Daily Archives: May 1, 2019

It’s Five Countries, Not Four . . .

Scenic Cruising 5/1/19

We left Budapest about 6pm last night heading for Vienna, Austria, a 24 hour trip. So with today our first day at sea (at river?), I decided to spend some time exploring our ship.

The Sun Deck is on the roof and runs the entire 443 foot length of the ship.

Skirnir SunDeck

Besides a covered area, there’s a herb garden,

Skirnir Herb Garden

and a small 4 hole putting green golf course.

Skirnir Golf Course

And thirteen laps around the deck equal a mile, good for working off all the delicious food they serve on board.

At 10am there was a mandatory safety drill. And by mandatory, I mean when they count heads and you’re not there, they come looking for you.

Skirnir Safety Drill

You’re supposed to show up on the Sun Deck wearing the life vest that’s stored under your bed. Each deck has their assigned spot to gather, with a crew member holding up the red ‘lollipop’ with your deck number on it.

Once everyone was accounted for, and we were checked to see if our life vests were on properly, we were done for the trip.

Unless we actually sink. Then we can pretty much just walk to shore, since in many cases there’s only 6 feet of water under the keel.

Later in the morning we got the Wheelhouse tour that we signed up for earlier.

Skirnir Wheelhouse

And it’s like a big video game, complete with a joystick for steering the ship.

Skirnir Wheelhouse Tour 3

And it’s an all-digital ship.

Skirnir Wheelhouse Tour 1

The 3 black and white gauges across the top show the position and power of the bow and stern thrusters. The ship has 2 bow thrusters on either side, and 4 double-propped individually-steerable stern drive systems like this.

Skirnir Stern Thrusters

The bow thrusters look like louvers on a window AC and can be pointed forward, rearward, or anywhere in between. Which means that the ship can just pull up to the dock and then move sideways into a space only a little larger than the ship itself. Like here.

Skirnir Docking Sideways

And one of the neat things is that the captain doesn’t have to worry about controlling all this individually. He just moves the joystick in the direction he wants to go and the computer does the rest.


The 3 larger screens underneath are, from left to right, a GPS mapping program, the radar, and a screen that tracks the identity of other ships on the river.

What’s not apparent at first is the low clearances the ship encounters going under many of the bridges, sometimes less than 1 foot. And this is with the Sun Deck flattened.

Everything on the Sun Deck, and I mean, everything folds down.

Skirnir Flat Sundeck

The railings, the chairs, the canopies, everything. Even the wheelhouse retracts.


Note the hydraulic scissors jack underneath it from this angle.

But it’s a two part retraction system. First the top, windowed part slides down, which means you can no longer stand up inside. Then the whole thing drops down into the opening underneath.

At this point if the captain actually needs to see out visually, he can pop his head out through this skylight opening in the row.

Skirnir Wheelhouse Tour 2

But if something goes wrong with this system, it can be deadly.

Viking Wheelhouse Crash

This took place in 2016 on the Freya, another Viking ship. I don’t know exactly what happened, but the two officers were killed in the collision with the bridge.

We had heard that our ship was completely booked up with the maximum of 190 passengers and 50 crew members, but according to the numbers posted in the wheelhouse, we only have 179 passengers onboard.

Our cruise is listed as touring 4 countries along the way – Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Holland (The Netherlands). But we also travel through Slovakia, but we don’t stop, so I guess it doesn’t count.

In case you missed the memo, Czechoslovakia no longer exists. It broke apart in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union into the Czech Republic and . . . Slovakia.

Who could have seen that coming?

Passing through the capital of Bratislava along the Danube we came across the Bratislava Castle. Well, Doh!

Bratislava Castle

Though parts of this structure date from the 13th century to the 16th, there have been fortified settlements here since 3500 B.C.

And it what we see a lot over here, there’s a new, modern hotel less than a mile up river.

Bratislava Hotel

A little past that, we came across the Devin Castle.

Bratislava Devin Castle 1

Bratislava Devin Castle 2

This castle was first mentioned in literature in 864 A.D. so it’s even older than that, with a lot of its original stonework.

Dinner tonight was as delicious as we’ve come to expect, with Baby Greens Salad,

Baby Greens Salad

Weiner Schnitzel, Jan’s favorite,

Weiner Schnitzel

and the famous Sacher Cake for dessert.

Sacher Cake

On the VPN front, my ExpressVPN is working great, with an unexpected benefit.

If I Google sometime without using it, most of the search results come back in German. However, if I VPN through a server in Dallas, Google thinks I’m in the US and everything’s in English.


We’ll see how long it takes to get this posted. And I’ll try to get another one up ASAP.

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