ABOARD VIKING GULLVEIG – Obviously there are many choices out there when you’re trying to decide on a river cruise and selecting the right company can be a dilemma – especially when you’ve never done one – as was the case with me.
I can honestly and fairly report, that Viking River Cruise’s excellent service – even before I boarded – was stellar and I highly recommend them if you’re in the market for a magical adventure.
Weeks before my departure on the Danube Waltz itinerary, Viking sent me via Fed Ex a box containing my personal itinerary, a guidebook for the Danube, paper tags for my suitcases showing my stateroom number, a red leather luggage tag and a Viking sticker to put on my jacket when I arrived at Munich Airport.
From then on, it was smooth sailing throughout.
At every stop First Class buses, knowledgeable tour guides – fluent in English – and fascinating itineraries with plenty of free time included became a daily occurrence. A high-tech audio headset system ensures that you never miss a word that your guide is saying.
Viking offers a free excursion at every port with the option of taking a “leisure tour,” less vigorous, and with less walking and fewer steps to climb than the regular ones. In some ports, there are additional optional excursions – for a fee – to visit palaces, attend classical concerts, or even a home-hosted visit allowing you to meet a local family immerse yourself in local culture.
Daily activities on board showcase the area you’re visiting, according to the season. The Lounge – the ship’s social hub – was the scene of December-appropriate activities such as a gingerbread decorating workshop, Christmas cookie-making and Christmas caroling by a local children’s choir – and of course, the wonderful Christmas markets.
In the evening we were treated to soothing piano music, courtesy of Lazlo who seemingly has an endless repertoire.
The Viking Daily, delivered nightly to our cabin, gives an overview of the following day’s activities – both on and off the ship, along with information on the port we’d be visiting, and some of the city’s history.
Classy Creature Comforts Throughout
Throughout the ship, soothing décor and creature comforts await. Dining is always a delight, whether in for “formal” dining room or the more casual Aquavit terrace, where you’ll find lighter fare in a buffet setting for breakfast and lunch. Wine, beer and soda is complimentary with meals. WiFi is also free, although internet service was spotty on this particular itinerary.
A 24-hr coffee bar offers hot tea, chocolate and coffee along with fresh pastries in the morning and tasty cookies in the afternoon.
Menus featured nightly regional specials in addition to daily standard fare such as salmon, chicken and a meat dish.
Cabins are stocked with wonderfully comfortable beds with fluffy eiderdowns, small refrigerator, bathrobes and slippers, and a generous supply of L’Occitane toiletries. Bathrooms even have heated floors!
Cabins also feature a large TV with a vast selection of on demand movies, as well as CNN, CNBC,National Geographic, BBC and more, while a small library is where you’ll find two computer stations, games and books.
Every time we left ship, we were offered bottled water and large umbrellas were always on hand anytime we needed them.
When our cruise ended, transportation to the airport – or hotel for those who had booked an extension in Budapest – was seamless.
What can I say? Viking is a class act. Would I cruise with them again? You bet!
Photos: Michelle da Silva Richmond