We chose this cruise to spend a hassle-free week as a family, unpacking our bags once and experiencing 4 countries plus a taste of the Christmas markets. We also visited Prague and Munich on our own. We embarked in Budapest on Dec 29, disembarked in Vilshofen Jan 5.
We have been on 2 ocean cruises (Caribbean and Alaska) and have 3 teenagers, so I was worried that river cruises have a reputation for catering to an older crowd and they would be bored. But there were several families on board with teenagers and young adults, maybe because of the time of year during school break? And if your kids love history, castles, and just know what to expect, it's a great experience. The boat is small - a dining room, a lounge, a VERY small workout room, and then small pool and track on the top deck. So no kids' club, no teen room, etc. But there is no time spent on the boat really because the destinations are so close. And since there are no interior rooms, everyone gets an amazing view from their room.
Embarkation and Disembarkation were so easy compared to ocean cruises. The staff took the time to know everyone by sight. They were very diligent in making sure we checked in and out, so no one was left behind. The boat is able to dock usually just steps away from the central tourist locations, I think only 1-2 days where we needed to take a bus. The shore excursion teams did a wonderful job of breaking us into small groups and traveling different routes through our destinations so if felt very personal. They were all very knowledgeable and I loved the Quietvox speakers so the guides didn't have to shout and you could wander a little bit away and still hear the tour. Food was AMAZING!!! Lots of variety each night, and buffet style eating most of the day - again, very helpful with teenagers. Ours are not picky eaters at all, but there is always a very traditional American option at each meal if you are more choosy. There were several excursions and tours that felt special - I am always skeptical of anything that markets itself as an "exclusive" tour or similar, but these did pretty well. A Mozart concert, castle tour, Melk Abbey tour with no photos allowed - what? you mean you just have to EXPERIENCE a place?? So 20th century! Also an unexpected, amazing experience was docking in Vienna on New Year's Eve and being able to watch the fireworks over the city. It was like a dream.
If you are going for the Christmas markets, you should go before Christmas. We knew this from our travel agent, so not a surprise. We were in Prague starting Dec 24 so got some flavor, Budapest still had some stalls Dec 29-30, Vienna and Munich still had hot wine stalls and some trinkets after New Year's. It's enough to get the flavor. Ditto for shopping in general - there were alot of holidays and Sundays when we traveled, so less chance to buy souvenirs.
We had a wonderful time and would love to take a river cruise again someday!
We stayed in 2 AB cabins. They were beautiful, plenty of room for the 2 adults, more cramped for the 3 kids but perfectly do-able. 2 slept in twin beds and the oversized chair folds out to a comfortable (but not plush) twin. Steward did a great job making the room quickly in the am and folding out the bed while we were at dinner, so there was minimal time where it was tight. Limited drawer and shelf space for clothes but plenty of hanging space. We all put suitcases under the beds and used as drawers. We had an issue with the kids' room, and once we brought it to the attention of the cruise director it was corrected quickly, my only negative is I wish the housekeeping staff and housekeeping manager had escalated or resolved it, we waited a couple of days for them to correct the problem because we didn't want to go over their heads so to speak. When there are only 7 nights on the boat, any delay takes away from the experience.
We had already been in Budapest for 2 days, but really enjoyed this quick overview. The guide was very knowledgeable and patient with the group.
We did the walking tour and found it very interesting. This is a city I didn't know much about, our tour guide's description of traveling to Austria to have her passport stamped after the Iron Curtain fell was very moving and added a wonderfully personal touch to the history of her city.
The city tour was very informative.
The Mozart concert in the evening felt like a very special event. The music and dancing was very good - I even understood opera! - and the acoustics were amazing.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Linz is fairly small, so it was a fast tour. The tour guide was very good and knowledgeable, but it felt like he had to stretch it out in order to take the whole time, as there really isn't alot to see here from a tourist perspective, could have been done in 45 mins probably. We enjoyed just walking around and window shopping on our own.View All 70 Old Town Tour Reviews
We didn't stay in the town, but did the cruise line's Oktoberfest celebration. This was the only excursion on the entire cruise that felt a little contrived and overly touristy.