Slovakia and Hungary - Viking River Cruise

When we hear river cruise we often think of retirees who are looking for a bit of adventure, with people their own age. This is true, but myself and new travel trends are proving that river cruising is not just for the Baby Boomer generation. Now there are still options for the active 55+, but these cruises are definitely not limited to just one generation. Let me tell you why I, a 20 something Millennial loved taking a Viking River Cruise for my honeymoon.

When I was married in 2015 my husband and I were both 25. I had spent a lot of time in Europe and he had never been before. We wanted to be able to see and do a lot without having to try to coordinate all of the in between travel and river cruising ended up being a great option. We decided on Viking’s Danube Waltz cruise which would take us to Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungry. We also knew we wanted to be able to spend either Christmas or New Years on the ship as they have fun celebrations for holidays. We ended up celebrating New Year’s Eve and Day on our cruise and it was a great way to end the holiday season.

Like many of us know, there are so many benefits to taking a cruise, specifically a river cruise. Similar to a tour everything is organized for you. I loved getting off the plane in Germany and having the Viking representative there to pick us up and bus us to our ship. Once on board we were given our room and had time to relax during the afternoon while everyone’s flights were getting in. I generally like to stay up the first full day when I get to Europe, but having time for a nap before the ship filled up was excellent after a nine-hour flight. Another aspect of cruising that I love is getting to unpack once and do most of our traveling at night or during meal times. Tours are fantastic, but river cruising allows you to sleep or dine during much of the transportation time. I loved waking up in a new country or sitting on the deck and enjoying a coffee while we were sailing to our next destination. River cruising definitely makes the journey part of the vacation.

Slovakia and Hungary - Viking River Cruise
Slovakia and Hungary - Viking River Cruise

Before this trip, I had been to Germany and Austria, but never Slovakia or Hungary. This tour was a great combination of countries that I already loved and ones I have always wanted to see. One great option for multiple generations on this river cruise were the different types of daily excursions. Each day some sort of tour is offered in each new city. There were options for more active travelers who wanted to walk the entire tour and others for people looking to take in the sights without having to ever leave the motor coach. My husband and I loved taking in everything by foot so this was a great option for us. While there were several older patrons who opted to see the city by bus and hop out at the different hot spots. This was also a great option depending on weather. We were in Europe during late December and early January, so it was cold and snowy several days and the motor coach options were a great way to stay warm.

When we first booked this cruise we were told there would be few, if anyone our age on board. This was not something we were too worried about, but we were surprised and delighted to find several people our age including two other couples who were on their honeymoons. And speaking of honeymoons, when the staff found out we were celebrating our marriage with them they went all out. We were given a bottle of champagne at dinner and a special dessert for our table. And once back to our room they had created a special setting of jazz music, candy and more champagne. It was a real treat and something about our time on the ship I will never forget.

Aside from the daily included tours, there were also optional excursions available each day. We opted for the wine tasting in the Wachau Valley as well as visiting the bath houses in Budapest. Other options included a Mozart concert as well as a traditional dining experience in a local home. Wine tasting at a vineyard in Austria was such an incredible experience, we were able to try several wines and take home a bottle or two for ourselves and friends and family. This was also very educational as they go over the history of the wine growing region and how they grow and process their grapes today. The bath house experience is another lifetime memory. These famed thermal baths are hundreds of years old and are a must visit when in Budapest.

Now if you are like me another main component of a great vacation is the food. And let me tell you, the food onboard our Viking river cruise was fantastic. The way dining works onboard is you can eat your breakfast and lunch up on the terrace for lighter options or each meal is also served in the dining room. The dining room is set up so that you can sit with whomever you like, whether that is the same people each day or someone new. I was a little wary about this dining style, as I thought it would be awkward, but it wasn’t at all. This was also a great way to get to know our fellow travelers and by the end of the trip we knew and had sat with almost everyone onboard.

Slovakia and Hungary - Viking River Cruise

For dinners in the dining room you were offered options off of a menu. Each night they had specialty dishes from the regions we were sailing through as well as American options like steak and Caesar salads. I loved getting to try goulash, schnitzel and spaetzle. The dinners are served in three-courses, with appetizers, main entrée and desserts. This was such a treat every night to get to try different options and retry all my favorites. There was even a theme night as we were leaving Germany where the waiters and waitresses dressed in traditional German Dirndls and Lederhosen.

Our cruise ended on January 2nd, but before we departed we celebrated New Year’s Eve on board. This particular night we were docked in Bratislava, Slovakia and we had the option of staying on the ship for the NYE celebration or getting off to explore the town. We decided to stay on board and experience New Year’s Eve Viking style. We had made so many great friends at this point it was fun to be able to spend one last night with them. There was a special dinner served as well as champagne toast for everyone on board. They also brought on a DJ that played late into the evening. One thing I will say is that the bar closed each night around 10pm, but for this special occasion it was open until about 1am. I like an early bed time so in general this was not a problem, but I was happy to spend a later night with everyone on New Year’s Eve.

Overall my experience with Viking and river cruising in general was excellent. I loved being on a tour that allowed me to have so many options. Because we were always sleeping in the same room every night if there were days you didn’t want to get off the ship for the tour or if you wanted to set out and explore on your own you had that flexibility. Typically a tour makes stops along the way while getting you to your next destination, whereas on a river cruise you are always returning to the ship at night. I would highly recommend a river cruise to travelers of all ages. It appeals to all types of interests and has so many great options for meeting and traveling with like-minded people.

Amber Zakem

Amber Zakem has worked in the travel industry since 2014. Although, her love of travel began far before that. Amber grew up visiting cousins stationed throughout Europe and worked as an Au Pair in Germany for a year between High School and College. She started working at a local travel agency in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, after graduating from Central Michigan University. Amber began working for MAST Travel Network in 2016 and is the Social Media Specialist. She runs the MAST Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat and she teaches twice monthly webinars to travel agents on using social media to promote travel. Amber has continued her passion for travel and social media by also teaching a course at Moraine Valley Community College in their Hospitality program.