Please note that our family has lived overseas on three different continents, and we traveled a great deal in each area, usually on our own with children. We decided on this small cruise for several reasons: friends joined us, the area interested us, and the definite ease of travel. For the record: I will never, ever, ever take a cruise on a larger ship. Massive amounts of people make my skin crawl.
We are of a certain age (me especially) and watching the world go by at a leisurely pace with everything arranged suited us immensely. The staff, crew, and guides spoiled us; this can be disconcerting at times because it is not how we live. Granted, they were not helicopter-intrusive, but they were always present.
The food on board was always very tasty and always featured local foods and very fresh ingredients. There were American/English staples for the breakfast and lunch buffets; then they also offered a variety of native items. Dinners were a la carte with three choices: meat, fish, vegetarian. There were other options--but, never taken. Our chef was a youthful Portuguese gentleman who took pride in our table fare and every plate was picture-perfect. Because we were traveling along the Danube, many local wines were poured. They were generally not to my taste and the wait staff was at the ready with alternative choices.
Our outings were, of course, well-planned. Local guides met us and filled our heads with dates and names and histories galore. They all spoke very clearly with charming accents. We were given portable ear pieces so that hearing them was not a challenge. Generally, our crowd was a little more geriatric and they accommodated us nicely. Those with great spirit and good health had the option of bicycling from port to port or taking more vigorous tours. Bless their hearts. I was impaired after our three day stay in Prague and the ship had the common sense to have walking sticks available for those of us with mobility challenges. With my ‘magic stick’, I was able to conjure easier paths, elevators, chairs, kindness, and great respect (always after the threat of a wallop).
Early June and it proved to be tourist season for the whole world. Some sites were over-crowded and almost claustrophobic--Disney World jammed, you know what I mean. I enjoyed it when arrangements were made for early tours, private entrees, and alternative destinations. River cruises have become quite popular; in larger ports there could be up to 20 ships docked in close proximity. At times our luxuriously large window was blocked by another ship docked next to us. Note to cruise executives: if you are charging us for an immense window, please make sure the view is worthwhile.
My husband and I struck out on our own several times with good directions and some helpful hints about the local city. This is what I truly enjoy doing: exploring and observing without a definite timetable. We have been on guided tours, but the venues were more volatile and we had small children with us (Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey). Moving about en masse with about 20 people became a little tedious even though everyone was pleasant and as enthralled as we were.
My mailman asked me what my most favorite thing about our trip was. For me, it was talking to those citizens who had lived behind the Iron Curtain and were now venturing into capitalism and their surge into freedom; feeling the history of their countries through stories of change and fear and loss and resurgence--always with pride in their voices.
Being on the ship was peaceful. You could relax in the quiet of your room (it was well-insulated) or find a spot in a common area that gave you a view and few people. If you were so inclined, there were people ready to converse, order drinks with you, or engage in rollicking fun. In truth, I am imagining the rollicking fun part as I was usually very tired and ready for my comfortable bed.
If I take another cruise, I think it will be one with a theme. Not a drinking or history tour, but one of a more eclectic subject: Northern lights and the fjords of Norway may be calling me as I dine with astronomers. My guess is, Scrabble tours would probably just get ugly.
The cabin was an elegant bedroom with a window that filled almost a whole wall. Our housekeeper visited at least three times a day to freshen the bathroom, turn down the bed, adjust the curtains, etc. A queen sized bed was the right size for us; ours could be split apart to make two twins, but you could not distinguish the partition. Bedside light controls were very handy. There was enough closet space for our eight day voyage; bathroom storage was more than sufficient. The unobtrusive TV was within our large bedroom mirror and there were many channels and movies to choose from.
Geocaching and I didn't go up to see the fort, so I got to tour Passau solo with a delightful young man.
Champagne with a Hapsburg princess at her palace. It was a treat to hear about her personal experiences.View All undefined undefined Reviews
My husband thought Salzburg was too touristy and incredibly crowded.
We arrived 30 minutes before opening and were able to look at the beauty of the building without thousands of other people.