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On the Danube River with Viking River Cruises

On the Danube River with Viking River Cruises

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There are two universal truths about Viking River Cruises. These are some of life’s most fascinating journeys, a way to experience the heart of a country in pure comfort and style. Whatever voyage you choose — from the Douro River in Portugal to the Mekong River in Vietnam, and points between including France, Germany, Egypt, Burma, and China, or, the most popular of all, the Danube — you’ll sail on a cruise for people who swear they’d never take a cruise.

Viking River Cruises is the brainchild of a man named Torstein Hagen, whose passion for cruise ships goes back to his leadership of the late, lamented Royal Viking Cruise Line. In the 1980s, Royal Viking became the first cruise ships with all of nine balcony staterooms, and set the standards for high-end cruising. Viking is Hagen’s similar deluxe gift to River Cruising. In an unprecedented shipbuilding project, Viking River set a Guinness World Record this year when it launched 10 of its so-called longships in a single day, bringing its fleet to a total of 60 vessels. The name “longship” pays homage to the long, narrow warships powered by oar and sail that the Vikings used for trade, commerce, and exploration. The modern longships carry just 180 passengers in luxury the original Norseman could never have imagined. When Hagen took to the rivers he brought along his passions for comfort, superb Scandinavian design, and culinary excellence. And that is just aboard his ships.

On land, at every stop, local guides shepherd small tour groups through the historic towns and cities that line the shores of the rivers. On their Danube itinerary, opportunities abound for tasting the local wines and beers, the paprikash of Hungary, the sachertortes of Vienna, the wursts of Germany, and wines and beers of every description. In a move unheard of in the cruise industry, passengers are encouraged to bring local wines aboard to sample with no corkage fee and no restrictions. Or you can choose to stick with Viking’s superior reds and whites, poured with great gusto at every lunch and dinner. There’s even sparkling wine on the breakfast buffet for those who can’t start the day without a mimosa.These voyages are not for casino goers, tuxedo wearers, or children under 18. They are for lifetime learners — people who want to experience a culture with like-minded adults.

As you float along the Danube, your meals offer a taste of the countries you are passing through. Every day features small samples of local specialties. Many of these are served at breakfast. The maître d’ circulates among the tables in the dining room with tapas-sized portions of specialties like Viennese gabelbison, a potato salad topped with egg or pickled herring, and quark mit Fruchte, or curd cheese with fruit. Viking River believes in big breakfasts with a lavish array of every imaginable breakfast food. The omelette station is a popular destination. Eggs with yolks the color of Tropicana are also cooked à la minuit. Can’t drag yourself to the buffet station? Your charming waiter or waitress will do the heavy lifting for you with offers of eggs Benedict, pain perdu, or pancakes.

Don’t expect ethnic food to dominate the menus. While there are familiar Hungarian, Austrian, and German specialties like goulash, wiener schnitzel, and a complete “Salute to Germany” dinner, Viking River plays to its overwhelmingly American passenger list with food that’s beautifully prepared and presented, but most of all, familiar.

Your breakfast prepares you for the tours included in your fare. On spanking new Mercedes coaches, the 180 passengers are divided into smaller groups of 25 to 30 people. In addition to giving passengers a thorough introduction to every port, all include at least an hour’s time to indulge in personal pursuits. For food enthusiasts, that could mean the 100,000-square-foot Central Market in Budapest, the Viennese coffee and pastry palaces of Vienna, biergartens that pop up, oddly enough, in front of major cathedrals and monasteries, and of course, the best of the wurst along the river in Germany.

Back aboard the ship, you retreat to snug staterooms that are the epitome of Scandinavian design genius: a place for everything, your own mini-fridge, and cabin service that surprises with its gnome-like ability to service your room while you’re at breakfast. If you can, spring for a balcony, which allows you a breath fresh air anytime you wish. But even the minimum grade will give you first-class comfort, if not the striking views you’ll see from the upper two decks.

And oh, the people you’ll meet! These voyages are not for casino goers, tuxedo wearers, or children under 18. They are for lifetime learners — people who want to experience a culture with like-minded adults. The passenger list is filled with successful, accomplished people. And your greatest surprise may be how much fun people have. Unassigned tables for six, eight, or 10 find people mixing and mingling as the decibel level rises by the day. Toward the end of the voyage, the whole ship seems to know and adore each other. That likely explains why a passenger-organized talent show was the hit of the trip. And why, on the last night, there was actually a group of people dancing on the tables. And nobody asked them to stop.

On the Danube River with Viking River Cruises - Recipes

Wiener Zwiebelrostbraten might not exactly roll off your tongue, but it will melt in your mouth. The name, pronounced VEE-ner TZVEE-bell-roast-brotten, literally means “Viennese roast beef with onions.” Very popular in Austria and Bavaria, this recipe enhances the beef flavor of the sirloin steaks through slow oven braising with that staple of Viennese cuisine, beef stock.


  • 4 T butter
  • 2 med onions, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp (2⅖ g) sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 6 8-oz boneless beef sirloin steaks, pounded ¼-inch thick
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 T(44 ml) vegetable oil
  • 4 C (946 ml) beef stock or consommé, fresh or canned, boiled down to 2 C (473 g)
  • ½ C (60 g) sour cream


Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). In a large cast-iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Sauté onions until light brown, stirring often add paprika cook another minute. Remove onions from pan set aside. Season steaks with salt and pepper. Add vegetable oil to same skillet and add steaks brown on both sides. Turn off heat, add beef stock to skillet, arrange onions on top and cover. Bake until tender, about 2-2½ hours. To serve, place steaks on a pre-warmed serving platter with onions arranged on top. Cover loosely to keep warm. Return skillet with remaining liquid to high heat and bring to a boil. Stir in sour cream immediately remove from heat and pour over steaks. Serve immediately.

Serving Suggestion

This dish is traditionally served with roast potatoes or buttered parsley potatoes you can garnish with crispy fried onions if you like.

Sailing along on the Viking Vili as castles, vineyards, and small towns go by was one of those life moments you can't believe is happening.

A song from Pocahontas playing, the crew passing out hot chocolate and Bailey's, and the sun shining made for the perfect November afternoon.

The crew passed out blankets, we bundled up in our cold-weather gear and soaked up as much sun as possible. As we were sailing along I couldn't help but think that we needed to do this Danube Waltz river cruise again in the summer. It would be amazing to see the vineyards in full growth and the flowers pouring out of the window boxes.

One bonus of sailing in November. the nudist beach was empty. I guess it is up to you if this is a good thing or not.

One of the cool things about having only 190 guests onboard is everyone is getting to know each other. You help point out cool sites along the river, share stories with each other, and make each other laugh.

The scenery along the Wachau Valley is breathtaking even in November. Rolling hills covered in vineyards and fall foliage.

Castles pop up as we come around a river bend causing the sun deck to gasp in awe.

The castles are in various states of decay or revitalization. Some of them are still lived in and can be visited. Others are amazing private residences that you can only imagine what they look like on the inside.

I also wonder how much it costs to heat a castle these days. does that mean I have turned into my Dad?

We are already talking about how we need to do a Danube river cruise again but earlier in Fall or in Summer. It would be absolutely amazing to see the vineyards full of grapes and the leaves changing colors.

If you are cruising along the Danube through the Wachau Valley make sure and bring extra camera batteries! You will take so many more pictures than you plan on taking!

Also please make sure you book the Wachau Valley Wine Tasting tour to Morwald to see the winery that produces Viking River Cruises house wines.

On the Danube River with Viking River Cruises - Recipes

Stollen is the classic German Christmas fruitcake: a rich yeast dough studded with nuts and dried fruit. This particular version uses raisins and candied fruit as well as marzipan. It is good served with butter and jam while still warm from the oven, and is also delicious days later toasted and topped with honey or preserves.


  • 2 tsp (6 g) active dry yeast
  • ⅔ C (150 ml) milk, warm (110°F/45°C)
  • 1 lg egg
  • 6 T (72 g) fine granulated sugar
  • 1½ tsp (7 mg) salt
  • ⅓ C (76 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2¾ C (300 g) bread flour, plus flour for dusting
  • ⅓ C (50 g) currants
  • ⅓ C (50 g) raisins
  • ⅓ C (50 g) red glacé cherries, quartered
  • ¾ C (170 g) mixed candied citrus peel, diced
  • 1 C (230 g) marzipan


  • 1 T (8 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ tsp (1.5 g) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ C (25 g) sliced almonds, toasted


Sprinkle yeast over milk and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and add egg, sugar, salt, butter and 2 C (222 g) of flour, stirring well to combine. Add remaining flour a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. When dough begins to pull together, turn out onto a flour-dusted surface and knead in currants, raisins, cherries and citrus peel. Continue kneading until smooth, about 8 minutes. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Lightly grease a baking tray. Punch down dough turn onto a flour-dusted surface. Roll marzipan into a rope and place in center of dough fold over to cover pinch to seal. Place loaf seam side down on baking tray, cover with clean, damp kitchen towel and let rise to double in volume, about 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300°F (150°C) and bake another 30–40 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, then dust with confectioners’ sugar and sprinkle with cinnamon and almond flakes.

Related Viking Cruises

Grand European Tour

Imagine 15 magical days on a cruise along the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers, seeing the best of Holland, Germany, Austria, and Hungary.

Passage to Eastern Europe

Let us take you to the cities, towns and natural wonders of Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria.

Romantic Danube

Discover grand cities and quaint villages on this 8‑day river cruise along the “Blue Danube.”

Danube Waltz

This 8‑day cruise takes you through four of Europe’s most enchanting countries along the storied Danube River.

European Sojourn

Combine Grand European Tour with Passage to Eastern Europe for the ultimate European sojourn.

On the Danube River with Viking River Cruises - Recipes

Spiced and nutty in flavor, these traditional German Christmas cookies are a form of gingerbread. The best-known are Nürnberger Lebkuchen, which are often presented in ornately decorated tins or boxes. These cookies are the modern descendants of medieval gingerbread, which was typically a combination of spices, honey and dried bread crumbs.



  • ½ C (118 ml) honey
  • ½ C (118 ml) molasses
  • ¾ C (151 g) brown sugar
  • 1 lg egg
  • 1 T (15 g) lemon juice
  • 1 tsp (3 g) lemon zest
  • 2¾ C (340 g) flour, plus flour for dusting
  • ½ tsp (2 g) baking soda
  • 1 tsp (2½ g) each ground cinnamon, cloves, allspice & nutmeg
  • ⅓ C (80 g) candied citron, diced
  • ⅓ C (40 g) hazelnuts, chopped


  • 1 C (192 g) sugar
  • ¼ C (59 ml) water or milk
  • ½ tsp (2.5 ml) vanilla extract
  • ½ C (65 g) confectioners’ sugar



In a medium saucepan, bring honey and molasses to a boil. Remove from heat stir in brown sugar, egg, lemon juice and zest. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and all spices, and stir in molasses mix, citron and hazelnuts. Cover chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F (167°C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper. On a floured, hard surface roll out a small amount of chilled dough to ¼-inch (6-mm) thick. If dough is sticky, use more flour. Cut dough in 2-inch (5-cm) rounds transfer to prepared baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, make icing by heating sugar and liquids in a small saucepan (do not boil). Remove from heat stir in confectioners’ sugar. If icing crystallizes, reheat and add water or milk. Transfer cookies to rack and while still hot, brush with icing and decorate with almonds, citron or ginger or, let cool completely and drizzle with melted chocolate. Store in sealed container.

Exploring Budapest Along the Danube River

I arrived in Budapest after dark and was welcomed by my first wow experience of the trip, the Szechenyi or Chain Bridge. There are many bridges crossing the Danube but this is the oldest and the most beautiful bridge. Completed in 1849, it was the first bridge to span the Danube thereby connecting Buda and Pest. While it is wonderful to see in daylight, at night the lights of the bridge are reflected by the water, casting a magical glow.

Budapest Chain Bridge at Night. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Explore the Buda Side of Budapest

Be sure to take a walk across the bridge whether day or night for an alternate perspective of the city. The best views of the city are from the Castle district on the Buda side of the river. There’s also plenty of history to discover plan to spend at least a half-day—but you could easily spend several days depending on your interests.

A tour of Buda Castle gives you a unique look at the history of the region. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Buda Castle is where the kings of Hungary lived, and the original castle was constructed in the 13th century. In the 15th century, under Hungary’s King Matthias, Budapest experienced a boom period.

You’ll also want to visit the church named in his honor. Like many of the important historical buildings in Budapest, it has been rebuilt and added to over the centuries.

Matthias Church is on the Buda side of the Danube in Budapest. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

The interior is quite exotic and appropriately it was the coronation church for the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elizabeth.

The interior of the Matthias Church is breathtaking. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Matthias Church is located in Trinity Square where you’ll find the Fisherman’s Bastion, a popular spot for photos of the Danube with the gothic-style Parliament Building in the background. The Fisherman’s Bastion was built to honor the 1000 anniversary of the Hungarian State.

Fisherman's Bastion, shown at left, offers a great view over the Danube River, the Parliament Building, and the Pest side of the Danube. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Today, aside from the historical buildings on Buda Hill, the architecture you see is mostly Baroque, built under Habsburg rule. Actually, almost everything was reconstructed after being destroyed more than once, but the last time was World War II. It’s a beautiful area with wide shady streets, quaint cafes, and inviting restaurants.

Budapest’s Dark Past

Don’t miss the Shoes on the Danube Bank, a moving sculpture and tribute to the Jewish residents who died on the banks of the Danube during World War II. During the war, more than 3,500 people—including 800 Jews—were shot on the banks of the Danube by the Arrow Cross Party, part of the Fascist Hungarian militia. The sculpture, created in 2005 on the Pest side of the Danube, is a moving reminder of the darker history of this city of light on the river.

Be sure to find the Shoes on the Danube memorial, erected to honor the Jewish residents massacred during World War II. Image by HOS70 from Pixabay

Discover More About Budapest

One of the best ways to prepare for a Viking Cruise along the Danube River is to read up on the places you visit. Here are some recommendations for exploring the history of Budapest:

Related Viking Cruises

Grand European Tour

Imagine 15 magical days on a cruise along the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers, seeing the best of Holland, Germany, Austria, and Hungary.

Romantic Danube

Discover grand cities and quaint villages on this 8‑day river cruise along the “Blue Danube.”

Danube Waltz

This 8‑day cruise takes you through four of Europe’s most enchanting countries along the storied Danube River.

European Sojourn

Combine Grand European Tour with Passage to Eastern Europe for the ultimate European sojourn.

On the Danube River with Viking River Cruises - Recipes

This recipe makes a slightly tart fruit butter that is a wonderful complement to toast, pancakes or muffins. If you want a sweeter butter, replace the cranberries with golden raisins.


  • 1 C (152 g) dried cherries
  • 1 C (152 g) dried cranberries
  • ½ C (96 g) sugar
  • ¾ C (177 ml) water
  • 1 T (15 ml) lemon juice
  • ½ C (118 ml) orange juice


Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat simmer 15 minutes. Transfer to a food processor blend until mostly smooth (mixture will be thick). Cool to room temperature, place in an airtight container and refrigerate lasts up to 10 days.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes.
  • Cook time: 15 minutes.
  • Makes 12 servings.

Viking signals that the restart to river cruising in Europe is at hand

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Pencil in July for a comeback of river cruising in Europe.

That was the word Wednesday from Viking, the biggest seller of river cruises to North Americans.

The California-based company said it would restart operations in July in Portugal, France and along the Rhine River, which cuts through several countries in the central part of Europe.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG&rsquos new cruise newsletter.

Viking said the trips only would be open for fully vaccinated travelers &mdash the same policy the company has announced for initial &ldquowelcome back&rdquo ocean cruises it will operate out of the U.K. starting Saturday. The company has been selling those trips for more than a month.

Viking is a significant player in both ocean cruises and river cruises.

&ldquoThe response to our initial Welcome Back ocean voyages has been overwhelmingly positive,&rdquo Viking founder and chairman Torstein Hagen said in a statement accompanying Wednesday&rsquos river cruise announcement. &ldquoIt is clear that many people are eager to get back out into the world.&rdquo

Up until this week, Viking hadn&rsquot operated a single ocean cruise or river cruise departure since March of 2020, when cruising around the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Viking was the first major cruise line to halt departures worldwide.

In addition to restarting ocean sailings out of the U.K. this week, Viking already plans to restart a handful of &ldquowelcome back&rdquo ocean voyages out of Bermuda and Iceland in June and July as well as some Mediterranean sailings out of Malta starting in July.

A Viking river ship sailing on Europe&rsquos Danube River. (Photo courtesy of Viking River Cruises)

The line&rsquos newly announced plans for a restart of river cruising in Europe only will bring back some of its river ships in the region.

Viking on Wednesday said its initial comeback in Europe would focus on five itineraries that are among its most popular, including its classic seven-night &ldquoRhine Getaway&rdquo routing on the Rhine River between Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Basel, Switzerland.

The four other itineraries that Viking initially is restarting are its:

  • Nine-night &ldquoPortugal&rsquos River of Gold&rdquo trips on the Douro River in Portugal that include a seven-night cruise on the river and a hotel stay in Lisbon.
  • Seven-night &ldquoParis and the Heart of Normandy&rdquo sailings on France&rsquos Seine River.
  • Seven-night &ldquoLyon and Provence&rsquo sailings on France&rsquos Rhone River.
  • 15-night France trips that combine the Seine and Rhone river voyages.

Viking&rsquos announcement comes in the wake of the European Union agreeing Wednesday to reopen its borders to vaccinated Americans and other travelers. Cruise industry executives have said such a move was a prerequisite for river cruising for Americans restarting in Europe.

As part of its announcement, Viking said it was actively working on additional &ldquowelcome back&rdquo itineraries in other destinations that would be announced, &ldquoas soon as possible.&rdquo

Viking said it planned to operate the newly announced river cruise trips with new health protocols that include frequent saliva-based COVID-19 PCR tests for passengers. The line has said it might test passengers every day in some cases.

Viking&rsquos new plan to restart river cruises in July is a watershed moment for the comeback of river cruising across the globe. The company is by far the biggest river cruise operator in the world catering to North Americans. It operates more than 60 river cruise vessels in Europe, Asia and Africa, and it accounts for around half of all river cruises taken by North Americans.

Other major river cruise operators with a global footprint such as AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways mostly have canceled sailings through the end of June but have said little yet about definitive plans for a July restart.

Watch the video: Romantic Danube. Budapest Christmas Markets with Viking River Cruises (May 2022).