Being frequent cruisers on ocean vessels(over 15) this was our first River Cruise. We arrived a few days early in Nuremberg because my wife is from Bayreuth and her sister picked us up so we could spend a few days in her hometown. Since this was my first trip to my wife's birthplace I received the personal tour of all the historical and beautiful sights! The opera house, the former military base which my wife's father served, the historical downtown and of course the "new mall". My wife's family owned a shoe store for many years and even though it is not in the family anymore, it is still a shoe store downtown! After spending time with her sister and friends we were back to Nuremberg to meet up with my parents for our embarkation aboard the Viking Odin. What a beautiful ship! Everyone was extremely friendly and the atmosphere was very relaxing and pleasant. Of course many passengers were tired and sleeping in public areas because they had just arrived from the overseas flight. There was a wonderful buffet while the rooms were finished being prepared. Once the rooms were ready, we were so happy to be able to get our things into our room and get settled! We had a balcony room and it was very nice. If you have traveled on a nice ocean liner it was similar and of course small but plenty of storage space and counter space for all of our stuff and my wife's makeup. Included in the cruise fee is WiFi internet which was wonderful. We hate being nickeled and dimed on most of the ocean liners. The speed was good and every night we uploaded our pictures so when we got home all our pictures were already online! Also to be able to check email, etc in the evenings was great.
Every port has included excursions. In each room is a "whisperer" which is a radio receiver listening device so you can hear your tour guide without having to be on top and close to him/her. This is a wonderful extra so you can be up to 50 or so feet away. After each excursion you put it back on its charger in your room so you use the same one each time. Viking really has fantastic guides who know the history of each port! We have had many excursions all over the world and Viking really tries to get the best! All of ours were really good. Of course some better than others but all were good and not one we had was below "above average"! In Nuremberg we saw the old castle, Nazi rally grounds and much more. All the streets downtown are named after Israeli prime ministers which really seems appropriate due to the history of the city. Once we were back to the ship we were off to the next port. One of the coolest things being on a river vs the ocean is how smooth the ride is and how close you are to the sights on land. To see castles, vineyards and go right through cities is really wonderful! Also the number of river locks we went through was amazing. I thought we may go through 1 or 2 but we had to have gone through 25 or so during our entire cruise. It is an amazing experience to go through a lock(up or down) if you never have. The ship is literally inches on each side. Also in order for the Viking Odin to go under many bridges the Captains Bridge is able to retract. It goes so far down the Captain cannot even see the river through the windows! Another really special feature you can take advantage of is the tour of the bridge which I highly recommend, especially if you have never seen how a ship is commanded and operates. Highly advanced electronics including radar, depth indicators, etc are all part of a Captain's electronics! The next port we stopped at was Regensburg, Germany. This quant town is a great place to take pictures and shop! They have some of the best German Mustard in all of Germany so you have to pick some up! There is a shop on the right, before you walk across the bridge which has the best prices on Mustard! Also there is a wonderful restaurant right at the dock which serve delicious brats. A little known fact is each German city/town has its own type of bratwurst and its own type of mustard. Some will be large brats, others smaller. Some mustards will be sweeter than others but I can tell you ALL are delicious! My favorite was in Bayreuth, my wife's hometown!
All the food on the Odin is fantastic! The service is top notch and deserts are to die for! Most tables are for 6, some for 4 but really none for 2. We generally like to dine alone however we were with my parents so we sat at a table for 6. We met a very nice couple from the U.S. who we tried to sit with for each meal. They were great dinner companions and we had very nice conversation.
The next port was Passau, Germany. This is where the Danube, Inn and Ilz come together and the city is sometimes known as the city of 3 rivers. The picturesque city lies in Germany’s far southeast corner near the Austrian border. Settled since prehistory and a former hub of the salt trade, it became the Roman village of Batavis, then later the Holy Roman Empire’s largest diocese and a sword-making center. Saint Stephan’s Cathedral, home of the world’s second-largest cathedral organ, is one of Passau’s favorite attractions. Our tour included beautiful churches in the main square of the city including St. Stephen's Cathedral (Dom St. Stephan). Be sure to have a good camera because you will want to take many pictures inside this church. The ceilings are beautifully painted artwork! Of course the food in all the cities is really great!
The next stop is Melk, Austria, a city of only 5,000! This city and tour will take you on a brief walk through the woods (a nice trail, don't worry) to "The Melk Abbey" which is the world's most famous monastic sites sits on a high on a cliff. Again, be sure to take a good camera! The library rises two floors and also has a Troger ceiling, along with around 80,000 volumes of priceless works. The highlight of the abbey, though, is certainly the Stiftskirche (Abbey Church). The church has an astonishing number of windows and is richly embellished with marble and frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayr with help from Troger. The spiral staircase is a treasure which you will want to take many pictures of! There is a terrace which have fine views of the river and Napoleon probably used as a lookout when he used Melk as his headquarters for his campaign against Austria. On the way back to the ship there was a small food stand in the forest. My wife and I got a bratwurst there which again was fantastic! Once everyone saw us enjoying it they all wanted something as well and got in line to order. My wife and I have always loved the little food stands and are not afraid to try things and have all over the world! More about one of our favorite things at our last stop, read on! That night on the ship we had local entertainment. A bit tight in the lounge, all that was forgot when they performed. For a small ship we did not expect the type of entertainment like on large ocean liners however we were impressed with the quality of this(and other) entertainment provided. To have true locals performing was really special for us to see!
The next port was Vienna (Wein), Austria. The downtown was incredibly beautiful with another St. Stephan’s Cathedral which had some of the most beautiful colored glass windows we have ever seen. The colors in the church change as the sun changes positions(or should I say earth changes positions) which change the entire look inside the church. Hopefully when you visit you will have some sunshine because it is one of the most unusual and beautiful color reflections we have ever witnessed! Also be sure to try some of the street potatoes which are really unique and delicious! There are many bakery's and if you have never had Austian (or German) pastries, you will have to try them. They are SO MUCH better than anything here in the U.S. They are no overly sweet, just right and the bread is something indescribable!
We had a great tour of Vienna and that evening we did purchase an additional excursion of a "Night at the Oprah" This was another fantastic excursion, well worth the extra cost. We went to the Vienna school of Music where we were entertained by 2 (man and women) classical dancers, a 12 piece orchestra and a pair of Oprah performers who were really good. Even for someone like me who is not well schooled in classical music or opera, this was something I would have hated to miss!
The last port of call was one of the nicest, most beautiful cities we have ever been to. We have seen beautiful places like St. Petersburg and the Pyramids which of course are amazing however Budapest is right up there at the top. In fact on all the Viking TV ads the Parliament Building and Chain Bridge are shown. In day and especially at night these sights and historical places are absolutely beautiful. Luckily we were there for one of the first days of which the Christmas market was open so we were able to see the local foods and small shops. Something well worth planning a trip during this time period! Our excursion was a city wide tour which took us to such historical places such as panoramic tour of the Pest side of the city. Journey along Andrássy Avenue and see the 19th- and 20th-century mansions, National Opera House, Parliament Building and Chain Bridge. Stop in Heroes’ Square to learn more about Hungarian history, then cross the Danube to Buda’s Castle District. Walk up the hill to Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church. All of these have such wonderful views. The tragic history of Budapest(actually one side of river is Buda, the other side is Pest) is heartbreaking. From the Nazis to the Soviet occupation, these people have suffered tremendously. One thing you MUST TRY is the pastry roll. You will see people walking around eating something that is hard to determine what it is. It is rolled up held with a pastry type bakers paper. It is called a KürtÅ‘skalács but don't worry about that, just try one. Most are baked over a flame and the best are the cinnamon although they do come in other flavors. You will want one of these each time you see them being made! Worth going back to Budapest just for this alone.
All in all this trip was the best cruise we have ever been on. From Viking Cruise Line, our ship, our ports, the food, excursions, everything was great. The transportation back to the airport was on a first class bus and in closing all I can say is We Cant Wait for our Next Viking Cruise!