This is absolutely the best way to be introduced to a part of the world that is new to you. The brand new Viking Odin had clearly benefited from Viking's years of experience in its design and amenities. But it wasn't just the boat's beautiful interior or our roomy cabin's thoughtful design that made the trip so comfortable. It was the crew that made it made it special, worry-free and fun. I cannot imagine how Viking is able to recruit such pleasant and hard working crew members. Our room was perfectly cleaned while we were at breakfast every morning and straightened up every evening while we dined. I have not experienced such service and attention to every detail at any resort or hotel I've visited. The meals were uniformly excellent, with dishes offered each evening that were characteristic of the region. The chef came out most evenings and sincerely wanted to know what we had liked and what else we might like to see on the menu. The wines served were quite good and I don't think the attentive waiters ever let a glass become empty during dinner. I admit that I can't compare Viking to other river cruise lines and I may never be able to since I'm unlikely to commit my money and vacation time to a competing company in the hope that their ship might be as nice and their service as good as Viking's. We thought that we would be on our own for the two extra days we spent in Budapest, but even there Viking delivered our bags to our hotel room and had a concierge on duty every day to give us suggestions, make dinner reservations, buy concert tickets.
Even the trip's one minor glitch turned out to be a blessing. On our last night before reaching Budapest there was a brief engine failure that caused the boat to drift into a bridge abutment. The damage was minor, but it caused us to dock at Esztergom that morning which gave us an unexpected chance to visit this royal city of the medieval Magyar kings. The view of the Danube from high up on the castle walls is worth the climb and the history exhibits are fascinating. Viking should make it a regular stop on the trip.