Holiday Dates: 22 August - 5 September 2018

Viking River Cruise assigned Room: French Balcony, #210

Viking Aegir-built in 2012. It has a crew of 48 and can hold up to 190 passengers. In Norse mythology, Aegir is the giant god of the sea, and he personifies the power of the ocean.

About 30 days before we received a booklet from Viking with all the information in it from flights, booked excursions, transfer made us feel really at ease with the whole trip. Having spent a career in the military, knowing that things are organized and documented, made things so much easier for Sharon and I.

Our River Cruise path. We follow the Danube which is Europe's second longest river, after the Volga.

We were able to go on line and watch the days go down and plan our shore excursions. This is a window of some of the web-page of Viking

I surprised Sharon with an upgrade to Business Class. She has never done that before...she deserved it....We were in Row 6 & 7 left side of the aircraft

The people who were in charge of looking after us. We mainly interacted with the Program Director, Leonard.

Schedule: (Note: click on the "Day" to hyper-link to the events of that day. IE, click on "Day 1" to bring you to the "Arrival in Bucharest")

Day 1: Arrival in Bucharest

Day 2: Bucharest & the Billage Museum

Day 3: Veliko Tarnovo & Arbanasi

Day 4: Belogradchik Rocks & Fortress

Day 5: Iron Gate, Serbia

Day 6: Panoramic Belgrade

Day 7: Osijek & Vukovar

Day 8: Kalocsa & Puszta

Day 9: Panoramic Budapest

Day 10: Szentendre & the Margit Kovacs Museum

Day 11: Travel Day

Day 12: Panoramic Prague & Prague by Night

Day 13: Kutna Hora

Day 14: Departure for Canada


There was a lot of preamble to our departure. Besides getting the immunizations required for the trip (doing so over the period of 3 weeks) Sharon also had an issue with her eye. She was not only seeing floaters but a blood vessel broke and caused some consternation for all concerned. After a final examination, the day before we left, she was given the green light to fly.

Next, we received this from VIKING on 20th Aug


Dear Viking Guest,

Thank you for choosing Viking for your upcoming European voyage. This message is to let you know that the Danube River is currently experiencing low water levels.

When water levels are too low, navigation on the river may become restricted. As a result, your ship will not be able to reach its regular embarkation port in Bucharest and you will instead embark identical sister ship, Viking Aegir, following your included hotel stay.

As a precautionary measure, we may also need to adjust our sailing speeds, which could result in slight delays, or dock in alternate locations in areas where our regular docking spots are adversely affected by the conditions.

If water levels continue to drop, additional modifications such as hotel stays or what we call a mid-cruise "ship swap" may need to be implemented to bypass affected areas along the river. Since Viking operates identical ships traveling in opposite directions along the river, we are able to transfer you by motor coach from your ship to an identical sister ship further along the river so that you can resume your itinerary with minimal impact.

As river conditions can change on short notice, exact details of how your cruise may be impacted cannot be determined until closer to departure. Our nautical department is continuing to monitor the situation closely and we will keep you updated should any changes become necessary.

Rest assured, we have considerable experience in dealing with situations like this and will make every effort to stay as close to your itinerary as possible. In any event, we are confident that you will enjoy your journey with us despite the low water levels.

We look forward to welcoming you on board and wish you a wonderful journey.




Checking out Flight Status on FlightStats

Waiting at the Maple Leaf Lounge in Ottawa

We departed on the 22nd August at 9:40PM via Air Canada (using we determined where we would be sitting).

I had upgraded Sharon (and myself of course) to Business Class without letting Sharon know. So when we embarked upon the aircraft, she was walking by the business class section to economy and I told her to stop that she was passing by our designated seats. She looked at me and said no, these were not the seats I had told her. Then I showed her the tickets and whispered "Happy Birthday". Needless to say, she was nearly crying and the stewardess mentioned how that gift was so romantic.

Then economy to Bucharest, Romania

We finally arrived in (Bucharest) at 5:40PM on the 23rd -which is, I guess, the latter part of "Day 1".


Day 1: Arrival in Bucharest, Romania

We were greeted by Viking reps and explained what is going on. We were loaded on a bus and brought to the hotel. Here we are leaving the airport

We were met at the hotel (link to hotel website).

Our luggage was brought to our rooms

Viking Reps were at their station collecting information and answering questions

We were just busy taking in the view and experience

A Romanian supper...We ate at the Avelon and had a really good meal. The Avalon was located in the hotel.

Morning sunrise from our hotel window



Day 2: Bucharest & the Billage Museum

Explore Romania’s fascinating capital, an impressive collection of unique architecture and grand monuments. Founded in the 14th century, Bucharest became Romania’s capital in 1859 with the merging of Moldavia and Wallachia. See the city’s wide boulevards, the Romanian Athenaeum, the Arch of Triumph and other highlights. Ceauşescu’s expansive Palace of Parliament is the largest civilian building in the world, with 3,000 rooms and 24-carat gold ceilings. Visit the outdoor Muzeul Satului, otherwise known as the Village Museum, where authentic dwellings from all regions of the country have been relocated and reassembled, including rural cottages, farmhouses and water mills. During lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy a lively folkloric performance that recalls the simple pleasures of rural life.

To see the pictures of DAY 2 click here


Day 3: Veliko Tarnovo & Arbanasi

Tour two cultural gems rich in Bulgarian heritage during this full-day excursion into the heart of the country. You will begin with a drive through Russe. Then continue to Veliko Tarnovo, a fascinating medieval town built around Tsarevets Hill and its hilltop royal castle. After a coffee break overlooking the Old Town, stop at the Yantra River bridge for a nice view of the majestic Assenev Brothers monument, a towering obelisk flanked by horses. Next, explore Samovodska Charshia, a traditional street teeming with handicrafts, or visit the castle ruins and enjoy vistas of the Old Town and countryside. Afterward, proceed to Arbanasi, rich in history and Greek influence. After lunch at a local restaurant, sample the Damascus Rose products, locally made from the essence of roses. After, you will visit a local merchant house and see the intricate frescoes of the Nativity Church with a local guide.

Every morning, we turn the TV on to see where our River Cruise ship is docked. As you can see, it gives us the Temperature outside, the time and the date (required for retired folks who lose track of time)

To see more of this Bulgarian tour click here

If you choose not to Click, Sharon and I are going to rest up for Day 4



Day 4: Belogradchik Rocks & Fortress

Journey into one of the most scenic regions of Bulgaria for a unique glimpse of how geography helped create an architectural treasure. Join your guide for a drive from Vidin to the Belogradchik Rocks. With their strange, red-hued cliffs and massifs, these breathtaking mountains strike a dramatic pose. The result of millennium of weathering, river erosion, freezing, and countless other factors, these formations are more than Bulgaria’s great natural wonder. They are also a curiosity for the multitude of fantastic figures and profiles that emerge when you catch them at just the right angle. Silhouettes of people, towers, ships, mushrooms, palaces and animals populate the cliffs. You will also see the fascinating Belogradchik Fortress, built by Ottoman conquerors in a maze of rock columns and pillars. You will have time to walk around the compound and enjoy superior views of the caves and rock shapes from its many terraced courtyards.

Yes, I went pretty high to get this picture....Click Here to see more of Day 4.

Day 5 Iron Gate, Serbia

In languages of the region names literally meaning "Iron Gates" are used to name the entire range of gorges.

The Iron Gates is a gorge on the river Danube. It forms part of the boundary between Serbia (to the south) and Romania (north). In the broad sense it encompasses a route of 134 km (83 mi); in the narrow sense it only encompasses the last barrier on this route, just beyond the Romanian city of Orșova, that contains two hydroelectric dams, with two power stations, Iron Gate I Hydroelectric Power Station and Iron Gate II Hydroelectric Power Station.

At this point in the Danube, the river separates the southern Carpathian Mountains from the northwestern foothills of the Balkan Mountains. The Romanian side of the gorge constitutes the Iron Gates natural park, whereas the Serbian part constitutes the Đerdap national park.

The Red dot indicates where the Iron Gate is located. To orient yourself, we started on the Danube River just south of Bucharest.

Click Here to see more of Day 5 and our sightings



Day 6: Panoramic Belgrade

See Belgrade’s many fine monuments and architectural splendor during this enlightening tour of Europe’s most resilient city. The Serbian capital of Belgrade overlooks the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. Ravaged and rebuilt 20 times in its history, many of the city’s finest buildings have been gloriously restored. Begin with a guided walk around the famed Kalemegdan Fortress. Its stalwart walls loom over the Old Town; impressive medieval gates enclose Orthodox churches, Turkish baths, a soaring monument to “The Victor” and more. You will also enjoy a stroll in the park around the fortress, taking in the picturesque vistas of the river. Later, witness some of modern-day Belgrade during a short panoramic drive. Stop in the Square of the Republic to admire the statue of Prince Michael. You will have free time here in the adjacent pedestrian shopping area to browse the stores before returning to your ship.

Click Here to see more of Day 6 and our sightings

Day 7: Osijek & Vukovar

See the highlights of Vukovar and Osijek, and stop to meet a Croatian family along the way. You will meet your guide and make the short drive to Vukovar, passing the Vuka River, the palace of the former Count Eltz and the city’s main street, lined with buildings that carry echoes of Northern Europe. As you arrive in Osijek, you will pause to visit a local family in their home and learn about their daily lives. After, continue to the Osijek Citadel complex for a walking tour. Enjoy a concert in the Rising of the Holy Cross Church. Then explore Holy Trinity Square, see the town’s only surviving gate and stroll the picturesque promenade along the Drava River. See more of the town by coach, passing green parks and driving along European Avenue, the most scenic street in Osijek, lined with elegant baroque and Belle Epoque buildings.

Click Here to see more of Day 7 and our sightings

Day 8: Kalocsa & Puszta

Visit one of Hungary’s major cultural centers and attend a breathtaking display of traditional horsemanship at Bakodpuszta Equestrian Center. Depart your ship for a short drive to the city of Kalocsa, where a rich history is flavored by the town’s renowned peppery paprika. In Holy Trinity Square, you will see the splendid cathedral and admire the Archbishop’s Palace. After a short organ concert at St. Joseph Church, continue to the Bakodpuszta Equestrian Center. The people of the Hungarian Puszta region have long relied on the horse for transport, settlement and defending their land. Many locals worry that their country’s equestrian connection is being lost to a motorized world, so they hold fast to rural ways and to their four-legged comrades, elevating horsemanship to an art form. You’ll witness the sometimes acrobatic culmination of this long-cherished relationship during a thrilling show.

Click Here to see more of Day 8 and our sightings

Day 9: Panoramic Budapest

Take in one of Europe’s great cultural capitals. Over the last few decades, Budapest has reemerged as one of the continent’s iconic cities, divided by the lilting Danube and connected by the graceful Chain Bridge. Meet your guide at your ship for a panoramic tour, beginning in modern Pest. Along the elegant Andrássy Avenue, the Champs-Élysées of Budapest, admire the Hungarian State Opera House. Stop at Heroes’ Square, a wide-open plaza of monuments and statues commemorating the Magyar state. Across the river, explore the more traditional Buda side of the city. Here you will visit the Castle District with its massive hilltop castle complex, the turreted Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church, named for the country’s most popular medieval king. From the heights of Buda Hill, enjoy fantastic views of the famous Chain Bridge, the first span to ever connect the two halves of the city when it opened in 1849.

Click Here to see more of Day 9 and our sightings


Day 10: Szentendre & the Margit Kovacs Museum

Stroll the delightful streets of Szentendre, a colorful village of galleries and artists, and pay a visit to one of its renowned museums commemorating one of the town’s beloved. With cobblestone streets, pastel facades and a red-roofed townscape, Szentendre overflows with charm. In the 1500s, the Hungarian-Serbian community laid the foundations of what we see here today; at one time, eight Serbian Orthodox churches served this rural hamlet. The town holds fast to its roots. And today, it is home to a thriving artists’ community, embodied in the richly hued houses and decorated storefronts. Journey here with your guide and amble along the narrow, picturesque streets, pausing to browse inviting galleries that display the work of local artists. You will also visit the Margit Kovács Museum; this artist’s early 20th-century ceramics and other sculptures won her international accolades as they captured a rich tableau of past times in the Hungarian countryside.

Click Here to see more of Day 10 and our sightings

Day 11:Bus trip from Budapest to Prague

To see some pictures of that day and our arrival and supper in Prague, click here...for those of you who know my sister Pauline, it seems that they ate at the very same resturant about 4 months before we did...without knowing we both went to the same place. We only realized it when we shared pictures.

Day 12: Panoramic Prague

Step back in time in Prague, an incredible tapestry of medieval brilliance remarkably preserved. Visit the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its main square was a major crossroads on 12th-century trade routes, and so it was the focal point of the city’s early development. Today, it is a repository of Romanesque, baroque and Gothic splendor. Among the buildings you will see are the Týn Church and the 15th-century Astronomical Clock, which comes alive every hour with its “Walk of the Apostles.” Continue to Prague Castle. Within this massive complex, visit the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral where the good St. Wenceslas is entombed behind polished emeralds and stones. You will also see the grand castle itself, residence of the Czech president and the powerful seat of Bohemian kings and Holy Roman emperors of old.

Click Here to see more of Day 12 and our sightings

Day 12: Prague by Night

Experience the medieval treasures of Prague after dark during an illuminating panoramic tour. Drive to Žižkov TV Tower, the highest building in Prague, and take in magnificent views from its observation deck. Pass Wenceslas Square, the heart of the city’s vibrant New Town and favored location for political demonstrations and celebrations. Continue past the National Theater on the Vltava River, Charles Bridge and Frank Gehry’s “Dancing House.” Enjoy stunning views of Prague Castle, then pass the Rudolfinum Concert Hall, the Art Nouveau Cechuv Bridge and shop-lined Parizska Street. See the picturesque Old Town Square, Powder Gate and Municipal House before crossing the river to Lesser Town Square, where you will see the Church of St. Nicholas and admire the baroque-style buildings. Take a look at the John Lennon Wall and its graffiti tributes that are dedicated to causes that he championed during his life. Walk through Strahov Monastery and enjoy stunning vistas from its grounds over Prague.

Day 13: Kutna Hora

Discover the impressive architecture and historic treasures of one of the Czech Republic’s most important towns, once an economic and cultural rival to Prague. Built on silver mining from the 13th century, Kutná Hora became a thriving crossroads of trade. Drive with your guide into the scenic Czech countryside, passing farmland and gently rolling hills. En route, you will briefly pause at the Sedlec Ossuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This curious Roman Catholic chapel is artistically adorned with human skeletal bones. After, continue to Kutná Hora and the vast St. Barbara Cathedral, also a UNESCO Site, one of Central Europe’s most impressive Gothic structures. Dedicated to the patron saint of miners, it took more than 500 years to build because of the town’s waxing and waning economy. After viewing the interior, enjoy a walking tour of the town, followed by lunch at a local restaurant and free time to explore.

Mike and Lise (From Kingston and my home golf course) were in Prague. They took the time to meet with us after our hectic Kutna Hora tour. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed meeting them.

In the Augustine Courtyard saying goodbye to new friends

Click Here to see more of Day 13 and our sightings


Day 14: Flying home to

Goodbye countries

I think many people would not consider Eastern Europe as a travel destination. Part of the allure we found was the history of the area – the Roman and Ottoman Turk occupations, Vlad the Impaler (inspired the Dracula stories-which we loved to hear), Attila the Hun, the World Wars, the communist regimes and finally democracy-Velvet Revolution and divorce. Many of these countries have joined or are now joining the European Union and even applying to be part of NATO. You don’t have to be a history buff (we certainly are not) to enjoy Eastern Europe and the Balkan States as the scenery, culture, food, people and the “Beautiful Blue Danube” were all wonderful!

Final Note as Sharon and I wish you all good cruising and thank you for visiting our memories of a fantastic river cruise with VIKING.