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Danube River Cruise on the Viking Prestige


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Embarkation in Budapest
The Chain Bridge sparkles under a full moon over Budapest.

The Chain Bridge sparkles under a full moon over Budapest. The Viking Prestige docked right next to the bridge and had wonderful views of the historical buildings that overlook the Danube River.

Budapest Chain Bridge (c) Linda Garrison
Riding from the airport to the Danube River that splits the city of Budapest into two pieces is an interesting ride. The terrain is flat, but as you get closer into the city, the hills lining the Danube begin to appear. In addition, the drab architecture in the outskirts of the city evolves into something much more appealing, and by the time our bus full of cruise ship passengers reaches the Viking Prestige, the tiredness of airplane travel has already been replaced by the upcoming anticipation of things to come. The new European river ship is docked in a prime spot on the Pest side of the Danube, right next to the famous Chain Bridge. We quickly check in, but my suitcase had beaten me from the bus to my cabin. Ah, the joys of small ship cruising!

At first glance, I already love my cabin. It's got all the necessities I consider important--lots of plug-ins (both 115-volt and 220-volt), plenty of storage space, good reading lights, a magnifying mirror, nice-sized shower with glass door, and a French balcony. Unfortunately, all I can see from my balcony window is another ship, but I know this blank view will disappear when our neighbor sails.

After a long shower and some clean clothes, I was ready for the welcome briefing at 6 pm in the Observation Lounge. It was delightful to see that the Program Director was Marek Snelly, who mom and I enjoyed sailing with on our last Viking cruise between Bucharest and Nuremberg (Eastern European Odyssey) in 2009. Marek was one of the program managers on that cruise (assistants to the program director), and I was glad to see he had been promoted. Marek had enlightened and entertained us on that cruise with a memorable Dracula presentation and a program on growing up in Communist Slovakia.

At the briefing, Marek outlined the next day's schedule. We would have a guided bus and walking tour of Budapest in the morning. While we were touring, the Viking Prestige would move upstream on the Danube River and pick us up in time for lunch. The ship would sail all afternoon. It promised to be a fun cruise, as we could look forward to all the scenic river cruising we would do and places we would see over the next week--Budapest, Vienna, Melk, Passau, Regensburg, and Nuremberg.

Our first dinner on the Viking Prestige followed the port talk. As usual, I didn't have any problem finding some interesting people to dine with. It's one of the joys of cruising for me--socializing with others who appreciate new places and new cultures. The dinner amuse was especially interesting. The waiter said it was a "pork fat" spread, which was served with small pieces of toasted bread. It was actually very yummy, but super rich. Had the consistency of congealed bacon grease, but not a bacon flavor. It did have small chunks of crispy fried pork mixed in. We all thought it was quite tasty, despite the bad name and appearance (and obvious high-fat content). I also had a nice apple salad, followed by a pork cutlet and a Hungarian dessert sampler with a Gundel pancake (pancake stuffed with a nutty mixture and covered with chocolate), an ice cream dish, and something fruity. I skipped the garlic/eggplant soup, but others at the table who are more appreciative of eggplant than I am seemed to like it.

After dinner, the ship had a Hungarian music/dancing show, but I decided to go out for a short walk with one of the other passengers to settle our dinner. It was a gorgeous night, with a full moon. We walked across the Chain Bridge and down to see the Parliament lit up at night. We even ducked into the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel near our ship so she could see the magnificent chandelier.

I was back in the cabin by 10:30 and asleep soon after. The next day we would tour Budapest, a city I've been to several times, but always enjoy revisiting.

Danube River Cruise on the Viking Prestige


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