral.

Beating Jet Lag

This convenience really came home to me on the very first night of our cruise. We ate dinner as our captain took us up the Danube and then trooped up to the Sun Deck as he came back downriver into brightly lit Budapest. Our multi-lingual Program Director, Mieke, gave us a running commentary about the buildings we saw on either bank—some of which we would visit the next day.

Viking River Cruises, Viking Modi, Budapest at Night, Grand European Cruise

Sailing into Budapest at night

Jet lag set in as we returned to our berth and I wondered groggily if I could stay awake long enough for the ship to dock so I could catch the bus back to our hotel. Then I realized I didn’t have to either wait or go anywhere.  I could just walk downstairs to our cabin and climb into bed. 

More to Come

I’ll write some other posts about things that I learned and observed on this trip. For now I will just say that a river cruise is a great way to see places in Europe that I had only heard about—and many that were complete surprises.

Our vacation started when Viking crew members met us at the airport in Budapest and took our bags to the ship. It ended with Viking crew members taking us to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, getting our boarding passes and getting us in line to check our bags. (I have no doubt that, were it possible, they would have expedited us through security and passport check as well.)

In between they took care of everything with grace and professionalism. If this is being pampered, I love it.

5 thoughts on “Our Viking European River Cruise

  1. We are doing that cruise next year on the same ship but in reverse. Any information you can give us would be greatly appreciated as this is our first River cruise

    • Robert: You are so going to love this cruise. There are a number of things to be aware of in advance that will help you plan for and enjoy your trip. Here are a few websites with good general advice for taking a river cruise:

      https://backroadplanet.com/24-viking-river-cruise-insider-tips/
      http://www.travelagewest.com/Travel/River-Cruise/12-Things-Clients-Should-Know-Before-Their-First-River-Cruise/
      https://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=1553
      https://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2016-08-10/european-river-cruises-10-things-to-know

      There are others. Just Google them.

      In regard to this particular trip, we used the My Viking Journey website to plan what we wanted to do. My husband and I do most things together but we also have different interests in some areas so we figured out which excursions to take together, which ones to take separately, and which ones to skip altogether. You can always change your mind onboard and add or delete one.

      In general, we took the regular walking tour of any city to get our bearings and a sense of place. I like cooking so I made sausages in Regensburg and had a great time. My husband took the tour of the Jewish quarter. In Cologne, I went to the roof of the cathedral, which I recommend highly to anyone who enjoys engineering and history and is not bothered by heights. I like to poke around in old churches while my husband does other things.

      Highlights of the trip for me were:

      Melk Abbey
      The Prince-Bishop’s Residence in Wurzburg
      The Mozart-Strauss Concert in Vienna
      The roof of Cologne Cathedral
      Sausage making in Regensburg
      Sailing into Budapest at night
      The Riksmuseum and Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam (These are not on the tour. We took two extra days there so we could see them)

      What I would have done differently: bagged the Salzburg expedition. The city was nice but it was a long bus ride there and back again that took the whole day. Many people love this but we did not feel it was worth the time and money. Plus, we missed the organ concert in Passau, which got rave reviews from the people attending.

      Be prepared to make friends. The model is to find a table at meals where there are empty chairs and ask if it’s ok to sit down. Everyone introduces themselves and you get into conversations. You make friends. You talk to people on the sun deck or the Aquavit Terrace and on tours. It’s a very gregarious experience. And, because most Viking passengers are intelligent and well-educated, you have a good time getting to know new people.

      I have written other blog posts about our Viking Grand European cruise. Just go to the Travel category in the blog and you will find them. Feel free to ask me any questions you might have. My email is alinekaplan@comcast.net.

      Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog.

      Cheers,
      Aline

  2. Love your recollections about our river journey. I am telling my children to read it because you described everything beautifully, remembered some things I didn’t and had a couple of more daring adventures than I. What a good time it was !

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