My wife and I cruised along the River Danube between Budapest
and Nuremburg in July 2012. We had chosen to travel with Viking
River Cruises (VRC) and were embarked on their latest ship, Viking
Embla, for its maiden voyage from Budapest. Our only previous river
cruise had been along the Yangtse River and that before the Dam had
Our flights from Heathrow to Budapest and return from Munich
were part of the Viking River Cruises (VRC) package and both
flights were British Airways scheduled flights.
The ' meet and greet' service at Budapest airport was
excellent: as was both the transfer to the ship and check-in.
Viking Embla was moored directly opposite Budapest's Buda
Castle ( once the Hungarian Royal palace) on the Buda side of the
The Viking Embla is a purpose built River Longship with
accommodation on 3 levels for 190 guests.
Onboard there is a selection of accommodation ranging from
Suites and staterooms with a balcony (called Verandas) to the
smaller French Balcony staterooms which feature a floor to ceiling
sliding glass door (no balcony) down to a small number of
staterooms on the lowest deck with a half-height
window. For this river cruise we had chosen a 'Superior Veranda
Stateroom', basically placing us on the upper accommodation deck
level.All accommodation has deluxe amenities, premium toiletries
(L'Occitane) and high-definition in room entertainment.
Passengers are each supplied with a personal wireless 'Tour
Guide' receiver for their use on all the inclusive tours that VRC
Embla has a Main Restaurant which operates on a one sitting /
open seating system, while the Aquavit Terrace offers an
indoor/outdoor area at the bow of the ship for more casual dining
at breakfast and lunch.
The Aquavit Terrace is effectively an extension of the
Observation Lounge, which also incorporates the
shipâ€TMs bar and entertainment area. It is here where,
in addition to the limited entertainment programme, port talks and
cultural lectures are given.
Viking Embla is well blessed with open deck space and more
than sufficient good quality furnishings. One particular innovation
that has been incorporated into the Viking Embla design is a
â€TMretractableâ€TM Sun Deck features. On its
journey along the Danube the Viking Embla often met a number of low
bridges. In order to facilitate the safe navigation under such low
obstacles the deck awning is lowered hydraulically along with the
various masts. Even the Captainâ€TMs Bridge lowered and
raised under a similar hydraulic system.
A considerable amount of time is spent on board with
passengers enjoying the constantly changing scenery and the ship
making its leisurely passage along the river between each of its
itinerary destination towns and cities. Bridges have already been
mentioned but on this particular river cruise there were also
numerous locks and narrows that need to be navigated through.
Breakfast was served buffet style in both the Main Restaurant
and on the Aquavit Terrace. There was an excellent selection of
both hot and cold offerings: all traditional breakfast fare being
on offer. Lunches were semi buffet style and again, available in
both the Aquavit Terrace and the Main Restaurant.
Dinner was full waiter service on a one sitting, open seating
arrangement and would follow the "early evening" Cruise Director's
â€ following dayâ€TMs eventsâ€TM
briefing in the lounge. Complimentary selected Wines, beers and
soft drinks were served during both lunch and dinner.
We certainly found the cuisine on board perfectly satisfactory
for the style of ship we were cruising on. Serving upwards of 190
passengers in one fast sitting is never going to offer high end
cuisine nor should it be expected. Having said that though, what
was produced was certainly substantial, variable in choice,
particularly for dinner, and an alternative steak or salmon dish
was always on offer. The boat was certainly pushed out on the
Captainâ€TMs Gala Dinner Night.
Executive Chef Karl Heinz certainly conjured up some
interesting regional dishes to tempt the palate and the attentive
waiters ensured that copious quantities of acceptable wine were
available. This wasnâ€TMt Cunard Grills but hey, no
complaint, we didnâ€TMt starve.
This was a 7 night cruise and as originally stated, was
sailing between Budapest in Hungary and Nuremburg, Germany. This
itinerary crossed three countries borders while sailing north along
the River Danube.
I trust that in the above I have given a taste of the Embla
from this particular cruise. All the port visits were well guided
and each made most interesting. As far as visiting the various
places they were all actually intense despite being well planned.
All credit to Viking River Cruises who, by day two, assessed the
balance of passengers mobility needs and arranged separate
transports for those with less difficulty walking in order that
they were not hindered or slowed. Full marks there VRC.
But River cruising wasnâ€TMt all intense fast
action million fact excursions. This was also about various lengths
of time given to leisurely cruising along tranquil waterways,
passing spectacular landscapes and passing unique, ever-changing
vistas whether scenic or historical.
River cruising is not ocean cruising and should never be
considered in the same light. River cruise ships are, by their very
nature, not conducive to what ocean cruisers have come to expect.
They are of course considerably smaller but, having said that, the
newer ships are well designed and when factors are considered they
certainly provide a comfortable platform to journey along sometimes
tight rivers otherwise fascinating ports of call.
Their amenities are of such a level that one should not expect
what one experiences on larger Ocean cruise liners. They do,
however, certainly on Viking River Cruises, make the best of their
limited space and organisation to provide a most attractive
Evening entertainment was limited but, to be perfectly frank,
after some days excursions and early starts planned for the next
day, after dinner entertainment would be the last item on many
Food and dining was good with many evenings offering regional
favourites to supplement traditional dinner favourites.
Once or twice unscheduled stops were called for. These were
explained to us as being necessary due to low levels of water in
the river making navigation unsafe. To VRCâ€TMs credit,
when this did happen there were prompt alternative coaching
arrangements to get us on our scheduled tours.
River cruising offers an interesting alternative to ocean
cruising and both my wife and myself thoroughly enjoyed this latest
adventure. Indeed, so much so that we have booked further cruises
with Viking River Cruises in 2013 and 2014. That in itself
canâ€TMt be a bad recommendation for either the style of
cruising or the company.
For us a river cruise once a year will probably be the norm as
our great love is to be dancing out on the oceans. All the same,
thank you Viking River Cruises, you have an excellent product and
are obviously a brand leader.
A full review including the ports of call along the river
Danube can be found on my own cruise blog....
Happy cruising everyone.