When my husband and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary, we wanted something extra special and decided to celebrate in style on a Viking River Cruise. This was by far our biggest anniversary celebration and one we were super excited about.
Half the fun (okay, an 1/8th of the fun) was researching the different options and choosing our river cruise. After spending many hours on the Viking Cruises website, we chose the Danube Waltz Viking River Cruise.
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Danube River Cruise – Viking Journey from Passau to Budapest
Danube Waltz River Cruise – Our Viking Journey from Passau to Budapest
The Danube Waltz Cruise was my second river cruise. I previously sailed on the Rhine Getaway Christmas Cruise with Viking Cruises.
This 8-day Danube itinerary reveals the highlights of Passau, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest while cruising leisurely through spectacular scenery. A Viking Danube River Cruise offers views and visits to enchanting castles, gorgeous landscapes, and fairy-tale villages. We knew this would be a trip of a lifetime.
Our eight-day river cruise with Viking began in Passau, Germany and ended in Budapest, Hungary (the itinerary also runs in the opposite direction and can be booked from Budapest to Passau).
Danube River Map
The Danube River is Europe’s second-longest river, after the Volga. The Danube River flows between 10 countries and runs southeast for about 1,700 miles. It begins in Germany (Central Europe) and ends in Ukraine (Eastern Europe) before emptying into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta in Romania and Ukraine. Below, you can see the Danube map and how it travels through Europe.
Viking Danube River Cruise Map
The Viking Cruise Danube itinerary can be booked from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary or Budapest to Passau.
The Danube River cruise I took began in Passau, Germany and included stops in; Linz, Melk, Durnstein, Krems, Vienna (all in Austria), Bratislava (Slovak Republic) and ended in Budapest (Hungary).
8 Day Viking Danube Waltz Cruise Itinerary
Day 1: Embark in Passau, Germany
Day 2: Passau, Germany
Day 3: Linz, Austria
Day 4: Melk, Austria
Day 5: Vienna Austria
Day 6: Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Day 7 Budapest, Hungary
Day 8: Disembark in Budapest
Viking Danube River Cruise: Airport Pick Up & Arrival
If you book airfare with Viking Cruises and go directly from the flight to the ship, you will be picked up at the airport by Viking. You will be transported by first-class bus to the docking station in Passau. Once you arrive at the ship, the check-in process is super quick. My husband and I were in our room within minutes upon arrival to the Viking Bragi longship.
Viking Danube River Cruise: The Ship
The Viking Longship Bragi has 95 staterooms, one main dining room and a smaller dining terrace, bar/lounge open-air upper deck and many spaces for lounging and hanging out. There are three main levels for cruisers; the main level (middle deck) where you’ll find the concierge, the main dining room, and most staterooms. The next level up you’ll find the bar/lounge, the Aquavit terrace with an outdoor deck and more staterooms. The upper deck (sun deck) is the third level where guests can relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. We cruised in April and the weather was gorgeous. We found ourselves spending time on the sun deck daily.
Viking Danube Cruise Ship Details:
- Sun deck with 360-degree views with putting green, chess, walking track and herb garden
- Aquavit Terrace with a revolutionary indoor/outdoor viewing area at the bow of the ship and grills for al fresco dining
- Observation Lounge and bar with floor-to-ceiling glass doors
- Restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows for panoramic views
- Library corner and onboard boutique
- Elevator from Middle to Upper Deck
Viking Danube River Cruise: Stateroom
On our river cruise, we had a veranda stateroom. We loved the balcony, especially during daytime sailings. While in port there are times you will find that two Viking ships are docked next to each other. You may or may not have a view during the port calls depending on how the boats are docked.
- 95 comfortable outside staterooms (2 Explorer Suites, 7 Veranda Suites, 39 Veranda Staterooms, 22 French Balcony Staterooms, 25 Standard Staterooms)
- All suites feature two rooms with a veranda off the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom
- Hotel-style bed topped with European linens and duvets
- Bathrooms with heated floors
- Premium Freyja™ bath products
- Cord in the shower for drying/hanging clothes, etc.
- European and North American plugs throughout the cabin.
- In-Room 40″ flat-panel Sony TV with infotainment system featuring movies on demand plus CNBC, CNN, National Geographic
Viking Danube River Cruise: Life onboard a Viking Longship
Everything about a Viking cruise is casual and relaxed. The dress is informal for a Viking cruise. Think smart casual. Depending on the day, you may find yourself coming to dinner straight from an excursion. There are no fancy evenings and no need for formal attire whatsoever.
Each day onboard the Viking Bragi, you will receive the Viking Daily. This is an onboard newspaper sharing the next day’s itinerary, ship information, history of the town you’ll be visiting, histories of upcoming locations, country profiles, and suggestions of things to do in port.
Most days will follow a schedule similar to this:
- Morning excursion
- Optional afternoon excursion
- Cocktail hour with a briefing (port talk) for the following day
- Evening entertainment (onboard musicians, as well as entertainers, brought in from the port city or an interesting presentation)
This is a general overview as there are multiple excursions to choose from daily. There are also additional onboard activities on the itinerary for those not on an afternoon excursion. On a Viking River Cruise, you can be as busy as you choose.
Viking Danube River Cruise: The Crew & Service
With 50 crew members and a maximum of 190 passengers, this offers a high level of service during a Viking River Cruise. As you can imagine, it’s quite easy to get to know the cruisers and staff on such a small ship. This was my second Viking River Cruise, and I have been impressed with the quality of service. Being able to compare two cruises, what I find noteworthy is the consistency in the high level of service. Every crew member we came in contact with had a smile and truly seems to enjoy their position. The excellent service is one of the many aspects that truly places Viking River Cruises in a class of its own.
Viking Danube River Cruise: The Food
You won’t go hungry on a Viking cruise. In addition to the three meals per day, you’ll find coffee and pastries available from 6am-11am as well as cookies, tea, and coffee in the afternoon.
I absolutely loved breakfast. You can order from the menu or enjoy the daily buffet with fresh pastries, an omelet station, cheeses, meats, yogurt, lox with fixings, juices, and much more.
Lunch is a combination of buffet and menu. Salad and additional courses are available on the buffet or you can order soup and a main course from your waiter. You can enjoy lunch in the dining room or in the open-air aquavit terrace. We loved having lunch on the terrace.
Most evenings dinner is served from the menu and there are four to five options for the main course. Each dinner includes appetizers, soup or salad, a main course, and dessert. One of our favorite meals was “Taste of Austria” on day four. We are now Wienerschnitzel devotees!
They do a wonderful job working with food sensitivities and allergies. If you are allergic to gluten, as I am, or have any other allergy make sure to inform the booking agent you work with in advance of sailing. On this sailing, there was a handful of us who were celiac or allergic to gluten and the chef prepared special courses and desserts for us. At breakfast each day, I would be shown the lunch and dinner menu for the day and I would pre-order my meals. The chef was able to make just about everything on the menu gluten free.
Every evening there is a cocktail hour before dinner, with each evening being a bit different. The first night is a welcome briefing and introduction to the crew management. The second night is a toast with the captain. Most nights include live music and there might also be a port talk or other announcements. It’s a fun time to gather and socialize.
Viking Danube River Cruise: The Onboard Entertainment
Entertainment consists of fun and sometimes funny shows with the crew, local bands and singing groups will also join the ship during dinner or after dinner for special performances. Before dinner, there will often be a lecture or other learning event (ranging from the culture of locations, language lessons and learning about river cruising). You’ll find live music in the lounge daily at cocktail hour and after dinner. The crew frequently participates in the after-dinner fun in the lounge.
Viking Danube River Cruise: The Locks
One very interesting aspect of the Danube River Cruise is sailing through the locks. There are a total of 19 locks on the Danube and during this sailing, the ship navigates through many of them. There are a few days when you’ll sail through locks during the day, rather than at night. It’s is quite fascinating to watch the process of the boat entering the lock and adjusting to the correct water level for the next part of the river.
Viking Danube River Cruise: Scenic Cruise Days
There are two days on this itinerary where you can enjoy the most beautiful stretches of the Danube River; the Wachau Valley and Danube Bend.
Traveling from Passau to Budapest, the first scenic cruise day is sailing through an 18-mile stretch of the Wachau Valley that is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll pass vineyards, forests, and wine growing villages between Melk and Krems, Austria.
The second day of scenic cruising is a 40-mile stretch through the Danube Bend. Here you follow the curve of the river into Hungary and will see farmland, ancient castles, steep hills, quaint villages and many domed churches.
Viking Danube River Cruise: The Excursions
One of the aspects of the Viking Danube Cruise we loved the most is that a daily excursion is included with your cruise. The excursions are also optional, so if you’d prefer to explore on your own, this is an available alternative. Most days, the ship will dock in one location, but there will be a few days the ship will dock in one port in the morning and another in the afternoon. When this occurs, a bus from the morning excursion will then deliver you to the new port.
Depending on the distance of the excursion you will either travel by bus or foot. Passengers are divided into groups and you’ll have a local guide who will take you by bus or foot to explore the daily excursion. For every excursion, there is a group that moves a bit slower and its great for anyone with walking issues, who need breaks or for those who want to take a lot of photos. During the walking portion of the excursions, they provide an earpiece so you are never straining to hear what the tour guide is saying.
In addition to the daily “included excursions” there are usually between one and three excursions that can be booked for an additional charge. These excursions might be visiting a nearby town or focused on a local tour or a culinary experience. Most excursions are between three and seven hours, but the average excursion is four hours.
Included Excursions on Viking Danube Waltz Cruise:
Day 1 & 2: Passau Walking Tour & Organ Concert
Day 3: Cesky Krumlov Walking Tour in the Czech Republic
Day 4: Gottweig Abbey
Day 5: Panoramic Vienna
Day 6: Panoramic Bratislava or Bratislava Walking Tour
Day 7 & 8: Panoramic Budapest
There are a multitude of included and optional tours such as; learning to waltz at a Viennese dance school. visiting an abbey on an exclusive visit to Göttweig, savoring Austro-Hungarian cuisine in Vienna and Budapest, and soaking up soothing steam at a Budapest thermal bath. One of our favorite optional tours was the Dohany Street Synagogue & Jewish Budapest tour.
I can’t do each port and excursion justice in this article. So, check back shortly for my article about all the excursions on the Viking Danube Waltz.
Budapest Cruise at Night
One of the most spectacular events on the Viking Waltz cruise was the night sailing in Budapest. This Budapest river cruise event took place on the last night and was simply gorgeous. The Budapest Danube cruise portion was a slow journey under numerous bridges and included seeing the most spectacular portions of the city at night. To see the city lit up and sail through town was the perfect way to end this experience.
What’s Included on a Viking River Cruise
Below you can find a full list of what is included with the Viking Danube Waltz cruise. The two big items that stood out to me are 1) wine and beer are always complimentary during lunch and dinner (as well as during special shipboard events and tastings) and 2) daily included excursions.
- 8-days; 5 countries; 10 ports
- Visit 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- All onboard meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) featuring regional specialties & American classics are always available
- Welcome Cocktail Reception & Farewell Dinner
- Open-air walking track
- 24/7 Guest Services for special requests
- 6 included shore excursions with local guide & headset
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- Complimentary beer, wine & soft drinks with onboard lunch & dinner
- Multiple dining venues with open seating 24/7 specialty coffees, teas & bottled water
- Aquavit Terrace (the most al fresco dining on Europe’s Rivers)
- All port taxes and fees
- Airport meet & greet transfers included when air is purchased from Viking River Cruises
What’s Not Included
A Viking Cruise could be 100% all-inclusive if you stick with the provided alcohol and soft drinks as well as included daily excursion. There are no hidden fees or costs once aboard. Below are the few items that aren’t included in the cruise:
- If you want to upgrade, you can opt for unlimited beverages during your cruise, with the Viking’s Silver Spirits package. You could also buy your favorite bottles and mixers in port and keep them in your stateroom.
- As stated previously, additional excursions are not included in the cost.
- Tipping at the end of the cruise.
Who goes on Viking River Cruises?
The largest percentage of passengers were between 60-75 years old. There were several families who were traveling together with adult children in the 30-40’s. Like my husband and I, there were a handful of couples in there early 50’s. It does seem that the Viking cruise demographic is skewing a bit younger now that river cruising is becoming more and more popular.
We expected a lot of rain during a spring cruise, but we were pleasantly surprised by a mini-heatwave on our cruise. We had a bit of rain the first few days, but it progressively got warmer as the days continued. This is not the norm and you should be prepared for rain with warm to cool days and cold evenings. If you happen to take this cruise in winter, I’ve created a list of what to pack for a winter river cruise that will help you take the guesswork out of what you should and should not bring.
We loved the Viking Danube River cruise experience. It was a huge treat to visit four countries and 10 ports without having to pack and unpack. Visiting Europe without having to check into a new hotel every day or two, as well as travel by bus, train, car or plane is such a treat. The concept of unpacking once is a huge plus.
What We loved!
- The ships are small (less than 200 passengers).
- It’s quite easy to get to know most of the guests.
- There were no hidden costs.
- The daily excursions.
- The gorgeous sunsets!
Overall, we highly recommend a Viking River Cruise. It’s a wonderful way to see many locations with ease.
Viking River Cruises on Facebook
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6 Indispensable Items to Pack for a Viking Danube River Cruise
- Get a good guidebook for Austria and Hungary
- A good quality mirrorless camera for getting great photos of your Viking experience. I use the Sony Alpha a6000 .
- Lightweight tote for your port excursions.
- Weather can be unpredictable, so bring a lightweight umbrella and rain jacket.
- Waterproof hiking boots. I love Keen because they are lightweight and super comfortable.
- A great crossbody travel bag. Crossbody bags prevent theft and are much easier to access.
Thinking about a Viking River Cruise? Ask your questions in the comments below!
Although I was provided a complimentary Danube River Cruise thanks to Viking River Cruises, the experiences shared and opinions are my own.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.
Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.