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River Cruise Journal: Bratislava

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I had planned to sleep late this morning but my body woke itself up at 7:30. Why fight it? Unlike yesterday, it was a beautiful, summery day with just a hint of cool breeze, so I opened the drapes and windows as soon as Dan began to stir. There’s nothing on the shore here—just beautiful nature—and there were so many birds on shore that their joyous songs carried into our stateroom.

Today's morning view from our balcony
Today's morning view from our balcony

First-time cruisers

While we were staying at the Marriott we had met a delightful couple who were leaving on their first Viking cruise the day after us. I had promised that they would enjoy themselves, and if not, then I’d be shocked. This morning started off on a great note when I received their email: Wow! Jut boarded the Atla today and I have to say it exceeds all expectations. Let’s keep in touch. –Tomm

Many of the people we’ve met onboard are also on their first cruise. Unlike our friend Tomm and his wife, a lot of them had arrived in Budapest the day we set sail. Here we are on Day 3 and they are still battling fatigue from the flight and time change. Some of them opted out of all yesterday’s tours so they could catch up on their sleep. What a shame. They are missing so much of the cruise they had paid to enjoy.

Tip: If you can, plan to arrive in town a few days early to rest up so you don’t miss out on any of your on board experience.

Safety first

No one could sleep too late this morning; at 10:00 a loudspeaker announcement instructed everyone to meet on the Sun Deck for a mandatory safety drill. Life jackets required. As promised, we found them under the bed, beneath our pillows.

Dan and Linda pose for a selfie during the safety drill

The drill itself took only a few minutes once everyone had assembled.

Passengers wearing life jackets on Viking Bragi sun deck
With a view like this no one minded waiting for everyone to assemble.

Our first lock

This was a morning for the Sun Deck and many people were making acquaintances, chatting and just plain happy to be in the sun and fresh air. The deck filled up when we approached our first lock. Everyone wanted to watch as we passed through. It was a tight fit.

River cruise vessels were designed to fit into locks perfectly.

Having lived in Panama for so long, it was a unique experience to be passing through a lock ourselves and waving to the folks on the viewing platform. We had always been the ones waving from the sidelines as we watched ships pass through the Panama Canal. This time, we got to wave at the spectators!

Shipside view of people watching our ship pass through a lock.

Captain Oliver was on deck and stopped to chat with a few of us. He told us we are going to pass through 68 locks on our voyage. Odds are that the locks will lose their appeal by the time we get to Amsterdam, haha.

Open Wheelhouse

Later on they hosted an “open house” of sorts in the ship’s small Wheelhouse. This is where the Captain can usually be found, steering the ship. The Wheelhouse has a unique feature you won’t find on ocean-going vessels: It can retract all the way down to only a few inches above the Sun Deck. That feature certainly comes in handy whenever we pass under a low bridge!

Dan and I sat on our balcony for a while, watching the bucolic countryside glide by and enjoying the weather. Relaxing like that is rare for us. Actually, we were having such a good time peacefully doing nothing that we completely missed the morning’s presentation at 11:30. I was disappointed to have missed our Program Director’s lecture about Vienna Coffeehouses and its famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

We also missed the Bratislava tour

Around 2 pm we arrived in Bratislava, Slovakia's capital city. Captain Oliver couldn’t have docked Bragi any closer to town if be had tried. There were two shore excursions to choose from:

  • Bratislava City Tour: “a bus tour and a guided walk of Slovakia's charming capital”
  • Bratislava Walking Tour: “a fascinating walk around the historic town.”

We really wanted to take a guided tour of Bratislava but … no. The optional tour was too good to pass up: an opportunity to meet a local family in their home. We would learn what life has been like before and since the Communist regime ended. I'll tell you about that in my next post.

Bratislava, DIY style

Back on the Bragi after our afternoon encounter we didn't waste any time. We picked up a map at the front desk and headed into Bratislava for photos and local cuisine. Who knew when we might have another chance to see Slovakia’s capital? It was a fantastic blessing that Bragi wasn't sailing until 11:00 p.m..

Riverside view of Bratislava

Empty of traffic after working hours, the city near the dock seemed soulless. Colorless. Hardly a soul could be seen on the streets. It felt like we were in a post-WW2/Communist-era Twilight Zone. I don't know, maybe we were. It felt depressing enough that Dan didn't even pull out his camera. That should tell you something.

And suddenly we turned the corner and found all the people. Aha! We had wandered into Bratislava’s old town, with lively streets full of bicyclists, young lovers holding hands, and mothers with children in tow. Cute little market stalls and decorative old buildings vied for our attention. As usual, Dan found plenty of spots to aim his camera.

Market stalls in Bratislava

church in old Bratislava
Church in bratislava old town
church in Bratislava

Bratislava square

Dinner in Bratislava

When the sun descended behind the buildings we found a great place for dinner: It was busy and we heard Slovak being spoken. As we sat under the awning in the twilight Dan and I ordered a couple of local beers and four unique dishes to share. Our server was extremely attentive and gave us excellent service. Who knows, maybe it was because we had fun using those three Slovak words whenever we could!

Bratislava food collage

Bratislava whimsy

On our way back to the ship we went in search of the quirky bronze statues that Bratislava is known for. The life-size sculptures can be found here and there around the city center. Obviously, someone has a great sense of humor.

We couldn't resist goofing around with them ourselves.

Tipping a hat to a Bratislava statue
Taking a Bratislava soldier statue seriously

Linda with Cumil, the lazy Bratislava worker.

Dan goofing around with Cumil, Bratislava's lazy worker statueBack on board

We got back to the ship just in time for the evening entertainment, “A Hungarian-Slovakian Evening.” A troupe of musicians performed for those gathered in the Lounge, playing both classical and well-known songs. Even those who don’t fancy string instruments enjoyed it.

Next stop: Vienna.

Inspired?

You'll find more images in our Bratislava photo gallery.

Statue of man in manhole in Bratislava

Note: As is common in the travel industry, Dan and Linda were provided with a complimentary cruise package for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced coverage, AWSI believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see the Disclosure page.

Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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2 thoughts on “River Cruise Journal: Bratislava

  1. I’ve never done a cruise (either river or ocean) but I’m intrigued by the idea. I love your photo of going through the lock! What a tight fit.

    1. Yes, it was tight, Fairlie, and people enjoyed watching it go through. I did get a laugh later when I heard passengers complain, “are we going through another lock?” I wonder how the captain might have felt.

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