My Viking River Cruise Grand European Tour Begins in Budapest

Sunset behind the Buda Castle as the Viking Lif is docked for the night at the Chain Bridge.

Sunset behind Buda Castle.   The Viking Lif is docked for the night at the foot of the Chain Bridge.

Aboard Viking River Cruise Viking Lif from Budapest to Amsterdam.

Most people fly into Budapest.  Not me.

One transatlantic crossing, four hotels, four countries and nine trains and I finally arrived at this gorgeous metropolis on the Danube. I was definitely ready for two lazy weeks on a Viking River cruise.  It was the last train ride, an eight hour trip from Munich to Budapest, that had me a little nervous.

Even though this was my fourth visit to Budapest, I had always arrived there on a river cruise, never by train. The reservation agent at RailEurope advised me to arrive into Keleti station.  Good advice.

The Grand Hall at Budapest Keleti station. Completed in 1884, it is still one of Europe's grandest railway stations.

The Great Hall at Budapest Keleti station. Completed in 1884, it is still one of Europe’s grandest railway stations.

Little did I know that this train station was once one of Europe’s most beautiful structures.  It’s been carefully restored and reflects much of its original grandeur of 1884.

Since I had never arrived into Keleti, I asked Viking River to arrange for a driver to meet me at the station.  Yes, I’d have to pay for it, but traveling alone and in a new city, this was my comfort zone.  I didn’t even have to walk to the end of the long platform when I saw the driver holding a small piece of white paper with my name on it.  In five minutes, we were in the taxi, en route to the Viking Lif.

Luckily I turned around to catch the front of the station as my driver hurried me to the taxi.

Luckily I turned around to catch the front of the station as my driver hurried me to the taxi.

Weary but excited, I looked forward to the new Viking Lif  “Longship.” It would be nice to unpack for a fortnight.  In two days, we’d begin our 3,000? mile journey on the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers.

With a 4:30pm arrival in mid-October, dusk arrived in Budapest just shortly after I did.  By 5pm, I was in my stateroom and began to settle in.

My stateroom on the Viking Lif.

My stateroom on the Viking Lif.

I immediately inspected the bathroom and was very happy to find an assortment of L’Occitane toiletries, a spacious shower and plenty of countertop space.

Viking River longship with marble and chrome fixtures plus good lighting and plenty of hooks.

Marble and chrome fixtures plus good lighting and plenty of hooks.

A quick peek outside to watch the sunset over the Buda side of the city.

Sunset behind the Buda Castle as the Viking Lif is docked for the night at the Chain Bridge.

Sunset behind Buda Castle as the Viking Lif is docked for the night at the Chain Bridge.

Then back inside for our first passenger get-together. It was time for the welcome aboard briefing before our 7PM dinner.

Viking River cruise Welcome aboard briefing

I guess it’s important to know where we’re going!

Like everyone else, we were all pretty exhausted from our long travel day.  And the morning would bring my first Viking River city tour: a trip to the largest synagogue in Europe, the Dohány Street Synagogue.

Solo Traveler Tip:

Traveling solo on a river cruise, dinnertime can be awkward as there are usually mostly couples and the tables are for even numbers. I’ve learned over the years to arrive early and stake out a table.  Then it’s up to whomever wants to join me to sit there.  It’s a lot better than my wandering around looking for one empty seat and then asking people if they mind if I join them.

Coming soon: an easy to read day-by-day photo journey.
Next: My top 10 places to visit in Budapest, where our Viking River cruise began.
Stay tuned for the rest of the cruise.

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