|Charming Passau, decked out for the holidays
ONBOARD VIKING GULLVEIG - There's nothing quite like a delicious breakfast to help kick start your day and we were grateful for the generous selection we found on our ship, before we headed out to tour Passau.
A large selection of cheeses, cold meats, yogurts, fruit and freshly made bread spread across the buffet table made for difficult choices. A sizzling omelet station and a full roster of a la carte options offered a range of tempting choices before we left to meet our very knowledgeable guide, Carmella for our tour of Passau.
|Guides are topnotch
Known as the "City of Three Rivers," Passau sits at the confluence of the: Inn, Iliz and Danube Rivers and is the last major German city on the Danube on the border of Austria.
Our tour of the ancient town took us past sites along the way, which included St Stephan's Cathedral, a magnificent baroque church located on the highest point of Old Town. Nearly destroyed in a 1662 fire, it was rebuilt by architect Carloa Lurago and boasts magnificent frescoes and is home to the largest pipe organ in Europe
Following that, we viewed a gingerbread-making demonstration at Café Simon, which is owned by four generations of that family. We were treated to "pounch," - a hot rum drink - and samples of the dark cake, which we were surprised to learn, doesn't actually call for ginger!
|Simon and son make gingerbread
After a tour of the small Christmas Market - which rendered some typical souvenirs and Christmas trinkets - we returned to the ship where we were treated to a special Austrian teatime and Christmas cookie demonstration, courtesy of the ship's chef.
|On board cookie-making class
Delicate "vanillekipferl" (butter cookies) and coconut macaroons were made, then served to us piping hot in the comfortable Lounge - the heart of the ship's social activity.
A special cocktail hour followed, with live music hosted by the captain, hotel manager and program director, before we went to have dinner with our new friends.
One of the nice features about being on such a small ship is that it's easy to make friends along the way. We "clicked" with mother-daughter duo Ann and Laura from Pittsburgh, and Erika and Mitch - a couple from California - the very first night and found them to be very compatible sailing companions.
|Dumpster diving with new friends
I have to say that everything we've eaten since boarding the ship has been outstanding. Breakfast is always wonderful - whether taken on Aquavit Terrace or in the Main Dining Room. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate and cookies are always available in a special area just off the lounge and snacks are served with drinks in the evenings. No one will go hungry on Viking Cruises, that's for sure!
The service throughout has been amazing and within hours of boarding, the crew knew our names and greeted us every time we saw them.
All in all, this has been an amazing experience since we boarded. If there's only one "complaint" it's that the WiFi - although free - is unreliable and extremely slow - when we do get it.
|A mother-daughter moment