The Vikings Arrive in Bratislava
December 2, 2014
This morning, guests onboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Baldur had the chance to sleep in and enjoy a relaxing morning of scenic cruising along the Danube. With our scheduled arrival time in Bratislava, Slovakia slated for 14:00 this afternoon, many guests chose to do exactly that, resting up and escaping the last of the jetlag from their long journey’s from North America.
Guests onboard this sailing are predominantly from the United States, but there are a handful of Canadians like myself onboard, and a few couples from the United Kingdom as well. In fact, the UK is a rapidly growing market for Viking and other river cruise lines, as residents there look to see Europe in a vastly different way.
But just because it’s a relaxing morning here onboard doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of things to do. The Wheelhouse was open for guest visits this morning from 10:00 on, and at 10:30, a presentation on the coffee houses of Vienna was given to help prepare guests for our day in the Austrian capital tomorrow.
For many, this was their first chance to see Viking Baldur pass through one of the many locks that line the Danube. The fascinating process brought guests to the upper Sun Deck to watch the entire event unfold. For me, even after countless river cruises, I am still intrigued by the raw mechanics involved in raising and lowering a ship like ours.
There was also a bit of an unscheduled diversion: a guest onboard had a medical emergency. Normally, I would never mention something like this here, but I feel its worth noting: an ambulance and an escort car raced onto the access road just west of the lock as we were transiting through it, and once we had emerged, Viking Baldur moved quickly alongside the pier, where paramedics from the ambulance jumped onboard. That’s the thing with river cruising: ships don’t have onboard physicians simply because they are not needed. In this case, the guest was taken off the ship and quickly whisked away. The entire process took mere minutes, and my understanding is that the guest is doing well and will be fine.
Of course, one of the chief joys of river cruising with Viking is simply sitting in the gorgeous lounge and watching the scenery pass by. With floor-to-ceiling windows and the entirely glass-enclosed Aquavit Terrace, few river cruise ships can offer the same kind of ambiance that Viking has cleverly crafted for this onboard gathering spot that really does serve as the social hub of the ship.
Also worth noting: the cookies served onboard next to the coffee stations that flank either side of the Viking Lounge are in popular demand on this sailing. So good, they’re reduced to crumbs nearly as soon as they’re placed out!
This afternoon, Viking offered a guided walking tour of Bratislava that would depart at 14:30 and would run until 17:00. Because I’ve already been to this charming town twice, I chose to skip the tour. If you’ve never been here before, though, I’d highly recommend taking this included tour – you’ll miss out on much of the history and as a result, you may not appreciate what it is you’re looking at.
My two previous visits to Bratislava have been in July and September, and I was excited to explore this gorgeous city during the winter months. What surprised me, however, is that in contrast to the bustling streets found during summer and fall, Bratislava in the winter is almost entirely devoid of tourists, save for those coming ashore from the river cruise ships. Streets are dark and deserted, and more than a few shops are closed and boarded up for the season.
The bustling street cafes of the summer have long since been packed away, and you can walk a beeline down the center of the streets in the old town center without fear of being clipped by cars or cyclists.
This surprised me, as I didn’t realize that Bratislava’s tourism industry was so seasonal. It’s the sort of mass exodus you’d expect of places that are primarily tourist-driven. In many ways, visiting Bratislava in December reminded me of visiting an Alaskan town in the off-season: deserted.
Our Live Voyage Report aboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Baldur continues tomorrow as we explore the Christmas Markets of Vienna! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.