We booked our first European river cruise with Vantage Deluxe World Travel at the end of January 2017. We selected their June 27 to July 12, 2017, 15-day river cruise entitled “Majestic Rivers of Europe: Castles, Cathedrals & Fairytales” that began in Budapest, Hungary and ended in Amsterdam, The Netherland. Here is an overview of our experience(s):
• BOOKING: We called and booked through Vantage Customer Service (located in Boston, MA). The booking process went very smooth and we were immediately assigned our cabin on the MS River Splendor (Category B, French Balcony on Forward Middle Deck, 165 sq. ft.).
• CUSTOMER SERVICE: Whenever I contacted Vantage over the next couple of months with various questions/concerns, the people I spoke with in Customer Service were always friendly and very helpful (except for one person). Most of the information is on their website and in your MYPORTFOLIO.
STATEROOM/CABIN FEATURES (Category B, French Balcony on Forward Middle Deck, 165 sq. ft.):
o SIZE: The cabin was bigger than we expected and there were two closets (one with a combination safety deposit box) with plenty of wooden hangers. Near the desk were 4 drawers and a cabinet with a shelve that divided the space. All suitcases fit under the beds.
o BEDS/LINENS: The two twin beds were pushed together to create a queen size bed (each bed has its own bottom sheet and comforter). (Note: the beds do not have a top sheet that we are accustomed to in the US.) The beds are on the firm side and very comfortable to us. The bed linens were very soft and the four pillows were standard size and had enough support.
o BATHROOM: The 3-piece bathroom (single sink, toilet, and glass-enclosed shower) was actually larger than ones on an ocean cruise ship or has a better floor plan design.
o WATER: The tap water is drinkable. There was one free bottle of water in the room upon arrival. There was always plenty of hot water for showers.
o A/C & HEATING CONTROL: Each cabin has its own individual climate control. It took a few hours to get the temperature cold enough for us, but then it stayed relatively constant.
o VIEW: All staterooms face outside and feature a spacious river view.
o BATH ROBE & SLIPPERS: Each person is supplied a white bath robe and slippers to use throughout the cruise. This was an unexpected surprise and I used mine every single day. Note that housekeeping will remove these from the stateroom prior to the last day of the cruise.
o WIFI / WIRELESS INTERNET SERVICE: There is free Wifi throughout the ship. We found the service to be better in the Cabaret Lounge than in the stateroom. Because access is based on local cell phone coverage (verses cable connections), service can be spotty or not available at all. There was also a computer and printer located in the pubic area on the Odyssey Deck near the Fitness Center.
o TV SERVICE: Each room has a flat-screen TV with True Video on Demand (watch what you want, when you want, from the ship’s vast library of movies). There is access to many US television channels (i.e., MSNBC, CNN, Discovery, Weather, etc.). You also view the following from the comfort of your stateroom: daily destination highlights, important events, flight information, follow the ship's journey through real time GPS tracking, and other key information.
o ELECTRICAL OUTLETS/PLUGS: There is a plug for men’s razors inside the bathroom and a US electrical plug located near the desk/vanity. We took a USA 4-plug power strip with us to charge devices. The adapters we took with us did not work because the electrical sockets in the stateroom were recessed into the wall. We had to borrow a European Plug Adapter that I believe was a round Schuko Type E/F (or a round Europe Travel Adapter For European Outlets - Type C, Type E, Type F) from one of the crewmembers to be able to use our sound machine near the bed. Small adapters might work as well.
o IPHONE/IPOD DOCKING STATIONS: A docking station (30-pin connector)/clock/
radio/speaker combination with remote control is available in each stateroom. The docking station is only compatible with iPhone 4/4S and older models.
o AMENITIES: L'Occitaine de Provence amenities are provided. I did not use because I did not particularly like the Verbena smell.
We had a guided walking tour of the picturesque Regensburg as part of our Vantage River Cruise in July 2017. It is by far one of the most charming towns on the Danube river, is the only German city not bombed during WWII, and dates back to the Roman era. Many beautiful buildings to look at. The best sausages in Regensburg can be found at the Historical Sausage Kitchen at the Old Stone Bridge. If you are in need of food, wine, beer, snacks, or anything else (including the original Handlmaier’s Sweet Bavarian Mustard), the EDEKA Market Jende is located near the St. Peter’s Cathedral in the basement of the Galeria building (Neupfarrplatz 8, 93047 Regensburg) and has great prices. The first floor of the building is like a department store and had sales on Swarovski Crystal and chocolate.
We visited the following in Nuremberg as part of a tour during our Vantage River Cruise in July 2017:
- Documentation Center: With the use of the Audioguide you receive commentary in seven languages The center's permanent exhibition informs visitors about the causes, the context and the repercussions of the National Socialist reign of terror. The focus of the 19 exhibition areas is on topics with links to the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds. This is a hard subject to talk about and/or see, but it well done.
- Zeppelinfeld: Today the whole site is a memorial, and parts are used as the Norisring motor racing track, which had just had a race the weekend before we visited. It was very noisy because items used for the race were being removed all around us. Six Nazi party rallies were held there between 1933 and 1938. The swastika atop the grandstand was blown off in 1945 after Germany's fall in World War II. The grandstand pillars were removed for safety reasons in the 1970's.
- Nuremburg Trial Courthouse/Room: We were glad there was no court in session, so we were able to actually visit Courtroom 600 where the Nuremberg trials were held from 1945 to 1949 for the surviving German war criminals of World War II. This place was chosen for the trials because it was almost undamaged, offered sufficient space, and included a large prison complex. The courtroom is smaller now because a wall that had been removed during the trials (in order to create more space) was put back. In addition, the judges' bench was turned 90 degrees and is no longer situated in front of the window, but stands where the witness box was placed during the trials.