What I Loved About Cruising The Danube With Viking River Cruises

“What are you, a 67-year old retiree?”

“Would you like me to get you a cane for your trip?”

“Are you sure your hips can handle this?”

Har-de-har. I hear ya. Yes, I am well aware that cruises have the reputation of being almost exclusively for seniors. But I would be a terrible travel blogger if I only listened to naysayers, now would I? I was genuinely curious to find out whether or not youngsters like me actually could enjoy a river cruise in Europe and all of what it entails.

My trip? The Danube Waltz and the Christmas markets.

Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz: My Favourite Things

The hospitality

Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz

From the warm smiles of the Viking staff at the Budapest airport to the waiters who remembered what I liked to drink in the morning (a cappuccino and an orange juice, please and thank you), there wasn’t a single faux pas as far as customer service is concerned. Mieke, the program director, and Vanessa, the concierge, were always around to answer my questions, and the waiting staff was kind and friendly.

Ask the captain nicely and he just might let you sit in his chair for a bit!

Mind you – it wasn’t because I was a journalist and I had a special note in my file reminding the staff to be extra courteous to me. I asked around to experienced cruisers and observed thoroughly; my conclusion is that they behave that way with everyone. That’s the Viking way.

The itinerary, ports of call, and excursions

Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz

Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz
My husband and I at a classical music concert in Vienna for our anniversary – well done, Viking.

I picked the Danube Waltz because I had barely seen that part of Europe – Hungary, Slovakia and most of Austria were all new to me. Also, I’m a sucker for Christmas markets so needless to say I didn’t need much convincing!

Side note: the weather was absolutely terrible, as it often is in December in Europe – and from what I gather, a common occurrence on the Danube in wintertime. But not ordering sunlight was pretty much Viking’s only oversight on this cruise ;-)

The size and demographics

Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz

With just 90 or so staterooms, these river cruises are intimate and on a human scale – which certainly contributes to the stellar customer service I mentioned earlier. Longships are not what I like to call a “shopping malls of the seas”; they’re smartly laid-out hotels, basically, and not gigantic and flashy entertainment centers.

It’s easy to connect with both the staff, which comes from all over Europe and all with a different story to tell, and with the guests that, contrary to popular belief, are not all retirees. I saw teenagers, young couples, multi-generation families, and yes, plenty of seniors, but not only. Another proof that river cruising can be for those under 60.

The staterooms

Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz

Trying to see through the fog

Staterooms vary in shapes, sizes, and prices, but I’d say they’re all very modern and ergonomically-balanced. Rooms are smaller than what you’d normally find in a hotel (although, by European standards, they’re quite similar!) but there is ample space to store your clothes, toiletries, and electronics – you can even fit cumbersome suitcases under the bed and keep as much clearing space as possible.

And, as opposed to regular cruise ships, Viking’s staterooms are all equipped with at worst, a giant wall-to-wall window, at best, a small terrace. No need to worry about getting a windowless room on these longships! Everyone gets a view.

The convenience

Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz

This is how close the ships actually are to the cities visited

Sure, a pan-European trip sounds fun, but once you’ve done it once or twice you realise how tiring changing cities every few days actually is. Maybe I am 67 years old on the inside, but I ain’t got the energy to do that no more. This gal needs her eight hours of sleep! With a river cruise, you get to see a handful of destinations and yet you don’t have to repack your suitcase every night.

And, like demonstrated above, it’s nice to have the ship docked right smack in the heart of the cities visited. No need to worry about long bus rides between port and city centre; it’s just a few steps away. And on the rare occasion that it’s not (namely in Vienna and Salzburg), Viking arranges a bus service to take you to the attractions safely and quickly.

The on-board amenities

Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz
Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz
Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz
 

From shows to destination-oriented conferences, to gingerbread-making lessons to game nights, there is no such thing as being bored on these longships. There might not be any casinos or glitzy concert halls (all for the better, as I am not even remotely interested in those) on board, but entertainment is always around the corner nonetheless. I liked that the introvert in me could choose between spending alone time in my stateroom, in the quiet library, or in the lively lounge – it’s nice to have options!

The value

Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz

Now, let’s be honest – there’s a reason why cruises were always associated with the elderly, seeing as they usually come at a rather steep cost. I don’t know many 20-something who can afford to drop 10K+ on a vacation! Although I didn’t pay actual money for this cruise because I was there upon Viking’s invitation, I know how much they cost and considering everything I mentioned above I sincerely believe that they are worth the price tag, which is somewhat reasonable (prices vary depending on the length and ship but prices start at $2300 for the Viking River Cruises Danube Waltz, for example). There are many inclusions in that price, and I feel that as a customer we get a lot in return of our payment.

I’ll expand on that later in another post about whether or not river cruises are for you, and why they are worth their price. Stay tuned!

 

23 Comments on What I Loved About Cruising The Danube With Viking River Cruises

  1. Rachel
    January 4, 2016 at 10:54 am (1 year ago)

    I just learned about these river cruises last year and am so intrigued. It looks fabulous!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 6, 2016 at 3:42 pm (1 year ago)

      They are just as fabulous as they sound. One of the best travel experiences of my life.

      Reply
  2. Cherie
    January 4, 2016 at 10:09 pm (1 year ago)

    I’m 27 and this past September I had the unique opportunity to sail the Danube with Viking as well (I went as a guest of my mom – it’s been a dream of her’s for years!). While I wasn’t super stoked about traveling with a ton of seniors, it turned out to be one of the best vacations i’ve been on. In my opinion your comments are VERY on point with the experience I had on my cruise. The service is second to none and the atmosphere on the ship is incomparable to anything else i’ve ever experienced. Viking definitely knows what they’re doing when it comes to service and I look forward to sailing with them again this fall!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 6, 2016 at 3:42 pm (1 year ago)

      So glad to see you had a similar experience Cherie! I literally have nothing bad to say about them. Top-notch all around. Have a great trip this fall! :)

      Reply
  3. Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate
    January 5, 2016 at 10:00 am (1 year ago)

    I’ve always wanted to go on a Viking trip! I’ve actually never been on a river cruise period, though my family booked our annual Europe vacation on Ama Waterways next summer (from Budapest down to Bulgaria). Have you ever sailed with Ama?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 6, 2016 at 3:41 pm (1 year ago)

      This was my first river cruise too and I was positively impressed. I loved having everything taken care of for me! I know of AMA but haven’t cruised with them. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time in Eastern Europe!

      Reply
  4. Maggie
    January 5, 2016 at 1:00 pm (1 year ago)

    I love that you did this! Every time I see one of the Viking commercials I think to myself – dang it, I wanna do that!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 6, 2016 at 3:38 pm (1 year ago)

      You should! It was such an amazing experience. I can’t stop gushing about it.

      Reply
  5. Donna Brandt
    April 15, 2016 at 8:57 pm (1 year ago)

    I have been on Viking twice down the Danube. I loved the feel of the long ship and the smaller ports. You have plenty of time to explore the ports on your own, and the tours they provide are very informative. The staff has always been wonderful! Both of my trips were in the winter. The weather was horrible, but was made so much better by being welcomed back to the ship by the staff with steaming mugs of hot chocolate (slightly spiked)! I would recommend a Viking cruise to everyone!!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 25, 2016 at 12:59 pm (1 year ago)

      Glad to see you had a positive experience too!

      Reply
  6. Lisa
    August 11, 2016 at 11:15 pm (10 months ago)

    I’m going to devour your blog as I’ll be setting sail with Viking in Summer of 2017. Accompanying my cousin we will be doing the Danube Waltz with Pre excursion Slovenia and Post Prague so excited.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 17, 2016 at 1:58 pm (9 months ago)

      Amazing! Enjoy your Danube cruise.

      Reply
    • Sandy Beatty
      January 8, 2017 at 3:24 pm (5 months ago)

      We are going in late June on the Grand European cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. Will be learning all I can before we go.

      Reply
  7. Gini Sprague
    December 22, 2016 at 10:04 am (5 months ago)

    My husband and I took our first cruise in December, 2014. It was the Danube Waltz. It was the best vacation we have ever taken and we are hooked on Viking now! We just came home from the Rhine Getaway and just booked the Iconic Cities of the western mediterranean, our first Viking ocean cruise. Viking never disappoints, and the value we got for our $4000 including air was second to none. The Danube Christmas market tour still remains our favorite and Bratislava is my favorite city also!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 30, 2016 at 9:25 pm (5 months ago)

      Glad you liked your river cruising experience too, Gini!

      Reply
  8. Ann Chapman
    January 20, 2017 at 10:27 pm (4 months ago)

    The problem with river cruises (or any other kind), is that you never really get to know the country (ies) you are visiting. True, you get to see lots of beautiful monuments, but never really know what goes on in the country. You can go ashore for a couple of hours, see a few things, then back on the boat. I prefer to live with the people, use local transportation, small hotels, then you can say you have really been to a country. River cruises are kind of like changing planes at an airport, you learn about as much about a country there, as you do on a river cruise.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 24, 2017 at 12:22 pm (4 months ago)

      Yes, that’s true. It’s a lot of quick stops. But I see it as a way to sample places and then I can return to those I liked in the future, and skip the ones I didn’t care for.

      Reply
  9. Tom
    January 27, 2017 at 11:41 am (4 months ago)

    Did The Danube Waltz mid December On The Viking Ve. Loved every second of it. Yes it is cold and damp in December but not unbearable. I suggest the Chesky Krumlov day trip in Linz! The old town looks like something out of the Renaissance. Also, Budapest has so much to offer and much of it is free of charge.

    As a photographer I was in my element with so much new and interesting to photograph.

    I also found the service to be excellent. I can’t say enough about the crew. I had the same kind of experience on Vikings Rhine getaway. Will do it again!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 27, 2017 at 1:00 pm (4 months ago)

      I wish I’d gone to Cesky Krumlov! Glad you enjoyed your experience.

      Reply
  10. Tessa Daniels
    February 6, 2017 at 7:16 pm (4 months ago)

    Hello,
    I love your article! My husband and I are considering a Viking Cruise on the Rhine in July, but are worried about the age difference. We are in our mid-twenties. This is our only reservation, as we wouldn’t want to feel awkward or out of place. They look like they would be absolutely amazing!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 7, 2017 at 10:59 am (4 months ago)

      Hey Tessa! While my husband and I were the youngest ones on board, it wasn’t an issue at all, at least for us. Everyone was really kind and we made friends with some of the staff and other cruisers.

      Reply

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  1. […] weather wasn’t completely awful for the first time in several days (I was on that super foggy Viking river cruise, by the way) which meant that I wouldn’t be freezing my ass off and that I would most likely […]

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