Several months ago when checking our email for the usual deluge of fabulous offers of free first-class trips around the world (and instead finding male “enhancement” options) we spotted an email from Viking River Cruises. Would we like to be their guest on their second “social cruise” with other “influencers”. Are these other people good or bad influences? Which group do they think we belong in?
We answered with subdued sophistication by practically squealing with excitement and barely restraining ourselves from using emoticons of happiness. Tragically, Brunette’s famously uncooperative lungs refuse to function at temperatures much below 60F so she had to forfeit this opportunity. (Of course we handled that very professionally by requesting one of their ocean cruises in warm weather as a consolation prize.)
Blonde is now packing to go on the Romantic Danube cruise departing from Nuremberg on the 6th of December and concluding in Budapest 8 days later. Brunette is sulking because she’s going to be home taking care of the 22 year-old cat Blonde “inherited” from our parents.
Packing for a river cruise in the winter
Ah, packing! Always a challenge for Blonde but especially so for a winter cruise going to Christmas Markets. Viking River Cruises sends you excellent material telling you everything a reasonable person, but not a blonde, would need to know to prepare for the journey.
Oh, wait, no problem. Blonde lived in Boston for 17 years before moving to balmy Marco Island a little over a year ago so she has lots of nice winter clothes.
Whoops! Someone got in those storage containers shrunk many of the slacks and also made them all horrifyingly out of style. (It must have been Obama!)
Blonde has looked over, in a slightly creepy way, the social media profiles of the other “influencers” and is struggling to feel worthy – an unusual feeling for her!. But why tell Viking River Cruises? They’re smart enough to win all kinds of awards so let they must know what they’re doing. There’s no way she’s missing out on this cruise!
River cruise starting point of Nuremberg
The cruise begins in Nuremberg, famous in the 20th century as a major rallying ground for the Third Reich, then for being nearly leveled by Allied Troops and later the as the site of the Nuremberg War Trials. But those few years of infamy and fame are just an ugly blip in the history of this city which was founded in the 11th century.
Most of what was destroyed in the bombing has been restored but many commenters say that Nuremberg seems to be happiest celebrating its pre World War II past. (Blonde kind of feels the same way.)
The city has what is reputed to be the oldest Christmas Market in existence, the Christkindlesmarkt, which we will have a chance to experience. We will also get a tour of the city as part of our itinerary. It’s so nice to know someone else is arranging all of these activitites without us spending hours on the internet doing the research!
Cruising to Regensburg and Kelheim
The whole cruising overnight thing is so civilized. No more pre-dawn grumpy packing and heading to a train station, bus or airport to get to the next destination and then getting there dead tired. No, just a comfy snooze, maybe after surfing the web using the free wi-fi or watching the in-room flat screen TV. The decadence of it all!
After sampling some of Regensburg’s “signature dish” of sausage with a sweet roll and mustard Blonde will lumber back to the ship. Her fellow “influencers” will be tweeting, Instagramming, pinning and writing brilliant missives to their adoring fans as Blonde struggles to squeeze into her Spanx.
Cruising into Passau on one of its rivers
The mighty Danube is not necessarily the star in Passau. The city is situated at the confluence of the Danube, Ilz and Inn Rivers. But then Strauss didn’t write a beautiful waltz called “The Brown Ilz”, so maybe the Danube does reign supreme.
And – there’s going to be another Christmas Market! Maybe Blonde will skip this one and go see the world’s largest pipe organ which resides in the 17th century St. Stephan’s Cathedral. She doesn’t care much for pipe organs but it sounds like there are a lot of opportunities to turn that visit into bad puns.
She may also have to see if Passau’s claim to Gingerbread superiority is merited and then wash the evidence down with some mulled wine. (What is mulled wine? Is it pensive wine struggling with an existential problem?)
Time for Blonde to go back to the ship and hope her bags haven’t been packed because Viking River Cruises just realized she writes stuff like this.
Cruising a wave of guilt to Melk and Vienna
In 2001 Blonde went on a bicycling trip from Prague to Vienna. The trip included a visit to Melk Abbey and Blonde sent a postcard to Brunette telling her she needed to see it sometime. Now Blonde is going to see it a second time and Brunette is going to be giving thyroid medicine to a geriatric cat. Further proof that life isn’t fair.
Blonde isn’t much of an Abbey kind of gal and she has a dreadful memory but this place is absolutely magnificent. It’s 900 years old, has intricate baroque architecture and overlooks the Danube. (Note: Brunette thinks this day’s stop is a prison where we will meet hard-core felons; please don’t tell her anything else.)
After Melk Abbey we will cruise through Austria’s wine country (and perhaps be sampling its products). This section of the Danube has so much historic and cultural importance that a long stretch of it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You usually have to climb somewhere (thinking Machu Picchu), battle crowds (Borobudur) or make reservations (the Hypogeum in Malta). The idea of floating through a UNESCO site has immense appeal.
Vienna will be our reward for cruising down the river. This will be Blonde’s third time in Vienna and she’s looking forward to it. The first time she thought it was moody and weird and the second time fascinating, so what will she think the third time? Most likely that once again it’s time to enjoy some of their chocolate pastries and throat-scraping coffee.
And then, yes, there’s another Christmas Market or an optional trip to Schonbrunn Palace.
Blonde might also toddle off to some of the Heurigen Wine Taverns and, depending on how much she imbibes, to the Third Man Museum. After all, how many museums are devoted to a film? And why did someone stop at only three men?
Cruising to beautiful Budapest
By now the other “influencers” will have been offered their own shows on The Travel Channel, have free luxury trip offers coming in via their popular Twitter streams and, with any luck, have forgotten that Blonde is supposed to belong to the same prestigious group they are in.
Having been in Budapest barely 6 weeks before this trip Blonde could conduct the free tour that Viking River Cruises offers but it’s doubtful that they will ask her to do so. (Maybe someone will be interested in her excellent restaurant recommendations.)
Even though there will be repeats of recently seen attractions it will be worth doing the tour to find out everything Blonde got wrong the first time and to visit the Fisherman’s Bastion when the crowds should be lighter.
Budapest is truly a gem of a city and Blonde is happy to see it as often as she can. There’s something hopeful about the generation coming to age since the collapse of Communism that gives Budapest a good vibe. And this is a city where Blonde would truly be an “influencer” because their tourism industry is about as bad as it gets on social media! (Maybe earn a few forints??)
All too soon Blonde will be back on Marco Island in the heat and sun and avoiding unpacking her suitcase for a very long time. But the memories of the time she spent with Viking River Cruises will live on and allow her to bore her friends for months!
We hope you will follow the cruise and Blonde’s experiences with Viking River Cruises on Twitter (@BlBrTravel) (using hashtag #VikingSocial), Instagram, Facebook and this site. For that matter you should subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss any of our updates!