We chose a river cruise for the convenience, low stress, and all inclusiveness, as well as the locations visited in eastern europe. We are married in our early 30's without kids and were definitely not the normal river cruise couple. ... Read More
We chose a river cruise for the convenience, low stress, and all inclusiveness, as well as the locations visited in eastern europe. We are married in our early 30's without kids and were definitely not the normal river cruise couple. The average age of the cruise is about 60-65 years of age, with a few in their 40's, 50's, and 80's- at least they looked that age. Don't let the age deter you if you are young as most of the people were very nice and we made friends w/ multiple couples. There were a few groups of single friends, mom and son, etc., but predominantly married couples.
Our room was the lowest class and was very small, but adequate, and certainly no smaller than an inside stateroom on a larger cruise line. Our beds were separate, but you can squeeze into a single together if you wish. You will need an adapter for hair appliances, chargers, etc, but my wife was incorrect in thinking we needed a converter, as we didn't. There was a hair drier in the room and an iron could be obtained from the front desk. Movies are shown on one channel in your room on a daily basis- the same movie all day long as far as I could tell. If you read the information booklet in your room, which we didn't until the last day, you will find the list of movies for the week. Only one other channel is in english- CNN World, which I now prefer to normal CNN. The shower was good quality and never short of hot water. We had a window that ran just above water level and had a fair view, but certainly nothing picturesque- and it didn't open as the information book states. We peeked into a larger room, one level up from ours- D level I think- and it was MUCH nicer. However it was $500 more pp and I don't think it is worth the additional cost even now w/ all taken into consideration.
Budapest- if you have the chance definitely extend your stay here. It was one of our favorite locations and we wished we had more time. Cafe Girbaud was recommended to us and would recommend it to others. Wished we had visited a bath house and had more time for museums.
All of the other stops were wonderful and you will have free time to explore on your own at just about every one of them. We weren't sure how much time we would have, but it seemed adequate everywhere. At least enough time to decide that we loved just about every stop on the cruise. You do not have much time after the Melk abby, but as quaint as you might think the town is, Regensburg and Passau were much better. The only stop I could do without is Linz- would rather have had more time in other cities.
A tour in each city is included and were well done. You have a receiver and ear piece to hear the tour guides on all walking tours. They worked well and were very helpful. Some tours were part bus w/ stops and walking portions, while others were walking only. The tours were not too fast, too slow or overly churchy. I thought they were well done w/ some people complaining about a few guides- everyone is split into 3 or 5 groups depending on the stop, and not everyone had the same guide. You can ask questions and always go back to see things again. Remember to take some forints, or euros to tip- we forgot a few times and had to scramble to come up w/ 1-2 euros to tip w/.
Excursions- we only did the Kelheim Weltenburg Abbey tour. We heard from others that other excursions were nice, although there were problems w/ the Vienna Palace tour. We enjoyed the Kelheim tour, but- 25 minute bus ride, 1 hour scenic boat ride w/ a large crowd of tourists, a 5 minute walk to the abbey, 1 hour at the abbey and beer garden, 10 minute walk to another bus, then a few scenic stops back to the boat. Other than the beer at the abbey being fantastic the trip was mainly forgettable- the rain didn't help either. The only other option is to stay on the Viking ship the whole time. If you like beer you'll love this excursion. If you don't like beer your should at least enjoy the scenery.
Food- the dinners were all excellent w/ a variety of tastes- I never knew I would like Borscht! Lunches were always good w/ buffet and items to order. Breakfast was fair- burned bacon every day!! Omelets were subpar.
A few key points:
-Do not purchase the Silver Spirits all inclusive beverage package!! Glasses of wine and beer run about 4-5 euros- or more if you wish a bottle of wine. Corkage fee for wine brought on board is 7 euro. Mixed drinks are a bit more- 5-7 euro. Juices are included w/ breakfast and tea/water/coffee are always available. We purchased the package and I drank like a fish, but was nowhere close to the total cost of the package- oh, and the sparkling wine, postcards, and hat aren't enough of an incentive.
-Always go to the daily briefing and check the front desk for sign-ups. The daily briefing covers a lot of information pertininent to the next day including signing up for various excursions. One person was late getting on the boat the first night missed signing up for an excursion and then didn't get to go. You will not need to sign up for any excursions until you are on the boat, but you need to sign up early rather than wait to make sure you get to go.
-Try the sausage and kraut in Regensburg. I am not a fan of sausage or sauerkraut, but this was like no sausage or kraut I have had before. It is/was one of the best things I have ever eaten and I consider myself a foodie.
- Realize there are breakfast and lunch menus if you do not wish to have the buffet items.
- Do not expect there to be food 24/7. Portions are European style- fairly small. We heard a few people complain, but I thought the portions were adequate- appetizer, soup, entree, dessert - and you can ask for additional portions including a cheese plate.
- if you have a choice between Prague extension or Budapest, i would choose Budapest. We did Prague on our own and found it to be overrun w/ tourists, souvenir shops every 3rd shop, but a beautiful city w/ a lot of history. Budapest was also a beautiful city w/ a lot of history, but fewer crowds and seemed more authentic. Best to see Budapest before it turns into Prague. Oh and Prague's pilsen beers were nothing compared to the many German beers I had- just personal preference.
- do some research in each of the cities to determine what you want to see during free time- Oberhaus castle in Passau, "Sissy" museum and Kaiser apartments in Vienna, Landtman Cafe in Vienna, Gerbaud Cafe in Budapest, etc. You receive some maps and info on each stop, but it helps to know a bit more to maximize your time.
- If you have the money to spend it is very helpful to eat lunch off the boat to maximize time at some locations. Especially in Vienna and Nuremburg where your are some distance from the boat and in Regensburg- so you can taste the magnificent sausage!