- Photo Tours
- Carnival Breeze – Exotic Eastern Caribbean
- Carnival Freedom – Western Caribbean
- Carnival Miracle – Mexican Riviera
- Carnival Pride – Bahamas from Baltimore
- Coral Princess – Ultimate Alaska with Cruise Experts Travel
- Cuba Cruise Louis Cristal – Cuba
- MSC Divina – Eastern Caribbean
- Norwegian Breakaway – Christening
- Norwegian Epic – Eastern Caribbean
- Norwegian Pearl – Alaska RT Seattle
- Quantum of the Seas – Preview Cruise
- Zuiderdam – Alaska Inside Passage
- Hurtigruten FRAM – Antarctica
- Hurtigruten Midnatsol – North Cape
- Passing Cloud – BC’s Gulf Islands
- Passing Cloud – Haida Gwaii
- S.S. Legacy – Columbia & Snake Rivers
- Safari Endeavour – Alaska’s Glacier Country
- Safari Voyager – Mexico’s Sea of Cortes
- Schooner Zodiac – Brew Cruise 2013
- Schooner Zodiac – Wine Cruise
- Silver Discoverer – Australia to Indonesia
- Silver Explorer – Arctic Svalbard
- Silver Explorer – British Isles
- Silver Galapagos – Galapagos Islands
- Wind Spirit – Stockholm to Oslo
- Wind Star – Rome to Nice
- EUROPA 2 – Greece & Turkey
- Queen Mary 2 – Eastbound Transatlantic 2012
- Queen Mary 2 – Westbound Transatlantic 2015
- Silver Shadow – Exotic Alaska
- Silver Shadow – Southeast Asia & Myanmar
- Silver Spirit – Athens to Barcelona
- Silver Spirit- Eastbound Transatlantic
- Silver Wind – Mediterranean
- Silver Wind – Middle East
- Silver Wind – South Africa
- AmaLotus – Cambodia & Vietnam
- AmaLyra- Danube Christmas Markets
- American Empress on the Columbia
- Emerald Waterways Emerald Star – Danube Delights
- S.S. Maria Theresa – Christening
- Tauck ms Inspire – Maiden Voyage
- Tauck Swiss Jewel – Blue Danube
- Viking Baldur – Danube Christmas
- Viking Baldur – Rhine Christmas
- Viking Forseti – Chateaux, Rivers & Wine
- Viking Freya – Danube Christmas
- Viking Longships Christening 2012
- Viking Longships Christening 2013
- Viking Longships Christening 2014
- Viking Longships Christening 2015
- Viking Vidar – Grand European Tour
- Upcoming Cruises
- About FTDC
Christmas on the Ringstrasse in Vienna, Austria
Christmas music is playing softly over the speakers here onboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Freya as we glide silently into one of my absolute favorite European cities: the historic city of Vienna, Austria.
Due to issues with the last lock before reaching Vienna, our morning guided tour of Vienna’s famous Ringstrasse was pushed back by an hour to 10am to accommodate our late arrival at the berth. While locks are scheduled as tightly as possible to avoid delays, issues can crop up – for us, a slow-moving cargo ship delayed our own transit through the lock.
Not that anyone onboard Viking Freya seemed to mind; everyone seemed to enjoy their extra unexpected hour onboard, choosing to linger over breakfast longer, return to their staterooms, or enjoy the transit of the lock from the 180-degree views provided by the forward-facing Aquavit Lounge.
One of the best things, in my opinion, about river cruising is just how much is included in the cost of admission. Here onboard the Viking Freya, complimentary coffee, tea and water are all available around-the-clock on both sides of the ship just aft of the Viking Lounge. Beer, wine, and soft drinks are also included with lunch and dinner onboard, and even if you choose to din in the more casual Aquavit Lounge, you can still partake. Best of all, pours are generous and refills timely. One lady I saw wanted a glass of wine and a can of Coke; both were delivered promptly.
So what do you pay for onboard? Drinks outside of these venues come at an additional cost, charged to your onboard account in Euros. Drink prices are very reasonable, with beers starting at just €2.70. My favorite evening, drink, though, is the Linie Aquavit. At €5.50, it comes in one of the coolest decanters I’ve ever seen, and it’s a nice nod to Viking’s Scandinavian influence.
Before long, we were through the lock and berthed alongside in Vienna, Austria. While the docking location is some four kilometers outside of the historic city centre (the Danube River itself does not run through Vienna), the river cruise berths are in an attractive residential neighbourhood lined with bicycle paths. It’s also just a few blocks from the subway, allowing guests to travel to and from Stephensplatz in the heart of the city with ease.
Here’s why I love Vienna: at every turn, there’s something new to see. From the ferris-wheel of the Prater to the Opera House, there’s no shortage of historic landmarks, museums and culturally-relevant sights. You can visit the site of Sigmund Freud’s Viennese practice or tour the opulent Austrian National Library, with its soaring ceilings and rows of ancient volumes. You can tour the Sisi Apartments at the Hofburg to learn about the Empress Elizabeth, who was assassinated by an anarchist in 1898; the exhibits even include the dagger used to do the deed.
Known by her nickname Sisi, Empress Elizabeth was married to Emperor Franz Joseph, though it was their son who would be remembered by history. When Franz Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo in 1914, it sparked the start of the First World War.
Beautiful at any time of the year, I think Vienna truly shines at Christmas. There are 25 different Christmas Markets in Vienna alone, with the Magic of Advent market in front of the city’s grand City Hall, or Rathaus, being the largest. The Rathaus was built between 1872 and 1883, and is just a stone’s throw away from the imposing Votivkirche, one of the most important neo-Gothic churches in the world. It is also just a few blocks from Sigmund Freud’s former practice on Berggasse 19. See how quickly you can get sidetracked in Wien!?
Before visiting the central market in front of the Rathaus, I stopped off for a cup of gulashsuppe and a Café Melange (espresso and hot milk) at the Café Landtmann, located directly across the street. Founded in 1873 by Franz Landtmann, the café was frequented by Sigmund Freud every morning during his time at the University of Vienna, and regularly hosts famous diplomats and media personalities.
I can see why: the soup was delicious, as was my Café Melange – both of which were served by my tuxedo-clad waiter, Englebert. While I was here, it started to snow, with enormous flakes coming down. But by the time I emerged from the restaurant, the snow had stopped. Still, it`s a great sign – last year, I never saw any snow, so I have my fingers crossed for a wintery Europe yet!
But in keeping with the Christmas spirit, another completely different market exists in front of the Natural History Museum at Maria-Theresien-Platz. Conveniently accessible from the Rathaus, the Weihnachtsdorfer Christkindlesmarkt is one of the younger Christmas Markets, celebrating its seventh anniversary this year. It is also home to a number of unique stalls and shops, all of which are nestled in the shadows of the Natural History Museum and the Kunsthist museum.
I discovered this market last year, and while it may not have the size or grandeur of the one at the Rathaus, it has its own unique stalls, feel and cups. In fact, most of Vienna’s Christmas markets sport their own individually-designed Gluhwein cups.
Still in the Christmas spirit after two cups of Gluhwein and one delicious Frankfurter-on-a-bun, I strolled back into the Museum Quarter of Vienna, past the Hofburg with its elegant horse-drawn carriages to a market I hadn’t yet explored: the Altweiner Christkindmarkt.
Nestled in just off the wonderful Café Central near the Freyung Passage, this Christmas Market is all about hand-crafted wares. It is small and intimate, yet still packs an incredible amount of stalls into what is, in the off-season, a very small space.
As the light began to fade, I wandered back to the Rathaus Christmas market to take photos and to meet the coach back to the ship. I hadn’t been to any museums, nor had I taken in half of what I experienced when I was here in October. But that’s okay, because the Christmas Markets of Vienna are a one-of-a-kind experience that simply have to be partaken in over all else.
With the sky turning blue and the chill in the air increasing as darkness fell on Vienna, I realized I had forgotten how much I love this – standing around in a square, sipping Gluhwein, watching families, kids, adults, seniors, and everyone in between gather at the markets. Some of them will buy souvenirs, but for me, a bit of food and a mug of Gluhwein is all the present I need.
This is how Christmas should be. This is how Christmas used to be. And it is how Christmas still exists to this day in many European cities. The things I see in North America – the pushing, shoving, and jostling to get a parking space at the mall or that last-minute gift – are gone. They just don’t exist here. Instead, friends and families come together after work and school, and they meet in the Christmas Markets.
There’s no better way to experience this holiday magic than onboard a river cruise, and few ships allow you to truly see and experience the Danube like Viking Freya and her sisters. That, to me, is real magic.
Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Freya continues tomorrow as we sail the magnificent Wachau Valley before our arrival in Melk, Austria!
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009