You’ll love the laid-back tempo to small ship cruising on Europe’s inland waterways, plus unforgettable landscapes and old world culture along the way.
Wherever you travel — Western, Central or Eastern Europe, Russia, China — Viking River Cruises gives you a chance to both taste local culture and get a close-up view of inland sights. This is old-fashioned, leisurely travel at its best.
On the calm waters of the Danube, you’ll imagine you’re in another time, as the ship moves you slowly past sloping vineyards, hillside monasteries, deep forests, and ancient castles — the views changing but never lacking. People lazily holding poles in front of little fishing shacks wave — and why wouldn’t they?
River cruising is a chance to observe local life but from the comfort of a fine, floating hotel and in many cases with excursions all planned for you (as an added bit of luxury, you only have to unpack once). If you want time on your own to explore, you’ll find time to do that too.
River ships carry as many as 300 passengers but often fewer than 200. And while the ambiance is comfortably casual, you will in no way be roughing it. Cabins can vary in size — suites or other upper-level options provide the most. All have private facilities and there may be such accouterments as flatscreen TVs. You’ll find the cuisine hearty and in many cases gourmet.
Snow White would feel at home on the Rhine, particularly the fairytale perfect middle stretch, where castles cling to cliffs and the landscape is so out of this world you may have to blink to make sure you’re not dreaming.
Some 50 miles of the river are actually designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your cruise takes you between Amsterdam in The Netherlands and Basel, Switzerland, with stops in Germany and France along the way.
From the canals of Amsterdam to the medieval castles and church steeples of historic German cities (including a day trip to the historic university town of Heidelberg), this itinerary is about views and history — the stuff of legend.
The Rhine carves through the Rhenish mountains and past hillsides covered with vineyards, medieval castles, craggy cliffs, deep forests, and villages with half-timbered houses. You’ll think of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Hansel & Gretel” as you experience real-life places that inspired the Grimm Brothers fairy tales.
See the famous Lorelei rock at the Rhine’s narrowest stretch, a 394-foot cliff named for one of the “Rhine Maidens,” whose lovely songs, so the story goes, led boaters to hazards, much like Greece’s Sirens.
Visit Cologne, with its 13th century cathedral and stop in quaint Rudesheim, capital of the Rheingau wine country, to sample Riesling, the most famous German wine. Visit ancient Breisach, gateway to the legendary Black Forest.
The Danube is a delightful river cruise route no matter what the time of year, but it’s particularly magical during the Christmas holiday season.
Nearly every town and city has some form of Christmas Market, with decorated open-air huts selling food and drink, ornaments and gift items from late November until Christmas Day — the bigger markets, such as the famous Vienna Christkindlmarkte in front of the Vienna City Hall, also have performance areas where choirs sing and musicians play.
Mulled wine and gingerbread scent the air and rosy-faced kids show their excitement as locals and visitors alike mingle as they shop for gifts and enjoy the holiday atmosphere. On your cruise between quaint Passau (near Munich) and Vienna, you’ll experience some of the best of these holiday celebrations in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia (and the Czech Republic too, with optional excursions).
You’ll learn that many traditions of Americans originated with St. Nick — the Germans were the first, for instance, to decorate their homes with evergreen boughs at Christmas time. At the same time you’ll experience lovely towns, castles and fortresses, and cities with plenty of old world charm. In Budapest, the Christmas Market on Vorosmarty Square features more than 100 huts selling crafts items approved by the Association of Hungarian Folk Artists (including wooden toys) and revelers munch on bread baked in clay ovens as folk dancers perform.
In Mozart’s home city of Salzburg, the Christmas Market includes horse-drawn carriages taking revelers around Old Town. A present purchased for the folks back home from Bratislava (Slovakia) is sure to elicit a “wow.”
No matter where your Viking River Cruise takes you the sites will stay with you long after you’ve arrived home.