Embarking Viking Baldur in Budapest
November 30, 2014
This morning, I left the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest and pulled my luggage a few blocks south, where Viking River Cruises’ Viking Baldur sat at her berth near the historic Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary.
This would be the start of my fourth Christmas Markets cruise, and my third on the Danube. In fact, my very first river cruise experience took place three years ago in December of 2011, and it was then that I discovered two things. One, river cruising was fantastic. Two: there’s absolutely nothing like Europe’s Christmas Markets.
North Americans might not know exactly what these are. The tradition of the Christmas Markets dates back to the late-middle-ages, and every city likes to claim that they were the first to develop the tradition. There’s a lot of evidence to support the fact that they originated first in Germany and Austria, but quickly spread to parts of France and Northern Italy as well. These days, Christmas Markets are prevalent throughout much of Europe, though in varying intensity. The Dutch capital of Amsterdam, for example, doesn’t really do too much in this regard, and sun-drenched cities like Nice aren’t likely to have the kinds of markets that Vienna, Frankfurt and Munich have.
While Viking River Cruises operates this Danube Waltz itinerary throughout the year beginning in March, it is the departures after November 30 that are so sought-after. It is then that the Christmas Markets open up and remain in full swing throughout most of December, typically until December 23 or 24.
In the next seven days, we’ll be calling on Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Durnstein, Melk, Linz and Salzburg, Austria; and finally, the Bavarian town of Passau, Germany where we’ll have a full day of touring before disembarking and transferring to Munich for our flights home.
Arriving at the Viking Baldur just after 12:30 p.m., embarkation was a simple affair: as I was arriving independently, I wheeled my luggage down the gangway and presented my passport to the Reception Desk for verification against the manifest. Then, I was given my keycard and shown to my room, which is a carbon-copy of the room I occupied last week aboard the Viking Forseti in France. In fact, it’s just two doors down – confusing, as I keep walking past it and to the room I had before. Kids, when you book a back-to-back cruise, make sure the room numbers are either the same, or on a different deck!
The entire process, from check-in to stateroom: under five minutes. After the first thirty minutes onboard, I was unpacked yet again and had settled into the Lounge, where the few guests who had embarked around the same time as me were enjoying a light lunch. With a bowl of soup, a Cuban sandwich and a glass of red wine, I was once again beginning to feel very ‘at home.’
If there’s one thing Viking does incredibly well, it is that they create ships that have a wonderful sense of warmth to them. For first-time Viking guests, no doubt the soft, soothing colours will impress them, along with the views out the magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows. For returning guests like myself, feeling ‘at home’ takes only seconds. In fact, Viking Baldur is so similar to Viking Forseti that I almost expected the crew and guests I had come to know so well over the last week to materialize at any second.
That kind of familiarity is great, particularly for guests who are arriving the day of the cruise and like to know where everything is and how everything works. Viking makes it very easy for guests to know what they can expect from each day of their cruise thanks to the printed Viking Daily, which is really one of the best in the industry. Not only does it contain important information about what is happening around the ship, but there are also important facts about the places you’re either in or will be visiting, along with tidbits, trivia, and quotes.
By two o’clock, what I like to call the “Viking Express” began to turn up. These are the white Viking-branded Mercedes coaches that can be seen zipping smoothly along the highways and streets of many European cities, and in this case, they’re all bringing full loads of guests straight from Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport to the Viking Baldur.
Our Live Voyage Report aboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Baldur continues tomorrow as we explore Budapest on our first full day onboard this Christmas Danube Waltz itinerary! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.