My husband and I have had the great pleasure of traveling twice with Viking River Cruises. Two years ago we traveled through France from Marseille to Burgundy and then went on to Paris as a Viking add-on trip. We recently returned from our second river cruise on the Danube, starting in Budapest and traveling through Austria and Germany to Nuremberg. From Nuremberg, we again, traveled on to Prague with some of the other guests for another add-on experience. Both times we have been on river cruises we have traveled with additional adult family members. This is a great way for us to spend quality time and share fun adventures with loved ones that live in other parts of the country.
This trip, for us, was a celebration of our brand new empty nest. The Empty Nest Victory Lap, I jokingly call it. A time to celebrate that our children are right where they should be, and that we have reached a new phase in our lives.
Traveling can be facilitated a variety of ways, as a child I traveled abroad with my parents on lovely business trips. As a young woman I traveled twice on a dime, through Europe with a backpack and a train pass. I believe our Bible was called "Europe on ten dollars a day". As adults we have traveled by our own design or on private tours, from city to city staying in a different hotel every few nights, packing and repacking as we go. Each one of these modes is fun and exhilarating and provides amazing life changing experiences. High Tea at the Dorchester as a child was equally as fascinating as spaghetti dinners with other 20-something travelers in a Salzburg youth hostel in the early 80s. In recent years we have had International travel experiences with our young adult children, and that is perhaps the most wonderful of all. Taking your child to a favorite city is a dream come true. Having your child show you around the European city they live in, is just even more magical.
River cruise travel is a lovely luxury that provides many perks in itself. Each boat has less than 200 guests. Spending a week touring and sharing cocktails and meals with other travelers is both entertaining and a great way to meet other travelers and hear about their adventures. On this past trip I was fascinated to hear that some travelers were going from river cruise to river cruise. One lucky group we met were on the go for four months!
When you travel on a river boat, your state room, your closet and your belongings go with you as you travel from village to village in the same country or from country to country.. Unpack once and you are ready for adventure. Sleeping in the same bed every night after a days full of visual feasts is a great way to feel relaxed and well rested on your trip! On most days you come back to the boat for a lovely lunch. This gives you a chance to change shoes, grab a sweater, pick up your camera, before your next tour.
Some mornings or afternoons are spent cruising on the river passing beautiful sites you would never see from the road. Some days you will have both a morning and an afternoon tour. Everything is done for you. The ship's crew sees you off with water bottles, umbrellas, and tour information. Tour guides are awaiting on shore to take each group (on very clean, comfortable buses) to see the sights and hear first hand from a local about historical significances, artists' talents, and local customs. Different times during the trip there will be opportunities for shopping, coffee at a local cafe, or independent exploration.
Evenings are spent aboard ship. Cocktail hour is held in the lovely large living room area. Exceptionally professional and gracious staff make sure you have the cocktails you desire as you await the briefing from the Activity Director about the next day's adventures. Meals are served in two different fashions, either a more informal buffet on the top deck or a sit down meal in the formal dining room. Complimentary regional wine and beer are served at meals. After dinner, the living room is the hot spot for cocktails, live piano music, chatty travelers, and dancing. On some evenings there are performances or events. Late night fun on the top deck as the ship travels to the next destination or goes through the locks is particularly entertaining. Our family was fond of late night putting contests on the three small putting areas.
Photos from our first day in Budapest.