Live Cruise Review: Viking Embla, Grand European Tour 2013 – Budapest, Hungary
Hopping onboard a Viking River Cruises longship feels like coming home. It’s always such a comfortable and restful experience, and the Viking Embla is no exception. From the refreshing lemon zest L’Occitane bath products to the casual atmosphere, the line’s riverboats are such pleasant retreats, and our excellent veranda suite is the icing on the cake (more on the accommodations to follow in an upcoming Live Cruise Review).
Also, with the summer weather we get to enjoy the awesome Aquavit Terrace in all its alfresco glory. In fact, we love it up here so much that we have enjoyed all our dinners thus far on the terrace with its wonderful ‘bar snacks’ – really a nice menu with several substantial entrees. My mom enjoys the penne pasta with marinara sauce in particular, and I am partial to the great cheddar cheese burger served with thousand island dressing on a brioche bun.
Among so many other things, I’m impressed with how well maintained the Viking longships are. Take for instance the image below where the crew is not just painting over rust marks but actually preventing them from occurring to begin with by keeping the exterior immaculately clean and washing it with soap and water. Sure, she has a few scrapes along the hull ‘bumper,’ designed for the very purpose of offsetting and protecting the superstructure from tight canal clearances, but that’s to be expected. The rest is next to (norse) godliness.
Speaking of hardware, Viking is sporting a fresh fleet of its very own tour buses that have the distinct new car smell and all. It’s neat to see actually – whitewashed buses donning the Viking logo and samples of the line’s destinations or the longships themselves. Another tour improvement, your keycards are now swapped out for plastic vouchers when disembarking to ensure proper group tallies and allocation per individual bus. It’s all very efficient, and we appreciate that.
The first half of our river cruise is a return to many of the same cities that we explored last December during the Christmas markets season, and it has sure been interesting to rediscover them in warmer weather. For instance, what was a frozen skating pond in Budapest then is a lake for pleasure boating now.
Of course, with a warmer climate also comes the opportunity to hop off the bus more often too. We were able to stop in Heroes’ Square where we got a closer look at the nearby museums and statuary. The neo-renaissance architecture was extraordinary, and the blue skies were a perfect backdrop for any photographic subject.
Once we made it across the Danube River from Pest to Buda, we enjoyed a number of outdoor sites for longer durations as we weren’t as preoccupied with finding warmer shelter. A favorite cafe of ours even had a classic Jaguar sitting out front, making for a perfect cinematic scene (that just happened to be shot from indoors).
And the views from Fisherman’s Bastion were just incredible when our eyelids weren’t frozen over. Okay, it was never quite that cold, but you know what I mean. The Chain Bridge and the Budapest Eye ferris wheel were clear visions amidst the potpourri of buildings.
The greenery at the foot of the battlements and the expansive parliament building across the way (also seen at night in the header above) were also quite dramatic under the bright sun.
And the details of the fortifications themselves are quite impressive.
On our way back to the buses, I happened upon a sign that intrigued me with the promise of an underground labyrinth which is actually an array of caves known as the Labyrinth of Buda Castle. We didn’t have enough time to buy a ticket to see it all, but the mysterious teasers that we did see in the outer lobby are sure to get me to return on a future visit.
And we also found our favorite resident automobile from our last visit, an amusing blue jalopy summoning ‘maintenance fund’ donations in its passenger window.
On a more serious note, we made a point of walking down from our longship on the Pest side of the river to where a memorial has been dedicated to Jewish victims of World War II. On the river bank, bronze shoes have been erected signifying the very spot where Jews were taken and shot to fall into the river by the Nazis. The moving depictions include men’s, women’s and children’s shoes to sadly show how no one was spared.
We finished our day wandering around town and visiting another well known site, the Gresham Palace, a beautiful art nouveau edifice that is now home to a Four Seasons ultra-luxury hotel. The Viking Embla left later on to see the beautiful city fully illuminated at night.
Continue on to Live Cruise Review: Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna Austria…
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