We often have clients say “I’m not sure I’m a cruise person.” And for good reason. Many people question if a cruise is restrictive, if you truly get to know a destination, if the food is good and many other very valid questions. But after recently taking a river cruise through Europe, I can confidently say it’s a great introduction to the cruise style of travel – smaller ships, excellent staff-to-guest ratio, unique ports and so much more. A good match for almost any kind of traveler.
I traveled with my mom aboard AmaWaterways’ AmaViola for a trip on the Danube River from southeastern Germany to Budapest, Hungary. From the second we stepped onto the ship and were greeted by the staff, we knew we were in for a luxurious vacation. The staff was very personable, and unlike checking into a different hotel with a new concierge and staff for each destination, they were able to get to know us throughout the trip and offer the same level of service and personalized suggestions for each stop. It didn’t hurt that the ship only fit 164 guests total – a great way to have a more intimate and personal experience.
The sailing we were on happened to be a wine-themed sailing (one of many themed itineraries they offer). In addition to experiencing Eastern Europe’s sights and cultures, we were able to learn about various wines, listen to lectures and enjoy several wine-paired dinners onboard. One of our most memorable excursions was visiting wineries in the beautiful countryside of Austria. To say the wine is always flowing on a wine-themed cruise by AmaWaterways would be an understatement!
To help bring local areas or cultures to life along the cruise route, AmaWaterways often organized themed entertainment. These fun activities and interactions were often highlights of our visit to that area. Because our itinerary began in Germany, the crew threw an Oktoberfest themed happy hour with live polka music and dancing. My mom, an avid polka fan, was beyond thrilled!
While there isn’t a “typical” day on a river cruise, there is a nice bit of routine. We would wake up at our leisure and enjoy a hearty breakfast with a mix of made-to-order entrees, pastries, and of course, a mimosa (it is a vacation after all!). After breakfast, we’d get ready for a day of exploring with a guide. Each day of touring was different. In Linz we visited the Christmas markets for souvenirs. In Durnstein we took a short hike to a castle ruin. In Krems, we enjoyed a bike ride along the river. After each tour, there was always plenty of time to continue exploring on our own.
In Vienna, we sampled the Chriskindlemarkt punch – perhaps an acquired taste!
To end each day, we’d all gather back onboard the ship to enjoy a delicious, beautifully crafted meal and share stories with other guests. It is often the company you have while on vacation that make it memorable. My mom and I were lucky to have kind, fun and friendly people on board with us. There were people who have traveled all over the world and others, like us, who were treating themselves to this excursion abroad.
It was fascinating to hear about the lives of a couple who lived in Newfoundland, an airport architect currently residing in Dubai and a retired couple who used to be in law enforcement but now travel full time! There were never any forced “get to know” your shipmates’ activities, but plenty of open social hours where music and wine helped forge the paths to friendship.
So, next time you question if cruising is for you, consider trying a river cruise. It’s a great way to get exposure to this beautiful and convenient way of traveling, in a more intimate setting.
I know we look forward to our next cruise experience already!
Want to learn more about river cruising? Email our cruise specialist, Liz Matassa at LizM@PiqueTravel.com.