River Beatrice Entertainment & Activities
As on most European riverboats, the real entertainment is largely found ashore rather than onboard -- and River Beatrice's shore tour program was exceptional. In every port, at least one complimentary excursion was available. These by and large offered a broad view of a place (city tour of Vienna, for instance, or walking tour of tiny Passau with a visit to its cathedral for a concert). In most cases, these were designed for all passengers at all levels of mobility and primarily involved motorcoaches or short walks in small villages. Most were a half day in length. The tours were consistently thorough and interesting, and the Quietvox portable lightweight audio headset system, through which the tour guide communicates via microphone to individual headphones, means you can hear what's going on even if you're at the back of the group.
More intriguing were the ship's extra-fee options (called "Irresistible Optional Tours") that included, on our afternoon in Passau, a visit to a Bavarian village, or in Durnstein, the heart of Austria's wine country, a fantastic group bike ride with a wine tasting. Easily the most popular of these supplementary tours was the chance to attend a classical concert focusing on Mozart and Strauss one evening in Vienna.
Cost ranged from 46 euros for the Wachau Valley cycling tour to 49 euros for the concert in Vienna.
One of the highlights each evening was a pre-dinner "what to expect tomorrow" talk hosted by the Cruise Manager (basically the shore excursions manager). On River Beatrice, three staffers, all who live in the region, revolve in and out as cruise managers, and ours, Hildegarde, was marvelous. Both entertaining and informative, she was especially helpful with tips and advice to travelers wanting to strike out on their own. A highlight was the occasional impromptu evening walkabout she'd host in various cities -- no charge, just for fun.
Occasionally, when the ship was docked well into the evening, local performers would come on for a post-dinner show. These were delightful. In Bratislava, the Pressburger Duo, consisting of a pianist and violinist, performed classical standards with a humorous twist. On the evening we were alongside in Linz, I was hard pressed to choose between Hildegarde's night walk and a performance by the New Ohr Linz Dixie Band; I opted to stay onboard for what turned out to be a lovely mix of the two -- the music was superb and loud enough that I was able to enjoy it from the sun deck, watching the sun set over the old city.
Other memorable events on our cruise included an afternoon spent cruising along the Danube at its most beautiful part between Melk and Durnstein. We all gathered on the sun deck while Hildegard told us what we were seeing as we drifted past castles and vineyards. The trip into Budapest, early in the morning as the sun was rising, was a similarly entertaining and gorgeous experience, again complete with narration.
And the most memorable event of all was a gift from our captain. After our trip's last dinner, as the ship was docked overnight in Budapest, the captain took us out for a night cruise around the city. It was a chance to see Budapest's monuments all lit up -- and under a starry sky, no less -- and it was magical.