You won't find any large-scale or lavish productions onboard Illumination, but live music is presented in the main lounge each night. A piano player is most common, but full dance bands are also offered. Accessible classical music performances are not to be missed.
A happy hour is typically held at the bar before dinner each night, with two-for-one and drink-of-the-day specials.
Daily educational seminars, led by the cruise director on topics like the history of the surrounding countryside or details about the next port, are held in the lounge or on the sky deck. Well-done handouts are available.
A daily guided shore excursion is included. Walking tours, which are usually about two hours long, are informative and interesting. Optional tours are offered, too, and vary, from a cycling tour along the Danube through the Wachau Valley to a full-day trip to Salzburg. When it comes to variety, we appreciate the three styles of included tours. Leisurely Sightseeing is available to passengers who want an unhurried experience; the Traditional Sightseeing option means you'll explore a wider range of sights at a slightly faster pace, and Independent Sightseeing provides tools to tour at your own speed and on your own schedule.
Fans of clean-cut, contemporary design will feel comfortable in Illumination's boutique-hotel-style decor. The dark woods, creamy whites, beiges and rich reds create a swanky, elegant vibe.
From the understated yet stylish lobby, a curved, split staircase leads up to the third deck (watch your step -- these stairs can be tricky), and a five-step split staircase leads down to the second deck, giving the illusion of an extra deck and a larger, airier space. The lobby includes two computer terminals and a printer, and free Wi-Fi throughout the ship supports personal laptops. Warning: Don't plan on working or even keeping in constant touch via email on this cruise, as the Wi-Fi often cuts out in the more rural areas of the itinerary.
In the ship's forward, the large Panorama Lounge has received a slight design makeover, with softer touches -- such as creating cozy seating clusters that are set off from the rest of the room by decorated see-through walls -- that make the spacious room feel warm. It's comfortably furnished with cushioned chairs and sofas, and a horseshoe-shaped bar, all surrounded by windows. The lounge serves as a gathering place for entertainment, lectures and happy hours. Two sets of screens and projectors, which drop from the ceiling, can be used for presentations.
Just forward of the Panorama Lounge is the Sky Lounge -- a small, alfresco area furnished with a series of tables and chairs; it's one of our favorite spots onboard.
At the bow of the ship is the smaller Club Lounge, where continental breakfast is served and the cappuccino machine, available 24/7, is situated. The room also includes a wide-screen, 55-inch television that swings out for presentations and is equipped with a Wii videogame system; a small but adequate library of books, running the gamut from "The Da Vinci Code" to "Lord of the Flies"; and board games like Monopoly, Yahtzee and Deal or No Deal.
Smoking is allowed only in outdoor areas of the ship where ashtrays have been placed. An elevator is available for those with limited mobility.
By river ship standards, the fitness area, which includes a treadmill, two stationary bikes and a set of free weights, is rather large. Free refrigerated bottled water is a nice touch.
The ship usually docks somewhere that offers a riverfront path, convenient for outdoor walking or running. Bikes are not available onboard the ship, but optional bike excursions are offered in Amsterdam and Durnstein, Austria.
The ship's sun deck has lounge chairs, tables and chairs, a whirlpool, a small golf putting area and oversized chess and backgammon games. Four separate, shaded areas are provided.
A small salon with hair and nail services is also available.
Children older than 8 are permitted, although no planned activities or reduced pricing are offered. The ship would be appropriate only for more thoughtful teens who appreciate the company of their elders and are intrigued with visits to castles and cathedrals.