I believe remaining young at heart is the key to a long and fulfilling life. Add to that a dash of cardio-centric vacations and the mature traveler has many options including the unique aspects of riverboat cruising. These smaller, more intimate ships travel into waterways their larger sea-going sisters cannot, offering passengers breath-taking, and up-close-and personal sightseeing opportunities. An added benefit is the ability to visit quaint villages and towns you never get to experience on an ocean cruise.
I am a 40 something who wanted to see what all the hoopla was about and I was told by friends that Viking River Cruises would not disappoint with their numerous expeditions in Europe, Russia, Asia, and Egypt. I was not disappointed by their elegant Longship, with an Aquavit Terrace that is specially designed to help drink in the beauty of the countries and countryside. I chose the 8-day Romantic Danube tour, traveling from Budapest to Nuremburg, so I could see some of Europe’s most majestic cities and I was not disappointed.
Riverboat cruises may not be for everyone as the focus is culture and education with “lights out” by midnight the usual. But the genuine care and concern of the staff and the amazing vitality and camaraderie of my fellow travelers that reveled in my youth as much as I marveled at their wisdom, energy and sense of exploring the unknown was a perfect multi-generational fit.
After check-in, there was ample time to explore both sides of Hungary’s capital before we left. Passengers arriving early had an opportunity to walk to the famous covered market in the three-story Great Market Hall before returning to the ship for a traditional Hungarian dinner.
By Day 3 we arrived in the Austrian capital of Vienna, with its the awe-inspiring Opera House, Hofburg Palace and St. Stephan’s Cathedral as well as an optional classical concert after dinner later sailing gently though the Wachau Valley and on to Melk, Austria during long chats and robust debates with some of the most interesting people I have ever met.
As we continued to Passau, Germany, where the Inn, Ilz and Danube Rivers meet. A guided walk included the opportunity to attend a special concert played on the massive 17,000-pipe organ in St. Stephen’s Cathedral. A walking tour in Regensburg, Germany provided close-up views of an incredibly well-preserved medieval city. The dramatic scenery of the Danube Narrows and sailing through the locks of the Main-Danube Canal made the arrival in Nuremberg where a dark history and the beauty of the city collided in a way only a river cruise could offer.
Life on board was easy-paced and designed to accentuate the European ambiance. Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises, got it right when he noted that, “By focusing on an audience of like-minded travelers, and designing ships and itineraries that help travelers better explore their destinations, we are proud that river cruising is now the fastest-growing segment of travel.”
This was a journey on many levels for me as it reconnected me with my past and present. Reminding me that the generations must constantly find ways to connect and reconnect in an ebb and flow much like the Danube. We have much to offer one another and I hope one day in the illustrious words of “Old Blue Eyes”