|Decked in all its festive finery, the atrium lobby onboard the Viking River Cruises Longships welcomes guests with Christmas cheer! Photo: Property of Viking River Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
If you know me, then you know I love European Christmas markets and despite the fact that it is May, I am thrilled to announce once again, that I will be embarking with Viking River Cruises on the "Danube Waltz" Christmas markets cruise from Passau, Germany, through Austria and Slovakia, and finally to Budapest, Hungary—my first-ever Christmas market cruise and I am over-the-moon excited! Every holiday season, Europe transforms into a winter wonderland with its Christmas markets or Christkindlmarkts that enchant travelers in search of twinkling lights and Alpine chalets brimming with tantalizing aromas and handcrafted gifts. Undoubtedly for the last few years, I've imagined myself strolling down the lanes of festively decorated town squares and this year that dream becomes reality aboard Viking River Cruises' "Viking Skadi" longship! After all, who can resist the magic of Christmas in Europe? Surely not I!
It's never too early to start planning for a European Christmas market cruise because as these cruises gain in popularity, ships sell out quickly and some categories are completely sold out already. With the explosive growth enjoyed by Viking River cruises over the last few years, this news comes as no surprise so it's wise to start your holiday planning as soon as possible.
Here's a look at the Viking River Cruises' "Danube Waltz" itinerary beginning on December 8, 2013:
|We begin our journey in Passau, Germany, and then cruise the Danube River through Linz, Melk, Vienna, Austria; Bratislava, Slovakia; and end in Budapest. Photo: Property of Viking River Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|The Passau Christmas market is home to the oldest gingerbread recipe in Germany. Photo: Courtesy of German Christmas Market.Org.UK. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
We begin our eight-day journey with two days in Passau also known as Dreiflüssestadt (City on Three Rivers). After boarding the Viking Skadi longship, we'll spend the evening exploring the historic city-centre Christmas market near Saint Stephen's Cathedral in search of Germany's oldest gingerbread recipe. On Day Two, we'll visit the Veste Oberhaus, an imposing 13th-century fortress on the opposite banks of the river.
|A snowy winter day in Passau, Germany. Photo: MrThinkTank.|
Day 3: Salzburg and Linz, Austria
|The Hohensalzburg Castle in Salzburg, Austria. Photo: Wikimedia.org.|
We're on our way to Salzburg, Austria, renowned for picturesque scenery, Wolfgang Mozart and of course, "The Sound of Music." We'll visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress as well and after dinner, a new Christmas market to explore.
Day 4: Melk and Dürnstein, Austria
|For nearly 1,000 years, the Melk Abbey still stands perched above its village below. Inside, treasures of all kinds await visitors who enter these hallowed halls. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
For more than 900 years, the spectacular Melk Abbey has been standing sentinel above its village below. Once Leopold II's castle, this Benedictine monastery is home to extraordinary art collections including magnificent frescoes, medieval manuscripts and elegant furnishings. After lunch, it's onto Dürnstein nestled in the Wachau Valley for some wine-tasting at a nearby winery.
Day 5: Vienna, Austria
|Enchanting Viennese Christmas Market and the neo-Gothic City Hall in the background. Photo: Property of Viking River Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
It's disembarkation in Austria's capital city Vienna! We'll explore the Ringstraße or Ringstrasse, a circular road around the city where its city walls once stood and guarded its gates. Within the city centre, we'll visit the Opera House, Saint Stephan’s Cathedral and the Hofburg Palace. We'll also have a chance to visit one of Vienna's crowing jewels, the Schönbrunn Palace. After dinner, it's off to the Viennese City Hall to explore the Christmas market that's been held here for over 700 years. Wouldn't it be grand if a gentle snow began to fall?
|Austria's sprawling Schönbrunn Palace glows with the warmth of Christmas. Photo: Property of Viking River Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Day 6: Bratislava, Slovakia
|Bratislava Castle's history dates back more than 1,000 years! Actually, the site upon which it stands, has a history that dates even further—to the 4th millennium B.C. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Yet again, we'll find ourselves in a capital city, but this time it's Slovakia's Bratislava with its medieval city centre, Michael's Tower, Saint Martin's Cathedral and the Bratislava Castle. After lunch, we set sail past Baroque palaces en route to Budapest.
Day 7 and 8: Budapest, Hungary
|Buda Castle is located on the Buda side of the Danube in Hungary. Photo: Property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
We'll spend two magnificent days in Buda and Pest to see the National Opera House, Heroes' Square, Fisherman's Bastion (I can't wait to see this in person) and finally Matthias Church.
I hope you'll follow along closely on all the social networks as we make our way to Passau, Germany Dec. 8 to begin our enchanting eight-day European Christmas Market Cruise with Viking River Cruises. Until December 8, auf Wiedersehen!
To find out more about this and other Viking River Cruises holiday cruises, visit VikingRiverCruises.com/holiday-cruises.
More about Viking River Cruises:
The Viking Skadi Longship
Designed by naval architects Yran & Storbraaten, the firm behind the The Yachts of Seabourn, this revolutionary design in river cruise vessels offers elegant staterooms including two "Explore Suites" with panoramic views of your surroundings, Verandah and French balcony (with and without outdoor space respectively), and river view rooms on the first deck. Each stateroom features flat-panel TV, a refrigerator and my favorite convenience of all—both European and American-style outlets so there's no need for adapters when sailing on the new Viking longships.
|The Viking River Cruises Longship "Viking Skadi" will be our home for 8 magnificent days plying the waters of Europe's waterways. Photo: Property of Viking River Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Located up front at the ship's bow, the indoor-outdoor Aquavit Terrace is the perfect gathering place that invites the outdoors in. This "green" Viking Longship features state-of-the-art energy-efficient hybrid engines, solar panels and even an organic herb garden for the scrumptious meals served onboard.