Very Long Trip Report - Nov 23rd Viking Pride Christmas Mark
We started planning this trip in early 2003. We had received some literature from Viking River Cruises on their Christmas market cruise from the previous season and the idea sounded appealing to us. There are six of us traveling together on the river cruise portion consisting of me (Patty), my husband (Mark), his parents (Bob and Margaret), and our friends (John and Katrina). We would all meet up on the ship in Vienna and after the cruise go our separate ways. My in-laws would return home while our friends continued on to Munich, and we would visit family in Düsseldorf and then stopover in London for a few days on our way back to Los Angeles.
Flight and Vienna
We had redeemed Delta Skymiles to fly in Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy cabin from LAX to Heathrow. Tickets cost us 60,000 miles each, only 10,000 more than regular economy which I thought was a great value (unfortunately this option is no longer available using Skymiles effective Nov 17, 2003). Then we booked separate tickets to fly on BA from Heathrow to Vienna.
Nov 21/22 – A representative from Virgin Atlantic calls us this morning to inform us that our departure to Heathrow is delayed by 2 hours due to a delay in the inbound flight from Heathrow, so we postpone our shuttle pick up to 3:30pm. At the airport, the check-in agent suggests rebooking our BA flight to a later one which he does for us along with tagging our luggage for the later flight. Having arrived too late to secure row 70 exit seats, we are handed boarding passes for our pre-reserved row 71 seats along with a $12 per person meal voucher due to the flight delay. The flight over is comfortable, that extra legroom and width really makes a big difference! Leg and foot rests also help. We had reserved seats on the upper deck of the 747 as I had read that this section is quieter with better service. Overall we are very pleased with Virgin’s premium economy product. We are served dinner shortly after takeoff and a light continental breakfast prior to arrival. I sleep for about 5 hours in between which is pretty good for me.
Due to the flight delay, we end up spending about 4.5 hours at Heathrow waiting for the last BA flight to Vienna that day. Transit from terminal 3 to terminal 1 is pretty efficient. We use the airside busses, encounter very minimal security lines at that time of day, and pick up our BA boarding passes all in less than half an hour after arrival.
We have lunch, shop, and use the ATM to withdraw some pounds for later in the trip at the terminal 1 waiting area and meet up with Mary and her husband from the cruisemates message board. They are taking the same BA flight to Vienna.
We arrive in Vienna just before 10:00pm and are met by the transfer service I had pre-booked through www.airportexpress.at (I called from Heathrow to let them know about our change of flights). The cost is 23 euros to the first district and takes about 30 minutes. We are staying at the Hotel Bristol located on the Kärntner Ring. The location is great, right across from the State Opera and we are upgraded to a very nice executive room with a balcony overlooking the opera house. I wish we had more time to enjoy the hotel. We walk for about an hour in the area surrounding St. Stephans Catherdral, have drinks at the Bristol Bar (it seemed like everyone else was dressed in tuxedos and gowns that evening, must have come from the opera) and go to bed around 1:00am.
Vienna and Viking Pride
Nov 23 - The next morning we walk around the inner city a bit more, down the pedestrian streets of Kärntnerstrasse, Graben, Kohlmarkt, through the Hofburg complex and the Burggarten, and head to the ship around noon. Cab fare to the ship’s location on Handelskai from our hotel costs about 14 euros. We had wanted to arrive in Vienna a few days earlier but couldn’t get any award seats. There are so many things we want to do here and just don’t have enough time (and in retrospect we didn’t make very good use of our first day). On board the ship we meet up with the rest of our party who had all flown in that morning. A light luncheon buffet consisting of sandwiches, pasta, and soup is set up in the lounge. I should also mention that we are on board the Viking Pride instead of the Viking Spirit due to some shuffling around of the ships because of low water problems.
Around 2:30pm our cabins are ready. We booked a category D on the main deck. The cabin is approx. 120 sq ft with a sofa that converts to a single bed and another single bed that folds down from the opposite wall. There is a small window right above the water line, a vanity area, and a tiny closet (which we actually found to be adequate after unpacking everything). All in all it’s about the size of our bathroom at the Bristol but not much smaller than some ocean ship cabins we have stayed in. We found it to be fine for a 7 day cruise as we are usually off the ship during the day and in the restaurant or lounge at night. We store one empty suitcase under the sofa, the other one under the vanity area, and there is enough room to walk around. There’s a safe, telephone, TV, and hairdryer in the cabin and contrary to the pre-departure literature we had received, there are outlets on board for both 220 as well as 110 voltage. The 110 outlet accepts U.S. style plugs so we don’t need our adaptors (but we do need them for later in the trip). Wake up calls can be programmed on the telephone but we brought along a travel alarm clock just in case.
Around 3:00pm we decide to head back into the center of Vienna. We take the U-bahn from Vorgartenstrasse station which is about a 5-10 minute walk from the dock. If I remember correctly it’s 1.50 euro for a one way journey to Stephansplatz. There are touch screen machines (English option available) that take credit cards or cash and push button machines that take cash only. Going into town you take U-1 toward Reumannplatz and the same line toward Kagran on the return, a quick journey of about 4 stops. All day tickets (about 5 euros) are available which work out well if you will be using public transport more than 3 times in one day. Or if you have a larger group, you can get 8 transferable all day tickets for 24 euros (3 euros each). We walk around the city some more until it gets dark and head back to the ship for dinner.
Dinner is a single open seating and the time varies depending on the tour and sailing schedule but is generally around 7:00pm. Usually a choice of 2 appetizers, soups, entrées, and desserts are available but on a few evenings it is a set menu. Grilled chicken or steak is always available. I found all of the fish dishes to be excellent while the red meat dishes were sometimes hit or miss. In addition to wines by the bottle, a house wine is available for 3.50 euros for a half carafe. Corkage is 7.50 if you bring your own wine although this is not always charged. I have copies of the menus from the entire week if anyone is interested.
There’s not much in the way of evening entertainment on board. There is a solo keyboardist who plays in the lounge every night. On two evenings local musicians and a choir come aboard. A few nights are spent docked which allows the opportunity to go ashore. There’s usually one movie played each evening on the in cabin TV, and books and board games are available. We are all too tired to do much after dinner and go to bed early.
Nov 24 – Starting at 6:30am there is a self serve coffee, tea, and pastry station by the entrance to the lounge. Coffee and tea are also available here everyday until about dinner time. Breakfast is usually served from 7:00am to 9:00am and consists of a hot and cold buffet with additional hot items available to order. The French toast is very good and so is surprisingly, the pineapple. Champagne is available by the juice station.
This morning there’s an included shore excursion consisting of a 45 minute bus ride into the city and around the ring road followed by a 45 minute walking tour starting from Stephansplatz. There are busses available to head back to the ship for lunch and complimentary transfers to and from the main Christmas market at Rathausplatz in the afternoon. You are free to utilize the included tours and transfers as much or as little as you wish. There’s an optional tour to Schönbrunn this afternoon as well as an optional concert this evening, each costing 44 euros per person. These are the only optional tours offered on this cruise. If you want to do things like go to Schönbrunn on your own, they will gladly give you information on how to get there by U-Bahn, you just have to ask. As a matter of fact, we found this to be true throughout the cruise regarding questions about getting into the city or getting around by public transportation. This information is not usually volunteered but if you ask, they are more than willing to help. City maps are provided at the reception counter each morning. Tours leave very promptly, sometimes even a few minutes early.
We decide to take the 45 minute bus ride into the city and skip the walking tour. Our guide points out the various buildings and landmarks along the way. After the ride, we visit St. Stephans Cathedral. It’s very foggy today and you can’t see the top of the tallest spire. John and Katrina opt for the climb to the top and we all meet up later in front of the opera house. We decide to go to the Neue Burg and see the collections of armoury and musical instruments. This place is huge and there are rooms upon rooms of exhibits. A good audio guide is included in the price of admission, and in the instrument section, you can hear examples of some of them being played. After a few hours here, we start heading toward the Christmas market and stop at Café Landtmann for a snack.
The setting of the main Christmas market in front of the Rathaus all lit up is very pretty in the evening (well OK even at 3:30pm as that’s when it starts to get dark). The market itself however is rather disappointing. It is mostly low quality junk. The only items I end up buying are some früchte tee (fruit tea) and a souvenir glühwein (hot mulled wine) mug. I hear there are other Christmas markets in Vienna but don’t have time to explore. We walk over to the bus transfer area around 4:30pm but find that the last bus has left already (see my earlier comment about promptness) so we just take the U-bahn back to the ship.
An early dinner is served this evening as about half of the passengers are going to the concert tonight. We decide to stay on board. Passengers are requested to be back on board at 11:45pm for a midnight sailing.
Re: Very Long Trip Report - Nov 23rd Viking Pride Christmas
Dürnstein and Melk
Nov 25 – Today we arrive in the town of Dürnstein early in the morning. There are two included tours, a wine tasting and an hour long walking tour. Half the passengers will do one portion first and then swap as there are too many of us to all go wine tasting or all go on the walking tour together. We decide to go wine tasting first. We are taken to the Loiben winery where we sample 3 wines from the region. Most are in the 5-6 euro range. We buy 4 bottles to take back to the ship. You can sample additional wines at the sales counter. After the tasting we are taken back to the dock where we start our walking tour. Very picturesque little town and quite empty this time of year. If you do both tours there’s really no additional time to wander on your own so keep that in mind.
At noon, the ship sails toward Melk. This is our first lunch on board which consists of a cold sandwich and salad buffet with soup, hot entrees, and desserts available to order from the waiter. I like their cream soups which are all very light and not a heavy, thick soup.
This afternoon there is an included tour to the Melk Abbey. We are split into 3 groups which I think is still a bit too large, 4 would have been better as some of the exhibit rooms are quite small and it is hard to get a close look at things. From the abbey, there’s a great view of the town below. The baroque style interiors are very over the top. The tour takes about two hours and afterwards we decide to take a quick walk around town before heading back to the ship which sails before dinner.
Tonight is the captain’s welcome cocktail reception and dinner and most passengers are dressing up a bit. Dinner is a 6 course set menu this evening consisting of a cold appetizer of pate, oxtail soup, a hot appetizer of salmon and John Dory fish, whole roasted loin of veal, a parfait for dessert and a cheese plate. The two set menus we have during the week were both good and I didn’t mind the lack of selection.
Sometime in the very late evening/early morning we dock in Linz. So far there has been no mention of low water problems so we hope that we will actually be able to sail all the way through. On one of the previous sailings the ship switch was done on the Salzburg day. On our sailing, the plan is still to go to Salzburg tomorrow and meet up with the same ship in the evening in Passau.
Nov 26 – This morning we depart at 8:30am for the excursion to Salzburg. The total bus ride is about 2 hours including a 20 minute stop in Mondsee for a restroom break and a quick picture of the lake. The busses drop us off right outside of Schloss Mirabell on the other side of the Salzach river from the main part of town. There is an included walking tour of about an hour and a half and an included lunch at the Sternbräu at noon. Again you are free to utilize as much or as little of the inclusions as you wish. You just have to meet back at the bus location at 4:00pm sharp.
We start out on the walking tour which takes us through Mirabell gardens and across the bridge. It’s drizzling (our first day of any rain) and cold and about half an hour into the tour we are only half way across the bridge. There seems to be a lot of waiting around for everyone to gather and not much ground covered. At this point, knowing how little time we had in Salzburg, we decide to leave the tour and go off on our own. We continue across the bridge and walk down to Getreidegasse and toward the cathedral where the main Christmas market is located (we are told that this market is much better than one we visited in Vienna). We decide to take the festungsbahn (funicular) up to Hohensalzburg fortress and purchase roundtrip tickets for about 8 euros each. There’s also an option to purchase a one way ride and walk down (or vice versa) and the price includes admission to the inner courtyard. There’s a separate admission for the 50 minute guided tour of the interior which we decide to take as well. We are led from room to room and provided an accompanying audio guide. Very nice views from the top, the rain has stopped but everything is still enshrouded in a bit of fog. After the audio tour, there are some exhibits which you are free to look through at your own pace displaying furniture, armoury, musical instruments, and implements of torture, among other things. As we exit the exhibit area, we realize that we have lost Mark’s parents. So Mark and John set off to look for them as Katrina and I wait in the courtyard. After about half an hour of searching, we give up and head back down hoping that they know how to make their way back to the bus. Back at the Christmas market we run into Mark’s parents and discover that they’ve been down here eating goulashsuppe the whole time we were wandering around looking for them!
We have lunch at the Christmas market and sample a variety of food from the goulashsuppe to the giant pretzels to the wurst. We pick up another glühwein mug to add to our collection. This market is indeed much better and I end up buying some incense burners, ornaments, decorations, and candle holders. In between we decide to walk over to St. Peter’s cemetery for a look, quite an amazing little place. Soon it’s a quarter past three and we start walking back toward the bus park. Five and a half hours is not a lot of time. We pass by Mozart’s Geburtshaus and walk through Mirabell gardens again. I take a picture of John at the top of the steps. He is after all related to the von Trapp family, if very distantly. There’s another small Christmas market at the bus park. It’s 4:00pm and we are back on board just in time. Günther, our cruise manager, comes on board the bus looking very peeved that there are about 5 people missing. He says we’ll wait exactly 10 minutes and leave. The missing passengers get on board just in time and we’re off for a 2 hour drive toward Passau.
When we arrive at the dock in Passau around 6:00pm, we find the Viking Europe docked here instead of the Pride. Hmmm… the Viking Europe is not supposed to be here, they are one day ahead of our schedule on the same itinerary and should have left for Regensburg already. We find out that our ship is docked further up and at the port talk this evening, the first mention of the low water situation is made. Apparently a decision was made that the Europe cannot sail any farther than Passau and those passengers will have to be bussed and change ships. However, we are told that since our scheduled departure from Passau is not until tomorrow evening and they are expecting some rain, we are going to take a wait and see approach. Most passengers seem to be taking the news rather well as we don’t hear too many complaints. Tonight after dinner a Bavarian duo come on board to perform some folk music. The ship stays docked in Passau overnight.
Nov 27 – This morning we are told that the ship will sail at 9:00am instead of staying docked in Passau so they can get a head start on sailing through the low section of the river. The plan is to meet the ship later in Deggendorf. Since we will not have access to the ship, there will be some arrangements made for lunch. We don’t know where yet as none of the restaurants are open at this time but it will be whatever restaurant or combination of restaurants that can take 140 people on short notice. This is minute by minute planning but in the end it works out well.
There is an included walking tour and we are split into 4 groups. We spot a cheery, giggling guide and decide she’s the one we want so we inch toward her. Eva, originally from Chicago but has lived in Germany for over 30 years, turns out to be wonderfully hilarious and this is the best guided tour of the trip! Look for the giggly woman with short curly, blond hair. Our tour starts near the Rathaus and we are shown markings on a wall where the various high water levels throughout the years are recorded including August, 2002. It’s hard to believe that only a year ago the river could have been this high. We step into the entrance of the glass museum where Eva tells a joke about Neil Armstrong that has us in tears (you will have to find out for yourself) and continue to the cathedral to see the organ. No concert is given as it’s off season. Passau is quite a pretty town sandwiched between the Inn and the Danube rivers.
As the Christmas market is not open yet, we are taken to a flower shop and a confectionary. At the flower shop, we’re given a quick tour of the converted old house. Actually we are not quite sure why we’re here. I seem to recall some mention of a wreath making demonstration which doesn’t materialize. In any case, it’s a cute shop with some nice ornaments for sale. Upon arrival at the Simon confectionary, we are given some hot punsch and a demonstration on lebkuchen (gingerbread) making by Walter Simon who is the 4th or 5th generation of the Simon family operating this business. We try some old style (sweetened only with honey) and some new style gingerbread. The old style has a spongy consistency like cake or bread and is not as sweet. Some of the dough is aged for 6 months and it’s said that it will keep for several years. We each get a decorated piece to take home. I buy some more lebkuchen and some apfel strudel to take back to the ship.
At the end of the tour we are advised that we will be having lunch at the Helig Geist so we head there and say goodbye to Eva (can’t we take her with us?). Lunch was a set menu of 3 courses including a dumpling soup, turkey in a mushroom sauce (it is Thanksgiving after all), and ice cream. Afterwards we shop and Mark’s dad gets his ATM card stuck in a statement printer, mistaking it for an ATM machine, outside a bank. This is Thursday and we are in luck. The bank re-opens today at 2:00pm, and they are able to get his ATM card out of the statement printer. Had it been Wednesday or Friday the bank would have been closed all afternoon.
It’s clear today with no rain in sight as had been predicted. The sun even shines for a brief moment in the afternoon. We stop in a glass shop and I pick up a small perfume bottle from the 1940’s. They also have some nice replica pieces here of glass from various centuries and regions. At 4:00pm we are meeting the bus again for the approximate 45 minute ride to Deggendorf. On the bus we are informed that the ship is slightly behind schedule so we will be stopping in the center of Deggendorf and have an hour to walk around before continuing to the dock. We are also told that the tentative plan is the ship will stay docked in Deggendorf this evening and tomorrow we will bus to Regensburg from here, a distance of about 90 kilometers. The ship will try to continue during the day and meet us later in Regensburg (the lowest part of the river is still ahead of us at this point).
In town I find a small porcelain box at one of the shops and try to pay with my Amex but am told that they take EC cards (some type of local debit card?) only. This turns out to be a common occurrence on our trip as credit card acceptance is generally very low compared to the U.S. in shops (this was quite a large shop) and casual eateries. I find a geldautomat (ATM) nearby, take out some cash, and head back to the store to pay. It’s close to 6:00pm and we head back to the bus for a short ride to the dock. Upon arrival we see that there’s still no ship but are told the ship will be here in about 20 minutes. That 20 minutes seems to be taking hours as it’s been a long day and we are all tired and hungry. Finally the ship is docked (it’s a surprisingly quick process) and we go aboard.
Tonight there is no port talk as we are back on board so late. Instead the captain announces during dinner that we are sailing again and will try to sail through the night to Regensburg. He makes no guarantees but says he is very confident. Applause all around. As you can see plans are changing three times a day (that we know of) and we are just happy to be sailing. When we retire that evening we still aren’t sure what will happen tomorrow.
Re: Very Long Trip Report - Nov 23rd Viking Pride Christmas
Nov 28 – We wake up early this morning to find that we are docked. It’s still quite dark and Mark goes up on deck to check if we are indeed in Regensburg and confirms that we’ve made it! The ship is docked just a few steps from the old stone bridge and we take a short walk around before breakfast.
After breakfast, we decide to walk around the city on our own and skip the included walking tour. It’s raining today but only lightly so I just wear my hat and leave the umbrella on board. Since the ship is docked here all day, I figure I can easily go back and retrieve it if necessary.
There are several Christmas markets open already in various squares. Some have more traditional German wares while others have more contemporary wooden, ceramic, and metal crafts. Regensburg has a college town feel and is just very pleasant for walking around. We come upon a great ceramic studio and purchase several small ceramic houses that are handmade on site. It’s located on Goldene Bären Strasse, just walk along the main road that follows the Danube past the stone bridge and the studio is on your right (Danube side). I believe they also have a booth at one of the Christmas markets but the selection is better at the studio.
We head back to the ship to drop off our purchases and have lunch on board. This is only our second lunch on board the ship since we had stayed in Vienna all day on Monday and had the schedule deviation in Passau. After lunch there’s a glass blowing demonstration in the lounge which we attend. Karl Ittig travels from his studio in Wertheim to give the demonstration on board during the off season and he’s quite a funny and entertaining guy. He tells us a little about the history of his family (he is the 6th? generation in a family of glass blowers). He makes a glass ornament and candlestick and has a passenger help with a second ornament.
After the demonstration, we head back into town. John and Katrina decide to dash into the Kepler House just before they close while the rest of us visit the Uhren (clock) museum which is only briefly open in the afternoon. Turns out the museum is upstairs of a retail watch store and is maintained by the store. The exhibit area is small but interesting. The descriptions and video are in German only.
Instead of staying docked in Regensburg until midnight, the ship will sail at 6:00pm today so we have to be back on board shortly. The low water makes it very slow going so we have to shave off some time in port to make our schedule. On our way back to the ship, we stop at the Wurstkuchl (facing the Danube next to the bridge, you can’t miss it) for a snack, thanks to George’s recommendation from the cruisemates board. Very good sausages. There’s a tiny table service area inside to the left, but if you just want some takeaway, order directly from the kitchen.
Tonight is the captain’s farewell cocktail reception and dinner. This is our second set menu of the week. I enjoy this one better than the first although the first was good as well. We start with a cold appetizer of a salmon trio, then wild mushroom soup, a hot appetizer of green and white asparagus with prawns, roasted tenderloin of Argentinean beef (the best entrée we’ve had this week other than fish, very tender, well prepared), a dessert of baked Alaska and a cheese plate. Half way through the week we notice that the wines by the bottle at dinner are getting cheaper. The same wine that we paid 25 euros for earlier in the week is now selling for 15 euros. After dinner there’s a music trivia quiz and it’s announced that for the first time ever, there are two passengers with perfect scores (drum roll) and Mark is one of them. He goes up and collects his prize of two drink coupons.
Nov 29 – This morning we find that the ship has made good progress overnight and we will be docking in Nürnberg in the morning instead of the expected time of 1:00pm. I had planned to spend a leisurely morning aboard watching our ship move through the locks but realize that since we’re ahead of schedule, we are now entering the last lock. So we make a mad dash back to the cabin to grab the camera and then up onto the sun deck (kind of a misnomer for this trip I think). Fascinating, and we stay on deck to watch the entire process. I get some pictures of the wheelhouse fully lowered and we hear a warning to duck as the ship passes under the gate.
Our docking location is in an industrial harbor area along the Main-Danube canal. It’s raining lightly and we take a quick walk around the area. About half of the passengers opt to take a taxi into town as soon as we dock. We decide to stay onboard to listen to, and partially nap through (sorry Günther), a lecture on the canal. This week’s pace has been hectic and it’s nice just to relax on board, plus our flight tomorrow is not until 6:15pm so we have most of the day to explore.
After lunch, we go on the included excursion that takes us by bus to see the coliseum, the rally grounds, and the location of the trials before dropping us off in the center of Nürnberg for a walking tour which starts at the Kaiserburg. The rain has stopped and the temperature is quite mild. I’m comfortable in just my lightweight raincoat. One of the first things we notice is the crowds. We’ve gotten used to the relatively light tourist traffic everywhere else on this trip but in Nürnberg there are busloads of people. We make our way down to the main Christmas market at the Hauptmarkt and this being the first weekend of the market, it is elbow to elbow. We find it nearly impossible to make our way through and decide just to explore the rest of the city and make note of the places we want to return to tomorrow. There are several smaller Christmas markets all over and stalls lining most of Königstrasse. After about an hour, we make our way back to the Hauptmarkt to board the bus that takes us back to the ship.
For our last dinner on board I was very excited to see roast loin of lamb on the menu, but disappointed to hear that I can’t order mine medium rare. Gino, our waiter, tells me that it’s all prepared medium and to give it a try. If I don’t like it, he’ll bring me something else. Well, when the lamb arrived it was more like medium well and tough, so I send it back and get the trout instead which is perfectly done. This is the only dining disappointment of the week and the only time I send anything back. After dinner, a local choir comes on board to perform a Christmas concert.
Nov 30 – This morning we get up at 5:30am to have breakfast and say goodbye to Mark’s parents before they depart on their 7:00am transfer to the airport (at least they are not on the 5:20am transfer!). Disembarkation is well organized. For those with included transfers, departure information was given during the Friday evening port talk as well as a list posted next to reception. For passengers with independent flight or other transportation arrangements, there is a taxi sign up sheet and you just have to put your cabin number, the time you wish to be picked up, and your destination. Everything is then taken care of by the Viking staff. They can also look up train schedules for anyone requesting this information. Account settlement is taken care of on the morning of disembarkation between 5:00am and 9:00am.
After breakfast, we pack and place our luggage outside our cabin. Passengers with late departures are requested to vacate their cabin by 10:00am but have access to the public areas of the ship until their departure. Around 9:00am we say goodbye to John and Katrina as they depart for the train station, and check with Verona, the assistant cruise manager, for instructions on taking public transportation into the center of Nürnberg. We are told that since the Pride must depart at 11:00am this morning, they will simply move our luggage over to the Spirit which is docked just behind us.
Today is clear and very cold, near freezing temperatures, the coldest day of our trip so far. It’s so cold I have to wrap my scarf around my head having already packed my hat. We walk across the bridge to the bus station on the other side of the canal and take bus number 67 to the Frankenstrasse U-bahn station where this bus terminates. We buy an all day family ticket from the driver for 5.80 euros that covers all day public transport for both of us. From Frankenstrasse station we take the U-bahn about 4 stops to Lorenzkirche station which puts us in the center of the city just south of the Pegnitz River. The center of Nürnberg is surrounded by a city wall and divided into two sections by the Pegnitz, to the north is the Sebald side and to the south is the Lorenz side, named after their respective churches.
We take a walk on the former moat along the wall surrounding the center which is now a pedestrian walkway. It’s very quiet and we don’t encounter anyone else on the walk, but we do encounter lots of doggie deposits. They don’t seem to be very good about picking up after their dogs here. We cross over to the Sebald side and wander through the Christmas markets, a much calmer scene this morning but still surprisingly busy for this early in the day. I find a stall that sells marzipan in all different shapes and forms, including “sausages” and “potatoes” made of marzipan, and buy a small marzipan pig. There’s also a children’s Christmas market with old fashioned carousel, train, and ferris wheel rides and an international market with stalls representing various cities from around the world.
We head toward the direction of the Kaiserburg to the Albrecht Dürer house. Today the guided tour with “Agnes” is in German only so we opt for the audio guides which allow us to tour the rooms and exhibits at our own pace. Afterwards, we head to the Helig Geist Weinstube for lunch, a very large, casual restaurant with a big seat yourself dining hall, good food, and reasonable prices. Mark has the Nürnberg sausages (better than the ones we tried at the market last night) and I order the zwiebelrostbraten which turns out to be some sort of flat steak smothered in a fried onion sauce. Delicious but very greasy, order something to wash it down with. Our total bill was about 24 euros.
After lunch we did some more exploring and came upon a fantastic fountain which I later found out was called the Ehekarusell or the “Marriage Merry-Go-Round” fountain created in 1984 as an interpretation of a Hans Sachs poem. In fact throughout Nürnberg, there are really wonderful public sculptures many of which are interpretations of the works of other artists, poets, and writers.
Around 2:30pm we take the U-bahn and bus back to the dock. On the way to the U-Bahn station we find a poster on a wall advertising “Die James Bond Party” at a local club two weekends ago. Figuring that the party was over already and the poster was destined for the garbage, we decide to liberate it. It will make a great addition to Mark’s collection of James Bond paraphernalia at home as well as a nice reminder of the trip. Back at the dock, we board the Viking Spirit this time and relax in the lounge while waiting for our taxi. Cash is accepted at the bar after you’ve settled your account. We try the bottled Hefeweizen which turns out to be pretty good, too bad we only discover this on the last day. Otherwise the only beers available on board are Becks on draft and Bud.
I think we are the only passengers left from the previous week’s cruise. We also find out that the passengers on the Nov 29th Europe sailing will have to be bussed to Passau to join their ship and no one is sure at this time if the Nov 30th Spirit sailing will make it through to Vienna. We were just lucky it seems. Our taxi arrives promptly at 4:00pm and we are off to the airport. The ride takes about half an hour and costs approximately 20 euros.
We check-in for our Eurowings flight to Düsseldorf (there’s no one else in line), go through security, and are at our gate in a matter of minutes. We probably could have left the ship at least half an hour later for our 6:15pm flight but didn’t want to take a chance.
Re: Very Long Trip Report - Nov 23rd Viking Pride Christmas
This concludes the first half of our trip and the river cruise portion. I just want to add a few additional comments. We had a very enjoyable time and thought the river cruise was a great way to travel with a small group of family and friends. We also felt that there was every intention on the part of the captain and his staff to try to sail all the way through to Nürnberg from the start of the cruise and were extremely lucky to be able to do so. A lot of last minute decisions and alterations were made to our schedule but we felt that it was all handled very well. I do feel for the passengers from earlier sailings who had to do an enormous amount of bussing as that is certainly not something that I would have enjoyed. Even with the minimal bussing that we encountered, we were already sick of riding in busses. So had our situation been less favorable, I’m sure my overall view of the trip would have been quite different.
A few minor quibbles and suggestions for Viking… we would have liked to have some sort of tray or shelf in the shower to store our shampoo, conditioner, etc. We ended up having to put everything on the shower floor. I missed having chocolates on the pillow at turn down, and I wish that we could’ve ordered our red meat prepared medium rare at dinner. That’s it for the gripes. Some general positives are the on time departures for all tours, how refreshing not to wait around, and the flexibility of being able to participate in any of the scheduled activities as much or as little as you like. It was made very clear at the start of the cruise that it was perfectly acceptable to start out on a tour and leave the tour at any point in time. There was no need to inform anyone of your decision as long as you make it back on board before the scheduled sailing.
We had very good weather throughout most of the week with only a few days of light rain (I only used my umbrella once). I brought along a full length cashmere overcoat as well as a lightweight cotton raincoat and alternated between the two depending on the weather of the day. Hat, gloves, and scarves are a must. Temperatures were in the high 40’s to low 50’s mid-day (with the exception of the last day in Nürnberg where it was around freezing – John and Katrina reported that it snowed on the way to Munich that day) and nights in the 30’s. Indoor temperatures (museums, restaurants, etc.) were kept quite warm so it’s better to wear several light layers rather than one heavy layer in order to transition comfortably between outdoor and indoor temperature changes.
We used ATM’s (usually called bankomat in Austria or geldautomat in Germany) throughout for the best exchange rates. We were not charged a transaction fee by any of the banks in Austria and Germany and our bank at home also does not charge a fee so our ATM transactions came through at a rate of 1.18 to 1.19 (and over 1.20 later in the week when the dollar hit an all time low). It was easy just to withdraw small amounts of cash as needed. Our Amex charge card transactions posted at a rate of 1.21 to 1.22 including their 2% conversion fee. We brought along some U.S. dollars as a back up but didn’t end up exchanging any of it as the cash exchange rate was rather poor. I think they only gave about 75 euros for every 100 dollars exchanged on board and off ship it was not much better.
Calls from the ship are very expensive. I think they said it varied between 2 to 6 euros per minute depending on which carrier it was in that particular location. We brought along our Siemens S46 which operates on a GSM 1800 MHz frequency as one of its bands, and just used AT&T Wireless’ international roaming service. I called just before our departure to add their discounted international roaming plan for $5.99 a month which brought the per minute call cost down to $0.99. Service was very clear and we used it to make several calls home as well as within Europe. I didn’t use any local pay phones but believe that you must purchase a local prepaid card as they do not take coins or currency.
In Austria and southern Germany, the greeting “Grüss Gott” is used more commonly than “Guten Tag” so you’ll hear this greeting upon entering shops, etc. We used the German for Dummies book to learn some basic phrases and the names of various food and drink which was very helpful in deciphering menus.
Re: Very Long Trip Report - Nov 23rd Viking Pride Christmas
I'll be finishing the rest of my trip report sometime in the next few weeks to include the time we spent around Düsseldorf and the Rhine area plus our 4 days in London. If anyone is interested in receiving a copy of the full trip report when it's done, please email me directly.
Re: Re: Very Long Trip Report - Nov 23rd Viking Pride Christ
I was delighted to read every word of your trip report! So nice to have favorable river levels, nice weather, and enjoyment after the trying times for river sailing this past summer.
Sounds like a wonderful way to see the lovely Christmas markets--completely dispelling my fears that as a California girl I would find the winter weather in Germany and Austria just a tad too cold in November and December!
Thanks for all the great suggestions and recommendations. Keep in touch!