There are many benefits associated with this Viking River cruise, but perhaps the best is the opportunity to unpack once for a seven-day tour. Our stateroom more than meets our needs with plenty of sleeping, lounging and bathing spaces. It is nicely appointed and well laid out with closets, drawers and plenty of storage spaces. We elected to upgraded our accommodations to a stateroom on the top deck with a sliding glass door and balcony. This has turned out to be a good decision, especially on the days we are cruising up river and have views and vistas. There is a flat-screen 42” television with many English-language channels for entertainment as well as CNN International, BBC and Sky News. Finally, the stateroom contains several electrical outlets set up for standard USA appliances operating at 110 VAC. All things considered, our accommodations match any American-styled upscale hotel such as Hilton or Marriott. It is top-notch and we have no complaints.
The ship serves breakfast, lunch and dinner onboard daily. There is a sit-down, three course service in the main dining room and a simpler menu served upstairs in the lounge area. Because we’ve paid for them in the price of our tour, we’ve eaten all our meals onboard. Dinners in the main dining room, lunch on deck or in the lounge and breakfast in the lounge as well. There is plenty of food and everything has been prepared and present by professional chefs and wait staff. There is something for everyone, every taste and every dining preference.
The food choices are heavily slanted to the “American” palate leaving very little opportunity to experience local dishes. So far, I’ve had four dinners and chosen some sort of beef each time. My friends had the pork filet one night and loved it and there is always an opportunity to get a chicken breast, BBQ sauce and fries. Fish and vegetarian options are available as well.
The Typical Viking Cruiser
There 95 rooms aboard this ship making it possible to accommodate 190 people in double and twin bedded rooms. The hotel manager here onboard tells me the ship is filled almost to capacity. According to a show of hands at our embarkation meeting, I reckon 98% of the people on board are Americans with a few Canadians and Aussies to fill out the mix. As for ages, there are a few 30-somethings but most are well into their sixties and seventies. All in all, a very homogenous group of cruisers. Finally, I imagine 30% of the passengers on this cruises have been on at least one other Viking river cruise.
I've provided the facts, now here's what I think so far
This combination of a homogeneous group travelers, great service from the staff, the Americanized travel style, the safety of the English language and the predictable menu choices make this an easy and unthreatening travel experience. Unfortunately, it also sequesters the traveler in a culturally sterile bubble giving very few opportunities to experience the life of a local.
Today, I am writing this while sitting in the ship’s lounge with 80 other cruisers, peering out the windows at the passing scenery while the tour director provides a commentary about the villages and countryside. Later, we will have another ship-board lunch followed by a group tour on Melk Abbey. How I yearn to get out and take a walk in the village and vineyards, pop into a local shop, strike up a greeting in German, sip the local Wachau wine and sample some locally sourced sausage, mustard and bread.
That’s my thoughts for today. I welcome your thoughts, comments and suggestions as well.
Wrapping up this episode
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David McGuffin is Founder and CEO of David McGuffin’s Exploring Europe, Inc., based in Middleburg, Florida. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube. David spends his time in Europe organizing and leading small group and independent tours to European destinations. In business since 2001, David has provided exceptional travel opportunities to several thousand satisfied customers. You can find out more about David and his European tours at his website, http://davidmcguffin.com.