We wanted to take a river cruise and decided that a Christmas trip to visit the Christmas marts would be nice. While I'm not a cold weather person, I wanted the full European Christmas flavor, so decided that it would be worth it to bundle up on a daily basis. Though I did indeed bundle up, it was well worth it. It snowed in Passau and Linz, giving it wonderful flavor without being unbearable. It was cold outside everyday (was real glad that I did bring all the cold weather clothes - particularly underclothes - that I did), but it was bearable and made the ship that much more comforting. Coming back to hot chocolate and a warm atmosphere was great. The room was always comfortable and sleeping under the down comforters was sublime.
That warm European Christmas feeling was wonderful. No malls and shopping centers with people just intent on getting all their shopping done. People were out and enjoying themselves, shopping, but also gathering at the eat/drink spots at all the Christmas marts. Stopping in a Viennese cafe for an incredible pastry was luscious. I did all my Christmas shopping there (leave room in your suitcase if you want to do the same) and was so glad that I did.
The staff and all our guides were great. On-board ship, they couldn't do enough for everyone - without being overbearing. Our guides were nice, knowledgeable, and made every excursion special. The food was wonderful and you always had great choices. We sat without different passengers almost every meal, making it possible to meet many people with having the time to sit and enjoy their company. We were actually of just a few on the ship for whom this was a first trip - many had taken at least one other and many had taken many trips. I can fully understand why and we will definitely be taking a cruise again. It's the way to do it when time is a little bit limited but you want to see many places at an enjoyable pace. It's a lot of walking, I'll give you that, but it's up to the individual as to how much they want to do. You never feel pushed to do anything - it's all for your enjoyment.
When I first walked in, it seemed a bit small as I somewhat expected given that we had a regular stateroom. Given all the luggage that we brought, I thought that I wasn't even going to be able to keep one of my suitcases in the room, much less unpack. I was pleasantly surprised. Even with two of us, we were able to comfortably unpack everything and keep our suitcases out of sight, but reachable. Again, the bathroom seemed small, but we both had our stuff in there and were never cramped. Everything is obviously planned out very well and we were comfortable the entire time. The beds were very comfortable and we slept well. The shower was spectacular - I wish that I could've taken it home - great pressure and hot - like being in a spa. Thick warm towels and the robes that we had requested were great - thick and comfortable, real terry cloth. We were glad that that was something we didn't have to pack.
We did not do the wine excursion, but went into town on our own. It's a beautiful town, but most shops and restaurants were closed until spring. We thought that that was a little unusual given the Christmas season and the town was decorated, but I guess there just wasn't enough business for many. We enjoyed the places that we did visit though and just enjoyed the walk through town seeing the lights and decorated buildings. We also did not make the trek up to the castle, though others did and they said that it wasn't that bad a walk (but I don't think I'd try it if I wasn't in pretty good shape).
We took a bus tour to the castle (no way of walking there); however, it was not open to the public when we got there. The bus took us down to the old town and we walked through that with our guide (great again) to the small Christmas mart. We then walked back to the ship (about 10 mins. fast; 20 mins. slowly). Town is beautiful; lots of great shops and restaurants and interesting stories. The only downside was that, after the walking tour, we had less than a full hour on our own before we had to be back at the ship because it was departing. Definitely would have liked more time.