It’s time for Part 2 of my Viking review cruise review of the Danube Waltz! In this post I’ll cover the shore excursions, onboard entertainment, staff, and overall thoughts. If you missed it, you can find Part 1 of my review here.
As part of your Viking experience, one shore excursion at each port of call is included in the price of your trip. The vast majority of these excursions seem to be a combination bus/walking tour of the city (2-4 hours in length). They’re not a requirement, so it’s up to you if you’d like to join the group or not. Keep in mind, Viking caters to a slightly older demographic, so they design the tours to meander rather than sprint.
We often wander on foot when we travel, so by the 5th or 6th tour I was getting a bit antsy at the slow pace. However, the tour guides are full of fascinating information that you would miss otherwise. Plus, traveling on a bus allows you to see more of the city than you ever could just on foot. In the future, I’d plan to skip one or two of these in favor of exploring the city completely on our own.
In addition to the included tours, Viking offers optional shore excursions for an extra charge. It seems approximately 1-4 are available in each city at a cost of around $50 – $150 per person. Rather than the general introduction to the city you get with the walking tour, these excursions are more specifically themed. On our cruise, they ranged from a food market sampling tour to a home visit in the countryside to a Mozart/Strauss concert. While we didn’t try any of the optional events, we talked to plenty of other guests who thoroughly enjoyed them.
In the pictures below you can see a glimpse of our adventures in the cities we visited (Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Durnstein, Cesky Krumlov, Melk, and Passau).
As I previously mentioned, Viking did a wonderful job keeping us entertained on board the ship. The ship’s daily newsletter detailed what was on the schedule for the following day. Often, the included shore excursions took place in the morning while the optional excursions were in the afternoon or evening. Most nights after dinner, there was additional entertainment in the lounge.
Over the course of our journey we watched Austrian / Hungarian singers and dancers performing traditional folk music and dancing, participated in a movie trivia night (which we won!!), and enjoyed a deck party as we sailed through Budapest at night. There was also another evening of local music one night, but we went to bed early haha. In addition to special evening entertainment, there were a few lectures during the day. We listened to a discussion about the history of Austrian coffeehouses and I watched a demonstration about how to make apple strudel!
We also noticed they were quite liberal with extra drinks and snacks. On a few occasions they passed around champagne or local specialties such as wine spritzers and fruit schnapps. I discovered I hate schnapps 🙂 Viking also provided local appetizers a few days right after we returned from the shore excursion. It was such an unexpected surprise to receive these little extras. Certainly a different experience from the nickel and dime-ing you might encounter on other cruises.
Jay and I also took advantage of a unique opportunity to visit a local farmers market with the head chef! He was a younger guy and quite a character – clearly very passionate about his food. He took a group of 10 of us through the market and pointed out different ingredients and spices he uses. Then we stopped at a local stand and tried a variety of Austrian meats, cheeses, and wine. It was an added bonus that it only cost us a round-trip metro ticket! It’s no wonder Viking has such a stellar reputation.
As you can tell by now, I’m basically raving about every aspect of the Viking cruise. Well, the service is no different. Everyone from the chef to the servers to the individuals who cleaned our room were friendly and engaging and ready to meet your every whim. We’re not exactly the most demanding passengers, but we saw them go above and beyond (almost to the point of ridiculousness) for some other guests. For us, it was the perfect level of attentiveness without being overbearing. Simple things like ensuring we always had a full bottle of water in our room made all the difference.
I have to give a special shout out for our program director, Joe. If you’re lucky enough to sail with him, you’re in for a treat. He conducted port talks every evening in the lounge to describe the city we’d see the following day. They touched on the history and logistics of the city and included any other important details we’d need to know for the next day. (Hopefully this is consistent across every Viking ship because they were very helpful). He also hosted our on board entertainment programs and participated in the excursions. Overall, he was just a hilarious, personable guy who was a lot of fun to have on board. We also saw the maître d’ and hospitality manager working tirelessly to make the trip flawless for everyone on board.
It’s hard to come up with any negatives about our trip, which says a lot about the Viking experience. The only minor points were the slower pace of the excursions, the safety light in the bathroom (Jay’s personal vendetta), and that we sailed mostly at night. I had high expectations before our vacation and they were met or exceeded in practically every way! We will surely travel with Viking again in the future. Maybe on one of their Ocean cruises?? In the meantime, we’re recommending it to everyone we know!
Have you ever traveled with Viking? What did you think?