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April 09-April 16

2016 Danube Waltz Itinerary 

   April 09: Day 1   Saturday Passau, Germany
   April 10: Day 2    Sunday Passau, Germany
   April 11: Day 3   Monday Linz and Český Krumlov, C.R.
   April 12: Day 4   Tuesday Melk and Dürnstein, Austria
   April 13: Day 5  Wednesday Vienna, Austria
   April 14: Day 6   Thursday Bratislava, Slovakia
   April 15: Day 7   Friday Budapest, Hungary
   April 16: Day 8   Saturday Budapest, Hungary
  After the trip concludes, why not extend your trip with a two-day stay in Budapest?


About the Danube Waltz River Cruise


Rick Archer's Note:  The Danube Waltz Cruise will be Marla's third river cruise. 

When people think of Austria, their first impressions include the Sound of Music, the Viennese Waltz, and, in particular, the Blue Danube Waltz written by Johann Strauss. 

If you have never been on a river cruise, I can say there is something very special about these trips.  On a river cruise, you can sit in a chair at the front of the ship and prepare for a spectacle.  Gaze in awe as a neverending tableau of beautiful landscape unfolds before your very eyes!! 

There is nothing to spoil your view or your concentration.  No billboards, no sounds of the city, and no litter exist to irritate.  Instead, there is strictly peace, beauty and serenity.  If you wish, turn on your head set and listen to the musical strains of Mozart and Strauss as you float merrily along.  And perhaps a glass of wine??  Enhance your experience with your choice of Austrian wines such as Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, or Prosecco.

Some say a river cruise might be the most perfect vacation of all.  You won't get any argument from me.  This 300 mile sail along the most lovely river in Europe is incredibly inviting.

In the case of the fabled Danube River, it is the second longest river in Europe after the Volga in Russia.  The Danube starts in the Black Forest mountains of southwestern Germany and flows for some 1,770 miles (2,850 km) to its mouth on the Black Sea.

Along its course it passes through 10 countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine. 

From its first recorded history as the northern border of the Roman Empire, the Danube has formed the boundary between great empires.  One need only look at its banks lined with castles and fortresses to know the Danube has long served an important military purpose.  In addition, its waters have served as a vital commercial highway between nations.

Thanks in large part to the incredible natural beauty of the river, the river’s majesty has long been celebrated in romantic music.  The famous waltz An der schönen, blauen Donau (1867; The Blue Danube), by Johann Strauss, became the symbol of imperial Vienna and has remained emblazoned there ever since. 

The History Of The Viennese Waltz

By Melanie LaPatin  (source)

The product of a more elegant age, the Viennese Waltz was introduced in Vienna in the early 1800s.  Immediately the dance was roundly condemned in England.

The Times of London had this to say about the Prince Regent's grand ball in 1816,

We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last it is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressor on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females.

So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.

Of course, we now know such condemnation did not deter the upper crust from eventually indulging in the Viennese Waltz.

The renowned German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote,

Never have I moved so lightly. I was no longer a human being. To hold the most adorable creature in one's arms and fly around with her like the wind, so that everything around us fades away.

When Lord Palmerston of England gave the royal stamp of approval by dancing the Viennese Waltz in public, the rest of English Society joined in for a brief spell.  That changed in 1914.

When World War I broke out, the waltz orchestras left England due to the fact that they were largely made up of Austrian musicians.  Nothing of Germanic origin was in vogue due to the war. The Viennese Waltz pretty much died out as England and Germany battled each other and the entire world joined in the fight. Only the Slow Waltz variation that originated in England continued beyond the Austrian borders.

Over the next thirty years, Austria kept this faster form of Waltz alive as a folk dance.

After the end of the Second World War, the original Viennese Waltz made a resurgence.  Since then, the Viennese Waltz has remained one of the staples of ballroom dance to this day. It is a dance that requires a great deal of stamina as the dancers twirl constantly around the floor at a dizzying pace.

In America, Dr. Lloyd Pappy Shaw, who revived the Square Dance in the early 1900s, wrote,

In close embrace, the dancers turned continually while they revolved around the room. There were no steps forward or back, no relief, it was all a continuous whirl of pleasure for those who could take it.

The Viennese Waltz remains essentially the same today as when it was introduced two centuries ago, and some of the greatest composers have written the most beautiful music in the world to accommodate the dancers. For this reason, the dance echoes the glories and the romance of a more genteel age.

Rick' Note: Although it takes a bit of practice, the basic steps of Viennese Waltz can be mastered easily enough.  The major drawback is the rapid speed of the music.  For you Texans, the Viennese Waltz is like a fast Polka.  If you've got the stamina, the Waltz with its wonderful swirls and twirls is a beautiful and quite elegant dance.

Although our trip will take place just after the traditional season of the elaborate Austrian Waltz Balls, I am guessing that there is some place we can find during our stay in Austria that will allow us to dance the Viennese Waltz. 

To get us in the mood, I intend to offer a month of free Waltz classes to anyone signed up for the trip.  Perhaps a more gentle-paced Viennese Waltz song can be located so we don't have to be panting all the time. 

When the trip begins, it is my strong desire through the magic of miniaturization to bring a portable sound system.  Hopefully I can find one capable of providing enough volume to allow us to dance the moment we find a suitable dance floor. 

Marla tells me that part of our agenda in Vienna will take us to a place where the Viennese Waltz Balls are held.   If that's the case, out of our backpacks will emerge amplifiers and we will have our very own Viennese Waltz flashdance on the spot!

However, if worse comes to worse, we will clear the top of our ship and dance the Waltz right on top of the Danube River itself!  And then we will all strike a pose and be beautiful for our pictures!  Where there's a will, there's a way. 


Austria, Land of the Castles

The magnificent Hohenwerfen Castle

The incredible Hochosterwitz Castle

The only thing more imposing than a castle by the river is a huge castle high atop a mountain!!

This Danube River Cruise isn't just about Waltzes.  For you guys, this trip is about Castles as well.  Austria has some of the most famous castles in the world. 

If your lady objects to visiting a castle with you, tell her that Castles can be romantic too.   For example, how about a unique Valentine's idea for your loved one?

Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich had the magnificent Mirabell Castle built for his beloved Salome Alt in 1606.

This fabulous castle in the sky must have done the trick because Salome went on to bear the archbishop some 15 children.

Reputable sources disagree on the exact number - poor Archbishop Wolf was presumably too distracted by spiritual matters to keep an accurate account himself.  That said, an argument can be made that the more impregnable the castle is, the more pregnable the lady becomes...

Mirabell Castle dominates the Salzburg landscape


Schlögener Loop


is a look at the spectacular Schlögener Loop

Although the picture shows an amazing U-Turn, if one looks down from above, this is actually a gigantic S-Turn. 

This amazing formation is about 20 miles east of Passau, the starting point for our trip.  The beauty of a river cruise is that it gives a perspective that cannot be appreciated from a car or a land point.  There are simply places a highway can't reach.

Similar to a trip through the Panama Canal, the Danube River cuts through a constant maze of unfolding scenery that is virtually inaccessible by car.  So why bother renting a vehicle?

Fortunately, there is a much better option.  Why not sit back on the viewing deck of your river boat?  From the comfort of a rocking chair, you can take in the amazing scenery with your friends, your camera, and a glass of wine for accompaniment. 




Day One and Day Two:  Passau, Germany


Known as Dreiflüssestadt (City of Three Rivers), Passau is the place where the Danube River meets the Inn and the Ilz.  At the conjunction point, you can witness the breathtaking and unusual view of three rivers coming together in one place.

This picturesque city lies in Germany’s far southeast corner on the edge of the Austrian border.  Settled since prehistory and a former hub of the salt trade, it became the Roman village of Batavis, then later the Holy Roman Empire’s largest diocese and a sword-making center. Saint Stephan’s Cathedral, home of the world’s second-largest cathedral organ, is one of Passau’s favorite attractions.

Passau's magnificent St. Steven's Cathedral is located on the old town's highest point. After it had burnt down almost completely in the devastating 1662 town fire, it was rebuilt by the famous baroque architect Carlo Lurago. Its stucco works were done by G.B.Carlone and the frescos were painted by Carpoforus Tencalla, all of them Italian baroque artists.

With 17974 organ pipes, 233 stops and 4 carillons the organ in our cathedral is the world's largest cathedral organ. All five parts of the organ can be played from the main key board, one at a time or all together, offering the visitor an unforgettable acoustical delight.

The Old Town of Passau, rebuilt in the 17th century by Italian baroque masters after a devastating town fire, is outstandingly beautiful. In the heart of Passau rises the Cathedral of St. Steven with its three characteristic, green onion-domed towers.
Most of the sights are in Passau’s Old Town: many churches, the New Bishop’s Residence, the magnificent gothic Town Hall and most of Passau’s museums. Picturesque places, romantic lanes and enchanting riverfront promenades invite visitors to take a rest and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The fortress "Veste Oberhaus" in the North and the Pilgrimage Church "Mariahilf" in the South are enthroned high above Passau’s Old Town. The fortress "Veste Oberhaus" was built in 1219 by Passau's Prince-Bishops in order to control commerce across the rivers.

In the 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars the castle was one of the strongholds against the Austrians. Due to several changes over the centuries today's castle consists of gothic, renaissance and baroque parts. Inside the fortress you will find outstanding exhibitions documenting the history and art history of Passau and its surroundings.

In the old town you can find picturesque squares like the Domplatz, Residenzplatz and Rathausplatz, the church towers of St.Paul's, the convent Niedernburg (with the tomb of St.Gisela), St.Michael's, the cathedral and the town hall tower, romantic nooks and crannies and enchanting footpaths along the Danube and Inn.

The city of 3 rivers: On the right the Ilz from Poland, center the Danube from Germany, on the left, the Inn from Switzerland


Day Three:
Linz, Austria, &
Ceský Krumlov,
Czech Republic


The Old City of Linz is the ideal setting for strolls through charming cobblestone streets and past centuries-old architecture. Its spacious Main Square is one of the largest in Central Europe. The continent's steepest traction railway takes you on a leisurely ride up Pöstlingberg for a panoramic view of the city; when the visibility's good, you can see all the way to the Alps.

And what better way to follow that up than with a boat ride on the beautiful blue Danube? Needless to say, culture and scenery aren't all that Linz has to offer. One of Austria's most popular shopping districts is right in the heart of downtown Linz. And when you're ready for a refreshing break, consider dropping in on one of Linz's many gemütliche cafés and trying a world-famous Linzer Torte

Český Krumlov is a small city in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic.  Located 35 miles due north of Linz, the town is particularly known for the Český Krumlov Castle, second largest castle in the country.

Český Krumlov is an excellent example of a small European town dating from the Middle Ages.  The citizens have made an effort to preserve the ancient look.  Due in large part to a relatively peaceful history, the town has retained its entire medieval layout and most of its historic buildings relatively intact.  

Český Krumlov grew up around the meandering Vltava River.  Indeed, this wildly curving river with its twists and turns provides a natural setting of great beauty.

The site is located on an ancient east-west communication route at a crossing of the Vltava River.  The earliest documented record goes back to 1253 AD.  It refers to the existence there of a castle belonging to a member of the ruling Vitkovici family of south Bohemia.  The core of the castle (Hradek) dates from the 13th century.  The castle became the seat of the influential Rožmberk family for 300 years from the mid-14th century.

The Gothic castle was reconstructed in Renaissance style, with the involvement of leading artists of the period.  The caste features an impressive round tower in the Gothic Hradek style. A later addition featured a lovely garden.

The wealth and importance of the town is reflected in the high quality of many of the burgher houses, as the presence of the seat of government led to Český Krumlov becoming an important craft and trade centre. There was also considerable ecclesiastical development, illustrated by the major 15th-century church of St Vitus and monasteries of various preaching and itinerant orders. The town later passed to the equally influential Schwarzenberg family, and it retained its importance well into the 19th century.

Marla's Note: As one can see, Český Krumlov is an extremely lovely town that captures the charming "Old European" style to perfection.


Day Four: 

Melk and Dürnstein

Featuring the stunning Wachau Valley


The small, quaint Austrian city of Melk lies along the banks of the beautiful Danube river, near the stunning Wachau Valley. With a population of just under six thousand citizens, life is laid back here, making it an ideal port of call on any river cruise.

Melk's history as a marketplace dates back to 1227, and because of this early trade, the town boasts some incredible architectural examples that are representative of many different periods throughout history.

One of the more famous structures is the imposing Stift Melk, an impressive Benedictine monastery perched high atop a hill overlooking the Danube and our river cruise ship.

It takes around 15 minutes to cross from one end of town to the other, so don't be afraid to wander and explore every street and laneway you see. There's no getting lost in Melk!

Melk Abbey was originally a palace, and it shows. Located on the bank of the Danube River between Salzburg and Vienna, the Melk Abbey stands crowned by towers and resplendent in a golden hue.

The impressive Baroque ensemble at Melk was built in 1702-1736 by architect Jakob Prandtauer. Especially noteworthy is the church with magnificent frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayr and the library containing countless medieval manuscripts.

The monastic community of Melk is over 900 years old and black-robed Benedictine monks still stroll amidst the marble sculptures and frescoed walls. It is now also a prestigious coed monastery school with more than 700 students.

The library rises two floors and also has a Troger ceiling, along with around 80,000 volumes of priceless works. The Emperors' Gallery stretches for 650 ft., decorated with portraits of Austrian royalty.

The highlight of the abbey, though, is certainly the Abbey Church. The church has an astonishing number of windows and is richly embellished with marble and frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayr with help from Troger.

There are fine views of the river from the abbey's terrace, which Napoleon probably used as a lookout when he used Melk as his headquarters for his campaign against Austria.

Located along the famous Danube in Lower Austria, Dürnstein is well-known for its wineries and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Wachau region. The city's name literally means "dry castle" in German, presumably after the stone castle situated high above the main town area.

Dürnstein Castle's stone remains can still be seen to this day, situated at the top of the hill overlooking the town. While the structure is a shell of its former self, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to envision what this imposing structure must have been like in its heyday a millennia ago.

The town was first mentioned in 1019 and gained notoriety in late 1192 when Richard the Lionheart was held captive in the castle by Duke Lepold V of Austria. It was officially made a town in 1476, and is well-known for the 1805 Battle of Dürnstein that took place just outside the city.

This sleepy little town is a paradise for those who enjoy getting out on foot, and nearly all the town's major attractions (with the exception of the old castle) are easily accessible. Enjoy wandering the streets of this beautiful town, and don't be afraid to get lost! Much like Venice, you can never really be lost in Dürnstein.

Dürnstein is known for its wineries, and you should not miss a chance to enjoy some of the local wines. Of particular note are the regional Reislings, which are prized for their high quality.

The Wachau Valley is a picturesque landscape formed by the Danube river.  It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations of Lower Austria, located midway between the towns of Melk and Krems that also attracts "connoisseurs and epicureans" for its high-quality wines.

Our 60 mile trip through the Wachau Valley will be one of the special moments of our Danube River Cruise.   With mountains on either side, a neverending tableau of castles, cathedrals, monasteries, wineries and forests awaits to entertain us. 

Then when we exit the valley, we will be on the outskirts of Vienna.  Waltz, anyone??

Our trip through scenic Wachau Valley is one of the highlights of the Danube River Cruise


Day Five: 

Vienna, Austria


Vienna, the capital of Austria, is famous for cultural events, cozy wine taverns,  imperial sights, coffee houses, and views of the beautiful Danube River, the centerpiece of the city.

Vienna's history dates back to the first post-Christian century when the Romans established the military camp Vindobona.

Today's cityscape is characterized by the abundance of baroque buildings created mostly under the rule of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Franz Joseph, who was largely responsible for the monumental architecture round the Ringstrasse.

Vienna's Ringstrasse is 5.3 kilometers long. Long enough to provide space for numerous monumental buildings, which were built during the period of Historicism in the 1860s to 1890s. Today, the buildings that stand there - from the Vienna State Opera to the Museum of Fine Arts - are among the most important sights in the city of Vienna.

Schönbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence, is one of Vienna's most popular sights. The sumptuous palace with its beautifully tended formal gardens, the Gloriette monument, Palm House and zoo attracts hordes of visitors each year.

Schönbrunn Palace is a World Cultural Heritage site and Austria's most-visited sight. The baroque total work of art consisting of palace and gardens was for centuries the property of the Habsburgs and is today largely in its original condition. Visitors will find numerous attractions here, from a tour through the authentically furnished residential and ceremonial rooms of the Imperial Family in the palace, to the maze and the labyrinth in the gardens and a separate Children's Museum.

Then there is the huge Hofburg (Imperial Palace), which was the base of the Habsburgs for over six centuries. For many centuries, the Vienna Hofburg was the center of the Habsburg empire. Three museum attractions provide historically accurate insights into the tradition and daily life at court: the authentically-furnished Imperial Apartments, the tasteful Sisi Museum and the Silver Collection as a comprehensive collection of Imperial utilitarian objects.

The Imperial Apartments, Sisi Museum and the Silver Collection are amongst Vienna's top sights, attracting around 600,000 visitors each year.

St. Stephen's Cathedral defines the city center and has been the heart of Vienna for centuries. It is one of the most famous Viennese sights and was built in 1147 AD.  For a long time it was uncontested as highest building in Europe measuring almost 137 m.
Duke Rudolf IV of Habsburg ordered the complete restructuring of the church in Gothic style. In 1359, he laid the cornerstone of the nave with its two aisles. The South Tower, was completed in 1433 (the Viennese have given it the nickname "Steffl," representative of the whole cathedral).

The cathedral has two very impressive features: The gigantic roof, and the tall, lean tower. (136,7 meters of height). There are only a few gothic towers of this height that were finished in the Middle Ages. There are many art treasures inside the cathedral--the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1754), the Altarpiece of Wiener Neustadt, the pulpit by Anton Pilgram (1514-15), the sepulcher of Emperor Frederik III by Niclas Gerhaert (1467-1513), the watchman`s lookout, a self portrait of the sculptor, and the Gothic winged altar. 

The sound of the 'Pummerin', the cathedrals big bell, is used to celebrate New Year in Austria.

Vienna is packed with imperial history; at the same time it has exciting contemporary museums, lively eating and nightlife scenes, and many quiet corners to explore.

Few cities can boast the imperial grandeur of Vienna, once the centre of the powerful Habsburg monarchy. Lipizzaner stallions performing elegant equine ballet, the angelic tones of the Vienna Boys' Choir drifting across a courtyard, outrageously opulent palaces such as Schloss Belvedere and Schloss Schönbrunn, and the monumental Hofburg complex - as a visitor today, you feel grandeur everywhere in Vienna.

It's hard to imagine a more livable city than Vienna. This is a metropolis where regulars sit in cozy coffee houses and offer credible solutions to world chaos over the noble bean; where Beisln (bistro pubs) serve delicious brews, wines and traditional food; where talented chefs are taking the capital in new culinary directions; and where an efficient transport system will ferry you across town from a restaurant to a post-dinner drink in no time at all. It's safe, it has lots of bicycle tracks and it even has its own droll sense of humor.

In Vienna, the old coffee house culture and rustic wine taverns stand alongside top restaurants and shops, and time-honored events alternate with internationally-acclaimed extravaganzas to create a unique and very special ambiance. All of this, plus plenty of greenspace and recreational areas including the Wienerwald, the Prater and the Danube Island make Vienna a very special city to visit.

Vienna is a city where postmodernist and contemporary architectural designs contrast and fuse with the monumental and historic. The Museums Quarter is a perfect example, with modern museum architecture integrated into a public space created around former stables for the Habsburgs' horses.

Vienna is one the most musical cities in the world. This is partly due to the vast number of great composers and musicians who were born here or lived and worked here. Visiting Austria's capital therefore means experiencing the works of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven, Johann Strauss (both father and son), Liszt, Brahms, Bruckner and many others in venues like the Staatsoper and Musikverein.

The music of Bach and Händel continues to be performed in Vienna's historic churches today, and Vienna's Collection of Ancient Musical Instruments, paired with a visit to the Haus der Musik, takes you deeper into the texture of music and how it is created. Venues for classical music are augmented by some great clubs and live rock and jazz places.

Vienna owes much of its international fame to the many celebrated composers who lived and worked here, including Strauss, Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the world's best, the State Opera among the leading opera houses, not to forget the famous Vienna Boys' Choir.


Day Six: 

Bratislava, Slovakia


Bratislava, the capital of Slovakiais, is somewhat smaller when compared to Budapest and Vienna, but quickly becoming a new European metropolis nonetheless.

The old city and the castle are the best parts of Bratislava. The old city is packed with museums (such as the Municipal Museum which comes complete with torture chambers and the Museum of Wine Production) and palaces (Primate's Palace and the Mirbach Palace).

The maze of cobblestone streets are mostly limited to pedestrians. Shade trees and fountains decorate small parks, and you have an abundant choice of cafes and restaurants, with outdoor seating in appropriate seasons and places

The castle, built above the Danube, was a frontier post of the Roman Empire from the 1st to the 5th century. Since the 9th century it has been rebuilt several times, most recently from 2008.

The oldest surviving remnant, a basilica on the lawn facing Bratislava's Old Town, dates from the 9th century. The aristocratic Palffy family completed extensions that make for today's "upside-down table" appearance of four peaked corner towers.

In 1811 a fire in what was then a barracks left the castle an abandoned hulk, and restoration was to start only in the 1950s. Serving briefly as seat of government for independent Slovakia in 1993, the castle today serves as museum and special events venue, notably as the site of the Bush-Putin summit in February 2005.

The castle dominates the centre of Bratislava, towering over the second-highest point of St Martin's cathedral spire. You can climb up for the great views and check out the interesting Slovak National Museum expositions within. The Natural Sciences Museum of the Slovak National Museum and the Slovak National Gallery on the river are also worth a visit.

Eleven kings and eight queens were crowned in Bratislava in the past. No wonder that the castle is a popular part of excursions through the city.

History of the Pressburg Castle (as it was named in the past)
The castle stands on an important crossroad of the ancient routes. First traces of the settlement on the hill stretch back to the Stone and Bronze Age. The place had its strategic geographical importance in the period of the Great Moravian Empire.

First Hungarian King Stephen I (11th century) ruled over the empire from his seat inside the Castle. It remained unconquered during the Tartar raids (1241-1242) and protected Hungary against the attacks from the west. Also, since Vienna is right around a corner, the castle provided a protection for this city too, especially during Ottoman expansion in the 16th century.

Bratislava became the official coronation town for Hungarian Kings and the castle became the formal seat of the kings of Royal Hungary.

Maria Theresa had the castle extensively reconstructed, with the help of best imperial architects. It was no longer a fortress, rather a residence and a representative place. She had a new palace built along with several other buildings and added new French gardens.

After the Empress and her son Joseph II died, the castle was deserted and became a military garrison. In the May of 1811, the fire broke in the military warehouse. Only ruins were left...

After the WWII, the castle underwent serious reconstruction and renovation. In 1968, state leaders signed a document here establishing Czechoslovak Federation. In 1992, new constitution of independent Slovakia was signed here too.


Day Seven & Eight: 

Budapest, Hungary



Budapest is famous for its unusual geography created by the Danube River.

To begin with, the Danube River splits and reconnects several times to create three separate islands within the city limits. 

The most famous island is Margaret Island, a major landmark in the very heart of the city. 

Margaret Island is about 1.5 miles long and 550 yards wide.  The island is heavily forested and contains several landscaped parks; it serves as a popular recreational area. 

Margaret Island is located at the northernmost point of downtown Budapest and therefore serves as the entrance to the central part of Budapest. 

There are two Budapests... the modern Budapest and the Old Town Budapest. 

As one might gather, the most interesting part of the city is the Old Town where some of us will be staying over during a post-trip extension.

Old Town Budapest was actually once two different cities that rested on separate embankments on the Danube.  On one side was Pest and on the other side is Buda.  

Both sides have wonderful areas to visit.  For example, on the Buda side there is the Buda Castle and the Castle Hill area where we will be staying. 

On the Pest side is the beautiful City Park complete with the War Heroes Statue.

Waterfall on Margaret Island.  That's where you will find Rick and Marla when we reach Budapest.

The Chain Bridge

To understand the layout of Old Town quickly, the central city area stretches over four major bridges:  Margaret, Chain, Elizabeth, and Liberty

In a way similar to the bridges of Paris that cross the Seine River, these bridges over the Danube are so impressive that they serve as landmarks themselves.

The distance between the four bridges is only two miles long. 

Indeed, the central city is so compact that most major tourist sites are within walking distance.  Practically every landmark can be referenced by which of the four major bridges it is near. 

Parliament on the Pest Side of the river

Buda Castle on the Buda side of the Danube

The view of the Danube embankments and the Buda Castle District is one of the most beautiful and romantic parts of the city of Budapest.

The Buda Castle District is an ancient town that became a World Heritage site on December 11th,1987.  It is home to some of the most important historical monuments in Hungary. Founded 800 years ago, its beauty still stands unparalleled, despite fires,  earthquakes, sieges and world war bombings.

This area is encompassed by the Chain Bridge, the Technical University, the Gellért Bath, the Gellért Hill with the Statue of Liberty and the Citadel, the Castle of Buda, the Baroque churches and Turkish baths of the so-called Water Town. These are all considered parts of the World Heritage sites today. 

Trinity Square (Buda Side)

The most visited site of the Castle District is Trinity Square.

It is dominated by one of Budapest's most characteristic buildings, the 700 year old Mathias Church. Many kings and emperors have left their mark on the church. The church was converted into a mosque and its walls whitewashed.  Inside lies the sarcophaguses of King Béla the 3rd and his Queen.

The church as you will see it today, was finalized at the turn of the 19th century.

Several smaller buildings were annexed, and it was renovated in a Neo-Gothic style.

The Old Town Hall of Buda is located in Trinity Square.   It became obsolete when Buda, Pest and Óbuda (an area north of Margaret Island) were united in 1873.

The Hungarian House of Wines is now housed in its cellar. You can do some wine tasting here.

In the middle of Trinity Square, the Baroque-style Trinity statue commemorates the victims of the 1691 plague epidemic. The right side of the square is dominated by the Mathias Church, surrounded by the turrets and walkways of the Fishermen's Bastion.

The right side of the square is dominated by the Mathias Church, surrounded by the turrets and walkways of the Fishermen's Bastion.

The Gothic tower of the Mathias Church, with the Fishermen's Bastion in the background, is one of the most frequently photographed tourist sites in Hungary. Many great concerts are held here due to its excellent acoustic properties.

Fisherman's Bastion

The main façade of the Fisherman's Bastion, running parallel to the Danube, is approximately 140 meters long. The seven stone towers with their pointed tops symbolize the leaders of the Hungarian tribes who conquered the country in 896. It was built in place of the old fortification walls in neo-Romanesque style between 1895 and 1902 on the plans of Frigyes Schulek, who was also in charge of the reconstruction of the Mathias Church. The Bastion name comes from the guild of fishermen that was responsible for defending this stretch of the city walls in the Middle Ages.

On a personal note, our group will be staying at a hotel alongside Trinity Square. The Hotel Buda Hilton, where we will be staying for our two-day post trip river cruise extension.

The Hotel Buda Hilton was the first post-war modern international luxury hotel in Budapest, combining old and new with some success.  The courtyard of the hotel encompasses the ruins a 13th-century Dominican cloister, and inside are the ruins of a church, where summer theatre performances are held. 

On the Pest embankment of the Danube lies the Parliament building, Roosevelt Square, the Academy of Sciences and the Gresham Palace (which today is the Four Seasons Hotel).

There is much, much more to the Castle District than just a royal palace or a castle. This is where the historical old town district is situated, with countless venues providing a beautiful panorama of Budapest. You will get a feeling that you have travelled back in time, to a different, completely tranquil world of the times of the knights.

The former Royal Palace is a separate part of the Castle District. Some of today's most important cultural institutions, such as the Budapest History Museum, as well as the Hungarian National Gallery, and the Hungarian National Library, named after the founder Ferenc Széchenyi have moved to the Royal Palace. The formal residence of the Prime Minister, the Alexander Palace, is the President's Residence and home today.

The depths of Castle Hill hide the Buda Castle Labyrinth. The cave labyrinth's enormous size is best described by the fact that during WWII, 20,000 German soldiers fit in there. The Buda Castle Labyrinth can be very dangerous for those who don't know this underworld city, but it can be safely explored with a proper local guide. Before the arrival of the Magyars (Hungarians) in the 9th century AD, Celts and Romans inhabited the area. The royal residence was moved here by Béla the 4th from Esztergom, following the Tatar invasion in 1241-42, because the area was more fortifiable.

Across the Danube, in Pest, stands the predominant House of Parliament, the Neo-Gothic star edifice by master architect, Imre Steindl. Not far behind it, is the largest church in Budapest, St. Stephen's Basilica. Not far from there, at the head of the Chain Bridge stands the monumental Academy of Sciences. This part of the Pest side is crowned by the Gresham Palace, which is now Budapest's most elegant hotel, the Gresham Four Seasons. The wonderful panorama of the Danube embankment is completed by a row of luxury hotels and elegant buildings.

Sights not to be missed are as follows:

Andrássy Avenue and War Heroes Square

Heroes' Square along with its surroundings, and Andrássy Avenue with the Millennium Underground Railway have joined the Buda Castle District and the view of the banks of the Danube on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2002.

Andrássy Avenue, named after former Prime Minister of Hungary Gyula Andrássy, is two and a half kilometers long and has three distinct parts. Its downtown section, a 1-kilometre part stretches from Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Avenue all the way to the eight-sided Octagon square, which is lined with rows of tall residential apartment houses and expensive shops. In the middle, from Oktogon to Kodály Körönd, there are two tree-lined esplanades that run parallel to the pavement.

The third part, between Kodály Körönd and Heroes' Square lie magnificent mansions and villas, which create the atmosphere of a wealthy country town.

The most beautiful avenue of Budapest was developed in 1872. About ten years later, all the buildings were ready. This is where Budapest's eclectic architectural heritage is found today. Many beautifully carved apartment buildings hide mountains, statues and breathtaking inner spaces and courtyards.

Between Oktogon and Kodály Körönd is a gloomy building, which used to house the secret police of the Nazis in World War II, and also the state police of the Communist regime, the dreaded AVH. Today it is a museum called the House of Terror, commemorating the victims of these brutal regimes in a permanent exhibition.

The first underground railway of continental Europe, the Millennium Underground was built under Andrássy Avenue. Used by the public since the year 1896, it is still an important part of Budapest's transport system. The line was later extended to be able to transport people to new parts of the city beyond Heroes' Square in 1973.

Heroes' Square

Heroes' Square, where Andrássy Avenue ends, lies the largest and most impressive square in Budapest. Here stands the Millennium Monument, with Archangel Gabriel on top, holding the double cross of Christianity and the Holy Hungarian Crown.

It was constructed to mark the 1000th anniversary of the arrival of the Magyar tribes. The pedestal below displays the ornate horseback statues of the seven Hungarian leaders who led the Hungarian nation into the Carpathian Basin in 896 AD. The middle of the square is dominated by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, wreathed by all heads of state when officially visiting Hungary.

The left side of the Square is bordered by the Museum of Fine Arts, which holds the world's second largest collection of Spanish Art, on the right side is the Art Hall, giving home to temporary exhibitions in Budapest. The entertainment and cultural facilities of the City Park (Budapest Zoo, Funfair, Municipal Circus, Vajdahunyad Castle, the museum of Agriculture and Transport, the Pet?fi Cultural Hall and the Széchenyi Thermal Bath) are among the most sought after tourist sites in Budapest.

Buda Castle

The first Gothic style palace was built during the reign of Louis the Great, King Sigismund and King Matthias (from the middle of the 14th century until the end of the 15th). It became a royal residence of European rank, with its Gothic and Renaissance elements. Buda was occupied by the Turks in 1541, and it was only retaken during the Christian siege of Buda in 1686.

The three month siege has ruined both the Gothic castle and the residential part of today's Castle District. Following the expulsion of the Turks, the restoration of most buildings was completed in the then-fashionable Baroque style, using the existing remains of buildings. The construction of a much smaller Baroque palace was started in 1715, whose ground area was later extended.

At the end of the 19th century, the place almost doubled in size, and a large back wing, today housing the Széchenyi National Library, was added. The architects, Miklós Ybl and Alajos Hauszmann have decorated the palace with Art Nouveau elements, in addition to the existing Baroque style.

In WWII, the palace and the Castle District were the last refuge of the Germany Army, which fell under heavy siege from the invading Soviet Army.

The palace was again damaged; reconstruction started in the 1950s. Leading architects of the age announced that they wanted to return to the 18th century Baroque form for the palace, and at the same time keep its 19th century dimensions. They constructed a Baroque façade that never existed before. This was because 20th century architects saw no value in eclectic style, although this is now considered to be the most valuable aspect of Budapest's buildings.

The Budapest Castle Hill Funicular or Budavári Sikló is a funicular railway in the city of Budapest, in Hungary. It links the Adam Clark Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge at river level to Buda Castle above. The line was opened on March 2, 1870, and has been in municipal ownership since 1920.

It was destroyed in the Second World War and reopened on June 4, 1986. A feature of the line are the two pedestrian foot bridges which cross above it. These were present when the line opened, were removed in 1900 when the castle's garden was extended, and rebuilt to the original design in 1983.

Chain Bridge

With the Buda Castle in the background, the Hungarian capital's first bridge, now a monument, is a fascinating spectacle that has attracted many tourists to Budapest. The bridge was built upon the request of Count István Széchenyi by designer William Tierney Clark and engineer Adam Clark between 1839 and 1849.

Like many other Danube bridges, the Chain Bridge did not survive the ravages of World War II, so it had to be rebuilt in 1949.  Visitors also have the opportunity to walk onto the top of the tunnel located on the Buda side, offering a marvelous view of the Danube, its bridges as well as the nicest parts of Pest.


The Gellért Hill is the capital's popular excursion place. The Citadel can also be found here. It used to be a fortress, erected in 1854 by the Habsburg emperors after overcoming the Hungarian army in the revolution of 1848-49. A unique Budapest panorama, that is part of the world heritage, can be enjoyed here. Other sights on the hill: the sculpture of the bishop St. Gellért (Gerard), the St. Gellért Cliff Church and the Liberty Statue.

Gellért Hill

Gellért Hill, home to the Citadel, is a 235 m high hill overlooking the Danube in Budapest, Hungary. It is part of the 1st and 11th Districts. Gellért Hill was named after Saint Gerard who was thrown to death from the hill. Now an affluent residential area, a number of embassies and ambassadorial residences line the streets which wind up the hill. Since 1987, the area is listed as a world heritage site as part of "the Banks of the Danube".

Gresham Palace

An outstanding piece of Hungarian Art Nouveau architecture. Completed in 1907 on the plans of Zsigmond Quittner and the Vágó brothers, it served as the Budapest office of Gresham Insurance Brokers, London. The first floor used to accommodate the renowned Gresham Café, where the Gresham Circle, a group of Hungarian artists held their meetings. Today, Gresham Palace houses the luxurious Four Seasons Gresham Palace Hotel.
Mathias Church.

The church is officially called The Church of Our Lady, and served as a coronation church from the 16th century on. Its vast ecclesiastical collection and treasury is open to visitors. Over the centuries, the church underwent several major transformations, the first of which was the addendum of the Mary-gate (Mária-kapu), and in 1470, the 60-metre south side tower, with the King's raven ensign, was erected. During the Turkish occupation, the church was turned into a mosque and its walls were whitewashed; in the 17th century, it was again rebuilt in Baroque style.

A major renovation was undertaken between 1895 and 1903, by star architect of the age Frigyes Schulek. The frescoes are the works of famous Hungarian artists such as Károly Lotz, Bertalan Székely and Mihály Zichy.

Millennium Monument

At the front of the monument is a large stone cenotaph surrounded by an ornamental iron chain. The cenotaph is dedicated "To the memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of our people and our national independence." While some guide books refer to this as a "tomb", it is not a burial place. Directly behind the cenotaph is a column topped by a statue of the archangel Gabriel. In his right hand the angel holds the Holy Crown of St. Stephen (Istvan), the first king of Hungary. In his left hand the angel holds a two barred apostolic cross, a symbol awarded to St. Stephen by the Pope in recognition of his efforts to convert Hungary to Christianity. In Hungarian, it is referred to as the double cross or the apostolic double cross.

At the base of the column is a group of seven mounted figures representing the Magyar chieftains who led the Hungarian people into the Carpathian basin. In the front is Árpád, considered the founder of the Hungarian nation. Behind him are the chieftains El?d, Ond, Kond, Tas, Huba, and Töhötöm (Tétény).

Little survives in the historical record about these individuals and both their clothing and their horses are considered to be more fanciful than historically accurate. The back of the monument consists of two matched colonnades, each with seven statues representing great figures of Hungarian history.

Topping the outer edge of the left colonnade is a statue of a man with a scythe and a woman sowing seed, representing Labor and Wealth. In the corresponding position on the right colonnade is a statue of a man holding a statue and a woman with a palm frond representing Knowledge and Glory.

At the inner top edge of the left colonnade is a male figure driving a chariot using a snake as a whip representing War, while on the facing end of the right colonnade is a female figure in a chariot holding a palm frond representing Peace.

Pest Redout

The most beautiful concert hall in Budapest is located along the Danube Promenade in Pest. The Pest Redout was completed in 1865, replacing an earlier concert hall (designed by Mihály Pollack) destroyed in the Hungarian War of Independence in 1848-1849. The style is best described as Oriental and Hungarian Art Nouveau.

Frigyes Feszl, the architect of the new building, was commissioned to make the plans in 1859 - just six years after his first major work, the Dohány street Synagogue was inaugurated (check the similarity between the two onion-domed towers of the Synagogue and the Vigadó's facade!).

Károly Lotz and Mór Than, star artists of the age, have painted the ballad themed-frescoes of the interior. The imposing main concert hall, which can accommodate up to 700 people, is to this day one of the most significant venues of music life in Budapest. The chamber hall (220 seats) hosts drama performances, chamber concerts and various other cultural events. The Vigadó Gallery is one of Budapest's most popular art exhibition centers.

St. Stephen's Basilica

It is the largest church in Budapest, the 96-metre dome can be seen from virtually all parts of the city. The Basilica's construction begun in 1851, before being taken over by Miklós Ybl, one of the leading architects of the time in 1867 and completed by József Kauser in 1905. The Classicist-style building houses Hungary's most sacred relic: the Holy Right, which is the mummified right hand of St. Stephen, after whom the Basilica was named. Famous masterpieces in the church include statues by Alajos Stróbl and a painting of St. Stephen offering his country to the Virgin Mary by Gyula Benczúr.

Shoes on the Danube Embankment

This world-famous composition, which comprises 60 pairs of metal shoes set in concrete on the Danube embankment, was set up in the year 2005. It commemorates the Hungarian Jewish victims of the killings committed by the Arrow Cross militiamen, the pro-German, anti-Semitic, national socialist party members of Hungary in 1944-1945.

The killings usually took place en masse - the victims were lined up at the embankment, and shot into the Danube, execution-style. At three separate places of the memorial, cast iron signs read in Hungarian, English and Hebrew: "To the memory of victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944-45". This is a very simple but very moving memorial.

Széchenyi Thermal Bath

The Széchenyi Thermal Bath is one of the largest spa complexes in Europe. It's also the first thermal bath of Pest. The baths were developed by Vilmos Zsigmondy, a mining engineer.

The Széchenyi Thermal Bath was built in 1913 on the basis of plans composed by Gyozo Czigler. The Bath was expanded in 1927 with a public bathing area and a beach site. In the mid 1960s, further transformation took place, that included the creation of a group thermal section.

The reconstruction of the pools in the swimming section, their equipment with water filtering and circulation devices was completed in 1999. The so-called fancy bath includes a whirling corridor, underwater effervescence production, neck shower, water beam back massage installed in the sitting banks and many other services.

Gellert Baths

Part of the famous Hotel Gellért in Buda, the Gellért Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool is an impressive bath complex.

The bath complex was built between 1912 and 1918It was damaged during World War II, but then rebuilt. References to healing waters in this location are found from as early as the 13th century. A hospital was located on this site during the Middle Ages. During the reign of the Ottoman Empire, baths were also built on this particular site. The "magical healing spring" used the Turkish during the 16th and 17th centuries. The bath was called Sárosfürdo ("muddy” bath), because the mineral mud settled at the bottom of pools.

Fisherman's Bastion in Buda Castle District

Holy Trinity Square featuring St. Mathias Church and Trinity statue

Fisherman's Bastion

Budapest National Gallery

Buda Castle Labyrinth

War Heroes Statue in Hero's Square at the end of Andrássy Avenue

The Funicular — built in 1870 — runs from the bottom of the
Chain Bridge right to the top, where you’re off and walking

Royal Palace

Chain Bridge

The Citadel atop Gellert Hill

Budapest Parliament Building

St. Stephen's Basilica

These shoes on Chain Bridge symbolize the brutal execution of Hungarian Jews during World War II.  The Nazis lined the victims up on the bridge, shot them in the head, and then laughed as the dead bodies fell into the river.  This place serves as a powerful reminder of a not-so-happy time in European history.

The Szechenyi Baths

Gellert Baths


Budapest Extension

A Two Night Post Cruise Extension with Viking at $399 per person


Marla's Note:

Rick and I plan to stay in Budapest via Viking's post-cruise package.   In our opinion, there is far too much to see in Budapest in just one day. 

Why not join us and extend your trip?   See everything there is to see in the legendary Hungarian capital with its elegant boulevards, Parisian atmosphere and outstanding museums.  

Take a stroll in the parks of Margaret Island, discover the hidden medieval courtyards of the castle district and eat your fill of savory Hungarian cuisine.

We will stay for two nights at the Budapest Hilton right at the foot of the legendary Chain Bridge.  Our stay includes daily breakfasts and hotel/ship transfers along with the services of a dedicated Viking concierge.

The Hilton Budapest hotel has a beautiful Baroque façade of a 16th century Jesuit College and a 13th century Dominican Churchyard.

The hotel is set in the heart of the Royal Castle District-a UNESCO World Heritage Site within the Buda side of the city, next to Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion. Enjoy captivating views across historic Budapest, the Hungarian Parliament, and Danube River.

The Hilton Budapest overlooks the Danube River on the Buda side of the city.  The hotel is within close walking distance of a wide number of medieval Budapest attractions.

For example, why not stroll along the neo-gothic terrace of Fisherman's Bastion?  Or stand on Chain Bridge and admire spectacular vistas of the Hungarian Parliament, Margaret Island, and the Danube River?

Or simply walk next door to Trinity Square and visit Matthias Church, the medieval coronation church that dates back to the 14th Century.

There is so much else to do.  Wander through the winding streets of the Royal Castle District and marvel at the beautifully reconstructed baroque and neo-gothic architecture. Visit Buda's Royal Palace or learn about Hungary's exciting past at Budapest Historical Museum. Admire the impressive collections at Hungarian National Museum or cross the Danube's impressive Chain Bridge and explore Pest's bustling city center.

Treat yourself to authentic Hungarian shopping at Budapest's Central Market Hall or sip on cool evening drinks at stylish bars and restaurants while experiencing Budapest's vibrant nightlife.

Day 1| Budapest

After breakfast, disembark and we take you to the 5 star deluxe Budapest Hilton in Buda's Castle District and sample some Hungarian cuisine. A Viking concierge is available to help you plan your Budapest visit. Walk through Pest and do some shopping along the Váci Utca; cross the Danube via the famous Chain Bridge to enjoy the hillier Buda neighborhoods.

Day 2| Budapest

A full day to further explore Budapest on our own. Tour the Hungarian National Gallery, the Bartók Museum or enjoy one of the city's elegant thermal spas.

Day 3| Budapest

After breakfast, check out of your hotel and proceed to the airport for your return flight.  

Viking Air

Marla's Note:   This is important.  The reason I recommend buying the Viking Air Package is that your airport meet and greet transfers are included when air is purchased from Viking Cruises.

For your convenience, you can purchase roundtrip transoceanic air travel directly from Viking in conjunction with your river cruise or cruise-tour. Viking's air packages are a great value because they include your transfers between airport and ship or hotel.

The hassle-free Viking Inclusive Air program leaves the complexity of planning air travel with the air experts.  Flight schedules are sent no later than 75 days prior to departure which allows Viking to negotiate the best deals and flights for our guests.

Here is what you get when you purchase Viking Air:

Best flights available
Minimum connection standards, 90 minutes for large airports (London, Frankfurt, Paris & Rome), 60 minutes for mid-size airports (Amsterdam, Zurich & Brussels)
Most arrival and departure times at your destination range from 9:00am to 5:00pm local time.
Automatic seat request, aisle and seat next to aisle

Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class is available.

Viking Inclusive Promotional Air Prices

Economy Air from Houston IAH is $495 per person
Premium Economy is $1290 per person
Business Class is $3490 per person

In my opinion, these prices are very fair and let me explain why.

As of  22 January 2015, I checked the current prices for April 2015.  Today's price is $1,300 for Economy Air, $2,000 for Premium Economy, and $5,300 for Business.   I think anyone who is familiar with math can see a significant difference.

In addition, Ground Transfers are included.

If you purchased these separately, you would add the following costs to your bill.

Munich Airport to Passau Dock--$120 per person
Budapest Dock to Budapest Airport -- $60 per person

To me, using Viking Air makes all the sense in the world.


Believe it or not, our ship docks right in front of Old Town Budapest

The Budapest Hilton.  Note the Matthias Church in the background

The famous Chain Bridge is right next door to our hotel

How about this for a cool picture?  
The Fisherman's Bastion is right next door to our hotel.

Marla's Note:

I have a favor to ask.  Please do not book the Hilton Budapest on your own.  For that matter, please do not book cabin space on the Freya through another agent. 

I prefer that you book the cruise and the hotel directly through me.  This is for your benefit as well as mine.  For example, our perks are based on how many staterooms I sell.  In 2015, two couples booked outside our group.  We missed having our own private cocktail party by one person. 

I am the person who took the time to put this trip together.  Please respect that this is what I do for a living.  I get the fairest price I can possibly negotiate and I add no hidden surcharge. 

Most of all, I want our group to be united.  If I can oversee all details, then, as the leader of the trip, I can handle problems accordingly and I can distribute all information in a timely fashion. 

Thank you for respecting my wishes.

Marla Archer


Custom Air Travel

Some of you might have special travel concerns.  In this case, I suggest you consider using Viking Custom Air.

Viking Custom Air is an exclusive custom air department designed for guests who have specific travel needs or special requests.  

Depending upon your travel schedules, requests and flexibility, Viking's team of experienced Viking Air Plus agents can assist with the following services whether you are traveling on economy, Premium Economy or Business Class air:

1. Deviate from the planned route to an alternate destination city or stay extra time before or after your cruise or cruise-tour.
2. Stopover in another destination such as London, Paris, Amsterdam, or a U.S. gateway
3. Nonstop flights or the most direct air service available
4. Reservations with airlines that accept frequent flyer mileage
5. Travel on specific airlines or air routing
6. Confirmation of flight schedules at time of reservation; no waiting once deposit and Guest Information Forms are received
7. Coordination of family, friends or groups traveling together from the same or different cities

Marla's Note:  Viking Custom Air is not offered 50 days or less before departure. A $50-per-guest non refundable fee applies, as well as any additional fees based on the difference between the selected air and the air price paid.

Date or city deviations and stopover fees are typically between $100 and $300 additional. Airlines have advised that seat assignments are subject to change therefore are not part of the Air Plus program.

About the Viking Freya

Review of the Freya:

The Freya is a super sleek ship. It has large windows that bring in an abundance of sunlight. Its design is contemporary with classic Scandinavian touches that maximize light and space. Accommodates 190 passengers at full capacity and a crew of 45.

It has quiet, environmentally friendly hybrid engines, solar panels and an organic herb garden on the large sun deck.

The all-new Aquavit Terrace—an indoor/outdoor area at the bow of the ship for viewing, relaxing and casual dining.

The Aquavit Terrace’s indoor/outdoor configuration has glass walls that open to reveal scenic views on warm days. On cooler days, the expansive windows still provide spectacular views. The adjoining Observation Lounge has expansive windows that showcase the river views and plenty of comfortable couches and cozy chairs. While the lounge is large, it can feel crowded at times and it is advisable to get there early for a spot during lectures and briefings.

The Middle Deck lobby is a striking, light-filled, welcoming area with colorful artwork and a staircase leading up to the Observation Lounge. The concierge desk and a small boutique offering Viking River gear and books are in the reception area on the Middle Deck along with coffee and tea stations open 24 hours a day, with cookies served in the afternoons. The ship’s library had a great selection of itinerary-related books and two computers with free Internet access

Accommodations: The 95 outside rooms and suites aboard the Viking Freya have a functional modernity and neutral color palette. The spaces are targeted to today’s traveler, with plenty of plugs (including American outlets), reading lights, a hair dryer, a telephone and a refrigerator.

Each stateroom on the ship features plenty of storage, from the typical large space under the bed for luggage to a spacious closet and eight separate additional drawers. Extra pillows are available. Bathrooms are small but comfortable, with L’Occitane amenities, a bowl-style sink and plenty of shelf space for toiletries. There’s also a large vanity and mirror/

French balcony staterooms featuring floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors.

Turndown service is offered each night in addition to morning housekeeping, and printouts of the next day’s itinerary and other important information. The flat-screen TV provides a sizable selection of included entertainment, from itinerary-themed movies and documentaries to Hollywood hits.

Fine cuisine, exemplary service and immersive, culture-rich itineraries.

Al fresco dining aboard Viking Freya-- Imagine waking as the mist rolls off the river, stopping in the lounge for a frothy cappuccino, and heading out to the Aquavit Terrace to silently cruise through the early morning light. That is one definition of a Viking happy hour.

Another one is in the more traditional sense: unwinding in the late afternoon with a pint of beer or glass of wine, chatting with friends and enjoying a delicious light bite. With the Aquavit Terrace equipped with grills and plentiful seating, each of these al fresco “happy hours” will be yours to indulge in.

Fine dining aboard Viking Freya:

The chefs create a variety of tasty offerings for you, with freshly prepared seasonal local vegetables, European specialties adapted to satisfy the tastes of the passengers, and homemade soups prepared daily. For breakfast, choose from selections of pastries, cereals, breakfast meats, egg dishes, fresh fruit and selected cheeses. At lunch, select from the soup and sandwich bar, or a choice of entrées and dessert. And for dinner, you are treated to a five-course gourmet menu with regional specialties. You can also select from regional wines to perfectly complement your meal.

There are two main dining areas: a large traditional restaurant and the Aquavit Terrace, which serves a more casual breakfast and lunch buffet daily. Seating is open

All meals aboard are prepared by local chefs under the guidance of Viking's European management team

Service is lighthearted and seamless, with a wait staff that remembers individual preferences. The dinner menu has a large selection of rotating daily specialties from the region, though simple chicken and fish are always an option, as well as several dessert choices. A buffet is always offered at breakfast and lunch, with hot items to order

All meals, coffee, tea, soft drinks, house wines and beers with lunch and dinner are included. A Silver Spirits beverage package can be ordered for those desiring a wider selection of premium wines and beers. Complimentary bottles of water are available in each stateroom and refreshed each day. There also is no corkage fee for those who find a great bottle of wine ashore.

On embarkation day, while the crew is preparing staterooms for the arriving guests, you can relax in the ship’s lounge or leave your luggage with the staff and explore Passau on your own. You will be given access to your stateroom around mid-afternoon, at approximately 3:00 p.m. If you arrive during lunchtime, a light lunch buffet will be available in the lounge

2016 Danube
River Cruise at a Glance

Included Features:
 8 day cruise with river-view stateroom
 6 guided tours with audio headset
 All meals: 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 7 dinners, featuring regional specialties
 All lunch and dinner meals include complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks.

 Welcome Cocktail Reception and Dinner
 Captain's Farewell Dinner
 Visit 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Group Pricing is as follows:

Category A:  Veranda Upper Deck 205 sq. ft. full-size veranda $3830 per person
Category B:  Veranda Middle Deck 205 sq. ft. full size veranda $3530 per person
Category C:  French Balcony Upper Deck 135 sq. ft. $3330 per person
Category D:  French Balcony Middle Deck 135 sq. ft. $3030 per person
Category E:  Standard Riverview Main Deck 150 sq. ft. $2430 per person

Marla's Special Note:

Viking offers Past Guest discounts. 

$200 per person for travel within one year of sailing.
$100 per person for travel over one year of sailing.

New Guests:  $200 off per person discount for Category A and B

Staterooms are confirmed and cabin numbers are assigned when a deposit of $500 per person (plus travel insurance, if applicable) is received.

I encourage you to confirm your cabin as soon as possible. The pricing that I am offered will be recalled when the the ship occupancy level within that category is classified as "sold out".

All bookings must be made through Marla Archer.

713 862 4428

Aquavit Terrace

Main Lobby

Main Dining Room

French Balcony

Dance Area

Outdoor Dining Area


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