“Viszontlatasra”, is Hungarian for goodbye. That evening we said Viszontlatasra to Hungary and Eastern Europe. It was our last evening in Budapest and we were leaving at 3:30 AM. We had most everything packed and were ready to go.
That evening, the restaurant of choice for our last dinner, was the hotel. We saw several people that we knew from the boat and discovered that they were also leaving early in the morning. The dinner was excellent and I am sorry we didn’t eat there the night before. We went up to our room to try to repack our luggage with the added souvenirs we had purchased. Shawn went to bed, but I stayed up and worked on my blog and last minute packing.
I woke Shawn and we put our luggage in the hall by our door and then went down stairs. They had set up an early breakfast plus coffee and tea. Neither Shawn not I ate very much. We waited for the rest of the passengers and watched and made sure that our luggage was loaded on to the bus. Viking Tour people were on hand to make sure things went smoothly. It started to rain before we boarded the bus which made things a bit messy. We had to wait awhile because they couldn’t find someone and when they did, the person said they weren’t leaving. We finally got under way.
At the Airport
The bus was pretty much filled and with some people I had never seen before. It took about 35 minutes to get to the airport and once we got there, we had to wait out in the rain for our luggage. I had watched them put the luggage on the bus so went with Shawn to get both pieces – one was on our side of the bus and one was on the other side. I was glad we got our luggage quickly because the Viking cruise person didn’t waste any time hurrying through the crowded airport. Shawn and I were right behind her, and I was glad we kept up because it was so extremely crowded that half the group got left behind. We ended up near the ticket counter. It was total chaos behind us when we stepped up to the counter. We didn’t have seats yet as I was told you don’t get your seats in advance but perhaps that is because Viking Tours made our flights. There wasn’t much choice but we did get an aisle for Shawn on one part of the trip.
In The Air And On The Ground LA
Our flight was slow getting off and we spent quite a long time on the runway. Our seats weren’t great, as Shawn was in a middle seat across the aisle from me and I was also in a middle seat. To our dismay, we arrived late into Paris and had only 30 minutes to get to our flight. We had to take a bus to the international terminal. We finally made it to the gate and then discovered the flight would be an hour late. When it was time to board, there didn’t seem to be any orderly procedure except that first class and business went ahead of everyone and after that, it was every man for himself or herself!
We were on Air France and it wasn’t much better than the KLM we took coming out. Shawn had the aisle and I was in the middle and a young man was at the window. It was a very long flight but I did doze off and on. Shawn spent his time watching movies. The food left a lot to be desired but it was all right for eating. The young man was very kind and I found out before we got off that he was from Kazakhstan. We made up any time we had lost in the air and arrived on time in Los Angeles, but it took forever to get to the gate and we still had to wait while we were sitting there. Viking had booked our trip and only allowed us 2 hours to get through customs. Customs was a do-it-yourself machine but there were still long lines to do everything. We had to get to terminal two we thought, but when we got there, they said terminal three. Time was being eaten up and now we had precious little time to get to our flight. Going through security was a nightmare and they didn’t care if our flight was boarding. We got to where we thought we should be but we needed to talk to an attendant who was busy with someone and never looked our way. We decided to go to where our original flight took off.
Hurrah for San Diego!
We arrived and reaffirmed that our flight had left without us. Luckily, we booked another flight 3 hours later to San Diego. I called our Uber driver and he agreed to pick us up when we arrived. We took turns walking around and eating snacks. It was almost time to board. Shawn decided he would sit down by the window and I went to sit in an empty seat near several ladies. I thought it was strange because the board next to the gate never said, San Diego. I asked the ladies where they were going and it wasn’t San Diego. I went to ask the flight desk attendant if we were at the right gate and she said that we weren’t! They had changed gates but had never made an announcement. Thank goodness the gate was around the corner, and they were still waiting for the plane to arrive. The plane arrived and we boarded a few minutes later, and were very thankful to arrive in San Diego within the hour!
Some final thoughts about Our Viking Cruise
For the most part, we enjoyed our Viking cruise and most of the excursions. We thought it was a good way to get a taste of five different countries in a short amount of time. The staff was excellent and helped to make our voyage pleasurable. The food was fantastic and even though I was a pescatarian, there were plenty of choices. The chef was always willing to cook a special entree if you didn’t like what was on the menu. The variety and use of local fruit and vegetables truly made a difference. The onboard activities were very well planned and the lectures given by the program director held everyone’s attention. There was a good variety of excursions and the logistics were very well handled. It was fun to meet and get to know the other passengers and hear about their travels and learn a bit about their lives. I am glad we had the opportunity to experience the Viking River Cruise. Hopefully, we will return one day for a more in depth look at the Eastern European countries.
I could end my blog with these positive thoughts but I feel I must delineate the difficulties that existed for Shawn and myself as photographers. Being a blog writer, also presented several real problems. As I mentioned in some of my blog posts, it was sometimes difficult to keep up with the guides and take photos at the same time. The strict time schedule and narrow excursion parameters really didn’t allow us time to get all the photos we wanted. More than half my photos were taken from a bus window and I was lucky to get any decent photos though glare and movement. One redeeming feature was the opportunity to take wonderful sunset and sunrise photos from a boat. Seeing and photographing the changing lights on the river was fascinating. For myself, another major stumbling block was trying to write from the boat, which at times proved to be impossible. Internet access originated from satellite coverage and was not dependable, especially when we were moving. I guess that was the first time I had tried writing my blog on a boat.
As much as we did have an interesting and enlightening trip, we have to be more aware of our photography and writing goals and the best way to obtain them through travel. Perhaps we also need to be more prepared and plan more carefully the kind of travel which satisfies those goals.
Thanks to all who followed our Viking River Cruise story.