Day two dawned cloudy and drizzly. As I am always an early riser I chose to go to the Aquavit Terrace for a continental breakfast at 6:00am. Even on vacation I find mornings a great time. At 8:00 am there was an announcement the included shore excursion my group signed up for would leave the ship at 9:00am. We found out the ship would be leaving the dock soon thereafter and we would meet up with it again at 2:00 pm in the town of Esztergom. The Captain explained he must keep to a very strict schedule to get through all the locks on the route, there are twenty five between Budapest and Nuremberg, as traffic on the Danube is busy. So off we went with our umbrellas and rain gear for our tour.
We did a drive around the Pest side of the Danube past some of the sites we had walked to the day before. As we had been forewarned time wouldn’t allow for getting off the bus in Pest so we were glad we had taken the time to tour them the previous day. Then we headed across the bridge to Buda and the bulk of the days sightseeing began. We headed to the fort and found ourselves mixed in with the start of a bike race down the mountain. We chatted with some of the racers and found it wasn’t too difficult a race as there were a few adorable children on their bikes joining the racers. From there we headed to what is called the castle district and the main attraction of the day St. Mathias church.
The castle district is now a tourist mecca. Our guide was a fount of information both on the bus and in a 45 minute walking tour where we were connected by QuietVox audio receivers provided by Viking in each stateroom. These are a must for all the tours as with the provided earphones you can hear the tour guides clearly as you are walking around the sites you visit. Now on this day after the guided tour we had about one and a half hours to walk around. Due to the rain that wasn’t going to be very comfortable so my group found a wonderful Konditorei, coffee shop/bakery, with comfortable chairs near where we were to meet the bus and we parked ourselves there sipping coffee and sharing some delicious cherry strudel until it was time to meet the buss and head back to the ship.
We arrived at the appointed meeting spot at exactly 2:00pm and our ship was there ready to welcome us back onboard. As soon as we boarded we headed for lunch after which there was a mandatory safety drill. All passengers had to first go to their staterooms and pick up life jackets and bring them to their muster stations which because of the rain were all in the main lounge. There are only 189 passengers on the VAR on three decks. After a short presentation the safety drill was over and it was time to relax and watch the scenery go and anticipate what we knew would be a wonderful dinner. Vacations do tend to focus around food. I read in the Viking Daily, the ship’s newsletter placed on everyone’s bed each evening, we were invited to the wheelhouse/bridge to chat with the captain between 4 and 5pm. Taking advantage of that I found Captain Gabor to be a wealth of information. He and the first mate shared information on all the equipment explaining how the ship is steered. Captain Gabor shared a little personal information with me saying he has been with Viking for seven years and now when he is off the ship lives in Budapest. He told me how much he enjoys working for Viking and listening to him you definitely had full confidence he knew what he was doing and the ship was in good hands. He seems like a great guy.
Before dinner we were all in the lounge and the Hotel Manager took a few minutes to introduce the lead crew members. Then we all headed down to dinner in the nicely appointed dining room. It can accommodate all 189 passengers. Tables are set in different configurations so small and large groups can sit together. But there are no reservations so some of the larger groups jockeyed for position to get tables that could accommodate all of them. One suggestion I would make to Viking is if larger groups want to eat together every evening they do allow them to reserve a table.
The evening was relaxed and after dinner there was music and dancing in the lounge. We also went through the first of those twenty-five locks this being the deepest with the ship rising 82 feet. It was fascinating to watch, but chilly and still rainy when we went through it at about 9:30pm. For most of my group it was to be an early evening after a few more drinks. A great first full day on the ship.
Tags: Budapest, Danube Cruise, Viking