We have reached the halfway point in our travels, so I am going to take this opportunity to describe life on board the Viking Freya longship.
The typical day begins around 6-7 am. Waking from the hotel-quality comfortable king size bed, we can open the light tight drapes and look out on the countryside rolling by. One can sip a cup of coffee on the private veranda (which spans the length of the stateroom, but is only about 30 inches wide) or go directly to the beginning of the day. The bathroom is spacious (for cruise ships) with a well appointed sink with the usual toiletries. The shower is excellent, using high quality German hardware for the hand-held but mountable shower head. Water pressure is excellent and there is a seemingly endless supply of hot water.
Leaving the stateroom, we make our way down the passageway to the central area of the ship. This leads to the bar-lounge area on Deck 3, or down a short flight of stairs (optional glass elevator) to the dining room on Deck 2. Breakfast is served both in the dining room and in the upstairs terrace. Breakfast is a combination of buffet and sit-down service in the dining room. There are breakfast meats, eggs, an omelet station, fresh fruit, cereal, juice, coffee, coke, etc.
Depending on the day’s schedule, the morning is either spent cruising to the next town or leaving the ship for the morning’s visit to the town at which we have docked.
The walking tours either begin with a short bus ride (large, comfortable motor coaches) to the town, or a short walk to the city center, depending on where the boat docks. The walking tours are conducted by local English-speaking guides, who are typically knowledgeable about the local sights and history. Each passenger is issued a radio receiver and ear-piece, which allows them to hear the guide regardless of how close they are to the guide (within a range of about 500 feet). The walking tour meanders through town, taking in the local sights and sounds, and ends after 2-3 hours with free time. This allows us to poke around town, sample the local beers, eat lunch/dinner, or just soak up the ambiance.
Lunch is usually back on the boat unless one wants to stay in town and sample the local fare. The food is good and plentiful, but not especially spectacular.
In the afternoon, there are opportunities to go back into town and continue free time exploration, or just to remain on the ship and relax with a good book (I estimate that 3/4 of the people reading books are using Kindles or iPads. There are a few people reading paperback or hardback books, but they are in the minority.)
Dinner is served in the main dining room and usually consists of three courses. Again, the food is quite good, well varied, but not spectacular.
Typically, late in the afternoon, or early in the evening, the boat pulls away from the town dock and continues its cruise to the next town.
After dinner, there is some form of entertainment. This is no large ship ocean cruise with floor shows, dancers, singers, or magicians, but rather a convivial gathering of passengers in the lounge with what can only be described as “down-home entertainment”. For example, on one night last week, there was a trivia quiz. Ruth took first place in the competition, and was rewarded with a bottle of sparking wine. On another evening, there was a game of liar’s dictionary, in which four passenger volunteer couples offered up real or fictitious definitions of strange words (e.g., fullfahrt, gardyloo, titup, etc.). Our small team (the Vikings from Blackhawk) took first place in this competition, and once again was rewarded with a bottle of (surprise) sparkling wine. Last night, we played the Newlywed game, with Mike and Velma Schnoll volunteering to represent our group.
At the end of the game, we found that Mike and Velma won first place. And, the prize for first place was (drum roll please…) a bottle of sparkling wine. We now have three bottles of sparkling wine among our group. We intend to have a blowout bash sometime later this week.
Finally, as the day wears down, we have the choice of lingering in the lounge over a glass of wine or spirits, or making our way back to the stateroom for some much needed rest and sleep. We had originally thought that we would have a poker game after dinner, but most of us are too bushed after walking through town to stay awake. Thus, the typical day ends around 10 or 10:30pm, only to begin again the next morning.
Let me say a few words about the internet access on the ship. The router is located in the middle of the ship. Service is provided via satellite and the bandwidth is quite (very) limited. It is nearly impossible to get connection in our staterooms (located about 100 feet from midship), but connection is usually pretty strong while in the lounge or the center area of the ship. However, getting connection does not guarantee access to the actual internet via the satellite. Each time we go through a lock (there are about 67 on the whole trip) or under a bridge (always very low) the satellite antenna is lowered and internet access is lost. Even when we are docked at a large town and not moving, the available bandwidth vs. the number of people trying to access the net on their iPads, Kindles, laptops, or phones is woefully inadequate. The result is very, very slow internet. However, it is available and free.
We are about to dock in our next town, Regansburg, another medieval town with castles, churches, beer halls, and 1000 year old buildings. I will post another episode after we get back, or tomorrow.