Embarking Viking Baldur in Budapest

Viking Baldur docked in Budapest, Hungary on Sunday, November 30, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Viking Baldur docked in Budapest, Hungary on Sunday, November 30, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

November 30, 2014

This morning, I left the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest and pulled my luggage a few blocks south, where Viking River Cruises’ Viking Baldur sat at her berth near the historic Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary.

This would be the start of my fourth Christmas Markets cruise, and my third on the Danube. In fact, my very first river cruise experience took place three years ago in December of 2011, and it was then that I discovered two things. One, river cruising was fantastic. Two: there’s absolutely nothing like Europe’s Christmas Markets.

Viking Baldur was berthed right next to...Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Viking Baldur was berthed right next to…Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

...the historic Chain Bridge. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

…the historic Chain Bridge. Completely destroyed during World War II, it was rebuilt in the postwar era. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

North Americans might not know exactly what these are. The tradition of the Christmas Markets dates back to the late-middle-ages, and every city likes to claim that they were the first to develop the tradition. There’s a lot of evidence to support the fact that they originated first in Germany and Austria, but quickly spread to parts of France and Northern Italy as well. These days, Christmas Markets are prevalent throughout much of Europe, though in varying intensity. The Dutch capital of Amsterdam, for example, doesn’t really do too much in this regard, and sun-drenched cities like Nice aren’t likely to have the kinds of markets that Vienna, Frankfurt and Munich have.

Viking Baldur's atrium and main staircase. Each Longship uses slightly different accent materials next to the stairs. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Viking Baldur’s atrium and main staircase. Each Longship uses slightly different accent materials next to the stairs. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

While Viking River Cruises operates this Danube Waltz itinerary throughout the year beginning in March, it is the departures after November 30 that are so sought-after. It is then that the Christmas Markets open up and remain in full swing throughout most of December, typically until December 23 or 24.

In the next seven days, we’ll be calling on Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Durnstein, Melk, Linz and Salzburg, Austria; and finally, the Bavarian town of Passau, Germany where we’ll have a full day of touring before disembarking and transferring to Munich for our flights home.

My room is mainly the same as my one aboard Viking Forseti last week - but with some notable differences. Shown here is the stateroom bathroom on Viking Baldur...Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

My room is mainly the same as my one aboard Viking Forseti last week – but with some notable differences. Shown here is the stateroom bathroom on Viking Baldur…Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The bathroom of my Category A Balcony stateroom is similar to those in other categories. Note the brown countertops; a unique feature to Viking Forseti. Most Longships bathroom counters are grey or light brown. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

…and my bathroom onboard Viking Forseti last week. Can you spot the differences? There’s two major ones. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Arriving at the Viking Baldur just after 12:30 p.m., embarkation was a simple affair: as I was arriving independently, I wheeled my luggage down the gangway and presented my passport to the Reception Desk for verification against the manifest. Then, I was given my keycard and shown to my room, which is a carbon-copy of the room I occupied last week aboard the Viking Forseti in France. In fact, it’s just two doors down – confusing, as I keep walking past it and to the room I had before. Kids, when you book a back-to-back cruise, make sure the room numbers are either the same, or on a different deck!

The entire process, from check-in to stateroom: under five minutes. After the first thirty minutes onboard, I was unpacked yet again and had settled into the Lounge, where the few guests who had embarked around the same time as me were enjoying a light lunch. With a bowl of soup, a Cuban sandwich and a glass of red wine, I was once again beginning to feel very ‘at home.’

Relaxing in Viking Baldur's main lounge...Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Relaxing in Viking Baldur’s main lounge…Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

...with a glass of wine at lunch. Wine, beer and soft drinks are complimentary at lunch and dinner. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

…with a glass of wine at lunch. Wine, beer and soft drinks are complimentary at lunch and dinner. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

If there’s one thing Viking does incredibly well, it is that they create ships that have a wonderful sense of warmth to them. For first-time Viking guests, no doubt the soft, soothing colours will impress them, along with the views out the magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows. For returning guests like myself, feeling ‘at home’ takes only seconds. In fact, Viking Baldur is so similar to Viking Forseti that I almost expected the crew and guests I had come to know so well over the last week to materialize at any second.

That kind of familiarity is great, particularly for guests who are arriving the day of the cruise and like to know where everything is and how everything works. Viking makes it very easy for guests to know what they can expect from each day of their cruise thanks to the printed Viking Daily, which is really one of the best in the industry. Not only does it contain important information about what is happening around the ship, but there are also important facts about the places you’re either in or will be visiting, along with tidbits, trivia, and quotes.

Love Locks have even made it to Budapest's Chain Bridge. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Love Locks have even made it to Budapest’s Chain Bridge. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

By two o’clock, what I like to call the “Viking Express” began to turn up. These are the white Viking-branded Mercedes coaches that can be seen zipping smoothly along the highways and streets of many European cities, and in this case, they’re all bringing full loads of guests straight from Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport to the Viking Baldur.

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Our Live Voyage Report aboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Baldur continues tomorrow as we explore Budapest on our first full day onboard this Christmas Danube Waltz itinerary! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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