June 3: Vienna, Austria
Viking’s cuisine is generally first-rate, highly varied, and the breakfasts lack nothing we could think of except the odd blintz. For example, there were three different styles of yogurt, eggs any way you want them including custom-made omelets, smoked salmon, fish, cheese, cold cuts, champagne by the glass, a dozen or more varieties of bread and rolls, pastry galore, all the usual things you find under hot plates, and everything of uniform high quality. For items you order from the table, like Eggs Benedict or pancakes, servings are small, but this is a plus for two reasons: it gives you more room to try different things, and if you want more of anything, a waiter will happily bring you a second serving.
Google Vienna and you’ll find more than could possibly be documented here, so this report is confined to how Viking’s Danube Waltz handles a classic city in one day, which takes some doing. If you want really to immerse yourself in Vienna, this isn’t the way, but if you’ve never been there before, you will come away knowing a lot about what to see next time.
Docking in the morning, you’re off on a half day combined coach and walking tour of the famous and romantic city, included in the basic package. You visit the Ringstrasse, with its array of grand residences, which circles the medieval Inner Stadt or Inner City. On the card are Hofburg Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the State Opera House. There us time for a ride in a horse-drawn fiaker, but at 95 degrees on leather seats it didn’t appeal to many today.
Lunch was back on the ship, and was not rushed. At 2pm, we opted for an add-on ($55 each) guided tour of Maria Theresa’s baroque Schönbrunn Palace, an opulent structure with lavish rooms and superb formal gardens. The guides spoke perfect English and were uniformly excellent, which is to Viking’s credit: in June Vienna is mobbed, with scores of tour groups in multiple languages. A minor quibble is that the walking tours could be limited to 15 or 20 instead of 30 or 35; although the audio earpieces are excellent, you do tend to get a herd complex.
One of the more expensive but optional extras was an evening concert in “one of the city’s historic venues,” at €64 ($71). Ours demonstrated how fast Viking’s organizers are on their feet. Half way to the destination, they learned that for unknown reasons there would not be room for us, and the coaches deftly changed direction with hardly anybody noticing. We ended up at a brilliant concert with a 30-piece orchestra, singers and dancers, and could sit anywhere, including overhead boxes. It was a grand night of Mozart and Strauss, perfectly performed. We only learned of this change of plans accidentally afterward, and gave Viking high marks for the quick correction.
The ship departed late from Vienna, and was still cruising in the morning, for the most impressive shipboard viewing on the itinerary.