Viking Prestige Cruise Review (Danube Waltz) August/September 2018
I have always wanted to go to Budapest and consider it one of the great cities besides Paris, London and major cities in Italy. Hence, we researched a river cruise that began or ended in Budapest and chose Viking.
We did the Viking River Cruise with the cruise itself beginning on August 26 with 1 ½ days in Budapest and finishing on September 2 in Passau. It was FABULOUS and our first Viking cruise ever. (I’d been quite concerned beforehand.) Cruise Director Suzy was superb! Viking employees are incredible with the level of detail and care that they give to passengers. We actually arrived in Budapest on August 24 and did a 1 ½ day private cruise (arranged through Cruise Critic boards) and shared with several other Viking couples. We really enjoyed getting to know them even though they were on a different Viking ship and knew each other previously. In hindsight, Budapest is such a fascinating city that we wished we had arrived 3-4 days before the start of the cruise rather than just 2 days (plus the 1 ½ days) of the “cruise” in Budapest. We’d considered cancelling because we were told we would be in a hotel on the first night in Budapest due to low water level (and our ship was 1 ½ hours by coach away). However, they put us up in the New York Palace hotel which was a WONDERFUL experience. Viking’s service and caring for each person is absolutely amazing. One can shop around for possibly glitzier ships but only Viking provides this kind of caring service I’ve been told and saw for ourselves. We heard that other cruise lines did last minute cancellations which would make me always recommend Viking since they would accommodate guests or I’d envision cancel in advance rather than leaving guests stranded due to water levels. This hotel was built in 1894 and the ground floor had been a meeting place café for the artists and authors who met there at the café. It was nationalized during the Communist era and became a Boscolo era later. In 2006 it was totally renovated as a luxury hotel with gold leaf, marble, columns etc all restored. We felt so fortunate that our private guide took us to the Café for lunch (Hungarian Orchestra was playing) and that was before we were told that Viking was lodging us there the first night of our cruise and providing breakfast there the next morning before our included tour of Budapest. [The locals pronounce it Budapesh saying they are not an insect! The “S” at the end of Budapest is the odd looking slanted B which is prounounced “sh” in their language.)
Some helpful tips:
Pay the $50 pp and buy Viking Air Plus. (Allows you to choose your airline and flights. It is SO worth it.) Viking Air # is 877-523 0580. If they have a contract with that airline for one way travel, you can even go with one carrier and return on another if better times.
Can pay $100 deviation fee and return when you wish to and also from the airport you wish to fly home from if you prefer to travel on your own before/after the cruise.
When upgrading, I always check desired flights seat plans first to confirm there are seat upgrades available. (Make sure the flight is less than Viking limit of $1295 for this cruise or Viking will have you pay the diff). Air Plus will check if flight cost is ok & then will immed book for you. Also make sure you request EARLY TICKETING and you will have your eticket number confirmed within 48 hrs (we actually had within the day). You need to be eticketed before you can go on airline site & upgrade (for example to Economy Plus). It’s worth a small amount out of pocket for more legroom (or a much larger upgrade amount if you can afford business class). We did Premium Economy. (Can go on seat garu.com and put in the plane and click seating chart to check out comments on your seat location. Then also go to an airline’s seating chart to verify that seat.)
Can download Mobile Passport app on your phone and fill it out (photo of your passport, take photo of yourself, what airline you just arrived in US from etc) and go through customs quickly on your return home if you do not have a Global Entry card. (Some airports don’t have Mobile Passport lines but many do upon arrival back to the US). Quicker than waiting in a super long line after being tired flying from Europe.
Call Viking and request robes if you want them in your cabin. Can get Extra pillows/blankets if preferred too.
If arriving beforehand independently, get a hotel in the vicinity of the Chain Bridge. We did this and enjoyed being in the center of things with walkability to the Bridge. However, check Trip Advisor or put the name of the hotel in google followed by the word Reviews to see previous guests’ reviews on the hotel.
You don’t need a transfer from the airport, just follow taxi signs & go to the Fo Taxi kiosk after customs. They speak English & give you a receipt to take to taxi rank. This receipt has name/address of hotel & taxi is metered. Whenever we needed a taxi, we asked the hotel or bellman to ask in advance what it would cost for us particularly if that taxi they called was not metered. (Fo Taxi was metered). This worked well for us so we were not taken advantage of!
IF no private guide, get tickets for the Parliament Tour . Take care you book an English tour. Site pretty straight
Be sure to see St Stephen’s Basilica and try to get into Matthias Church interior (often closed Sat afternoon & Sunday am).
Since Bull’s Blood wine is the best red wine in Hungary, we bought 2 bottles at a store near our first hotel and brought it on the Viking ship. (Viking does not charge a corkage fee and allows guest to bring liquor onto the ship.)
Bring clear plastic shower cap from hotel if going to a hot springs spa in Budapest.
BRING ABOUT $300-400 EUROS IF YOU ARE FLYING FIRST INTO BUDAPEST. (You can add the Viking tips to your credit card at the end of the cruise but they do not have an ATM or a gym on the ship.) You will only be able to get HUNGARIAN FORINTS (HF) from Budapest ATM machines. (Check with your credit card company IN ADVANCE to be sure that they do not charge currency translation fees. Our credit cards do not charge these fees. Hence, when I charged, I always said LOCAL currency (not dollar or Euro). Bank ATMs typically charge about 3% to withdraw money plus whatever the foreign bank’s ATM fee is ($5-10 probably). Again, check with your bank. We were quite surprised to learn that in Budapest the money changers charged much less than the bank’s ATM which usually isn’t the case in the EU. Most locals pronounce their money as almost “for rent” such as 30 forents. I downloaded an easy currency app onto my iPhone and could put in 30 HF and it would show me dollars. (Look up the value of the HF to $1, $10, $20 etc before leaving so you’ll have a quick idea.) We took out about $150 in HF since I planned to stop at a few little shops in the Grand Market and didn’t want to use credit cards there. (I doubt if only on the Viking Tour you would need more than $75 HF if that since probably using credit cards.)
PACKING: It would be fairly easy to pack light for this cruise. There is no gym or formal nights. Dinners are nice casual. You could wear the same nice slacks (or 2) every night and bring 2-3 tops to mix it up with. A comfortable pair of pants (such as light weight jeans) for touring is helpful. Shoes, sandals or even nice sneakers were worn even at night. Bring a few layers in case cold vs hot. I brought several sleeveless shells and sometimes wore one over the other and a long sleeved top over those with a warm (folds into itself) quilted jacket over it when the temperature got damp and around 60. These clothes were worn in the day with less layering when warm. I’d definitely pack a warm sweater and jacket since it can be breezy/damp. For a small fee, your cabin stewart will also take your laundry and bring it back folded in a box that looks like a present. This service is worth it compared to a heavy bag. With cobblestones everywhere, be sure to have super comfortable shoes/sandals/sneakers and maybe bring some bandaids in case needed. Although there is no real shop on the ship, there are stores everywhere to pick up items you’ve forgotten or need more of. Two pairs of shoes and inexpensive flipflops if planning on going to the Budapest baths should be very sufficient. You might also want to bring a hat or visor for sun protection plus sunglasses. Viking did have some large umbrellas (enough for one per couple). You might want to pack a small travel umbrella in case. We only needed it a few times but I was happy to have it and not bother with a raincoat. The ship does have regular US outlets for items as well as EU outlets. (About 2 of each in the room plus bathrooms). I was fortunately advised not to use the one in the bathroom since not as reliable.
More Packing Tips (in case helpful):
1. It might be helpful to Roll clothing (even underwear to save space). (I use super light weight cubes to stay organized and not weight down my bag.) Even have one bag that says Day 1 so can leave suitcase intact and quick change in restroom before heading out for afternoon (before checking in.) Have a note inside them: tops, pants, sweater/jacket, underwear,
2. Take a photo of your passport, identification card, and itinerary as well as any imp travel documents. Also photograph your Travel Insurance Policy so you have it ready in case.
3. It is important to call your credit or debit card company before you leave to ensure that you have your card authorized for your foreign destination. This prevents them from suspecting suspicious activity.
4. Travel Insurance. Life is unpredictable so travel insurance is a wise purchase.
If getting “cancel for any reason” AND you have a pre-existing medical condition, just to be safe get a letter from your doctor when you buy it that you are “medically cleared/safe to travel” at the time you are booking this trip. Take a photo of it so you’ll have it on your smartphone too.
We arrived 2 ½ days earlier and loved exploring Budapest. Then, went to the Viking Hermod which was a ship remaining in Budapest due to the low water levels. (Our ship was in Slovakia).
Day 1 of Cruise
We received an email several days prior to the cruise that due to low water levels, we would be staying at a hotel during our first night in Budapest. Because of the low water situation, we were told upon registering with Viking in Budapest (at the Viking Hermod) that we were being accommodated at the New York Palace, a fantastic hotel adjoined to the New York café.
We’d considered going to the Gallert Spa on the Buda side which is a large indoor spa with multiple pools and a park. Was recommended to bring a shower cap. Instead since drizzling we met friends and took a cab to the bottom of the historic Castle Funicular Railway, which is a 2-minute ride to the top of Buda where the Castle is. (Walking across the Chain Bridge to the Funicular would have been about 10 minutes but sprinkling on and off and friends also had just arrived from the long plane ride from U.S.) The 18th-century castle is a large 200-room palace badly damaged in World War II before most restored. The Hungarian National Gallery is in the main wing (mainly art) and a Budapest History museum occupies 4 floors in the south wing. We toured the Budapest History Museum and took photos of the area outside and of the Pest side and Danube which Buda overlooks. (Instead of the equivalent of 6 Euros for the 2-minute ride on the Funucular, we could have paid the same amount and gotten in one of the open air taxis which drives around making stops at each important part of Buda.)
We’d spent the 2 days prior to the cruise touring the Jewish Quarter, the synagogue, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Shoes on the Danube and other very memorable sites in Budapest.
Day 2 of Cruise
After a wonderful buffet breakfast at our hotel, Viking took us to on an included panoramic overview tour of Budapest. The tour pointed out the main sites of Budapest (getting out a few times on the Pest side) and then we went to the Buda side. We got out at the Castle and also at Fisherman’s Bastion (pointed towers and turrets) built in the 19th century as a watchtower with stunning views of the Danube and the Pest side including the Parliament building. In the south courtyard is a bronze equestrian statue of St. Stephen, the first King of Hungary.
NOTE: Having the extra days in advance to truly see things first hand and walk and see details made a huge difference in our getting to know and love Budapest. The Viking tour was great but there’s a big difference between 3.5 hours and 3 days getting to know a city. Even without sharing a private guide, the Hop On, Hop Off Bus and free walking tours would be quite easy and informative if someone wished to tour Budapest independently.
Viking treated us to lunch at Spoon Restaurant, which is a boat restaurant on the Danube by the Chain Bridge since our ship was not in Budapest. In the later part of the afternoon Viking drove us (due to low water situation) 1.5 hours to Komarom, Hungary.
We were greeted upon arrival at the Viking Prestige ship with sparkling wine and went to rooms to unpack. After our evening meal, local entertainment was brought in to dance/sing for 2 hours. The pianist who played/sang during happy hour and after the entertainment was also excellent. (You could also dance which we did later in the cruise and others followed).
Day 3 of Viking Tour
Awoke with ship in Bratislava, Slovakia. [Actually as a super light sleeper, I woke up at 3:15am when the ship’s engines started even though I wasn’t in the back of the ship and took a while to get back to sleep with the noise.] At 9am we had the mandatory routine muster drill where we were told to report holding our life jackets. 90% of the guests said they never heard the ship during the night! It depends on how light a sleeper you are. Likewise with water noise from toilets/pipes on the bottom floor. However, most of noise would just be between 7am-11pm due to showering or toilet flushing.
We did the Panoramic Bratislava tour which was an excellent overview of this charming capital. Our guide gave us much history growing up in this area. Slovakia borders Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and the Ukraine which is why it called the “country at the Heart of Europe”. In the 16th Century Slovakia became a part of the Hapsburg Monarchy. The reforms of Maria Theresa (1740-1780) and her son, Joseph II (1780-1790) formed the basis of a tax and transportation system, army and schools. Because of these Hapsburgs, serfdom was abolished. In 1763 Maria Theresa established a college for training mining, foundry and forestry specialists. It fell to Communism in WWII until 1989.
Day 4 of the Viking Cruise
Took the Vienna overview tour walking to the nearby waiting motor coach. It is easy to hear the guides since we have our own device which you put in a holder to charge at night—comes w a volume button.
Note: Strabe at the end of a word on a building means street. (The funny “B” towards the end of xxxxstraBe mean “s” and pronounced “sh”). You will see a # to the left of the name of the street such as “1”. That means District 1 (which is the most upscale district). A small blue square on the building under the street name if there is the building number.
The tour started with a little background. She recommended that we watch a movie called “the Third Man” which is a documentary re post war Vienna. Strauss wrote the Danube Waltz. She pointed out his apartment leading up to St. Stephen’s in the city center. Vienna is smallest of Austria’s provinces but the largest in population. There is a height limit. Can’t build higher than the older buildings. Same people who built the Suez Canal came down here to build a dam. The Vienna Parliament building has the Pallas Athene statue (goddess of wisdom) in front of it. Built from 1874 to 1883 in Greek-Roman style used for the Austrian National Federal Council.
Saw the Imperial Gate which Napoleon destroyed but was rebuilt.
Guide discussed that the Belvedere palace was built in the early eighteenth century to be used as the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736) and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day and famous painters there and in another Belvedere Palace. Guide walked us around the outside of the Imperial Palace (Hofburg Palace) and mentioned that it houses 3 museums including the Sisi Museum. (Sisy was a nickname for Queen Elizabeth of Austria who was a favorite of the people). She said towards the left end the President sometimes uses for an office and you’ll see a flag raised if he is there. Wien is the German name for Austria.
The Holy Roman Empire ended with Napoleon in 1806 when the last Holy Roman Emperor Francis II (from 1804, Emperor Francis I of Austria) abdicated, following a military defeat by the French under Napoleon at Austerlitz when it became the Austrian Empire.
Walking around Vienna she pointed out the black plague statute with the father/son/holy spirit on the top of it in gold. (Saw in Passau also). Said tap water is excellent since it comes from a natural spring. In cafes a glass of tap water is always served along with your coffee. St. Stephen’s church became a cathedral. Pointed columns. 343 steps to climb the staircase for a view or can pay for elevator located on the other side (north side) of the steeple.
The hired local Viking guides were all FABULOUS. This one was acceptable but the only weaker one in our entire trip. (The others were all easy to understand and fun to listen to particularly when they told us their personal history growing up in the area.)
We were instructed when we wished to return to the ship that we were at the Stephansplatz center of Vienna shopping area. (Looks like 5th Avenue w upscale stores!) There is a metro stop marked Stephnspltz right there. Buy a ticket ($3 one way or $6 round trip-worked with a visa card too). Said to take the RED U1 line towards “L” end (stands for Leopaldau). Then we had an easy 10-min walk to the ship or could take a taxi to the ship. Personally after the tour, having lunch with friends and examining the Stephansplatz area, I asked a retail clerk where the “normal” shopping areas are. They sent us on a 10-min subway ride taking the U3 Orange Line heading towards Ottokring direction to Neubaupasse (which was the 3rd station from getting on at Stephansplatz). On the return trip we took the Orange line U3 [ending says Simmering] and got off in 3 stops at Stephansplatz and then changed to the Red Line U1 headed towards “L” (Leopaldau) so back to the ship. This shopping area was a beautiful tree lined street with more normal priced stores on each side.
The port talk re the next day was at 5pm. Dinner was at 6pm (rather than the normal 7pm) due to many people going to the Mozart concert that evening. Upon returning to the ship at 10:15pm, a goulash soup was served for people who might still be hungry.
The concert music by the Vienna Residence Orchestra was excellent. There were 10 extremely accomplished musicians and they do a concert every evening. They also inject humor and have two talented dancers and vocalists so the concert was never boring. We truly enjoyed it but were a bit surprised by its lack of formality. It is in one of the two concert halls in Vienna. The hall though looks like a beautiful drawing room with gold leaf seating about 200 people or so with chairs on the floor. It is not the huge velvet opera house/palace setting that we were expecting. Hence, nice slacks and a collared shirt are fine to wear.
Although most guests did the Mozart concert, some guests did the Huerigen wine tasting and others relaxed in the ship. The Huerigen outing takes guests by bus outside of Vienna to the wine growing section. The tavern presents a plate of sausage, cheese & other nibbles to go with the wine. The event is not a regular wine tasting experience. Rather since Heurigen means “this year”, it is new wines that are not aged yet for guests to sample. The wine pouring is generous. Some guests were disappointed since not what they expected but others enjoyed it since there was a duo of musicians who entertained guests and moved around so the volume did not prevent conversation.
Day 5 of Viking Tour
Krems/Gottweig Abbey: 900-year-old Abbey where Benedictine monks work and worship on a hilltop overlooking the gorgeous Wachau Valley. Morning tour of the Abbey. Much of the Benedictine Abbey stands on top of Gottweig mountain, on the eastern edge of the Wachau Valley. Although built in the 11th century, it was nearly entirely ruined by fire in 1580. In 1718 the monastery burned down but was reconstructed. Some original structures remain including pieces of the Chapel from 1072. In 2001 UNESCO dubbed it a World Heritage site. About 40 monks live there now. Wine has been produced there since 1083.
At 1:30pm the ship sailed from Krems for Linz. Seats on the top open deck went VERY quickly during/after lunch as well as the front open breakfast area on the 2nd level of the ship since everyone wanted to view the gorgeous Wachau Valley as we cruised through it. Our fantastic Viking cruise director, Suzy, also narrated as we cruised though terraced vineyards, forested slopes, charming towns and by castle ruins. It was really interested to watch the ship in a lock. (Would have been great if the process had been narrated since everyone was outside or at windows watching and explaining to the others.)
At 4pm guests could join the chef in the lounge to learn how to make a pear strudel (and then eat it.) At 6pm the port talk also presented different Viking cruises and countries and explained that you could pay $100 and get $200 in Viking certificates toward a future river or ocean cruise that would never expire. (A couple could buy $100 each so two $100 certificates paying $200 and get $400 towards a future Viking river or Ocean cruise if they chose to buy it. Certificates had to be purchased while still on the cruise). Relatives have done the Viking Ocean Cruises and said they are just as caring and great as the River Cruises. Tours are also included in the Viking Ocean Cruises unlike many ocean cruiselines.
Day 6 of Viking Tour Did Cesky Krumlov
Linz, Austria. Fortunately our shipped docked so we could walk right off into Linz.
Athough a walking tour was offered, almost everyone on the ship did the FANTASTIC Cesky Krumlov tour. This was a definite highlight of the cruise.
There is a museum in Linz with all tech interactive displays that one could take a full day to explore per our guide. It is a very modern industrial city with a university there (exp science) and a concert house. The town has 13-14,000 inhabitants. There are 16th Century buildings in town. One can do 4 UNESCO sites in one day because of the location of Linz.
The Czech Republic is famous for wine. Behemia is from the word “hope”. In 1212 a Czech king was given a document by pope that the Czech crown could be inherited. Then became part of the Austrian Hungary Republic. Wanted to be independent so Czechs persecuted. Better conditions because of Maria Theresa—education, etc. Still use Czech language—Slavic language but kids also forced to learn Russian until 1989. During WWII Supported by Hitler. They wanted revenge but not with war. Munich Agreement: Part of Czech was given to Germany without a fight but no Czech input into it. Czech people were forced to leave their houses, animals etc in that area. No reason to attack the Castles but dark town. Hitler killed people, many of the women and children were sent to concentration camps. Many didn’t survive. Nazis assassinated most of the Czech men. Czechs so happy to see the Russians and Americans free them from Nazis but Russians did not leave (forced Communism). Cechs when first meet might seem cold since hard to trust people due to their dark period. 1940s, 1950s etc people persecuted. See the Dark Blue World (it’s in English also or with English subtitles) about this period in Czech history. Later many joined the Communist party since they thought they could change it. Still symbols around today. Many people immigrated and left the country in 1968 (rumors) before the borders closed with fences, dogs etc. Told they were being protected from Capitalists in the West. Shot if try to leave. Some people (including our guide’s parents) moved close to the border since they would get financial support if they lived there. Soldiers were everywhere. The King of Shalamer is a book worth reading re this period. He takes all of the money from the people who want to immigrate and “helps” them. They drown in nearby Peat fields on border. He was a member of the guard but did actually help some people. Communists captured him before he escaped and he wrote a book. Czechs will take more than they need since they are always concerned re the worst happening. Vile 1990s since President believed everyone was good and pardoned not only political prisoners but also evil people who repeated their evil acts. Tons of prostitutes sat on side of road half naked even. Everyone was forced to learn Russian only (Russian Czech) until 1989 when the Soviets left.
CESKY KRUMLOV tour:
It says 8.5 hours but is easy since 1.5 hours going (with great explanations and history talk by Lucy, our fantastic local Czech tour guide about her life and the area. We also had a quick bathroom stop half way and about 1 hour 20 min returning. Besides driving and doing our guided walking tour, we had free time to go to lunch and walk around during the day. It did not seem like a long day at all which was a concern of mine initially.
Cesky Krumlov (southern Bohemia) is definitely a highlight of the tour. We departed for the tour at 8:30am and were back around 4pm. We were told to bring our passports just in case the bus was stopped and they were requested (which can occasionally happen since entering Czech, a different country). It did not for us. (The Viking cruise also offers a leisurely walking tour—slower pace—for almost all versions of all tours if passengers prefer this.)
Summary: Lots of atmosphere, cobblestones everywhere, free time for lunch on your own, Czech Republic uses Czech crown but accepts Euros and credit cards. (Some smaller shops do not accept credit cards). Our Czech guide spoke perfect English and gave a wonderful history of the area, an overview of all and a small bit of what it was like growing up there and an excellent tour as we walked around the exterior of the castle and the grounds. We ate at Papa’s on their wonderful patio overlooking the river and watched the kayakers go by with one group falling in the water under our luncheon patio. In our free time, we went to the history museum in the castle (interesting and spent about 45 minutes or so) and also went into some of the shops.
Day 7 of Viking Tour
Passau (Crossed border into Germany from Austria)
Fortunately the low water situation was resolved, and we were able to cruise into Passau. We were also able to walk directly off the ship without a bus into this beautiful medieval city to meet our guide. Our guide was a local retired mechanical engineer. (Overcast with a few light showers towards the end.) Heavy cobblestones were everywhere so happy we wear sneakers again. We did the included tour. After the included tour, you can take a shuttle up to the Oberhaus in the afternoon. There is a restaurant there w great views, mixed reviews but great for coffee & strudel.
Passau is a beautiful city to tour as well as the absolutely stunningly beautiful St. Stephen’s Cathedral. If you can stand in the center of cathedral when you walk inside, it is a fantastic place to take a few quick photos. The high point stressed to us was the organ music. (The organ was built in 1928 and has 17,974 organ pipes, 233 stops and 4 carillons making it the largest organ in the world.) All 5 parts of the organ can be played from the main keyboard, one at a time or all together. However, even though the organ sounded great, two songs would be enough rather than the entire repertoire (unless you are a true music lover or have never heard a good organ in a cathedral previously). We did not know the music. There is a charming small chapel too in the right hand side just as you enter St. Stephen’s Cathedral where you can say a few prayers. The baroque Cathedral is on the highest point of the Old Town. Nearly destroyed by fire in 1662 that swept through the town, it was rebuilt.
Passau is known as the City of Three Rivers: Inn River, The Danube and the Ilz rivers. It was an important medieval center for the salt trade known as “white gold’ which came from deep in the mountains in wooden barges. (Vienna was a small village in the Middle Ages). Transported from the Alpine salt mines to Passau where it was processed. When fires damaged the city in the 17th century, it was rebuilt with the baroque character that survives today. Passau was considered more important and the capital during the Middle Ages before Vienna and today has 50,000 inhabitants and is an economic, cultural and communications center of southeastern Bavaria.
The middle of the Inn Bridge is the only place in town where you can see the whole panorama of the Old Town. (The Inn River is a tributary of the Danube which runs to the Black Sea), Also different is that it is normal to enter a church from the West and the altar is on the East 80% of the time in the world unless the location does not permit it. Passau has seen 2 Crusades. In 1898 they built 16 power stations because they needed electricity to rebuild after Hitler. Interesting Story: Hitler lived there when young. (House pointed out to us). He and another boy were playing together and went into the powerful river. Hitler almost drowned but the other boy (who became a priest) pulled him out by the arm and saved him. Later the Family Hitler moved from Passau to Linz where he grew up. His father beat him daily and was quite mean. (Loving mother). Hitler wanted to study art but got rejected from schools in Vienna. He hated Vienna. Our guide’s family left Germany when he was 6 months old since it was known that Communists raped and killed. Fortunately his family made it to the West before the wall.
Note a photo of Passau with the 3 rivers. You can see the 3 green (copper) onion ring domes on top at the end of the Inn River. Can see the huge castle on the other shore with a separate part of it at the tip of this peninsular. (3 rivers run into one = Danube). There was a huge flood in Passau in 2018 (can see the high water marks on buildings). People can’t get insurance in a flood plain so the government gave them 80% of the cost to rebuilt or repair the damages. [As we cruised the Wachau Valley earlier, they pointed out that the walls on the side were built in 2013 after the flooding from the Danube.] There were 3 air raids in Passau. (Not much in Passau since less industry was located there and air raids were strategic during the war.) In the first one Gen Patton sent his first troops here. Passau surrendered immediately on May 2, 1945. After WWII Germany had to learn democracy vs dictatorship. The dark side is that they have open borders. They “can and want to help but not rescue the whole world.” Stated George Marshall was a wise man after WWII. He said to give Germany money to rebuild their industries. After WWI, the German people were angry and it ended with Hitler in control. Thus after WWII, to prevent that kind of resentment again, Marshall gave the money to rebuild but expected Germany to repay in various ways.
The ship transported passengers to the Munich airport at various times if flying home directly. We were staying for 2 nights in Munich and had to arrange our own transportation. There was a mixup with our prearranged transportation and the Viking assistants on the ship were wonderful calling them and correcting the mixup so we had transportation to our hotel in Munich. (Had we known, the Viking cruise director was taking names during the cruise of others who needed transportation so they could arrange to go together but we had indicated that ours was prearranged.)
Day 8 of Cruise Passau to Munich
Most passengers took Viking transportation at various times to the Munich airport. (Some with early flights had to get up in the wee hours so I would advise avoiding early morning return flights since Passau is 2 hours away from Munich). We chose to stay overnight for 2 nights in Munich. It was enjoyable but in hindsight, we wish we had chosen Prague which is where most passengers not returning immediately home went. We arranged private transportation online prior to the cruise from Passau to Munich since our hotel was conveniently located near the central square Marienplatz. Viking only transports passengers to the departure airport (in our case Munich). Hence, if not traveling directly home, we were told we had to arrange our own transportation. I tried emailing the Viking concierge in advance and was told they did not arrange private transportation if staying overnight. However, during the cruise, I learned that the Viking assistants on the Prestige and our wonderful cruise director Suzy, was keeping a list of people traveling to similar places independently such as Passau to Munich or Passau to Prague and informing them so they could choose to find more economical transportation arrangements by traveling together if they so choose to do so.
Our room had a nice bathroom with shelves for personal items. It had a French balcony which means sliding glass doors and a railing outside about 8" so you could open the door and look outside each way but not large enough to go outside. We thought it was great. My friends were on the lowest level with a window and no balcony. It seemed fine and they were happy with the price. The only downside is that you could hear water noise in the pipes from showering or toilet flushing above during the day (about 7am until about 11pm). This could be an issue if someone was a light sleeper or wanted to nap during the day. Fortunately they weren't in the back of the ship where one could also hear engine noise. I did hear some water noise from the cabins on either side of us occasionally but it didn't bother me. I did wake up when the ship's engines started at 3am on our first night on the ship. I am a light sleeper though and very few other people heard this noise and were awakened including my husband in the same room. I would recommend this room.