|Budapest's Parliament Building from the Sun Deck in the Rain|
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...
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.|
|From the Sun Deck in the Wachau Valley|
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.
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.