The Danube Waltz includes Passau, Linz, Salzburg, Melk, Durnstein, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. Our trip started in Passau, which is a delightful little town. we had an onboard lecture on the history of the European Union. It was very interesting and informative. After that was a 1.5 hour walking tour of the city. Being docked a block away from the major shopping area, and the Christmas Market made it an easy tour which encompassed the old town of Passau as well. Our guide Heike was excellent and overall a very enjoyable tour.
We then had lunch in town, at the Loungerie Cafe (it was recommend by our guide) and had a wonderful lunch there. Afterward it was back to the Christmas Market to make a couple of small purchases and then back to the ship. We were even treated to a very light snow fall this afternoon. Nothing that stuck to the ground but you could see it in the air.
Linz - Salzburg: You dock in Linz and are bussed to Salzburg, and really do not get any time in Liz itself. It is about a 2 hour ride to there, and upon arrival, we walked about 5 minutes to meet our guides. From there, we went on about a 1.5 hour walking tour that took in the old town of Strasburg and the Christmas Market. After tour was over, we had lunch in the oldest restaurant in Europe. While a bit pricey, the meal was excellent and well worth the stop. After that, we still had a couple of hours on our own, so we wandered through the various Christmas Market areas, and the general shopping area.
Melk-Durstein: Our included tour was to the Local Abby, which was a very worthwhile tour. It's a really nice tour that lasts about 1.5 hours. After the tour, you have the option to ride the bus back to the ship or walk down the hill through town, and then back to the ship. I recommend you take the walk. The town, while small, has a really nice pedestrian area with several small shops worthy of stopping in at. Their pricing for the same or similar items found at the larger Christmas Markets is cheaper.
We left Melk about 2:15pm and rode up the river to Durnstein. There are a couple of castles to see along the way, and with a good zoom lens you can get some pretty good pictures. We arrived around 4pm, and were told via loudspeaker announcement that the shops were closed and basically discouraged us from going in to town. We stayed on board and found out later that there were a handful of shops open, and that those that did go in anyway, felt it was worthwhile to see the town.
Vienna: The included tour was very good, with the exception of the guide for our group. We finally hooked up with another group so that we could get the information about what we were seeing. They finished the tour at the largest of Vienna's Christmas Markets, which was in front of the City Hall. After spending a couple of hours there it was back to the ship for dinner. Vienna is a wonderful city, and it's too bad that they didn't make it an overnight stop. Additional time there would really be nice.
Bratislava: It is the capitol city of Slovakia. Our tour took us around the outskirts of the city which is quite hilly, and finished up near to old portion of the city. The walking tour of the old city was very good. It is well preserved and now a delightful pedestrian only area, and where their two small Christmas Markets are located. Unfortunately, we were only there for half a day, so by the time the walking tour was over, we only had about an hour to look around.
Budapest: We arrived in Budapest around 11:30pm Thursday night, and yesterday was our full day in the city. Viking offered two included tours, one was a bus tour followed by a short walking tour, and the other one (which we decided to take) was called an up close tour. We were very happy with the tour. We started out from the ship and walked across the Chain Bridge to the funicular that took us to the top of the hill and the palace. After walking around the palace we then started down the hill into the town area, and walked around there. Then we boarded a local bus that took us all the way down to the river. After walking around there for a bit, we boarded the #2 tram that took us back toward the ship. During the tour we visited the main shopping area and the large indoor market. Lasting about 3 hours, it is well worth it if you can do that much walking. We highly recommend it.
We took the two day extension and are glad we did. Saturday was a relax and recuperation day. Prior to the cruise I had booked a private tour for Sunday with mypersonalbudapest.com. Our guide (Atilla) was great, and ensured we saw things that the typical tourist normally would not see. We visited two of the baths in the city, one outdoors and one totally enclosed, saw the typical touristy things, and also wandered around some of the back streets. One of the highlights was a visit to one of the "Ruin Bars". If you go to Budapest, you must visit at least one (really!).