Viking River Cruise: Budapest – Nuremberg (Romantic Danube)

First trip together without our kids – check!
If you’ve read my other blog posts then you know I’m terrible at writing day-by-day re-caps, so you get a larger view of +/-‘s instead. Enjoy =)

(Vienna Christmas Market)
I have been offered the opportunity to sail with Viking Cruise Line on a FAM (a.k.a. familiarization trip) for the last few years along side our sweet business development manger, Dianne & finally I wasn’t pregnant or just had a baby the stars aligned.  Even sweeter, my husband was able to go with me!
Budapest Christmas Market
Let’s chat for a moment about European river cruising in general…I would guesstimate that 30% of trips I plan are for river cruises, maybe even closer to 35%…it’s HOT right now! For good reason, you (ideally, when the water levels aren’t too high or too low) unpack once and see quintessential European cities along with UNESCO World Heritage sites up close and personal, all of your meals are included along with wine + beer at lunch & dinner (depending on the cruise line) along with a guided tour in each port on a ship that holds no more than 190 passengers.
The current ‘issue’ besides the water levels is that the price point & activity level are geared for a 60+ crowd.  There are companies consistently trying to encourage a younger crowd by offering dates for parents to bring their kids but it’s not yet a norm. So when Brett and I decided to go we jokingly kept referring to the fact that we’d be helping Viking bring down their median age…turns out we were not really kidding at all! I was the youngest aboard at 28.  Because this sailing had a group of travel advisors we had several in their 30’s, 40’s and one other advisor’s sister was 29! WOO HOO! πŸ˜‰
Budapest from the Buda side
I promise honesty so here it is…when we embarked, we both commented on how all eyes were on us as if they were thinking ‘what in the heck are they doing here?!’ I would venture to say we were anticipating it to a degree but it was noticeable.  To answer the number one question I have received “Do you think a river cruise would be okay for my husband & I?” that came from several of my other late 20 – 40 something friends…YES, I DO (Brett says yes too πŸ˜‰ but I would highly, highly recommend bringing another couple.  Will you make friends if you don’t? Sure, because there are less than 190 people onboard, it’s easy to make friends quickly….but will it be the same as someone your own age who can relate to missing your kids/frantically trying to find the spot on the ship to get Skype to work, probably not πŸ˜‰ #generalizing
Brett and I both agreed we are looking forward to the next river cruise but would put a group of our friends together to go with us to ensure less conciousness of our age & more importantly put together other touring that we’d be interested in.  We were so fortunate to have the best group of advisors with us that we quickly fell into a routine with and explored the towns together – Hi Bill, Brandi & Mark!
Brandi! A fellow travel advisor
So let’s get to the details!

Our itinerary: Romantic Danube
Budapest, Vienna, Melk, Passau, Regensberg and Nuremberg
Ship: Viking Var and Viking Tor – cabin 214 (french balcony)
Things We LOVED:
+ the new United planes (minus the stadium style voice that announces the seat belt sign..sooo weird.), I should look up the exact pitch for you but my 5’11” husband & our 6′ friend didn’t feel the need for economy plus which was only 3 inches more.
+ Because of the low river levels in the Danube, we spent one night at the Intercontinental in Budapest (great location!) before embarking on the Viking Var (not our planned ship) then switched to the ship we were to be on, Viking Tor on day 4…the communication from Viking prior to the cruise was spot on! They make these decisions as last minute as possible because it’s a headache and money to have to deviate from the planned itinerary, but we each received an email plus one to our travel advisor…aka I got all the emails πŸ˜‰
+ Drink prices! Viking includes beer, wine & soft drinks at lunch & dinner. They also have a drink plan you can purchase for unlimited specialty coffees, soft drinks, beer, wine and cocktails – I think it is 30 Euros per day, per person…Brett is a beer drinker & I’m a maybbeee two drinks in a day girl, but probably just one.  But for the entire week we only spent 40 Euros on drinks! Compare that to a mass market ocean ship where dropping $200 + is a good week!  Beers were 2 – 3 Euros and cocktails were right around 6 Euros.   I ended up not loving the complimentary wines (they changed every night!) but that’s because I’m picky. I will also compliment Viking on the fact that they offered two cocktail parties as a way of thanking us for our cooperation with all the changes. #nicetouch
+The heated bathroom floors!
+The pace of the entire cruise. Since our itinerary was a bit different than normal I can only really comment on that, so that means we only had one morning where we got to enjoy cruising & we LOVEEEDD that time! This also goes hand in hand with the “age” issue…everyone seemed genuinely happy about the tours included and the pace. I did not hear anyone complaining about feeling left out in anyway.  They split all the passengers up into four groups  based on your pace along with some other factors like if you’re staying in town after the included tour instead of coming back to the ship. In other words, age wasn’t a factor in this part of the cruise, the part I expected it to be! #provedmewrong
+ We had options. One thing that again fits all age groups is having a clear set of choices, we like choices don’t we?! Option A was stay in town until X time and Viking would pick us up – its worth noting that the pick up points were always easy to get to…that’s another huge bonus to visiting smaller cities and towns, it was all very walk-able. Option B was to go back to the boat.

+ The french balcony cabin. We were surprised to find out instead of the standard cabin (which has a window placed high up on the wall) we were placed in a cabin on deck two with a french balcony which basically means a sliding glass door and we loved having it open to let fresh air in or watch the towns pass as we got ready…although that only can work if you’re dressed! (hint hint: the Danube is not that wide of a river!) I was also a bit freaked out seeing deck one’s cabin windows just above the water and as we went through locks couldn’t help but wonder how freaky that would be! #spendtheextramoney

+ The Aquavit Terrace. This is unique to Viking Longships and a huge selling feature for them. This provides a large space for guests to spend time when going through locks or under bridges and you can’t be on the sundeck. The chairs and couches were so cozy and they provided blankets so we enjoyed spending the time we could out there. They also serve a light breakfast, lunch & dinner that we took advantage of!  If we had more time just cruising, I know we would’ve used it even more.

Cruising the Wachau Valley

The “cons”

– If you have mobility issues I would really challenge you to think twice :(. Please remember that Europe was made long before the US was and therefore still has cobblestone streets.  River cruises are not for anyone bound by a wheelchair and while I saw maybe three people with a cane, I would be so cautious. Even the ramps to get on and off the ship could be tricky!
– They like you to order dessert with your dinner. Are you laughing at me? I loathe doing this & don’t worry, have told them in my review to our BDM too. Technically I’m sure I could’ve requested something post-dinner but they reallllyy want you ordering your entire meal service at the beginning and that’s just not the way I prefer to do things #havetobedifferent
– The cabins are small. I knew this, I talk about this & compare this with the other river cruise lines 500 times a day, I expected this…but then you walk in & you think WHOA that’s small. It’s one of those personal preference items; some people realize “I am in only in the cabin for about an hour and then sleep” and others (like me) think “I know I won’t be in here a ton but I like breathing room” (this is why the french balcony was critical for me…no claustrophobia!).  Different cruise lines have different offerings (including Viking has larger options!) – something to chat with me about when booking yours.


I really wanted to mention something in this space about traveling as a couple without your young children. Can I tell you how GOOD it is for your marriage and even more importantly maybe for you as an individual. Being parents to two children that are only eighteen months apart is no joke! We missed them intensely &  I would even say that by day four I was thinking “okay, four days is my maximum right now” but time flew quickly and everyone survived! It was pure sweetness when our oldest, who is 2, saw us and said I MISSED YOU GUYS! ha  That time together is so vital and I want to give you permission to justify the money and time together. Your kids will understand it some day as adults and respect and admire your relationship so much more. Also, our kids won’t even remember it because they are so young so no permanent damage done πŸ˜‰

I know, I know the house always needs something or the car or whathaveyou, but time together is priceless. I think we all can agree on that.
Jumping in Melk – HAAA

I posted other photos and videos on our agency’s facebook page:
Also on my Instagram: Heatherchristophertravel
My goal is always to blog more, hopefully that will happen…
Merry Christmas & e-mail me to plan your perfect 2016 trip, 

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