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river cruiseWhen a couple has been married for thirty years, there is very little that they have not experienced together. For my husband Bob and me, taking a cruise was one of those things that the two of us just never got around to doing. That is, until Viking offered me their Nuremberg to Budapest River Cruise, on the “Blue Danube.”

I have to admit that I was curious about whether my hubby would take to a cruise of this sort. On our last trip, we biked through French wine country; he’s a marathon runner who likes his exercise. I knew from the last cruise I took (which I loved, by the way), that there would be no real outlets where he could work out, meaning, no gym on board. So, the big mystery lay ahead of us…as did the six cities, three countries, and throng of 27 locks we were about to encounter.

My apprehension regarding the lack of physical activity was for naught. There was a track on the upper deck of our ship, the Aegir (Norse god of the sea): Aside from the rain and cold, Bob could run. And the ship very often docked in places along walkways where some creative training could be done as well. Add the extensive walking we did through the cities during Viking’s planned excursions and on our own, and we were very easily able to counteract some of the calories we consumed while indulging in the amazing pastries that we very rarely refused. For anyone who thinks a river cruise is for the “sedentary traveler,” they’re wrong.

One of the other major features of a river cruise that I wondered whether Bob would like was being part of a “traveling troupe.”  We generally travel on our own or with friends, not in organized groups, but with private guides. When you are on a river cruise, you are essentially traveling with a tour group—the same people, every day, for as long as the trip lasts. Surprisingly, we found there can be beauty in this arrangement and a sense of comfort. Viking attracts a diverse collection of interesting people. On our trip alone we met those from Hungary, Romania, the Philippines, and Ukraine — and that was just the crew! Each night we dined with folks from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain, and all over the US. Being able to share stories and experiences with this veritable UN at meals and during the day was definitely a highlight of the trip. Tables for two are not part of the plan, so our social genes got a good workout.

Rolling on the river.

Rolling on the river.

You can while away the hours reading, playing cards with new friends, or just watching the river go by if you so choose, but Viking has so many pre-arranged activities for it would be a shame for you to miss them. Bob and I are very poor planners, and when it comes to orchestrating trip agendas, we basically break out in hives. The fact that there were virtually no decisions to make on our cruise was a huge plus…something I knew Bob would love. During free times, when we wanted a little something extra, the concierge on our ship, Christina, was a huge help suggesting off-the-radar places. With her guidance, we found a museum one night in Vienna that was open until 10 pm (and free!), hopped on the subway to get there (we could have taken a cab, but we were determined to walk as often as we could, and this was a great opportunity), and  afterwards ducked into a cafe for a slice of blissful apfelkuchen (glad we opted for the walk!) and coffee. Never having to repack and unpack and repack again during the entire trip—something else we hate about traveling from place to place—relieved a lot of our usual vacation angst. While staying on our “floating hotel” for the entire time, we  also bonded with the staff. They knew each of us by name and went out of their way to make sure we felt pampered. We would find a different array of fruit in our room, courtesy of Vinnie, each day, and friends were introduced to a “very rare” species of elephant to liven things up.

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Bob and I have no dietary restrictions, but we do have rather “sophisticated” palates. The food was adequate, always plentiful, and lots of choices: There was always fish and good salads. We made sure to eat healthfully for breakfast and lunch and saved our calories for dinners like the “Taste of Germany Night,” featuring sausages, cheeses, all sorts of breads and Bavarian pretzels. Friends who were vegetarians were also accommodated. Every morning, they were offered a choice of dishes for the rest of the day that would meet with their requirements.

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The guides Viking used were always entertaining and impressively knowledgeable. One in particular, on our optional WW II Tour in Nuremberg, which included the ruins of the Zeppelin Field, Nazi Party Rally Grounds, the Documentation Centre and the Nuremberg Trials Courthouse, virtually made our trip for us. It was an chilling experience that this daughter of Holocaust survivors will remember forever. Our disappointment at  missing the renowned German Christmas Markets by a week, was boosted in Budapest as we were in time to experience their smaller annual tradition of decorated stalls selling sweets, treats, and Yuletide-themed souvenirs.

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 And so, Bob’s verdict about the trip? He thought it was great! We were able to combine food, history, and couple time all while not throwing our active lifestyle out the window as we floated down river. Our ship’s director, Klaus, enticed us with stories of future Viking trips (even one—maybe—on the Mississippi!), so I’m hoping my hubby will be up for another adventure soon. I know I am!

I was compensated for this trip, but my opinions are my own.

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