One of the goals for this 15-night sailing of Viking Odin is to clearly define the river cruise experience in a way that ocean cruise fans can relate to, consider and decide if this is something they might like to try. Initially thinking that might take some time, Viking wasted none of it, clearly distinguishing what they do on the river from what happens in the ocean the very first night.
Sailaway, when the ship actually begins to move for the first time, is one of my favorite times on a Caribbean ocean cruise. Watching the land-based cares and concerns of passengers melt away as the giant ship begins to move, is one of the most gratifying moments anyone in the travel business can experience. Passengers that buy into the well-orchestrated choreography of it all via shipboard activities, trips ashore or something as simple as the silly dancing waiters in the dining room can truly relax, become refreshed and walk away from the experience rejuvenated.
On the mega ship in the ocean, thousands hear ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’ while being pitched over-priced umbrella drinks.
On Viking River Cruises longship Odin, 180 passengers sampled Tokaji Szamorodni, a dangerously delicious Hungarian liquor, of which hotel director Jorg Grossmann told me later “We always have beverages from the destinations we visit.”
Sailing past beautiful iconic landmarks, Program Director Stein Dyb described what we were seeing, in much the same tone as a US Forrest Service ranger might describe passage through environmentally-sensitive glacier land in Alaska.
This is after spending part of the day on a nicely timed, guided tour of Budapest that was actually enjoyable and interesting. That’s saying a lot. I hate tours. No if’s and’s or but’s about it, I hate them. Normally, I would gladly skip every single one and just walk off the ship, considering it merely a mode of transportation, then do something on my own.
I stand corrected after going on our included Viking tour that gave us more time off the bus than on it. That’s huge. Not that being on the bus was unpleasant. The like-new Mercedes-Benz motor coach was a cool and refreshing break from a hot summer day.
That destination-focus would continue at the evening’s dinner, one seating at 7:00 for everyone, every night. On Chef Prepelita’s menu the first night were selections that highlighted the region we had visited while Maitre d’ Borsi’s staff went about their business graciously, rarely interrupting their guests.
That too is significant because lively conversation with the other passengers over dinner has already taken a starring role in what looks to be a marvelous experience. Discussing everything from what we saw and did during the day to where we live, have lived or want to live; actually communicating with other human beings, in person, is happening on the river. I suspect that element of the experience is going to have a major role in defining what a river cruise is like.
Stay tuned as we work our way along the river from Budapest to Amsterdam on a 15-day Grand European Tour hosted by Viking River Cruises. As always, my words are my own and no expectation has been set by the cruise line for what you see here