The gates of the lock opened, revealing a beautiful view down the river towards Melk Abbey perched atop a hill. A short time later we were docked at Melk and loading on buses that would take us to the start of our Abbey tour.
Viking has the whole process for quickly getting people offloaded and lined up with their tour guides down to a fine art. In the morning, before the tour start time, you drop by the reception desk to pick up your boarding card and a group assignment card. The guides are usually waiting for you when you leave the ship. The hold up a “lollipop” with your group letter on it so you know which guide is yours. The whole process goes quickly with no confusion. When reboarding the boat you hand in your cards – the boarding passes confirm when everyone is back on board. The amount of lining up is very minimal and for a very short duration.
From the bus parking lot at the Abbey we descended a staircase into a garden and passed through the entrance to the abbey into a courtyard where we waited for the start of our tour. The Abbey was beautiful, highlighted by a very impressive library. It actually started life as a royal palace. In 1089 Leopoldo II of Babenburg donated the palace to the Benedictine Monks who turned it into a fortified Abbey. Today, it remains a working abbey with 14 monks still living there. It also houses a school with about 700 students.
Back onboard for lunch, we were soon cruising down the Wachau Valley. Equal to, if not more beautiful than, the Middle Rhine and is absolutely gorgeous. The Danube meanders around countless twists and turns below tree-covered hillsides. Small towns dot the landscapes near castles perched on rocky cliffs.
In late afternoon we docked at Krems. There was no included shoreside excursion; however, there were shuttle buses available to take you into town. I opted instead to take the stairway to our stateroom to enjoy a nap, which was probably better for my cold than traipsing about town.