Taking a river cruise holiday - a tour leader’s perspective
25 February 2020
A river cruise holiday is the perfect way to discover multiple destinations. Our tour leader Rhona O'Connor has detailed her experience and provided insight on leading our Travel Department customers on the Danube Rhapsody River Cruise (Passau - Passau) back in August 2019.
23rd August: Passau
We headed to the Airport at 04:30 to get the flight to Munich at 07:10. The flight was on time and I met our group in the luggage hall and directed everyone out to the local guide at the bus. Off we set to Passau with some commentary as we went along. Lots of interesting sites were pointed out, including one of the BMW factories – who knew the BMW Logo was based on a propeller! We arrived in the lovely town of Passau about 13.30 and were greeted by two local guides. The group split into two, had a light lunch in a traditional restaurant and then set off on the first guided walking tour. Passau is a small town on the river that has lots of small interesting shops selling local products like lace, wooden carvings, antiques and of course local beer. We also visited the magnificent, recently renovated St. Catherine’s Cathedral, a baroque church built 1688.
The two groups met up again at 15:00, got back on the bus and headed over to Landau, which is about 10 mins away, to board the ship. We were met at the ship by the crew who gave us a warm welcome and looked after everyone’s bags. Checking in was very efficient and everyone was happy to relax in their lovely cabins. To start life onboard, we had a safety briefing at 17:30 given by Gunter, who explained the use of lifejackets, fire alarms and general safety guidelines onboard. At 19:00 we had a Welcome Cocktail and introduction to the key personnel on the boat including the Captain, Hotel Manager and Restaurant Manager. A sumptuous five course Welcome Dinner was served at 19:30. All our group was seated together in the Dining Room at tables for 6 or 8 people. Everyone was full of chat even after the long day. Most people, including myself, retired early to be ready for tomorrow’s adventure.
24th August: Emmersdorf
We had sunshine for the Melk Abbey tour. We arrived early, had some free time then toured the Abbey, including its spectacular Library, Church and Gardens. We cruised for the afternoon along the river in the lovely sunshine. The river was quite high as there had been a lot of rain. At one point the crew lowered the canopy on the sundeck and advised us to stay sitting as there was a low bridge coming …. He was not joking!!
That evening on board there was an early dinner and everyone headed into Vienna for the ‘Sound of Vienna’ concert. This was performed in Kursalon Opera House, a historic venue where Johann Strauss actually played the violin. The programme of Music, Dance and Song included works by Mozart, Franz von Suppe and of course Beautiful Blue Danube by Johann Strauss. Margo, our local guide, brought us on a route home that included all the beautiful historic buildings of the city which are luminated at night. A wonderful end to what many guests described as the highlight of their trip.
25th August: Vienna
Today we had an early start - 08:30 departure for a guided walking tour of Vienna City. We started by walking through the Rose Garden where you can buy a Rose Bush for a loved one for a year. Then our walk took us past the exterior of the Hofburg, Spanish Riding School, Sacher Hotel, famous for its Sacher Tart, the Blutgasse district ending at St. Stephen's Cathedral where Sunday Mass was on. During the free time I went to my favourite shop Julius Meinl – they serve the best coffee on the whole trip…. well I think so! We left Vienna at 19:00 and started making our way to Budapest overnight.
26th August: Budapest
We woke to the picturesque scenery of the Danube as we approached Budapest. We came to the outskirts of the city at about 10:30 and most people were sitting up on the sun deck taking it all in. Gunter provided a commentary describing all the stunning buildings as we entered the city. It’s a spectacular way to approach the historic city of Budapest. The boat docked directly beside the Central Market Hall making it very easy to explore on your own. We had free time in the afternoon to explore the city and of course shop. Nearly everyone came back with Paprika, a local product which makes a great gift. That evening we were totally spoilt, at 21:00 after a tasty dinner we had a Hungarian Folklore Show with singing, dancing and stories by a local family. After the show the boat left the dock about 22:00 and we had the Illumination Cruise – again Gunter provided the commentary as we cruised pass all the buildings on the river side which look spectacular when lit; the highlight being the Parliament Buildings. I loved watching the large bats that fly in the darkness lit by the building’s lights. For me this is one of the highlights of the trip, especially when the weather is good and you are up on the top deck watching the spectacular cityscape go by.
27th August: Budapest
This morning we had time at leisure in Budapest to further explore the city. However, there is another option in Budapest – the Spa Baths. Myself and eight ladies went across to the Rudas Baths where we indulged in the historic Turkish baths, sauna and steam rooms. Some had a massage, some just chilled and enjoyed the healing mineral water. It’s great value for approximately €10. We cast off about 13:30 and cruised on towards our next stop; somehow the boat was quiet as the ladies just drifted along totally relaxed! We cruised for the afternoon with a Bavarian-Style lunch. The Chef really put on a show for this special meal which included Suckling Pig, Bratwurst, Pretzel, and a small beer of course. Prost!
28th August: Bratislava
We arrived in Bratislava city in the sunshine, which puts everyone in a good mood! Our city tour started with a drive around the hills which contain lovely homes, spectacular views and lots and lots of embassies. Bratislava punches above its weight in the EU for such a small place. They have a history of engineering and now are manufacturing many car brands including Ford. We walked around the Castle, learnt its history and looked down over the city from the ramparts. The tour ended with a walk through the Old Town Gate, down the cobbled streets following in the footsteps of the Royals marked with Crowns in the cobbles, ending in the square where in battle Napoleon shot cannon balls into the buildings; one of which remains in the wall today. In my free time I love sitting on the main pedestrian tree lined avenue and having a Gelato from one of the many places or even a local beer, which is only €1.50! We departed at 13:30 and cruised for the afternoon. The boat became rather unsettling that evening …. things were just a little peculiar as the ‘Pirates’ took over! The staff all dressed as pirates and the dinner had a Pirates of the Caribbean Theme which was good fun!
29th August: Linz
We spent the morning cruising, arriving in Linz just after lunch. Most people explored Linz independently, including going on the Tourist Train and even did a bit of shopping. Linz is a charming small town and the boat is docked right in the centre, making it very easy to get around. The boat departed for Passau at 20:00 as we were sitting down to a sumptuous Gala Dinner. This is where the very talented chefs pull out all the stops and prepare a seven course dinner that is of amazing standard considering the very small kitchens they have to prepare the food. There was live music in the bar, as there is every evening. A lovely way to end the cruise.
30th August: Passau
Disembarking went very smoothly as it is very well organised. We are given green luggage tags, left our bags outside the cabin and they are brought to the bus by the crew. Everyone had breakfast and then waved goodbye to the Crew and our Amedaus River Cruise. We headed to Munich where we had a walking tour. Some of our people didn’t fancy the walk as it was very hot, so we went to a traditional restaurant close to the Marrianplaza and had an early lunch and a long chat. Rather than walk for 10 minutes in the heat a few people even got a Tuk-tuk back to the bus. We arrived at Munich Airport in plenty of time for our return flight home. One of the things I love about the trips is watching people at the luggage carousel hugging, shaking hands and promising to meet up with the new friends they have made on this voyage!
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