Please click on the pictures to enlarge them. They’re much more interesting that way!

Friday April 21 was the day that the cruise officially began. We had been told that we could bring our luggage on board any time, and that our rooms would be ready by 3 p.m. We had two goals for the day, besides boarding the ship: to shop in the Great Market, and visit the Basilica of St. Stephen.

We decided to start our day at the Great Market. It is huge. It reminded us of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, only much better organized and a lot easier to find your way around in. We went upstairs where they had lots of food booths, and got a sweet breakfast. Then Karen hunted around for gifts for her friends.

On the way back to the hotel we got colder and colder. Karen’s hands were especially cold and she had left her gloves at home. She’d been looking for gloves all week but without success, since they are out of season. But walking along the super-touristy street of many shops we found some gloves. A very nice salesperson helped her find the right size so we rewarded her by buying a matching leather purse along with the gloves.

When we got back to the hotel it was time to check out and our friendly concierge called a taxi for us. The taxi took us and our luggage down to the ship. Since we had seen it the night before we knew exactly where to direct our driver.

Going aboard the Viking ship was like entering a whole new world. After getting such a poor reception from most folks in Budapest (with a couple of exceptions) we felt like royalty entering the cruise ship. They were so glad to have us on board, and happily took our luggage. They suggested “a quick lunch upstairs on the terrace.” It was so relaxing – I began to understand why people like cruises.

But we still hadn’t been to St. Stephan’s, so we pried ourselves loose from the Viking womb and walked up to the church. It is an enormous cathedral, extremely beautiful. It has a Byzantine look to it, with many domes, and designs and religious figures covering the walls. Be sure and click on the photos for a close look.

Dinner on board ship was really fun – we reconnected with Joyce, who told us about her visit to Prague, and we met lots of new people. The food and service are definitely first-class on Viking. Our room is tiny, as we expected, but certainly adequate for our needs. It’s going to be a great cruise.