Agent Review: Enchanting Danube River Cruise
Last month, my husband and I boarded Uniworld’s River Beatrice in Budapest, ready to cruise the Danube. Although I’ve sailed on many cruise ships, I had never experienced a river cruise. After this sailing, I’m an enthusiast!
Be sure to spend a night or two prior to your cruise in Budapest. Besides getting acclimated to a new time zone, this enables you to visit many worthwhile sites such as Heroes’ Square, and The Great Synagogue.
There are so many pluses: no river motion, only having to unpack once, and quick access to the center of most towns, fewer people onboard (about 150), included shore excursions, AudioVox system for passengers so you can clearly hear your guide even if you aren’t next to them, and wine included with meals. On the River Beatrice there was even an elevator.
One thing I enjoy is meeting new people and this type of cruising offers that opportunity. On pur ship, open dining allows passengers to sit with whomever they choose each day at mealtime. On this cruise, passengers were from Australia, South Africa, the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. All were experienced travelers and had researched river cruising before choosing Uniworld. For many, it was their first river cruise. Everyone was more than satisfied at the end of our journey.
River cruises are active vacations. Passengers were up early to partake of the included shore excursions, which left about 8:30 AM. Most were half-day tours and the rest of the time was ours to explore. In order to see most towns, there is a lot of walking, much of it over cobblestone and hilly streets. These ports would not be suitable for wheelchair passengers. In addition, sometimes riverboats are parked next to each other, which requires walking through another ship to reach the shore.
The River Beatrice is brand new and she sparkles! There’s original art (Matisse, Chagall and Picasso) and the staterooms are comfortable, with more-than-adequate storage, hairdryers and personal safes. The staff, especially our cruise manager, Hildegarde, was always available with suggestions for optional tours or places to shop. All our shore excursions went smoothly and Hildegarde made them seem effortless, although obviously a lot of thought and planning went into each one.
One of our most enjoyable ports was Durnstein at the foot of the Alps in the Austrian wine country. Located in the scenic WachauValley, and looking like a town Disney would build, charming homes dot the town. Several people on our ship chose to take one of the many bicycles provided (with helmets) for a ten-mile ride through the vineyards around the beautiful countryside. Others strolled through the town, sampling some of the many apricot-laden pastries and wines that are a specialty.
Another highlight was visiting Vienna and having coffee and Sachertorte at Café Demel (an old-world café dating back about 225 years). Visiting the home of Mozart, an afternoon visit to Schonbrunn Palaceand an evening Mozart/Strauss concert rounded out our visit.
Included in the port of Linz, we toured Salzburg for a full day. We walked, saw the beautiful Mirabellgarten (featured in the Sound of Music), enjoyed the bustling Old Market and had plenty of time to explore on our own.
The Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers come together in Passau. Our guide walked us to the ornate, baroque St. Stephan’s Cathedral (where we enjoyed an organ concert played on the world’s largest church organ).
From Passau, we chose to extend our vacation and go to Prague. One of the few cities in Europe which looks much as it did before the War, there is much history to absorb in Prague. A must-see is the Old Jewish Quarter. The welcoming people and delicious food make Prague a highlight.
We left our “Enchanting Danube” river cruise with wonderful memories of a river that has reflected Europe’s history and destiny. We’re looking forward to joining Uniworld again for further exploration and a cruise down another wonderful European river!
by Pearl Cohn