ABOARD VIKING GULLVEIG – A full buffet breakfast, complemented by an a la carte menu in the Main Dining Room fortified us for the activities of our morning in Passau.
A large selection of cheeses, cold meats, yogurts, fruit and freshly made bread spread across the buffet table made for difficult choices. An omelet station and a full roster of a la carte options make it truly difficult to decide what to select, yet somehow we managed and were off to meet our very knowledgeable guide, Carmella.
Known as the “City of Three Rivers,” this ancient city sits at the confluence of the: Inn, Iliz and Danube Rivers and is the last major German city on the Danube on the border of Austria. Founded as a settlement of the Boli Celtic tribe, it was later the site of the Roman fort, Castra Batava. In 739, an English Celtic monk named Boniface founded the diocese of Passau – the largest see of the Holy Roman Empire for many years.
The tour was slated to take us on a 90-minute through town – but was more like two hours – stopping at sites along the way such St Stephan’s Cathedral, a magnificent baroque church located on the highest point of Old Town. Nearly destroyed in a 1662 fire which swept through the town, it was rebuilt by architect Carloa Lurago and boasts magnificent stucco works by G.B. Carolone and frescoes by Carpoforus Teencals. It is also home to the largest pipe organ in Europe, and features 17,974 organ pipes.
Following that, we went to a gingerbread-making demonstration at Café Simon, which is owned by four generations of that family. We were treated to “pounch,” – a hot rum drink – and samples of the dark cake, which we were surprised to learn, doesn’t actually call for ginger!
A tour of the small Christmas Market rendered some typical souvenirs and Christmas trinkets. We returned to the ship, where we were treated to a special Austrian teatime and Christmas cookie demonstration, courtesy of the ship’s chef. Delicate “vanillekipferl” (butter cookies) and coconut macaroons were made, then served to us piping hot in the comfortable Lounge – the heart of the ship’s social activity.
Later, we were hosted to a special cocktail hour with live music hosted by the captain, hotel manager and program director, before having dinner with our new friends.
One of the nice features about being on such a small ship is that it’s easy to make friends along the way. We “clicked” with mother-daughter duo Ann and Laura from Pittsburgh, and Erika and Mitch – a couple from California, the very first night and we’ve found them to be very compatible sailing companions.
I have to say that everything we’ve eaten since boarding the ship has been outstanding. Breakfast is always wonderful – whether taken on Aquavit Terrace or in the Main Dining Room. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate and cookies are always available in a special area just off the lounge and snacks are served with drinks in the evenings. No one will go hungry on Viking Cruises, that’s for sure!
The dinner menu always features regional cuisine, including a beef dish, fish or vegetarian choices. In addition to that, daily stand-bys, including chicken, beef and salmon are always an option if you don’t want to tempt your palate with local cuisine. The desserts are decadent and always feature a regional favorite.
The service throughout has been amazing and within hours of boarding, the crew knew our names and greet every time we see them.
All in all, this has been an amazing experience since we boarded. If I have only one “complaint” it’s that the WiFi – although free – is unreliable and extremely slow – when we do get it.
Tonight, we set sail for Linz, Austria. Stay tuned…..!
Photos by: Michelle da Silva Richmond