Here Comes The Rain Again
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
December 1, 2014
This morning, the skies opened up on Viking River Cruises’ Viking Baldur in Budapest. I sat in the Atrium, sipping my morning coffee and posting my adventures in France aboard Viking Forseti as I listened to the rain pound on the glass skylight above my head. I watched it form a small pool there. I saw it cascading down over the sides of the ship and stream down the windows in that unnatural way it always seems to rain in the movies.
But this is no Road to Perdition sequence; no. This is real life, and the torrential downpour is made by Mother Nature herself. Complicating matters: it’s cold out; barely above freezing and damp, with a wind that chills you to the bone.
Now, I’ve almost singlehandedly destroyed my Nikon DSLR on about three trips this year due to torrential rain. I nearly dropped it in the drink off Australia’s Kimberley Coast. It had to dry out for a day while sailing off Canada’s Haida Gwaii, and darn near iced up in Alaska. So I took one look at the weather, got up, went back to my stateroom, and left Mr. Nikon in his nice, dry perch up on the vanity desk area.
Instead, I set out to explore Budapest (you didn’t really think I’d just stay on the ship sipping coffee, did you?!), armed only with my iPhone instead.
Here’s why I love Viking so much: they’ve anticipated nearly everything you could possibly think of – including the fact I brought a very cool but woefully inadequate umbrella with me. I bought it at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam earlier this year, but it’s a touch on the small side – today’s downpour would call for one of the bright red Viking River Cruises golf umbrellas that sit in a carrier just outside the main entrance doors.
In all the times I’ve sailed with Viking, this is the first time it’s rained so badly that I’ve had to pick up one of their gigantic umbrellas – and it did the trick, keeping me dry for my morning and afternoon of self-guided explorations in Budapest.
For those staying onboard, or participating in Viking’s guided and optional tours, here’s what was happening 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 in the Aquavit Terrace.
- 7:00 – 9:30 AM: Breakfast. Enjoy a buffet breakfast and a choice of dishes cooked to order in The Restaurant.
- 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM: Budapest City Tour. Visit highlights of Buda and Pest, including the National Opera House and historic Heroes’ Square. Walk along Fisherman’s Hill to Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. Discover the history of this vibrant city, including its Romany folklore.
- 12:30 PM: Lunch. Join us for Lunch in the Restaurant.
- 12:30 PM: Café Lunch. If you prefer, enjoy a lighter, buffet-style lunch on the Aquavit Terrace.
- 1:30 – 5:00 PM: Optional Excursion – Godollo Palace. Visit the 1760-completed Royal Palace. Join your guide for an inside guided visit.
- 2:00 – 5:00 PM: Optional Excursion – Dohany Street Synagogue. This magnificent twin-towered building is also home to the Hungarian Jewish Museum.
- 5:30 – 7:00 PM: Cocktail Hour. Enjoy a drink and some live music in the Lounge.
- 6:15 PM: A Toast to Our Guests. Captain Rainer and Hotel Manager Felix invite you to join them in the lounge for a toast to welcome you and your fellow guests onboard.
- 6:30 PM: Daily Briefing. Join your Program Director Oliver in the Lounge to find out about tomorrow’s excursions and events, followed by an informative talk about European food culture.
- 6:45 PM: Dinner. Chef Aleksei and Maitre d’ Igor invite you to The Restaurant for a special Welcome Dinner.
- 6:45 PM: Bar Menu. Enjoy a casual meal on the Aquavit Terrace.
- 8:30 PM: Sailaway Party. Join us in the Lounge or on the Sun Deck for a nice sailaway party with commentary by your Program Director Oliver.
- 8:30 PM: Cast Off! Viking Baldur leaves Budapest for Bratislava, Slovakia.
- 9:00 PM: Nautical Talk. Join us in the Lounge for a nautical Q&A with our Captain Rainer.
Except for being entirely and completely rained out (and somehow still soaked), I did manage to have an enjoyable day out exploring Budapest’s Christmas Markets. So why didn’t I do the included tours? Simple – at this time of year, I have two sole purposes: to river cruise, and to explore the Christmas Markets of Europe. Unlike the markets, the monuments and museums are open all year-round. The markets, though, are something truly special.
I also made time to go back to the ES Bisztro in the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest where I had stayed two nights ago to sample their goulash soup. I was not disappointed!
Tonight, after a delicious Welcome Aboard dinner, we set sail from Budapest, past what is arguably the city’s most striking sights: the Hungarian Parliament, perched on the banks of the Danube, ablaze with light. It was completed in 1904 after 19 years of construction, and today stands as one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings and an icon of both Budapest and Hungary.
For sailaway, the lights were dimmed in the Lounge to allow guests to get a better look at the surrounding sights. Afterwards, our Captain – Rainer Lembck – gave an engaging and interesting Nautical Talk about the technology behind the Viking Longships. I sailed with Captain Rainer one year ago aboard Viking Baldur on the Rhine, and I’ve never seen any other Captain give this talk before. You can tell he loves his ship and the technology that makes modern river cruising possible, and it was a real education to hear him give this talk again.
So, as Viking Baldur’s four azimuthing Schottel propellers send us down the Danube, guests can rest easy knowing that they’re sailing aboard one of the most state-of-the-art ships on the waterways of Europe. The red wine’s not half-bad, either!
Our full journey:
Viking Baldur - Danube Waltz Christmas Markets
|November 29, 2014||Budapest, Hungary||Flight from Bordeaux, France to Budapest, Hungary. Overnight in Budapest at the Kempinski Budapest|
|November 30||Budapest, Hungary||Embark Viking Baldur; free time to visit the Christmas Market. Traditional Hungarian dinner onboard.|
|December 1, 2014||Budapest, Hungary||City tour of Buda and Pest, including Castle District - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.|
|December 2||Bratislava, Slovakia||City tour through Slovakia's capital|
|December 3||Vienna, Austria||Ringstrasse tour or free time; optional excursion to the Christmas Market at Schonbrunn Palace; optional evening concert.|
|December 4||Durnstein & Melk, Austria||Free time or optional walking tour in Durnstein; tour of Melk Abbey.|
|December 5||Linz, Austria / Salzburg, Austria||Full day excursion to Salzburg, Austria; free time. Return to ship late at night.|
|December 6||Passau, Germany||Walking tour & free time|
|December 7, 2014||Passau, Germany||Disembark Viking Baldur; transfer to Munich, Germany for onward journey home.|