If you didn’t catch Part 1 last week I would definitely start there first! Otherwise – here’s your handy clickable index to find exactly what you want to know about with regards to Viking River Cruises.
The shore excursions provided by Viking River Cruises were fantastic during this Danube Waltz itinerary and for each port that you dock at the morning excursion (has you back to the boat in time for lunch and is dubbed ‘city tour’) was free of any additional fees. At first, I didn’t know how much I’d like being loaded onto a bus and then driven around a city but we both ended up adoring the morning guided tours and never missed one. Why did we love them so much?
- The local tour guides were fantastic. They provided not just a great overview of the history of the place we were seeing but the narratives were all also interjected with personal stories that really brought the place to life. One of the more memorable tales was from our tour guide in Bratislava. She talked about how before the fall of the Soviet Union the Iron Curtain was just ‘there’ (imagine her pointing across the Danube River) and Austria, the West, was just on the other side of all the barbed wire. She had loads of memories to share about how strange it was when the fence came down and free movement across the border was allowed.
- Viking provides portable audio boxes that hang around your neck (not in an annoying way) with an ear piece so you can hear clearly all that your guide has to say even when you’re off the bus and exploring a castle or bustling city square.
- The busses were super clean and had bathrooms on them that were 100 times better than any airplane bathroom I’ve seen AND the busses had Nescafe espresso machines. I’m not joking. Viking really lives up to its motto ‘Explore the World in Comfort’ both on the water and off!
- Taking the morning city tour allowed you to make a more informed decision about what you’d like to do in the afternoon.
In the afternoon Viking River Cruises offered onshore excursions that were more immersive. These were at an additional fee that (don’t quote me on the price because I didn’t write them down) ranged between €29 and €69.
Prior to embarking on your journey (basically around the time you book your cruise) you’ll receive an online invitation to a portal at viking.com that is customized to your itinerary and there you can sign up for all the additional excursions. I, of course, did not do this despite Catherine A (I’m going to miss our emails girl!) gently reminding me every now and then of what all was available. Each night after the evening turn-down service a booklet of the next day’s schedule and excursion options was left on the bed (these booklets also contained historical facts and details about where you were headed to). So of course, each night we panicked about what afternoon excursions we would be missing out on (FOMO) and went to the lobby to see if we could be added on to them. It wasn’t a problem, but I highly recommend you sign up beforehand just to not be the sort of headache to the lobby staff that we were.
Here are some examples of afternoon excursions: Bratislava Home Hosted Visit / Mozart & Strauss Concert in a Viennese Palace / Grand Market Taste of Hungary Workshop (where you visit the three-story market in Budapest and taste Hungarian specialities & attend a cooking class)/ Hungarian Horse Show / Bavarian Farm Visit / (full day) Excursion to Czech Republic to Tour the Storybook Town of Cesky Krumlov.
ON BOARD ENTERTAINMENT
You already read in part one of this Viking River Cruise review about the deck of the Viking Longship we were on and the herb garden, lounge areas, and lawn games they had there, but what about other forms of entertainment onboard? In your room there’s a flat screen TV on the wall that has enough channels to get your news, travel, and entertainment fixes and then a focused selection of movies. A portion of the movies were selected specifically to enhance your time on the river cruise so the options we had were European focused with lots of great period dramas and documentaries. I really appreciated this and there were a few nights when we turned a movie on in bed to fall asleep to whilst overcoming jet lag. Our longboat, Viking Viljalhm, also had a couple of sets of board games including Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit.
There was a husband/wife duo who travelled with the ship and they played live music in the lounge (piano / guitar / singing etc) – typically covers of popular songs and they really gave everything an authentic flavor in that it all had an Eastern European twist.
Two nights stand out in my mind as far as onboard entertainment went and one was the themed night in the restaurant where there was an array of Bavarian cheese, sauerkraut, soft pretzels & mustards, German meats, beer, and local musicians. Plus – all the staff wore lederhosen! The other was game night in the lounge. The game was called Liar’s Club and three of the ship’s crew tried to convince teams (all of us) that their definition of a particular word was the correct one. It was funny and we all had a great time; Kashmie and I lost spectacularly but now we know what a Fahrt is.
Since Kashmie has spent his lifetime in the luxury / boutique hospitality and tourism industry, managing resorts, hotels, restaurants and the like, I decided to ask him what his opinion was on the hospitality we experienced on Viking River Cruises since he’s the expert:
“It was very clear to me that from the server to the bar tender all the way up to the hotel manager and maitre d’, they all from day 1 of arrival and throughout the stay acknowledged not just us but ALL the passengers by name. Efforts in the restaurant, housekeeping, and other departments of the boat was efficient and prompt and before long the staff in the restaurant remembered our food preferences. Everyone was groomed and polished and provided services to five star standards.”
My 2 cents: Everyone was awesome!
WIFI & AMENITIES
First of all, you don’t need convertor plugs. At least not in the new longships like Viking Vilhjalm since the cabins are outfitted with both European and US outlets. We had no issues charging our 2 phones and 1 laptop.
There is free wifi throughout the ship but it works best when you’re docked (so upload those Facebook pictures at night before you start cruising to the next port!). I wouldn’t say that the wifi was strong enough or reliable enough to really do ‘work’ onboard if your work involves the downloading or uploading of huge photo files like mine does. To my self-employed peers, you don’t want to have work while you’re on vacation anyway (see how here).
I did use the laundry service onboard and they have an option for a three hour turn around (didn’t try it but was good to know). The dress I sent out arrived back the next day around noon in spotless condition. The cabins on Viking River Cruises have hairdryers and really nice bathroom amenities. I actually ended up using their body lotions instead of my own!
WHAT’S WORTH IT: SAVE OR SPLURGE
Viking River Cruises aren’t cheap, but when you start looking at the value of what you’re getting, I do believe that they are worth it. If you had added up all the plane tickets etc alone to all the places we saw on this one Danube Waltz Cruise it would have covered at least one of our cruise + airfare costs. Plus, there are some things that you can’t really put a dollar value on. The hospitality, service, and carefree feeling of it all, which is exactly what you want for what should be one of the most memorable vacations of your life: your honeymoon!
That said, here are a few ways to save $ on your Viking River Cruise:
- Pass on the Silver Spirits Package. Our cruise was 8 days and for the both of us to drink all we wanted onboard it ended up being a little over $350 (US Dollars). Why wasn’t it worth it? You get one pour each of wine or beer with lunch and dinner already included in your cruise AND there were several manager or captain hosted cocktail parties in the lounge where champagne and other libations were served without a charge.
- The veranda is optional. The veranda was fun the two or three times we were out there, but as mentioned previously, we found ourselves drawn to the upper deck or Aquavit Terrace when we wanted to take in the views.
- Keep your eye out for online promotions and specials, especially if your dates are flexible.
- Consider a honeymoon fund. There are plenty of online options in lieu of more traditional gifts for wedding guests to make a contribution towards your romantic adventure together. Trust me, it’s way more fun to start married life together with an amazing set of memories like those made on a trip like this than it is with a new blender!
WHAT TO PACK & BUY
We went on our Danube Waltz Cruise during the second week of September and as a reminder the countries we visited were Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Germany. It was supposed to be much cooler in Europe at that time than what we experienced… cooler as in highs of low 70s and lows in the 50s. We had highs in the mid 80s. The lesson here is: don’t pack until a day or two before because heat waves happen.
Some Viking River Cruise Shore Excursion Musts:
- Comfortable footwear. I tried the whole cute Keds look and unless you’re used to walking a few miles a day up and down hilly cobblestone lanes, just wear tennis shoes. I am SO glad I bought a pair on a layover in Florida since I didn’t pack any and thought to myself “you know, Sara, you’ll hate yourself if you ruin your vacation by getting blisters because you didn’t want to look like a tourist in tennis shoes.” Trust me on this one! I looked like a tourist and that was OK because it allowed me to keep on touristing around.
- Cross body purse. Nothing says ‘rob me’ quite like a backpack but a cross body purse does the trick. It keeps your things safely strapped to your body, is harder to pick-pocket from, and is big enough for necessities. Men: put your wallets in your front pockets, not the back, and everyone: leave you passports & extra cash in the safe in your cabin.
With regards to clothes – I would recommend 2 outfits a day: one for touring and one for dinner. Everyone stayed as they were dressed for lunch especially those headed out to afternoon excursions, but everyone definitely put some effort into their dinner attire. Nothing excessively fancy, but pulled together. Blouses, statement silk scarf, slacks or long skirts, a few dresses, ballet flats, one or two nights in heels. For your daytime looks, go with things you can mix and match (jeans + neutral tops + layers). Mornings were chilly but it got downright hot around 2pm.
We ended up not spending even 1/4th of what we thought we would on a daily basis (as mentioned previously this is because the dining was so good onboard!) €50 a day for the both of us was more than enough including tips for the local tour guides and all the coffee / wine / food stops we made.
As far as souvenirs go, I tend to not be a shopper at all (quite literally all I brought back from visiting 5 countries in Europe was 2 jars of Bavarian mustard. It’s the best mustard ever though and I found it by checking out a local grocery store, and seriously – you can’t get this stuff here. I googled it and it’s selling for over $20 on eBay). However, I did take some notes from the local tour guides as to what they recommended to purchase in each location along the Danube Waltz River Cruise:
Wachau Valley Locations: Apricot anything. It’s grown there and they use to to make brandies, soaps, jams, you name it.
Austria: Mozartkugel – it’s basically a chocolate ball with Mozart’s face on the wrapper and it’s filled with pistachio, nougat, and marzipan. Snow globes were also invented in Vienna but you have to try really hard to find one still made there! There’s a factory in the 17th district if you must.
Czech Republic: Moldavite jewelry (it’s this mineral created from a comet impact to the local area and it’s unique to this region of the world. It’s super dark green and quite pretty!)
Germany: Handlmaier’s Sweet Bavarian Mustard
Slovakia: Ceramics from Majolika, a Slovakian ceramics firm that specializes in blue, green, and yellow floral motifs.
Hungary: Embroidery. You’ll find embroidered shirts, dresses, pillows, table runners, table clothes, in the typical either blue on white look or colorfully floral on white patterns.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Viking River Cruise review. If you have any questions, comments, or anything to add concerning your own experience with Viking River Cruises or the destinations mentioned here please add on to the conversation in the comments below!
Partnered Post: Flights, River Cruise, accommodations, meals, some activities, and transportation were all provided by Viking River Cruises. All opinions are my own.