Two Excellent Viking Days in Passau
Tuesday, July 21 – Wednesday, July 22, 2015
It’s our first full morning onboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Lofn , which we switched to yesterday in order to continue our 15-day Grand European Tour to Budapest. Low water on the Danube caused us to “swap ships” with Viking Vidar – an option open to us thanks to Viking’s staggering number of Viking Longships.
Still, the impact of the lack of water on the Danube has had a knock-on effect for a number of cruise lines. Viking’s changes (listed here for upcoming departures) are primarily ship-swaps, though two Elbe River departures have been cancelled. Other lines have found it necessary to cancel cruises outright or force them to end prematurely if other company vessels aren’t available.
Given that, I think the 187 of us here onboard Viking Lofn should be very pleased indeed that our adventures are continuing with minimal disruptions. Aside from being docked in Passau, Germany for two straight days (with the option to tour Regensburg, Germany tomorrow), or itinerary continues unaltered. Here’s what’s happening aboard the Viking Lofn today:
- 6:00 – 11:00 AM: Café Breakfast. Coffee, juice and pastries are available at the coffee station in front of the Lounge.
- 6:30 – 9:30 AM: Continental Breakfast. A selection of beverages and breakfast items are available on the Aquavit Terrace.
- 7:00 – 9:30 AM: Breakfast. Enjoy a buffet breakfast and a choice of dishes cooked to order in The Restaurant.
- 9:15 AM – 1:00 PM: Shore Excursion – Passau. Join us for a guided walking tour of Passau followed by an organ concert in St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
- 1:00 PM: Lunch. Join us for lunch in The Restaurant.
- 1:00 PM: Café Lunch. If you prefer, enjoy a lighter buffet-style lunch on the Aquavit Terrace.
- 2:30 – 5:15 PM: Free Shuttle. Shuttle service into the city center of Passau and back. Please find the schedule of times at the Reception Desk.
- 5:30 – 7:00 PM: Cocktail Hour. Enjoy one of our cocktails and live music in the Lounge.
- 5:30 PM: Presentation – Bavaria: Germany’s Special State. Join our guest lecturer in the lounge for a talk about the unique state of Bavaria.
- 6:45 PM: Daily Briefing. Join Program Director Henrieta in the Lounge to find out about tomorrow’s excursions and events.
- 7:00 PM: Dinner. We invite you to join us for dinner in The Restaurant.
- 7:00 PM: Bar Menu. Enjoy a casual meal on the Aquavit Terrace.
- 9:00 PM: Onboard Entertainment, “Melodies from the Danube to the Adriatic Sea.” Includes selections from Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Verdi’s La Traviata, performed by opera singers from Munich and Nuremberg. Also, sing along to favorites from The Sound of Music!
- Followed by: Dancing. Join fellow guests in the Lounge for live music by our musician Robert.
Known as “The City of Three Rivers” because of its location at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz, Passau is suitably photogenic. The city can trace its origins back to the 2nd Century BC, and today has a population of just over 50,000 – 11,000 of whom are university students attending the University of Passau.
The 2013 flood of the Danube was the second-worst flooding the city of Passau has experienced since the middle ages, and even today, cleanup and restoration work is still evident. High-water mark levels are painted on numerous buildings throughout the town , and the 2013 markings have slowly but surely been added to buildings.
The restoration work is obvious. Since my last visit back in December, more buildings by the river cruise docks have been repainted. The visible water damage has been repaired, and more shops are open. Still, there are a handful of spaces that are being reconditioned, two years later.
This morning, Viking offered guests a walking tour through historic Passau, which I participated in despite having been here enough times to probably give the tour. But I am glad I went: our guide was one of the most fantastic and energetic that I’ve had in recent memory, even performing what he called his “interpretive dance” for us so we could distinguish between different styles of art. It was clever, he was engaging, and I ended up learning things about Passau that I never knew before. There’s a good lesson in that: even if you’ve been here before, and you’ve done the walking tour before, it may be worth doing again. After all, Viking offers it free of charge; why not participate?
Still, there are some darker elements of Passau’s past that are discreetly skipped over. In 1892, a little boy skipped and strolled along these streets. Accompanied by his mother and father, young Adolf Hitler probably didn’t look any different from the other kids his age. The family only lived in the city for two years, but Hitler apparently didn’t forget about Passau: three concentration camps were in operation near the city during World War II.
But that is in the past. Passau today is a gorgeous little town…which is why I chose to not participate in the tour of Regensburg tomorrow and opted to spend my Wednesday here, enjoying an unexpected second day in Passau.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Viking offered guests three separate options to enjoy their day today: a full-day excursion to the city of Regensburg; a half-day Bavarian Forest Museum visit; or the option to enjoy a relaxing day aboard the Viking Lofn exploring Passau.
During the night, we moved from our docking location at nearby Passau-Lindau to Passau’s Alstadt, or Old Town, berths right in the heart of the city. Docked at Berth 13, all of Passau’s great attractions and shopping district are just steps away.
I love Regensburg. If you’ve never been, you owe it to yourself to go; it’s a beautiful city. But the allure of staying in Passau today was just too great. For me, it was a chance to catch up on work, to dine like a local, and to avoid a long motorcoach tour.
It’s important to note that typically, Viking does dock right in Regensburg on their Danube itineraries. But, because of the low-water situation, our ship is unable to sail upstream to Regensburg. This means guests taking the full-day Regensburg City Tour (including lunch) will have to drive 1.5 hours in each direction to and from the city.
Equally important to note: Viking isn’t going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. If you want to participate in the tours, fantastic. If not? You’re free to do…well, whatever! Personally, I like that flexibility – and it seems I’m not alone. I hear roughly half our guests opted to stay aboard the ship and enjoy a rare second day in Passau, while the other half went to Regensburg and a handful went out into the Bavarian forest to see the Museumsdorf Bayerischer Wald, near Tittling.
One thing that impresses me about this voyage: everyone seems to be exuberant in their praise of Viking. I hear wonderful comments about the crews of both Viking Vidar and Viking Lofn. I see guests experiencing the magic of river cruising for the first time, and of sailing the admittedly not-so-blue Danube through the heart of Europe. In that vein, here’s five reasons I admire Viking’s river cruise product so much:
- Details. For me, Viking is all about the details – and even the smallest ones don’t go unnoticed. Just look at how well-constructed their Viking Longships There’s both European and North American power outlets in each stateroom – and plenty of them. The mirrors in the stateroom bathrooms are anti-steam. The floors are heated. The books in the library are new, relevant, and location-specific. The Aquavit decanters are the best on any cruise line I’ve been on. And so on.
- Itineraries. Viking’s itineraries offer a surprising amount of variation, both in Europe and abroad. For example, Viking offers five separate itineraries on the Danube, ranging in length from 7 to 23 days: the Grand European Tour; Romantic Danube; Danube Waltz; Passage to Eastern Europe and European Sojourn. Now that’s variety!
- Truth In Advertising. Have you seen Viking’s television commercials? Of course you have! Do you know why they send a shiver up my spine every time I see them? Because they’re an accurate depiction of river cruising with the line. Viking isn’t trying to be anything it’s not. They offer a good, consistent river cruise at a good, consistent price. I admire that.
- Friendly, Consistent Service. It’s nothing short of admirable that Viking has launched so many ships over the past four years – and can still maintain personable, polished and friendly service onboard each and every one of the company’s vessels. That’s not accidental; that’s Viking’s philosophy.
- Enrichment. Viking’s enigmatic founder, Torstein Hagen, is fond of saying that ocean cruising is a drinking man’s cruise, while river cruising is the thinking man’s cruise. Despite the free-flowing wines and beers at lunch and dinner, I think he’s right. In that respect, Viking places great emphasis on worldliness on their voyages. They bring on guest speakers. They have a well-stocked library. They hold lectures on destination-relevant topics, like the history of Bavaria, German language lessons, or a guide to Viennese café culture.
Of course, it’s taken me 1,567 words and counting to tell you all this. Watch Karine Hagen, Viking’s charming Vice President, do it better as she shows you the world of Viking in just 93 seconds:
Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Lofn’s Grand European Tour continues tomorrow from the Austrian towns of Melk and Krems! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.