My sister and I have always wanted to visit some of Europe's Christmas markets. Booking Viking's Romantic Danube trip was a brilliant decision. We began with a 2-night pretrip in Budapest--one of the loveliest, friendliest, and most reasonably priced cities in Europe. We had wonderful accommodations in the heart of the city at the Marriott Hotel with a room overlooking the gorgeous Danube. The Budapest Christmas markets were our favorite with nice handmade crafts as well as an array of Christmas decorations and foods. We also had plenty of time to visit many of Budapest's historical sites.
Leaving Budapest was hard, but we boarded Viking's beautiful new longship, the Embla, and began our trek up the Danube. The Embla crew was the best I've experienced on any of my 16 cruises. Cruise Director Timi kept us laughing and we were sad to hear she was being promoted to headquarters and future passengers will be denied her sparkling personality and organizational skills. The young chef on the Embla was outstanding; meals were thoughtfully inventive and delicious--the best I've had on any cruise. On Dec.5 we were told to leave our shoes outside our cabin doors; we were delighted by a surprise visit from St. Nickolas (who bore a strong resemblance to the 6'5" captain!).
The new longships are cleverly designed with free Wifi and wiring for both European and American outlets. Cabins were small, but well-designed with every cabin having large windows to enjoy seeing the 28 locks we traversed. We also loved our itinerary with leisurely stops in Vienna and Melk, Austria as well as Passau, Regensburg, and Nuremberg, Germany. (The optional Mozart/Strauss concert in Vienna is not to be missed!) We did lots of walking, and, yes, the weather was cold. But, we had packed accordingly and got into the holiday spirit by drinking mulled wines and eating handmade gingerbread along with a variety of bratwurst and local specialties. The charm of the towns and the bustle of the markets made this one of the top trips of my extensive travels.
We had so much fun that we have already booked a return trip for next December to take Viking's Rhine Getaway to a selection of different Christmas markets. I highly recommend this trip if you don't mind winter weather. Prices are very reasonable and air fares are much lower in the winter. If you love the holidays, this trip is a must for you!