My husband and I are first time cruisers, ocean and river. And our first time traveling in Europe although we are frequent travelers within the US. This was for my 40th birthday celebration.
We are both 40 and well below the average age of the average cruiser on this trip which we knew going into. We are not ones who normally look for social opportunities on our vacations so the fact we were truly 20-30 yrs younger than everyone else was fine. Our fellow cruisers were pleasant and good company.
I love Christmas hence why we selected this itinerary. We embarked from Nuremberg and disembarked in Budapest, choosing to stay one more day to explore the city.
I am giving an overview of both highs and lows. Just keep in mind that we have no other cruise experience to compare.
Nuremberg - lively and lovely city. We flew in 1 day earlier to adjust etc. glad we did. We stayed at the NH Hotel which is just a few blocks but certainly walking distance from the city centre where all the action is. It was quiet and a very clean hotel. Friendly and the rooms were quite nice. Beds were excellent. The market was hopping! Crowded! But what we expected. A great introduction to the Christmas market mentality and all the booths, people, food, spirits and overall atmosphere was just what we had imagined. I went into the trip with pretty high expectations of the local wares and overall we thought the ornaments etc were a bit commercialized but still nice to look at. We hopped the Vag (their subway which is super easy to navigate. Very clean too) to Furth, a neighboring town which was smaller and stumbled onto a very small but truly authentic market with wonderful wares. Craftsman we're making their things right there. Very nice. Bought a few things here.
Regensburg - quaint and quiet city. Both really enjoyed the atmosphere. Much smaller than Nuremberg but with that came just a more relaxed feeling. Did the Thurns and Taxis tour which was interesting albeit felt rushed. Nice market within the grounds.
Passau - wonderful town. One of our favorites. The gorgeous church that you visit as part of the standard tour and ours happened to coincide with an organ concert. Largest organ in Europe and 2nd largest in the world. So neat! Small market and we found nice things at nearby stores. Enjoyed a very nice lunch at an Italian place our guide commented on during the tour which is a favorite of the locals. Yes, we had Italian in Germany! It was very good. Would like to visit regensburg and Passau again.
Melk- here is when I share that the ship had a stomach bug that inflicted many including me. I couldn't make the tour of Melk which sorely disappointed me as I has heard how gorgeous the Abby was. My husband went and took lots of pictures. A short visit to Melk. Just the Abby and we sailed. No market.
Vienna - again, still under the weather so I didn't truly get to experience Vienna the way I had wanted to. You do get jolted back into metropolitan life... Hustle and bustle. Lots of noise. City of 1.8 million. But beautiful. Just gorgeous architecture. Would love to see it during springtime. City tour was ok. Very brief. Just too much too see and the typical Viking sampling wasn't enough. Christmas market wasn't open yet when our tour ended so I cannot comment. I think the guide said there were over 25 markets! Really enjoyed the Schorenburg palace tour. Those grounds must be spectacular in spring and summer. The Christmas market at the palace is very authentic and worth seeing. Small but good. A great atmosphere. Just so much to do in Vienna and we felt we simply didn't have enough time. Could spend an entire week there alone.
Budapest - gorgeous views! Easy to get around on foot. Two markets within 10 min walking distance. The main one was larger but really crowded. Maybe we were Christmas marketed out but we both felt it was not that special. The smaller market in front of the church (St Stephen I believe) had very little to offer. Lots of food. Gorgeous marzipan though. My husband came down with the stomach bug on our last night on the ship. We were staying an extra day which I just explored solo. Easy to walk around.
Overall a great impression of this part of Europe. Friendly people and we were able to easily navigate our way with the currencies and most people spoke some level of English if not fluent.
The weather during our trip was overcast (no sun the entire 10 days) and hovered around 35-40. We are from WI so this was not cold to us. It was damp, often foggy and drizzled so water proof jackets and shoes are a must if you want to be comfortable. We packed like we would for just being home in WI...bring a base layer of long under and then layer according to your needs...turtlenecks, medium sweaters, jeans or corduroys. Smart-wool socks and base layers work great. The drizzle and lack of sun did not dampen our spirits! In fact we were impressed at our Europeans seemed to take the weather in stride.
Overall impression of the ship was positive. Food was good and met our expectations. We are not wine enthusiasts so cannot comment on the quality. We had a room on the 2nd floor with a small balcony. The room was nice although the bed was quite uncomfortable and pillows were flat. You can control the Room temp but we found it fluctuate from cold to hot. Appreciated having the balcony door to open. Y
The walks are on the thin side. And we often heard the very loud flushing of toilets and water running thru the pipes from what I assume was the rooms above us. Not sure if this is common on cruise ships. Would spring for a 3rd floor room if it would help.
I found the common areas of the ship cold at times. Bring a sweater.
Casual wear at dinner is fine. Ranged from nice jeans to trousers and kakis.
There is free wifi which was important to my husband and it worked well in the common areas. But little to no signal in our room.
Staff was very friendly. Met our expectations. Made our stay pleasant.
Would consider Viking cruise again. Thinking the Paris / Normandy itinerary in the future. It is just an easy way to see various parts. I do wish we could have spent more time exploring some places further but that not what this cruise is about. They give you a sampling.
Definitely a must-do itinerary for Christmas lovers!