Budapest cruise at night

There are many things in life I haven’t tried yet. Often they’re too difficult to arrange, too risky to do, or just too plain stupid. However, there are many other things in life which are actually quite easy to cross off the bucket list. Going on a cruise, for instance. Never done it. No particular reason, just never got round to it. 

So recently, I decided to change all that, to give cruising a go, by taking my first ever river cruise. Apparently, they are a good way to try out this type of holiday because the boats aren’t too big and there aren’t too many guests onboard. So rather than being part of an enormous floating city, you’re part of a friendly floating village. Which sounded a lot easier to deal with.

Viking IngVI

I went with Viking River Cruises mainly because I’ve seen loads of their adverts on TV and liked what I saw. Also, I have always wanted to take a trip down the Danube and they do just that. The Danube Waltz, a week long trip along the Danube, starting in Budapest and ending up in Passau, Germany.

Social Wellness Walks

Getting There (and Back Again)

First order of business was getting to Heathrow for an early flight out to Budapest, which was a bit exciting all in of itself, as I’d never been to Hungary. Another item to cross off the bucket list. Since this was a one way cruise, I flew back from Munich, which somehow added to the feel of excitement and adventure.

ship atrium

The Ship

Our ship was a modern, luxurious and beautifully built long ship. Maybe taking inspiration from those viking longships of old. On each of the three floors there was a corridor stretching from bow to stern, with rooms off to either side.

state room on viking cruise

Some cabins (they’re called, staterooms) had verandahs, mini balconies where you could sit outside and watch the world go by. Whilst others had French doors which opened wide, allowing you to sit up in bed and enjoy the view. 

My room

My room had French doors, which was fine by me. I just loved staring at the scenery, whilst propped up on pillows. The rest of the room was compact but very well arranged. There was a wonderful washroom, with shower, toilet and sink, complete with the usual complementary soaps and smellies.


The rest of the room fitted in everything you could possibly need for a weeks rest and relaxation. Enormous double bed, plenty of drawers and hanging space, TV, fridge, and lots of large mirrors. It was a small but beautifully formed masterpiece of the boatbuilders art.

Food & Drink

Most food and drink is included in the price, though I also went for the Silver Spirits package which gives you premium products at the bar. If you like a drink, was definitely worth it. 

Breakfast was buffet style, with plenty of fruity goodness, tasty things to toast and all the usual fried fare on offer. Lunch was a la carte, as was the evening meal. The dinner menu changed daily to include dishes local to the area where we were staying.

You could opt for more traditional fare, like steak or burgers. But I generally went for the local option because it always sounded so good. Tasted even better when it arrived too. Actually, didn’t matter what you chose, all the food was good, all the time. Which always makes things better.

Dress Code

Never having been on a cruise before, I was wondering if there would be a dress code, which is not my sort of thing at all. Luckily, there wasn’t. Gents were asked to wear trousers and a shirt to dinner, which seemed reasonable, but apart from that, it was free and easy all the way.


Daily walking excursions were included, though there were also optional extra trips available to purchase. I went on several of each and enjoyed them all. Since we were only ever in any place for a short time, seemed like a good idea to make the most of it. So I climbed up to the castle in Budapest, took a walking tour round Bratislava and enjoyed a Strauss concert in Vienna.

looking out from Buda castle

The Itinerary

The itinerary took in three of the four capital cities on the Danube; Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna. We also stopped off at Krem, Linz and Passau. Would take too long to list all the good things we found along the way, with so many cities and so much picture postcard scenery on show. So instead, I’ll just pick some of the highlights. Mind you, there were quite a few of those, so even that’s going to be tricky.


Budapest is famously two cities joined together by bridges across the Danube. Buda (the hilly side) is where the Kings and courtiers lived in the past, whilst Pest (the flat side) was for everyone else. Since we had 24 hours in Budapest, we had plenty of time to explore, including a hiking trip up to Buda castle. As Krisztina, our local guide put it, “there are two types of people in Budapest. Those who live in Buda and those who want to.” 

budapest church

Both sides have streets and parks lined with huge buildings, massive great Baroque beasts, some in good shape, others less so, giving it the feel of an enormous, but gently crumbling, Gothic Disneyland. My favourite parts were the back streets of Pest, with their quiet courtyards and welcoming cafes. Well worth checking out.

Courtyard in Pest

Next evening, we set off at sunset just in time to see the riverside buildings lit up all around us. Really showed the city off at it’s best, reminding me of a bigger, brighter, bolder London.


Cruising through the night took us to Bratislava, where we moored up below the castle, on the edge of the old town. It’s small but packed with historical cuteness; narrow shopping streets, ancient clock towers, shaded squares and some great little statues. My favourite was an old fireman climbing out of a manhole cover in the pavement.

Bratislava art


Another night cruise took us to Vienna. A city which turned out to be much bigger than I expected. Half of it is is taken up with parks and green spaces, including a commercial vineyard, which apparently makes wine so good, the Viennese drink it all themselves.

The other half of the city is filled with ancient palaces and churches, hangovers from the centuries when the Hapsburgs ruled most of Europe. These days most of those massive monuments to ego have been converted into high end hotels or upmarket couture shops. The sort that make your credit card melt just walking past the windows.

Luckily, I have more modest tastes, so was kept happy by the little cafes and chocolate shops which pepper the streets, filling the air with some pretty sweet aromas.


Next stop was the small, but ridiculously picturesque, town of Krems. With church bells striking the hours, cobblestone streets, families out wearing lederhosen and dirndls, (brightly embroidered Austrian dresses).

Krems Wedding

As I strolled round the town square, a wedding party appeared, the women all laughing and taking photos, so I sat at a nearby cafe, ordered a coffee and tried to work how I had wandered into somewhere that felt like an outdoor production of the Sound of Music. I loved it.

coffee at Krems


We spent a few hours cruising through the delightful Wassau valley, full of vineyards, pretty villages and more scenery, ending up at Linz. Another Austrian city with an old town covered in cobbles, character oozing from every aged doorway and rooftop.

There was also a river beach just right for swimming, so I finally got to take a swim in the Danube. Another box ticked off the bucket list.

Linz River beach


Last stop on the itinerary was, Passau, just inside Germany, close to the border with Austria, where three rivers meet. Makes the place prone to flooding, with the last major one in 2013. Good news is that the rivers also made the city rich, thanks to the salt trade, the White Gold.

Passau street scene

Which is also why there is a huge cathedral dominating the city centre. Must admit I was more interested in the violin dog, who sat patiently waiting for snacks from passersby, as his owner busked in a cool, shadowed alleyway.

Passau Violinist and Dog


If you have ever fancied taking a trip down the Danube, to see if it really is as cute as they say, can thoroughly recommend this. It’s a week long journey filled with history and gorgeous scenery at every turn. Jampacked with enough fairytale churches, castles and cobbled streets to make your heart sing. Turns out, round those parts, the hills really are filled with the sound of music.

Ritsuko & Me


Where does the ship stop on this cruise?

Itinerary includes stops in: Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Krems, Linz, Passau.

How long is the cruise?

Length of itinerary: 8 days / 7 nights.

What is included in the price?

Return flights from select UK airports, 7 nights on board in a Standard stateroom, in destination transfers, all on board meals including wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner (plus no corkage fee), included excursions, Wi-Fi (connection speed may vary), gratuities.

How Much does it cost?

Prices start from £1,845 per person for a 18-25 March 2025 sailing, based on current availability. Please note this price is reflective of their current offer – save £1000 per person on 2025 and 2026 European river voyages if booked by 30 June 2024.

How do I book?

To make a booking please call 0800 319 66 60 or visit Viking

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