Friday, June 5, 2015

On the Viking Ship (In the Danube River)

Budapest's Parliament Building from the Sun Deck in the Rain
My sister and I recently splurged on one of those river cruises you see advertised on TV, especially if you watch Downton Abbey. Before we left, and after we returned, the most often-asked questions were about the ship! Not the Danube's color (I was asked about that a lot), or the various destinations we visited. People seem fascinated by the idea of cruising on a river on one of those skinny, odd-looking boats. So, before I jump into my thousand photographs of the fantastic destinations we visited via the ship, let me tell you about the ship itself.

The first thing we notice about the ship was the efficiency of the staff. Everyone chipped in to help with embarkation and disembarkation. The maitre d' Vladimir showed us to our room and gave us a thorough orientation to its amenities. The chef Erik was rolling passenger luggage behind me as we left the ship. Soon we were introduced to all of the key personnel just in case we needed anything: the concierge, the chef, the hotel manager, the program director, the front desk guy, the housekeeping manager, the maitre d', and the sommelier. They always seemed to be around, in uniform, and extremely professional, and all but the program director came from countries on or near the Danube. Most meals were taken in the ship's restaurant where friendly waiters took good care of us. By the end of the week, Ronaldo knew to have my Coke Light waiting for me at lunch! It's nice to be pampered.

I'll tell you a little secret about my philosophy of blogging: I avoid writing anything negative about the places I visit. I'm no Pollyanna, but I don't see any reason to tell you about crappy lunches or bitter salespeople or filthy bathrooms. I just leave that stuff out. Keep that in mind while you read this blog about our river cruise experience, because I suspect that you might suspect that I'm candy-coating it. Nope. I have nothing negative to say. It was fabulous: well-organized, fun, unboring. If I'm not mentioning it here, it is not because it was sub-par---it is because I don't want to make this thing too long. If you have a question, ask me in the comments section!

We chose the Danube Waltz cruise, starting in Budapest and sailing upriver through Slovakia and Austria to Passau, Germany. From Passau, we jumped off the Viking ship and onto a Viking bus which drove for four hours through the German and Czech countryside where we would stay for three additional days in Prague. And by the way, there were no passport checks anywhere except the airports at the beginning and end.

You're wondering about the stateroom, I bet. We booked late and were lucky to have found a cancellation, mid-ship on the first floor. The room was bigger and more luxurious than we expected. It was all we needed because we were hardly there except for sleeping. Here are some views...

I know what you're thinking: on the commercial, they show rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and sometimes verandas. Yup, those rooms were on the boat, too, and if you think you prefer one of those, please start saving now, and book early. They are on the second and third floors. Let me remind you, though, of the people on the Titanic (in the movie) who traveled in steerage. Didn't they have a lot more fun than the Snooty McSnootersons in the fancier rooms? I contend they did, up until the iceberg happened.

So, yeah, when I stood on tippy-toes to look out our rectangular porthole, the top of the Danube River was at my chin level. This would mean, when I was lying down I was under water. So all of you people to whom I said, "I'll be floating on the Danube at the end of May," I should have said, "I'll be floating IN the Danube at the end of May." (That may have given you the wrong idea though. Accuracy is sometimes troublesome.)
View of Bratislava's waterfront from our stateroom. The green Danube is just above the porthole frame.
We signed-up for as many optional excursions as we possibly could, and I'll be blogging about them in coming weeks. There was plenty to do when we were on the ship besides watching movie in the room. There were great views from the Sun Deck (the top level),
From the Sun Deck in the Wachau Valley
plus shuffleboard and giant Chess.

 One morning we were treated to a pastry demo by the chef, pastry chef, and two volunteers from the audience:
Rolling the strudel dough
Stretching the strudel dough
Adding the apple filling
Rolling the strudel with the extra tablecloth it had been created on

There was tea time.

One night while we were in Austria, the staff threw out the usual dinner protocol and threw an Austrian-themed party complete with Weiner Schnitzel, Sacher Torte, and strolling musicians. Some staff were in Lederhosen (or Dirndl), some in checkered shirts, but everyone was festive.

Sacher Torte: chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, apricot filling

Speaking of food, the ship desserts were fantastic. Here's a collage of some of them:

The desserts and other courses were presented in sensible portions, so one never felt too full or too naughty/guilty. With all of the uphill cobblestone walking we did almost every day, I'm sure we walked-off these innocent desserts. And the Chateaubriand. And the Deconstructed Beef Wellington. And the cheese plate.
This was interesting: sometimes the ship double-parks at the dock and you have to walk through other ships to get to land. Here I'm standing on the ramp between two Viking ships in Budapest:

One last thing: what do you suppose this sign means? It was posted on the railing around the skylight on the floor of the Sun Deck. I'm guessing it's warning me against climbing over the rail and stepping on the skylight, but I can't be sure.


Carol Seufert said...

The best I can make up the sign is "children must be supervised"

Victoria M said...

The sign does not have a line through it, so it is not a warning.
It has people running from the corners to the middle, towards a man and a woman. I am thinking it means that if you have to go to the bathroom, run to your parents!

Margaret said...

Hmmm, I hadn't considered that the sign hung on the rail around the skylight had to do with the territory around the skylight and not the skylight itself. Advising parental supervision would make sense. Good thing I'm not a parent, because I had no idea how to interpret that sign!

Anonymous said...

It means "pose for your Christmas card here, and put the short children in front so that they can be seen by Aunt Matilda."

Margaret said...

Anonymous, that is brilliant!!!