Danube Cruise 2018, Traveled 8-02-18
The first thing I want to say is this cruise and all the Tours were all top notch. My traveling companions were all pleased. The money spent is well worth it because you are escorted, given great tour guides who take the time to give you an “insiders” look and little treats along the way. I did a Rhine Cruise on Uniworld in 2016, but, this was even better. I would recommend flying in one day early and be able to do all the tours because they are that good and we missed the first day due to flight delays. I am writing this review because I could not find anything extensive on it written. It is hot in August in Europe. You will wear sleeveless tops and shorts and capris and remember your good walking shoes. Nights are best with a nice tunic and leggings, no need for any fancy dresses, jackets or blazers even for the men. The only jacket you need is for the plane when they blast you with A/C. I am also handi-capped and had no trouble keeping up on the tours. This was not the case for other cruise lines I had been on.
Every evening, you are given an Itinerary of the next day, along with a card on each town. Maps are available for Orientation. The Ladies in charge of our cruise were Cindy, Daisy, Diane and Hollie
Our cruise began with a late afternoon flight out of Charleston into JFK. Naturally being August, thunderstorms formed up in Boston and our flight was delayed for 3 hours and of course we missed our connecting flight into Prague. Well Delta was able to get us routed onto a 1:30AM Flight to MOSCOW……….. on Auerflot. A beautiful and new Airbus with outstanding service, unfortunately, we did not have our “premier” seats we had already paid for. We landed on the tarmac as the terminal did not have a gate available. 300 people were offloaded onto buses. The clock was ticking as we had only 1 hour and 45 minutes to get our connecting flight to Prague. We got thru Passport Control and connected to the second terminal and caught our flight as it was boarding for Prague.
This put us in Prague at 9pm instead of 12 noon. Our luggage was held back in JFK and put on the next flight out. Note to self, do not schedule overseas flights to take off late afternoon summer due to thunderstorms being present everyday.
Tauck got us to our Hotel which was lovely. We had packed changes of clothes and the hotel gave us a Sundries kit to tide us over.
Prague was lovely. We did miss the Welcoming reception at Lobkowicz Palace at Prague Castle because of our delayed flight, but Tauck gave us 50 Euros a piece to compensate for our missed meal. We missed our first tour and we did the Afternoon tour of the ancient Hradcany (Castle) district on a guided excursion to 1,000-year-old Prague Castle's complex of palaces, courtyards and gardens; the magnificent Gothic Cathedral of St. Vitus; and the grand Baroque libraries of Strahov Monastery, where we received our very own private tour while others could only stand at a barrier and look inside. We elected to “sleep in” instead of exploring Regensburg (which was the only town others did not care for). At 1:30pm, we boarded a bus for a 3 hour ride with scheduled bathroom stops. To Passau to embark. The bus took the back roads which took us thru the Sudetenland and some of the most charming villages and thru the Black Forest. Lots of history here.
Arrived in Passau and got on our boat the M.S. Joy with a welcome reception and dinner aboard. Everything is delightful. Perfect! Once the ship knew we wanted to sit together, they gave us our very own table in the back.
Engelhartszell we cruised up the Danube and were selected to be part of a group of 7
To visit to a local private home (and a taste of local cake, sweets and coffee), It turned out to be a local farm who had been in the same family since 1642. We saw their chickens, dairy cows and then treated to Elderberry water and fresh milk from their cows. They also offered their house made bacon and Strudel. Many people ride their bikes along here as a vacation. We elected to do a tour of the Jochenstein Lock on the Danube, through which ships navigate through the Wachau Valley. We walked the entire length of the lock and this cruise goes thru 14 different locks. We were not allowed inside the lock, but, our guide was wonderful and knowledgeable. Following lunch aboard the riverboat, Tauck offered an optional bicycle ride along the Danube to Aschach before continuing your cruise this afternoon, bound for Linz. They had two takers, but, it poured down rain on them. We had dinner that evening; after the riverboat's arrival in Linz, but, the musical trio Donau3Klang which offered entertainment was not intriguing to me.
Salzburg, Cesky Krumlov or Linz
We wisely chose to tour Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic.
We traveled through beautiful landscapes to Cesky Krumlov, which was narrated by Daisy and saw some of the stunning black Forest and quaint Country Vacation house. Cesky is graced with an incredibly well-preserved medieval heritage and charming ambiance. The town and it’s people are charming and so beautiful. We walked thru the palace Gardens and then toured part of Krumlov Castle climbing the many steps to see firsthand the medieval, Renaissance and Rococo design found inside, along with the stunning views of the town below. At the end of the tour, we were each given a delicious Gingerbread snack!! Lunch was on our own and then it was time to depart for the ship. Excellent tour and Day!
Wachau Valley cruise to Dürnstein
We continued our Blue Danube River cruise through the Wachau Valley, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved medieval landscapes. The cruise narrated the sites along the way, but, several of us said the Castles on the Rhine part of that cruise was far more exciting.
We docked in Dürnstein and took a walking tour along cobblestone streets while some elected for a bicycle ride in the Wachau Valley. We visited the Augustinian Monastery which was breathtaking.
During free time, we discovered this region is known for their Apricots! Apricot jam, Apricot liquer…… some might have taken the 20 minute climb up the steps to the ruins of Kuenringerburg, a hilltop castle above the town where Richard the Lionhearted was held for ransom during the Crusades, from which the views of the river and valley are glorious. But we did not, instead we did the 4:30pm beautiful wine tasting at an authentic Austrian tavern. The tasting lasted an hour and we wish it had been done at 3:30pm. Would have allowed us to get back to the ship at 4:30, have a cocktail and get ready for dinner. Those friends who chose not to go into town ended up sitting at the stern enjoying the beautiful river views.
We started with a bus tour that circled around Vienna and then did the walking tour of the Jewish district of old Vienna. I was astounded to see brass plaques on the walls of houses, naming the jewish occupants who were seized for deportation by Hitler. The Austrian people continue to apologize to those of the Jewish faith for those Atrocities. Tauck had a number of buses running beginning at noon who wanted to go back to the ship. We were escorted down their large mall with shops on either side, but, it was so full of tourists we did not stop. We went so we could get back in time for the private Imperial Evening in the Palais Pallavicini, an opulent, private Viennese palace that played a role in the 1940s film noir classic The Third Man. Welcome cocktails and dinner precede an unforgettable spectacle of beautiful ball gowns and a musical performance celebrating the legacy of Mozart. And it was exactly that, just fabulous! Lasted 3 hours.
Vienna sightseeing & on to Slovakia
Our second day in Vienna, we chose a morning tour to visit the amazing Imperial Apartments at the Hofburg – including the Sisi Museum, dedicated to the popular 19th-century Empress Elisabeth of Austria ("Sisi"), wife of Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph – today Austria’s official presidential residence. I only wish I had made time to visit the Small museum housing the crown Jewels. We were escorted back to where the buses would pick us up. There is an excellent chocolatier named “Bon Bons” right across the street where I could rush in and buy Chocolate for friends back home. Tauck gave us Euro’s to spend in a Café, instead I bought Chocolate. Back to the ship, lunch and then an afternoon cruise to neighboring Slovakia.
I felt no need to dine in any of the cities as the Chef on the ship did an outstanding job preparing foods local to the region.
What a lovely old City and an education of how a city can gleam 20 years after emerging from Communist rule. We all felt this was the most welcoming city because so many menus were in English. We had a walking tour of this cobblestoned, vehicle-free city, and saw 17 centuries of history eloquently chronicled in sites including its 13th-century Old Town Hall, Baroque Habsburg-era palaces, the Opera House, Slovak Philharmonic Hall and St. Martin’s Cathedral. We were then escorted to an outdoor café where we could have local beer, water or cola drinks and a slice of the local pastry. A crescent shaped roll with a nut filling. Mine was not fresh, but, it was a nice gesture. Farewell dinner tonight and then we must leave our ship in the morning.
What Tauck boats can get to Bratislava and Viking cannot?? Better ships belong to Tauck!
Disembark in Budapest & explore Buda (Budapest, Hungary, which is split into the sections of Buda and Pest by the Danube River)
It was pouring rain, but, we were prepared. They tell you to bring rain gear and it lasted about 20 minutes. We bid farewell to the crew, got off and they walked us to the Covered Market. We only had 45 minutes in the market, but, this was the perfect place to buy Souvenirs. Here is my suggestion, give us a rough diagram of the Market with how the shops are laid out. I would loved to have purchased a Herend Rabbit here.
We then explore the city's Buda side with a walking tour of Castle Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; saw Fishermen’s Bastion with its Neo-Romanesque design, and admire the stained glass windows and centuries of history in Matthias Church. We were given some free time to shop and then met back up at the bus and transferred to the Ritz Carlton where Tauck had a beautiful lunch buffet for us. We relaxed that afternoon enjoying the view from our hotel with preplanned dinner reservations at a restaurant that night.
Discover Pest & party at the Akadémia Club
This morning we explored the Pest side of the city on a tour including a special visit to the opulent State Opera House, opened in 1884, with its royal boxes, gilded vaulted ceiling, exquisite murals and three-ton chandelier and a special Tauck exclusive performance by two of the singers, pure magic! We then rode in a bus which passed by City Park and Heroes’ Square, bounded by some of the finest architectural works in Hungary. Later we did the themed walking tour that focuses on the Hungarian Revolution and includes the Parliament building, the Embassy and St. Stephen’s Basilica. On the way back to the hotel, we saw some friends at an outdoor café and went to have lunch at the Red Pepper where I had the best Goulash yet! That night we had our farewell dinner is at the grand Akademia Club in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences – a fitting finale to our memorable Blue Danube River cruise adventure. Budapest is gorgeous and safe! The Hungarians are awesome and they even have a bronze statute of Ronald Reagan in their square. They are so thankful he helped get them out from under Communist rule.
We took the included transfer from The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest to Budapest Ferenc Liszt Airport about a 30 minute ride for an 11:30 flight Since we had to allow a minimum of three hours for check-in at the airport., we left at 8:30am. We were able to eat our included breakfast at the hotel at 8am this way, but, the security line at the airport was incredibly long. I would advise anyone traveling in Europe to get the fast track pass to avoid this or fly at dark thirty.
Any cabin on this ship is clean and top notch!