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  #1  
Old November 14th, 2013, 05:32 PM
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Cary Cruiser Cary Cruiser is offline
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Default Viking Idun Review - (long)

We sailed on the Viking Idun November 2 – 9th. This was our first river cruise and we were naturally very excited about the trip. Visiting Prague, Vienna and Budapest have long been on my bucket list, and traveling on a Viking Longship seemed to be a great way to see these iconic European cities and celebrate our 35th Wedding Anniversary.

So here is my review of our long anticipated “Romantic Danube” trip.


The Pre & Post Extensions


We booked the Pre and Post extensions that Viking offered in Prague and Budapest. I’m glad we had a chance to spend time in both these cities.

Viking staff met us and several other couples at the Prague Airport and promptly took us to the Prague Hilton. We like Hilton Hotels and have stayed in a number of them over the years. The Prague Hilton is a large meeting/convention hotel. Some would say that the location is not ideal, being a little askew of the main city center, but I liked the location as it gave us easy access to the Café Imperial (wonderful Art Nouveau restaurant), and the Pivovorsky Klub, one of the best places in Prague to drink beer.

Try to avoid eating at the Prague Hilton – very expensive. Upon arrival we had 2 cappuccinos ($12 ea.), a small pizza and a piece of cake for a total bill of about $50.

The included Prague tour was excellent and covered the Prague Castle, a walk across the Charles Bridge, and a tour of the Old Town area including the Jewish Quarter. We left the tour at its conclusion in the Jewish Quarter and bought tickets to tour the Jewish Museum which was really worthwhile.

The Budapest Hilton is very well situated in the Buda Castle area. We were transported there in the morning of our final cruise day. They had a room ready for us upon our arrival with an excellent view of Buda, Pest and the Hungarian Parliament. The Castle District is very charming with lots of nice restaurants and museums, but is away from the main part of the city on the Pest side which we had already toured the very last day on the ship.

We had no trouble filling our time during the 2 days we stayed in this hotel. All in all we spent three days in Budapest (1 on the ship and 2 at the Hilton) and I feel we did not even get to scratch the surface of Budapest. The Hungarian National Gallery in the Buda Castle was excellent.

On our final morning we were transported to the Budapest airport. A Viking representative met us at the airport and stayed with us until our luggage was checked and we had boarding passes in hand.

The Ship


One of the things that attracted me to Viking was the nice, clean modern look to the Longships. Uniworld ships seemed too gaudy, and Viking seemed to strike the right note with their décor. In actuality, the Viking Idun was bit too plain for my taste.

There was nothing really elegant about the ship, nothing you could point to as a centerpiece in design. The stairway in the reception area maybe – but even that was still not overly exhilarating.

Obviously, this is very subjective, but in my opinion it was a little too much like a Ramada Inn – a bit more style would help. The ship overall was designed well for functionality and I very much liked our cabin, which I will discuss in a section below.

As has been mentioned before, there are not enough seats in the lounge for everyone for the daily briefings so some people need to stand.

The Staff


Let me start off by saying that every single member of the crew that I had contact with was courteous, friendly and acted with the utmost of professionalism.

My wife fell in love with our cabin stewardess Sandra, and really hit it off with the Executive Chef who shared some of his recipes with her. My wife is an outstanding amateur chef and he readily recognized her expertise in this area. They talked quite a bit. She volunteered for the Apple strudel demonstration in the lounge and confidently assisted the ship’s pastry chef in its preparation. From that moment forward she was known to all as “The Strudel Lady”.

I gave a gratuity to the 2 bartenders, Daniel and Tomas at the beginning of our cruise, so I was not surprised that we seemed to receive special attention whenever we were in the lounge (which was the point of my action).

The Program Director Mario Z. was more than outstanding. He worked tirelessly from morning to late at night and he deserves every penny he makes.

The Captain, was ubiquitous but seemed to speak very little English. None the less he was very charming and always had a smile on his face.

All of the wait staff was very attentive and responded to all requests readily.

The Stateroom


The stateroom was of course small, but I knew what to expect when I booked the room. We had a French Balcony style room, and we very much enjoyed the large sliding glass door which we opened on numerous occasions. The room was very nicely appointed and very well laid out. Plenty of storage space, and the bags easily fit under the bed. The shower was what I would consider large for a cabin bathroom.

Viking does need to do something about the pillows on the beds. They are woefully too soft, even if you use 2 of them. Sandra, our stewardess gave us a “decorative” pillow that she put a pillowcase on as a supplement, but it wasn’t really very comfortable.

Upon our arrival we had a very nice surprise of a bottle of sparkling wine with a note that said “From your Viking friends on Cruise Critic”. Let me say “Thank you Viking.”

The Food


On the whole the food was good, not 5*, but adequate in my opinion. The breakfast buffets were very good, more than enough to choose from, and everyone seemed to enjoy the omelet station. I really liked the Viking muesli and enjoyed having smoked salmon, and cream cheese on a bagel every morning. The breads and pastries were very good.

We did miss a couple of lunches, choosing to stay in port and eat rather than go back to the ship. A couple of lunches were very good, in particular the Austrian themed lunch we had sailing through the Wachau Valley had some wonderful sausage, bratwurst etc.

The dinners at the beginning of the cruise were just OK, but they seemed to get better as we progressed through the week. There was always a variety (limited) to choose from. The rack of lamb and filet mignon stood out as very good meals.

My wife tells everyone I am a wine connoisseur, well maybe she’s right. I thought we would be served several different wines during the course of the cruise, but had the same red and white wines for all seven nights. The Morwald red wine was a blend of a couple of Austrian grapes that I was not familiar with, and I really did not care for. While I am mostly a red wine lover I switched to the white after a couple of nights which was a bit more palatable. Just about everyone seemed to share the same opinion about the red – it was barely passable.

My one actual disappointment was that we were not served a Thanksgiving turkey meal as promised on the Viking website. Their website says “Cruises sailing from November 1 through November 28 will include a traditional Thanksgiving feast served on board. This celebration of fine food features succulent turkey with caramelized vegetables grown in Germany’s market gardens; clementines poached in red wine from vineyards in Austria’s Wachau Valley; pumpkin pie made with pumpkins grown in northern France; and more!”

When I asked the chef about this he seemed surprised and said that they only serve that meal on cruises that sail during Thanksgiving week.

The Ports, Tours & Guides


In general the ports on the “Romantic Danube” itinerary were good.

Nuremburg is somewhat of an industrial town, not really a beautiful city, but has a very interesting medieval castle where we got out of the bus and had an extensive guided tour. We only did a drive by of the courthouse where the famous trials took place. I thought the N*** Parade grounds were very interesting from a historical point of view. My wife who is originally from Israel said she felt a little uncomfortable being there. I was looking at it strictly from a historical perspective and actually wished it had been a little better preserved.

Regensburg and Passau were beautiful small German towns and the time spent in each was just about right. The Abbey in Melk was outstanding. It is huge, and has the most outrageous Baroque church I have ever seen (not that I’ve seen that many though). For me it was one of the highlights of the trip.

The one day in Vienna is simply not enough. You could easily spend four or five days there without a problem, and as mentioned before, three days (with the extension) spent in Budapest was not enough.

All of the Viking tours were very good and the guides were extremely knowledgeable and pros at what they do. Sometimes I felt they imparted too much information, but I guess they are paid to impart and maybe it was too much for my small brain to absorb at times. Tours left precisely when they were scheduled, and returned pretty much when they were supposed to. This part of the cruise ran like clockwork.

Would we do it again?

River cruising is not an inexpensive way to travel and I believe for a “mid-price” line Viking gives you a good product for the money – although I have no other river cruising experience to compare this to.

Both my wife and I felt there was a little too much regimentation. For our first European vacation we had taken a bus tour several years ago with Insight Tours called “Easy Pace Italy”. We spent 3 nights in four different locations. They took you to your 4* hotel destination, gave you a half day tour (more or less), one dinner with the group, and the rest of the time was your own. So this was the comparison for our only other European experience. We had a lot more time to do things that we wanted to do and at our own pace.

But the format of river cruising, or even ocean cruising for that matter is such that this is not always possible.

Would we do another river cruise? I will need the luxury of time to ponder this question. For now I am enjoying the 140 pictures I got back from Walgreens, and can’t wait to have my friends come over so I can share the pictures and tall tales of faraway places with them.
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  #2  
Old November 14th, 2013, 07:13 PM
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Very nice review. Thank you!
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Old November 14th, 2013, 08:21 PM
DeeDC DeeDC is offline
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Cary Cruiser,
I have waited for you to sail and see what you thought. I am hope that we will be as happy next fall when 5 couples embark on the Budapest to Amsterdam cruise. Do you have any great tips for our free days in Budapest...we will have 2 full days before boarding the ship. Most interested in what Viking does for their tour so we try and focus on something else.

thanks again for your review and all of your thoughtful additions on this forum.
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Old November 14th, 2013, 08:47 PM
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Gary Cruiser ~ thanks SO much for your review - it was great that you went into SO much depth!!!

I'm feeling much better reading that the French Balcony was OK and not too, too small! We also have a FB on the Rinda in about 3 weeks and have been hoping that it won't be a disaster in size!

I can't wait to see the Longship - I'll be keeping your comments in mind!!!!

Thanks again!! (Now if only our documents would come in the mail........)
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Old November 15th, 2013, 07:52 AM
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Cary Cruiser Cary Cruiser is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeeDC View Post
Cary Cruiser,
I have waited for you to sail and see what you thought. I am hope that we will be as happy next fall when 5 couples embark on the Budapest to Amsterdam cruise. Do you have any great tips for our free days in Budapest...we will have 2 full days before boarding the ship. Most interested in what Viking does for their tour so we try and focus on something else.

thanks again for your review and all of your thoughtful additions on this forum.
The Viking Budapest tour is mostly a drive around bus tour. We drove down Andrassy St., past the Opera House, through City Park and got out of the bus at Hero's Square. This area is away from the main City Center.

Back on the bus, drove by the great Synagogue and then across the river to Fisherman's Bastion/Mathias Church where we got a very good walking tour of the Church and some free time before getting back on the bus and returning to the ship, going by the Parliament.

What you do with your free time may depend on which hotel you stay in. We were at the Hilton on the Buda side. From what I understand, next year Viking will be using the Le Méridien on the Pest side.

After the Viking tour on the Pest side, we walked down Vaci Utca, the main shopping street, to the Central Market (not to be missed) where we bought paprika, palinka, and canned goose liver to take home.

While at the hotel on the Buda side we went to the Hungarian National Gallery (if you are an art lover it is great), the Budapest History Museum (don't bother), walked around shopping and had a couple of good meals.

There is a lot to do in Budapest and as I mentioned, in the 3 days we were there we barely scratched the surface.

Did you book your extension through Viking?
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Old November 15th, 2013, 08:13 AM
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We did not book the pre/post extension with Viking. We wanted 3 days in Budapest and ended up booking our own airfare. I think we will stay in a hotel on the river....it seems there are many good affordable choices. There are 5 couples who will be cruising together but arriving in Budapest different days.

We are hoping to hire one of the private guides that have been recommended on the forum. A city tour and then a day in the country.

Did you talk to anyone to actually used one of the "BATHS"? Trying to decide if the experience is worth the investment of TIME.
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Old November 15th, 2013, 12:36 PM
SeaTheWorldBySea SeaTheWorldBySea is offline
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Thank you for your review and for all your thoughts pre cruise. I have enjoyed your posts as we plan and anticipate our Viking cruise next year.
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On The Books:
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Old November 15th, 2013, 12:49 PM
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Default Baths

Hey,

DeeDC,

I'm just back (last week) from the Scenic Jewel and can now say I've been to both of the main baths in Budapest (Gellert & Szechenyi) it was an experience and definitely worth it. I went to Gellert 4 years ago and just remember it being all indoor. At Szechenyi, they have this massive 3 part pool outside that's incredible to be in while it's 40 somthing degrees and raining. People watching is an experience and you do have to get used to the sulfur smell while using the indoor pools (they vary in temperature).

Well worth the time.
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Old November 15th, 2013, 12:57 PM
DeeDC DeeDC is offline
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2sea
If you only had time for one which bath would you choose? Were they hard to figure out? I have read some accounts that they are confusing.
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Old November 15th, 2013, 09:41 PM
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Dear Cary Cruiser,

We must admit that we’ve been patiently waiting to hear how your trip went…

First things first, welcome home from your cruise! Next, we’d like to compliment you on a comprehensive and thoughtful review. We’re sure it will continue to be very helpful for future Viking guests and future river cruisers in general. In truth, it was helpful for us, too. And that brings us to what we’d finally like to say here: thank you for the candid feedback. It was wonderful to read your praise of the Viking Idun crew, your thoughts on the ports and excursions, your stateroom, and more. For the portions of your experience that did not meet expectations or caused some disappointment, please accept our apologies.

You’ve likely been engaged enough in the river cruise discussions here on Cruise Critic to know that we always like to discuss guest feedback, such as yours, in more detail for a better understanding of each situation. We’ve asked our Customer Relations team to contact you next week, or you can also contact us directly at TellUs@vikingcruises.com. We hope to be able to connect with you soon.

Thank you for joining us on the Danube. We sincerely hope that after some pondering and enjoying photos with friends, you will choose to sail with Viking Cruises again.

Kindest regards,
Viking Cruises

P.S. We’re happy to hear that the sparkling wine found its way to you and hope that you and your wife (aka “The Strudel Lady”) had a chance to enjoy it during your trip!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Cary Cruiser View Post
We sailed on the Viking Idun November 2 – 9th. This was our first river cruise and we were naturally very excited about the trip. Visiting Prague, Vienna and Budapest have long been on my bucket list, and traveling on a Viking Longship seemed to be a great way to see these iconic European cities and celebrate our 35th Wedding Anniversary...
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Old November 16th, 2013, 11:57 AM
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Dear Viking,

Thank you very much for your post. I would be very happy to discuss our trip with Customer Relations and give them as much insight as I can.

Perhaps I should have added to my final paragraph that all in all, the trip was excellent and really quite memorable. No apologies of any sort are necessary, but I do feel you owe me a turkey dinner.

And now...here is The Strudel Lady in action.

Copy (2) of 391.jpg

Also The Strudel Lady and The Captain seem to have the same tailor.

Copy of 204.jpg
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Old November 16th, 2013, 12:17 PM
SeaTheWorldBySea SeaTheWorldBySea is offline
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Cary - love the pictures and your attitude. If you ever pass by Houston, we'll treat you to a turkey dinner.
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On The Books:
15 day Viking Alsvin Grand European Tour 9/27/14
28 Day Canary Islands & TA Emerald Princess 10/14/14
10 day Viking Beyla Elegant Elbe 8/22/15
23 day Berlin to NY Regal Princess 9/3/15

Cruise Memories:
Alaska x 9, South America & Antarctica, Cape Horn & Strait of Magellan, Andes & South America, Hawaii, Holy Land, Panama Canal, Grand Med, Med & Greek Isles, European Explorer, Canada/NE x 3, Australia/NZ x 2, Baltics, British Isles & Transatlantic, British Isles, Fire & Ice TA, Norwegian Fjords, Beijing-Bangkok, Bangkok-Sydney, Sydney to Beijing, Pacific Coast x 2, E Caribbean x 3, W Caribbean x 12, S Caribbean x 1, Crimean/Aegean, Amazon x 2 (B2B) - Princess x 34 (407 days), Royal Caribbean x 10, NCL x 4, Carnival x 3, Celebrity x 1, Disney x 1
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Old November 16th, 2013, 02:09 PM
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Default thank you!

thanks from a fellow Floridian for your thoughts...my wife and i will be on our first river cruise with Viking next March on a similar route....your insights have been very helpful....
we are taking my wife's sister, who recently lost her husband, and we want to make sure everything is as perfect as we can make it for her. you have helped us in that regard.
2 final thoughts...i greatly respect you up beat attitude and i really am impressed that viking cruise line actually responds on these boards..

i can offer you a turkey sandwich on a Kaiser roll if you pass through Sarasota!
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Old November 17th, 2013, 05:35 AM
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CaryCruiser: We are doing Viking Cruise in a few weeks and took the pre-cruise extension in Budapest. Questions:
Did you do hop-on-hop off bus?
Any private tours, if yes, who did you use?
Did you convert money at the Atm?
aNY SUGGESTions about restaurants and MUST see sights?
ANy tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Iris
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Old November 17th, 2013, 07:42 AM
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Cary Cruiser Cary Cruiser is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by irismike View Post
CaryCruiser: We are doing Viking Cruise in a few weeks and took the pre-cruise extension in Budapest. Questions:
Did you do hop-on-hop off bus?
Any private tours, if yes, who did you use?
Did you convert money at the Atm?
aNY SUGGESTions about restaurants and MUST see sights?
ANy tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Iris
We did not do the hop-on-hop-off or a private tour.

I did withdraw money from ATM's on 2 occasions, as the 20,000 HUF I brought with me was not enough. Most stores and restaurants take credit cards, but you CAN get discounts in many stores by paying with forints.

During our stay at the Hilton we ate at 2 restaurants - Alabardos and 21 Hungarian Kitchen. Both very close to the hotel.

http://www.alabardos.hu/information
http://www.21restaurant.hu/eng/index.php

My wife did not care that much for Alabardos (I did), we both really liked 21. Also right across from the hotel is the Speiz and across from 21 is Pierrot Café.

http://www.varaspeiz.hu/?lang=EN
http://www.pierrot.hu/en/cuisine_and_story/

We did not eat at either one, but others did and said they were both good. Of course these recommendations are only good if you are staying in the Castle District. If you are over in Pest I can't tell you anything because we did not eat there.

There is so much to see in Budapest, I don't know where to start, but to some extent it depends where you are staying. When I look back on the 3 days we were there all I can think about is all of the stuff that we did not get to see. Of course you will see Mathias Church/Fisherman's Bastion and the Chain Bridge.

Try to get tour tickets for the Hungarian Parliament (which we did not)
Walk down Vaci Utca and see the Central Market (we did)
Go inside the Great Synagogue (which we did not)
See the Hungarian National Gallery (we did)
Go visit one of the baths (which we did not)
The list goes on and on.

Spend a few minutes on the website below. It will give you a good overview of what to see in Budapest.

http://www.aviewoncities.com/budapest.htm

You WILL have a great time.
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Last edited by Cary Cruiser; November 17th, 2013 at 08:01 AM.
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Old November 17th, 2013, 08:43 AM
DeeDC DeeDC is offline
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Cary,
In hindsight (20/20) would you stay at the Hilton again or stay on the Pest side at the Marriott on the water or more into the city at the le Meridean?

We did not do a Viking pre-excursion so have to choose our own hotel. Will also be checking priceline or Travelocity and our TA for best prices.
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Old November 17th, 2013, 11:40 AM
irismike irismike is offline
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Thank you so much for your help.
Are there ATM machines near the Budapest Hilton?
You just did touring on your own? We were planning to use Gabriella or Anni Fischer, both private tours but they are quite expensive. We are leaving 12-12 so I better make choices pretty soon.
Can you walk to many sights from the hotel?

Thanks for your quick response and help. Iris
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Old November 17th, 2013, 04:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeeDC View Post
Cary,
In hindsight (20/20) would you stay at the Hilton again or stay on the Pest side at the Marriott on the water or more into the city at the le Meridean?

We did not do a Viking pre-excursion so have to choose our own hotel. Will also be checking priceline or Travelocity and our TA for best prices.
The Buda side is very charming and there is certainly enough to do there to spend a couple of days. The Pest side is a more commercial zone, but there is more to see and do on that side. Of course just because you stay on one side does not mean you cannot go over to the other side, depending on how adventurous you want to be.

The Sofitel and the Intercontinental are literally just across the street from the Viking docks. The Le Meridien is just a few blocks inland from there, and the Marriot is just a few blocks down the river, so all are in the same general area. Take a look at Google maps to see. That is where I got a lot of very useful info.

You can't go wrong any which way, but if you think about the places you wish to visit that may help dictate where to stay.

http://www.aviewoncities.com/budapest.htm

We really loved walking around the Buda Castle, Fisherman's Bastion and the Mathias Church. You will see these places with the included Viking tour. We enjoyed the extra time there as they were literally next door to the Hilton. Just up the street from the Hilton is the St. George. If I were to go back to Budapest I think I would like to stay at this place. Check it out.

http://www.stgeorgehotelbudapest.com/hotel

We walked in there during our stay and thought it was really something.
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Old November 17th, 2013, 04:14 PM
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Cary Cruiser Cary Cruiser is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by irismike View Post
Thank you so much for your help.
Are there ATM machines near the Budapest Hilton?
You just did touring on your own? We were planning to use Gabriella or Anni Fischer, both private tours but they are quite expensive. We are leaving 12-12 so I better make choices pretty soon.
Can you walk to many sights from the hotel?

Thanks for your quick response and help. Iris
There is an ATM just off the lobby in the Hilton and one on the street level in the back by Fisherman's Bastion.

We did not use a guide. I did my own research and planned what I wanted to see. Obviously you can get quite a lot out of using a guide though.

We confined our 2 day Hilton stay to the Buda side Castle District. The entire area is very walkable. If you want to take the Funicular down the hill and walk across the Chain Bridge to the Pest side that is a bit of a hike.
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Old November 18th, 2013, 04:56 PM
jebgg jebgg is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2013
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Default Prague Tour

Cary-
Did you feel that Viking's Prague tour was comprehensive or were there some things left out that you would have liked to have seen?

Jeb
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