Melk,Passau,Bamburg...all sounded very exotic and the brochure promised a relaxing river cruise through central Europe on the Danube River. Great...but I started to get a little nervous when, two days before the trip, I traced the latitude lines eastward and discovered that our trip, in November, would require taking coats. Living in Orlando is a false representation of winter weather.
So, off we go to our first river cruise. We went one day early and stayed on Margaret Island in Budapest (my husband still doesn't believe that these are two cities...Buda and Pest.) My son, who was in the Army years ago, stayed on Margaret Island during a week of R&R that he was given when stationed in Bosnia. Of course, he saw a different Budapest than we did, but he did give us some great information. Dis you know that one of the most beautiful McDonald's is location in the Budapest train station?
The Viking Freya was our longboat selection and while we have traveled on many blue water cruises - this would prove to be quite different. First off...no need for those annoying ear patches. Second....the boats are much smaller and rooms are too...we upgraded to allow for 44 years of marriage. Third....don't plan on spending too much time on the upper deck due to potential decapitation of your head. Half of the time it was off limits due to low bridges....and anyway...who would want to be on the upper deck with 40 degree weather?
The average age of travelers is probably 65, mostly Canadians and Americans. There was one honeymoon couple, but it was a second marriage and they already had teenagers at home. With only one large restaurant (with delicious food, by the way) and one well placed bar the cruise would delight anyone looking for a peaceful get away - but it is not for those looking for fast and furious nightlife. Some of the entertainment was just listening to the boat banging against the 60 plus locks that we had to go through....and yes, we have photos of all of them!
We saw sights and met people that we will never forget. In Hungary we visited a horse farm where my husband got to pretend to be a Cossack and used a whip to win a bottle of wine by knocking it off a wood stump (too bad the souvenir shop was closed...I would have bought one of those.) He attended a Vienna concert (his first and his last), and when he wasn't taking photos of the locks he was scarfing up cookies and hot cocoa on board. I, on the other hand, was making sure we didn't go back with empty suitcases.
It was a wonderful trip and, though cold, I would highly recommend and I would even have to say that maybe that was the best time to go. Especially if you are from Orlando and you don't get the beautiful fall colors. Viking did everything perfectly and we most definately will go on another one....but, maybe we will try for warmer weather just to get a differnt perspective. And as for meeting people....it seemed easier than on a large ocean cruiser and some of them we are still in contact with. Go...you won't regret it.