CRICKET was not exactly top of the agenda on APT’s “Magnificent Tour of Europe” river cruise from July 28 to August 11.
From a passenger list of 150, more than a hundred were Australians and their heroes were getting bashed unmercifully by the Poms at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston.
Another thirty were New Zealanders, who nodded in complete approval, and the rest the were British who knew when to keep relatively quiet.
This was our trial attempt at a river adventure … from Amsterdam to Budapest in 15 days … after more than a dozen sea cruises. And it was spectacular, if not completely magnificent.
The weather helped, of course, improving dramatically once we were well into the Rhine from temperate to sizzling.
APT’s splendid package was also a bonus. Absolutely everything incorporated in the initial price, including drinks (all day, if you wanted, and one or two did), gratuities and a huge itinerary of mouthwatering, if occasionally exhausting, excursions.
Both the MS Amalyra ship and its cabins on the were surprisingly spacious and well designed with exceptional facilities, good air conditioning and storage. Ours also had a French balcony which was very useful in a variety of conditions. And the ship’s comparative lightness meant that it completed the full course where some of the heavier vessels had to call a halt because of the low water levels.
Unfortunately, our naivety meant that we missed the Amsterdam excursions. We thought that the verbal assurance that they were all starting at 9am was sufficient. Unfortunately, it was changed to 8.30am and we didn’t check in the “Daily Cruiser”.
Cruise Director Arno Primig said he would wait for us as we emerged from breakfast with a minute to spare. But we didn’t think his generosity would be reciprocated by the other passengers.
Otherwise, it was basically plain sailing and good to see Cologne again after a gap of too many years, with a luxurious evening banquet and piano recital at Namedy Castle in Andernach.
The Loreley rock didn’t manage to snare us in the Rhine Gorge in the morning but we had an exciting afternoon in Rudesheim where an unexploded Second World War bomb poked its head above the ever-lowering river water depth, delaying everyone for three hours while it was disarmed. We heard the sirens wailing and vehicles screeching from high above on the gondola ride.
I must confess to falling asleep during the following day’s glass-blowing demonstration and we also gave the treasure hunt in Miltenberg a miss. Otherwise most of the excursions we opted for (there was usually a choice) turned out to be winners.
We were not allowed to film Tiepolo’s amazing ceiling frescos in Wurzburg which survived the allied bombing. Bamberg the next day was a delightful medieval town and Nuremberg, particularly the former Nazi areas, was well worth the early start.
The Amalyra parked a very short distance from Regensburg centre but, sadly, the ancient stonebridge, the town’s main attraction, was undergoing a massive refurbishment, so it was a no-go area.
The full-day excursion to Salzburg aboard the Orient Express-style Majestic Imperator train was an intriguing date with the past for us. The city surrounds had changed so much since we last saw it and, despite its links with “The Sound of Music” which, we were informed, flopped in Austria and Germany. Surprise, surprise!
We gave Melk a miss, apart from watching our intrepid cyclists (all eight of them) set off to pedal the 36 kilometres to Durnstein while the ship and everyone else was cruising there. Four made it, two fell off and required treatment, two didn’t make it and were forced to call a taxi to complete the journey at a cost of 80 Euros. They are still trying to get their money back.
Durnstein was hectically charming, but the two highlights (for us) were Vienna and Budapest, both amazing cities, full of history and stunning architecture.
Vivid Vienna memory was a classical concert (an hour was just right) at the Palace of Liechtenstein. No prizes for guessing that the closing piece was Johan Strauss’s “The Blue Danube”, and, of course, a little Mozart.
In Budapest, we visited the Opera House (among many other buildings) where a lady in red suddenly appeared and gave us a few arias. A cruise up and down the river there at night between the brilliantly-illuminated buildings of Buda and Pest was a good way to finish.
To answer a few of the questions we have answered since our return to Blighty.
Food: First class and plenty of it, and always steak and other favourites available. Special restaurant at rear of ship at no extra cost.
Entertainment: OK and just about what you would expect on a small ship. Resident pianist Peter was competent with a huge repertoire.
Cabin service: First class.
Hotel Manager Viktoria Tuboly and reception staff: Never made anyone feel they were a nuisance.
Guest communications: Very good.
Locks: They were a little tedious at first but vaguely amusing and educational when you got used to them.
Black spot: Walking tours were graduated but some of the guides were still far too fast and became separated from their parties.
Passenger relations: The Aussies helped to make the cruise, with their naturally cheerful, friendly nature. Occasionally a little boisterous, but, hey? we’ve all seen Brits thrashing their way across the dance floor.
Cruise director: Arno Primig. Excellent, knowledgeable, friendly and always available.
Bonus: Flat screen computer, which also doubled as a TV, with full Internet service in every cabin
Overall: Good value for money.
River versus Ocean cruising: The jury is still out on that one. Ocean plusses: More time (days at sea) to recuperate between excursions. River plusses: Everything is right there outside your cabin. And you can choose whether or not to go.
Surprisingly spacious and well designed with exceptional facilities, good air conditioning and storage. Ours also had a French balcony which was very useful in a variety of conditions
Good to return after so many years. Cathedral still inspiresView All 148 Walking Tour Reviews
Lovely place, seen from above or on at water levelView All 54 Niederwald Cable Car Reviews
Well worth the early start. Very informative, particularly on Nazi occupation
Not seen at it best with the ancient stone bridge under massive refurbishment
Part of a nostalgic day out by Majestic Imperator train. Old town retains it's bustling charm but surrounding areas much changed since last visit many years ago.View All 70 Old Town Tour Reviews
There is an inescapable magic about Vienna.View All 169 City Tour Reviews
Sadly, photos banned inside but still worth seeingView All 179 Schonbrunn Palace Reviews
Every bit as good as Vienna in its own wayView All 353 City Tour Reviews