For McCool Travel’s 141st travel interview, I am pleased to introduce you to Mike Shubic of Mike’s Road Trip. I recently attended two conferences—in ...
From capital cities to small, historic towns, our Danube Waltz highlights give you a sneak peak at one popular European Viking River Cruises itinerary. We enjoyed this fabulous trip on the Viking Freya in April 2016, a few months after our Romantic Mediterranean trip with Viking Ocean Cruises. We looked forward to learning how the river and ocean cruises would differ as we explored beautiful cities of Europe and the lovely Wachau Valley.
Viking River Cruises, Viking Freya Longship
This was our first river cruise, and we were happy to discover that our Veranda Stateroom would be a cozy, compact, and very comfortable “home” for our eight day voyage. The king-size bed, desk and tiny sitting area were enhanced by the large, sliding glass doors to the veranda. Stretching the width of our room, the glass brought in welcome light and beautiful views during our journey.
Common spaces on the ship included a large Dining Room and Lounge, and the smaller Aquavit Terrace with indoor and outdoor seating for casual meals and relaxing. The top deck offers a lovely open space with seating, games, and a walking track for taking in the views and relaxing, as long as the weather cooperates.
Follow the link above to learn more about the Viking Longships used on all of the river cruises. Note: that beautiful view of the Freya at the link above is taken in Dürnstein, visited on this Danube itinerary.
Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz Highlights
The Danube Waltz river cruise visits five countries over eight days, with both included and optional tours available to explore the cities and countryside along the journey. The itinerary is offered in both directions; we sailed from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary, adding on our own pre- and post-stops in Berlin/Prague and Budapest (extensions can also be booked through Viking).
Day one of your cruise is really a partial day, allowing time to reach, board, and explore your ship and relax with a meal and a drink on board. You also have the option to join a guided Welcome Walk through the streets of Passau.
On day 2, you begin the full Viking experience with a walking tour of Passau. The included tours in every port are one of the important reasons Viking Cruises are a fantastic value. We highly recommend joining every complimentary tour you can, just be sure to note the level of activity required, especially if someone in your group has mobility issues.
Just after lunch it was time to cast off and begin our trip down the Danube. The fun of river cruising was immediate as we pulled away from town, headed under a low bridge, passed gorgeous scenery, and entered our first lock on the way to Linz, Austria.
Linz, Austria or Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
Docked in Linz, Austria, it was time to make a choice. Viking offered an all-day, included tour of the medieval town and Unesco World Heritage site, Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Alternatively, we could join a two-hour excursion in Linz, Austria, visiting the town square, Austria’s largest church, and other highlights of the “capital of Upper Austria.”
One of us was not feeling well and we opted to stay in Linz. It was nice to explore town at an easy pace, then spend time relaxing on board. At night, we heard wonderful stories about the trip to Český Krumlov from fellow passengers. The April weather, however, was not cooperating and everyone was a bit stunned by on-and-off snow-showers and freezing cold temps.
Melk, Dürnstein, and the Wachau Valley
This turned out to be my favorite day of river cruising. The day began with a tour of the stunning Melk Abbey and a lovely walk back to our ship.
Next, we relaxed and snapped pictures on a narrated cruise through the Wachau Valley, one of the four Unesco World Heritage Sites visited on our itinerary. A stop in the picturesque town of Dürnstein, allowed for a short but steep hike to the castle ruins, for stunning views of town and the valley.
Finally, we headed out for an optional Winery Tour and Tasting where we sampled delicious wines from the vintner who supplies all of Viking River Cruises complimentary wines. It was a day full of beauty and fun that delivered the quintessential river cruise experience we had dreamed of.
We had packed our day in Vienna with one included, and two optional tours, so we were a little concerned we had overcommitted. Fortunately, the tours were engaging and not too taxing, and the day offered a nice combination of learning and fun. During the morning city tour we were lucky enough to see Lippizaner stallions at the famous Spanish Riding School walk right past us.
In the afternoon, our optional tour of the Schonbrunn Palace introduced us to the opulent life of the Hapsburg Dynasty.
And in the evening, we drank and laughed through a Heurigen Evening—an Austrian tradition celebrating the bottling of the season’s wines. Others from our cruise were off to an evening of Mozart and Strauss with the famed Vienna Residence Orchestra.
Bratislava, Slovak Republic
The only national capital that borders two countries (Austria and Hungary) was a complete unknown to us and we were excited to learn more during our included city tour. Our guide gave us a wonderful introduction to this lovely city, while also sharing insights about how life had changed since the break-up of the Soviet Union. The city has a sense of humor too, as is evident in the popular “Man at Work” sculpture near the town center.
Our pre-cruise documents described a scenic cruise through the Danube Bend on our way to Budapest. Sadly, we sailed during the night so we missed what may have been another cruising highlight. It’s important to remember that Viking, like all cruise companies, will adjust itineraries as needed due to weather, changing schedules, and river conditions.
On our last full day on the Viking Freya we joined the “Active Tour” of Budapest, which included quite a bit of walking, plus rides on a funicular, bus, and tram. The active tour option was available most days, but you had to sign up quickly the night before, as they could only accommodate 20 people. In general, the active tour covers less ground but in more depth.
Fortunately, Viking added an evening cruise during our night in Budapest which gave us a chance to sail past beautifully lit buildings like the Budapest Parliament. We absolutely loved our stay in Budapest, and were happy that we had planned additional post-cruise days in the city.
Our Danube Waltz highlights have reached an end. It was hard to say goodbye to our wonderful crew, new friends, and our cozy Viking Freya stateroom, but we hope to return for another Viking River Cruise soon.
If you’re considering a journey with Viking Cruises, check out these related articles:
- 10 Reasons Empty Nesters will love Viking Cruises
- 8 Great Viking Cruises Secrets
- Viking Star Dining Options That Will Blow Your Mind
Article by Julie McCool, whose Northern Virginia travel site FuninFairfaxVA.com helps locals and visitors find fun places to explore, dine, drink, and play in the Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland area. Follow Fun in Fairfax VA on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.