Viking River Cruises, Vienna

As a young man growing up, I learned to love music at an early age. My father was a journalist and reviewed musical acts that came to our small town of Arlington Texas. My first concert was at the age of eleven, when we saw Louis Armstrong. My father favored Jazz and when he was sent an autographed photo of Lionel Hampton and me (I got the opportunity when I met him at The Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center), my father was in heaven.


Home of the Vienna Boys Choir, This plaque and Ribbons Designates a National Historical Marker

Home of the Vienna Boys Choir, This plaque and Ribbons Designates a National Historical Marker in Austria. It was located inside the Hofburg Palace.


In my early teens I heard classical music emanate from my father’s record player and I was hooked immediately. I listened to Bach, Brahms, Vivaldi, Wagner, Chopin, Strauss, Beethoven and Mozart from an early age. Through the years I learned how much classical music was composed or finalized in Vienna, Austria and I vowed, if ever given the chance, I would visit Vienna. When I noticed that the Danube Waltz Cruise from Viking River Cruises passed through Vienna, there was no doubt which cruise we would take.


Vienna Residence Orchestra, Viennese Palace

Vienna Residence Orchestra,  Palais Auersperg, Viennese Palace


While in Budapest, we mentioned we were interested in attending the Classical concert in the Viennese Palace the evening we arrived in Vienna. Thank goodness, as the available tickets were limited and some of our new “Viking” friends warned us not to wait and to purchase our tickets quickly . I would advise you purchase your tickets as soon as you are settled in for your cruise. Otherwise you take the chance of not witnessing an enchanting and memorable evening performance. It was an “Optional Excursion”, but well worth the nominal cost.


Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station, former station of the Viennese Stadtbahn, Designed by Otto Wagner

Karlsplatz Station, formerly of the Viennese Stadtbahn, Designed by Otto Wagner


We arrived in the port of Vienna around 6:00 AM. Given we had a full day ahead of us, we ate breakfast early and prepared for our Shore Excursion: “Vienna City Tour”. We started by touring the Ringstrasse by bus. This is a large circular boulevard, which replaced the city walls built in the 13th century around the city for protection. Sometime in 1857 a decision was made to convert the wall into a boulevard intended to showcase the the grandeur and glory of the Habsburg Empire. The idea originated with Napolean III in Paris. As a consequence, all the nobility and plutocracy hurried and built garish and ornate structures along the boulevard, each trying to outdo the other. This resulted in a plethora of outstanding and opulent properties that remain gorgeous to this day.


Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna, Museum of Natural History

Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna, Museum of Natural History


Austrian Parliament Building

Austrian Parliament Building


I personally love architecture and the examples scattered along the Ringstrasse throughout the city, at times took my breath away. Some of the essence of this period’s architecture can be seen in the Vienna State Opera, Academy of Fine Arts, Palace of Justice and the Austrian Parliament Building. We concluded the bus tour and were dropped at the Habsburg Palace, a huge complex used primarily as the residence and office of the President of Austria. It is one of the most gorgeous complexes I have ever seen. It also houses the world famous beautiful Lipazzan horses. If you are fortunate, you might visit during a training session. They were resting during our visit.


Heldenplatz in front of the Hofburg Palace, most notably Adolf Hitler's ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany on 15 March 1938.

Heldenplatz in front of the Hofburg Palace, most notably remembered for Adolf Hitler’s ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss, to Nazi Germany on 15 March 1938. It was held on these steps.


As we began the walking tour we entered the massive, historical and decorative complex of the Hofburg Palace. I couldn’t take enough photos fast enough. One could spend an entire day enjoying the art, the various buildings and courtyards. The construction began in the thirteenth century  and the palace has housed some of the most powerful people in European and Austrian history.


A gate from the 19th wing of the Hofburg Palace, to the complex center.

A gate from the 19th wing of the Hofburg Palace, to the complex center.


The complex was started in the 13th century when the Swiss Wing was constructed. Through the centuries each potentate of the Austrian-Hungarian empire attempted to outdo the prior monarch with larger and more ornate buildings and trim. Included are statues dedicated to themselves in many cases and again each new statue reflected a larger persona. In the 19th and 20th centuries the Festsaal – Festival Hall Wing, St. Michael’s Wing, Neue Burg Wing, Corps de Logis and the Palm House or Butterfly House were added, making it the second largest former palace complex behind only the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest Romania and slightly larger than the Louvre Palace in Paris.


A Vienna taxi for hire.

A Vienna taxi for hire.


As we exited the Hofburg Palace and continued our walking tour we strolled down a street with shops like Gucci, Cartier, Versace, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc. I thought we were back on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Thank goodness there wasn’t time to shop! We continued through the Historic Center of Vienna and were given time to grab a cup of Viennese coffee and a strudel. We chose a location near to us and turned out to be a wonderful break. Aida’s is a chain in Vienna and I personally highly recommend you give it a try, if you visit Vienna.


Aida is a coffee house chain in Vienna with wonderful Viennese coffees and pastries. Try the Strudel, we did!

Aida is a coffee house chain in Vienna with wonderful Viennese coffees and pastries. Try the Strudel, we did!


After the quick coffee, we had time to either explore St. Stephens Cathedral or take a quick walk through the small Christmas Market next to the Cathedral. We obviously opted for the Christmas Markets, but I did catch a glimpse of the Cathedral and took a photo for posterity. The roof tiles are gorgeous and the exterior is amazing. On my next visit to Vienna I will definitely enter and photograph the Cathedral. I love design and architecture of European Cathedrals. One of my favorite objects to photograph.


St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna


The last portion of the tour was basically to let us know where the Christmas Markets were. We spent a few minutes scanning the booths and registering our coordinates in the city. After the morning tour we returned to the ship for lunch. The afternoon gave us options to come back to the Christmas Markets, tour the Farmers’ Market with Chef de Cuisine Martin, or participate in an Optional Excursion: Schonbrunn Palace. Guess which one we chose? I would venture to say that most of you would say the Farmers’ Market or the Schonbrunn Palace. You would be incorrect. There were more and different wooden laser spoons waiting and we needed to add to Kim’s collection, so we came back to the Christmas Market. After all Vienna is one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe and had more booths than we could see.




Our new friends from the Boston area, Gail and Richard Douglas opted for the Schonbrunn Palace and once again Gail came through with a wonderful photograph for my blog. Thank you kindly young lady for your continual contributions.


Schonbrunn Palace, Photographed by Gail Douglas

Schonbrunn Palace, Photographed by Gail Douglas


Additionally we had the Optional Excursion: Classical Concert that night and it gave us more flexibility. Interpretation: we could get back to the ship, eat our early seating dinner and have sufficient time to dress for the concert and be mesmerized by one of the world’s best chamber orchestras, Wiener Residenzorchester. I was super excited to actually hear Mozart and Strauss in a venue, in Vienna with all the history associated with this city. The sculptures in the Palais Auersperg were extraordinary, as witnessed below.  Highlights of the concert for me were the Ouverture “Le Nozze di Figaro” (Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” by W.A. Mozart and The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss.


A Sculpture in the Palais Auersperg

A Sculpture in the Palais Auersperg


We left the concert after a long day fully energized by the Concertos and Arias of Mozart and Strauss. What I didn’t realize ahead of time was that we would have brief ballet and opera experiences at the concert. If you remember the photo at the beginning of the stage, you wouldn’t really think any ballet act could perform. Not only did were we entertained with excellent ballet, but a Pas de deux occurred with leaps, etc. I feared for the dancers safety at times, but they performed with nary an incident. We went back to the ship and turned in headed to our next ports in Austria, satisfied that we had tasted Vienna and would have exquisite memories of this grand city, until we returned again.






***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Where Did American Airlines Go?

This is a “customer complaint” I wrote to American Airlines on September 16th after I got back from my most recent visit to Ecuador. I was assigned a complaint number via Twitter, the only arm of their customer service department that apparently cares to attempt to resolve their issues.

16 Sep

We’ve received your email and have forwarded it to Customer Relations. Your confirmation number is 1-1013447298.




For over 40 years (yes I am that old and still kicking) I have been flying American Airlines. I grew up in Arlington Texas and as there has always been access to this Airline in the DFW metro area. The headquarters has been located there since 1979 . Until 1973 when the airline transferred to Dallas/Ft Worth International Airport, my flights primarily went out of Love Field in Dallas. It was an ordeal to use this airport and no one was more thankful than me when, DFW opened in early 1973.


As a buyer with Six Flags amusement parks I had the great fortune of traveling to SE Asia for two months each year and to all the major trade shows in the US annually. I used the airlines quite a lot. In fact I am approaching the million mile level with your airline and have always been treated great. I have a myriad of friends that have worked as Stewardesses and at the Ticket Desk for American Airlines over the years and was always proud that they headquartered in my backyard.


Recently I have noticed a complete reversal in service, attitude and courtesy among the majority of the employees. I am not sure if its the merger with US Airways or what. My most recent flight from Guayaquil to Miami, was an example of this. Its bad enough you have to get up at 2:30 AM to get to the airport, buy having transpire what happened to me was beyond belief on this flight.


Breakfast for a $949 ticket!

Breakfast for a $949 ticket!


We were served this amazing breakfast. After all I paid $949 for this ticket and it proudly announced breakfast would be served on the flight itinerary. If you count there are 3 bites of pineapple, 5 bites of watermelon,one grape, a sandwich and either jam or butter to apply to your bread. I was awestruck by the quality. After downing the fruit in about two bites, I opened the sandwich and found this.


Breakfast Sandwich for a $949 Ticket

Breakfast Sandwich for a $949 Ticket


There was one measly slice of ham that had to weigh .25 ounce and a slice of cheese that had to weigh .30 ounce I am guessing. I had to laugh to keep from exploding. After consuming this wonderful nutritious meal I was overcome with the Grand Amoeba, more commonly known as Montezuma’s Revenge. I looked to the rear of the coach and there had to be 12 or more people in line. I got up (I was in 3 or 4 rows back from first class) and went to the first class area to use the restroom. A nice young man (Steward) named Art stepped up and told me it would be two seconds before it was free, as the crew was using it.


I asked him if he was sure it was going to be two seconds and he replied well maybe three seconds. I laughed and returned to my seat squirming. When it was apparent the lavatory was free, I got up to go to the first class again and lo and behold a stewardess with short silver hair started walking to me, pointing her finger in my face and telling me I had no right to use this facility and would have to return to the rear lavatory, which now had 15 or more people in it. I was extremely upset, as this same lady had allowed no less than 10 to 12 “coach” passengers to use the first class facilities prior to me and carried on a conversation with some of them, as they waited.


As I returned to get in the massive coach line, a wonderful stewardess that had seen the entire episode apologized to me and tried valiantly to calm me down. I believe her name was Kathy. Tall lady with 29 years experience she told me, blond hair and a fantastic disposition. She helped keep me out of trouble! It helped somewhat.


My issue is that I was the only individual that this lady would not allow to use the facilities and why she chose me to discriminate against is beyond me. I am not sure if it was my age, my beard, my Hawaiian shirt or my Panama Hat, but she obviously felt compelled to reject me and only me. I was embarrassed beyond belief and cannot tell you how much I wanted to tell this lady off. I knew if I did that I would more than likely wind up in jail in Miami and chose to write you, the management about this incident.


I intentionally watched her actions, after disciplining me in front of the entire coach passenger population and she continued to allow other coach passengers to use the first class restroom. I was furious. She again stopped before the curtain and carried on a conversation with a coach passenger, then allowing him to use the first class facilities.  I am mortified that I was singled out, especially since I was very sick to my stomach and barely got to the coach restroom without having an accident in my pants!”




As of today October 9, 2013 I have received no response, no apology or no solution to my discrimination. I am perplexed and very disenchanted that American Airlines has chosen to completely ignore this situation and has made no contact with me to attempt a resolution. I am asking my travel and food bloggers friends to use social media and blast this over all your platforms, until they decide to address this issue. I appreciate any and all help. Please use the hashtag:





Thank you kindly in advance for your help and support!!!


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