Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago
At the time we booked our river cruise, the trip was supposed to be on the Viking Freya. A few weeks before we were due to set sail, the Freya was involved in a horrific accident that killed two crew members. We were informed our trip would be on the Viking Bestla instead.
Shortly before our trip we were notified that due to low water levels, we’d have to start our journey on the Viking Njord and then change ships mid-trip to the Bestla. Sailing on the Bestla would feel like coming home as several of us had been on its maiden voyage in April 2014 while sailing the Rhine. So we’d get to experience two different boats on one cruise.
Practically speaking, the ships were identical. But there were a few differences too.
We had Standard (F) staterooms, which were the smallest on the ship. They’re below water level so these rooms have high windows right at the waterline. They’re smaller than the rooms just one level up as the ship’s hull accounts for the difference in the space.
The Standard rooms for each longship are listed at 150 sq. ft. but we would have sworn the cabins on the Njord were ever-so-slightly bigger than those on the Bestla.
The biggest difference in the two cabins was the shower. On the older Njord, the sliding bathroom door and the outer shower wall (which is visible in the room) is made of opaque glass. At least it’s opaque until you flick a switch and it becomes clear glass! This was a scary discovery, but fortunately it’s one my roommate and I made while we were still settling into the room and not while one of us was in the shower! I can’t understand who thought this would be a good idea. The newer Bestla did not have this “feature”, thank goodness.
The other irritating thing about the glass wall and door was that if one person got up in the middle of the night, the whole cabin was flooded with the light from the bathroom. By the time the Bestla was outfitted, the designers included a night light in the bathroom and between that and the solid doors and walls, it makes a huge difference.
Toiletries are the proprietary Freya brand. I liked that we were given larger tubes than what might ordinarily be found in hotels. I assume this is because everyone is typically on board for at least a week and there’s no sense in having tiny bottles for that purpose.
Immediately upon entry to the cabin there is the bathroom on one side and the closet on the other. Both the closet doors and the bathroom door were opaque glass on the Njord but were solid wood on the Bestla. The closet had an area for hanging clothes as well as shelves and a safe.
Moving further into the cabin, a counter ran the length of one side and the beds were just opposite. The counter held the phone and Quiet Vox audio systems we would take on tours. There were also some drawers and a mini-fridge underneath the counter. Power outlets, both 110 and 220, were available at either end of the counter. This is one reason we love Viking – US outlets!
The beds aren’t large but they work. When joined as a single bed, the night stands fit on either side, which makes it easy to access the outlets there. When set up as two twin beds the staff usually sets up the bed as illustrated below – with each bed have its nightstand to one side. However my roommate and I have discovered it works better for us to put both nightstands in the middle. This gives us more space between the beds, making it easier for us to maneuver. It’s also much easier for the person who’s bed is next to the hull to wrangle their empty suitcase under the bed.
On the second (main) deck is the reception area as well as a small nook with Viking-branded items for sale. The front half of the longship contains the dining room and, in the very front, the kitchen.
There are stairs between all decks and there is an elevator between the second and third decks. So if you are mobility-challenged the second or third deck is where you want to have your cabin.
The very front of the third deck is home to the Aquavit Terrace, a multi-purpose area. Depending on the weather it may be all open-air though if it’s cool the crew may have set up a glass wall around part of it so you can enjoy the sun without the cold. Tables and chairs are scattered around and at lunchtime a light meal is served at the small buffet.
Between the central atrium and the Aquavit Terrace is the Lounge. This is where the bar is and where each afternoon we’d have our daily briefing to get our instructions for the following day. Most nights there’s a piano player in the lounge as well. Our first night, as we moved from Erlangen to Nuremberg, local operetta singers were brought in. I’m no expert but thought they did a wonderful job singing songs from Don Giovanni, among others. As we were in the region, they also did a couple of songs from The Sound of Music and had us sing-along to Edelweiss.
The top deck, accessible only via stairs, is completely open. One section does have an awning and lounge chairs while other sections are open to the sun. There’s also a putting green and a shuffleboard area but we really did not have much time to spend on deck. However, as we sailed into Budapest for our final port of call, the top deck was the place to be to see the beautiful buildings. That night, once we’d docked, the top deck was a great place to photograph Buda Castle and the Fishermen’s Bastion up on the hill in Buda.
While our cruise director and our concierge moved with us from the Njord to the Bestla, all the other crew stayed with their respective ships. But they were all delightful and took terrific care of us. If you want more photos of the ship’s interior, the Viking website has a lot of them.