When you plan a big trip to a place like Europe, you want to do it all, but living out of a suitcase, as you move from place to place takes work. So how can you see the sights without running out of steam? It might be time to give river cruising a try..
River cruising certainly isn’t a new way to travel, but it is gaining fans fast these days, in part because its reputation is evolving. In the past, many travelers never seriously considered it. The thinking was it was more for the older traveler, especially retired folks, but times are changing. Younger travelers are catching on, and even families are discovering big benefits.
Just like ocean cruising, you un-pack once and will often wake up to scenery like this as you make your way to new places just about every morning. But with dramatically less people and what are often longer lengths in ports, there’s a relaxed sentiment that makes the experience, especially when you’re talking about Europe. I was a guest aboard AmaWaterways newest ship the AmaSerena. With just 150 people sailing, I never felt crowded.
Not even in Budapest, when we left the dock for the first time. All of passengers were on the top deck and I probably don’t need to explain why. Budapest at night is stunning. The architecture and riverfront is impressive any time of day, but the combination of lights and the reflection created on the Danube definitely set a tone for the trip. We spent the night in Budapest, and had a good part of the next day to tour and see in the daylight what had impressed us so much the night before.
It was a similar experience in Vienna. After arriving in the evening, most of the passengers took advantage of the offered excursion and headed to a traditional Austrian Heuriger or wine tavern. We had the entire next day to explore Vienna.
First thing in the morning, I took a guided walking tour which helped me get my bearings and took me to spots like the famed Spanish Riding School and the 18 building strong Imperial Palace. (There are also an amazing 19 courtyards and about 2800 rooms.)
After the walking tour, I had a couple of hours to wander on my own, so I headed up the north tower at St. Stephen’s Cathedral to take in the view. Just shy of 225 feet tall, a small, old elevator with room for just six (including the attendant), makes the trip up. You might have to wait a bit to make the trip up or down for that matter, so give yourself some pad time. Along with amazing views, the north tower is also home to the Pummerin, the second-biggest free-swinging chimed church bell in Europe.
The Melodies of the Danube river cruise with AmaWaterways offers a flexibility that enables cruisers to personalize their experiences, without much effort, from one city to the next.
In the afternoon, the crew rolled bikes off the AmaSerena and there was a guided ride along the Danube to the Klosterneuberg Abbey. Ship staff set up all of the tours and excursions, and with a few exceptions, they are all included in the cost of your sailing, so there’s no worrying about having to constantly pull out your wallet or blowing your vacation budget.
Biking was just one of the opportunities to explore and be active. When we arrived in Dürnstein there was an opportunity to hike above town to the ruins of the castle where Richard the Lionheart, King of England was imprisoned in 1192.
After the hike we headed into town, did a wine tasting with a local vintner and still had free time to wander the cobblestoned streets. Dürnstein is also a nice contrast to stops like bustling Budapest and Vienna. With a population of 1.7 and 1.8 million respectively, Dürnstein is home to just 550, which includes one police officer.
In eight days on the Danube the AmaSerena went through a dozen locks, covered more than 350 miles and visited four countries. Travel time was maximized without being exhausting and I came home actually feeling like I had been on vacation.
Dana was a guest aboard the AmaSerena, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.