In October 2012, I was lucky enough to experience a Uniworld River Cruise. Our cruise on the Danube River departed from Nuremberg Germany and cruised for seven days to the city of Vienna in Austria. It was a fantastic journey and I enjoyed each and every city along the way.
As this was my first time on a river cruise, I tried to compare it to ocean cruising or motorcoach touring, but river cruising is a completely different animal!
I loved the convenience of unpacking once, knowing that a a lovely boutique hotel was traveling right along with me to the center of each town we visited. I thought the dining was terrific and enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of the lounge in the evenings.
Most days I would enjoy their buffet breakfast before heading out on one of the included walking tours. These tours were led by local guides and I have to say they were all marvelous. I loved walking the cobble stone street and viewing old buildings and architecture while hearing the stories and history of each locale. If it weren’t for the tourists walking around with iPhones and cameras, you could really imagine yourself back in the medival times.
These walking tours were included each day of our trip and usually lasted 2 to 3 hours. After the tour we had time to explore the town on our own or do some shopping before heading back to the ship. One of the nice things about these tours was that headsets were provided to each guest. We turned on the frequency of our local guide and had his or her commentary in our ear without having to strain to hear over crowds of people.
In the afternoons many people enjoyed the lounge or spent more time in town. Several days we had optional excursions that took us further into the area.
These excursions did have an additional cost, but I enjoyed all of the trips I took. For instance I took an optional trip to Schonnenbrun Palace in Vienna.
Each evening most passengers would meet in the lounge for music and a port talk about the next day. This was followed by a sumptuous dinner that never failed to please. From filet mignon to perfectly prepared sea bass, there was always so many delicious choices. After dinner many people retired to the lounge or their staterooms to get ready for the next day.
The staterooms were small compared to an ocean going vessel. The room had two twin beds pushed together and a small desk on one side and a night stand on the other side. I had a room with a French balcony which means it had sliding glass doors, but it would open to just a railing and the fresh air. Since the river cruise ships are built to fit in the many locks of the river, there is not enough room to have large balcony areas. There was lots of closet space and room for a chair near the balcony doors, but it was a little tight in the room. The bathroom had marble, but was also very small with only a shower and no tub.
I have cruised many times on large cruise ships and this was quite different in that there was only one dining room, a very small lobby with a shop, and one lounge area. The other large public space was the sundeck however the week I was traveling it was very cold and snowed several days so the sundeck was not in great demand. Most river cruise ships hold about 120 passengers compared to ocean going ships that hold 2000 to 3000 passengers it seems very small. But of course this is the nature of river cruising the ships can only be as big as the rivers and the locks through which they travel
We saw several other cruise ships on the Danube while we were traveling. In some ports we would dock right next to them and have to walk through their ship to get to the river bank. This was a new experience for me, but it gave me the opportunity to check out the other ships. Ours was nicer!
All in all I think river cruising was a very relaxing way to see European destinations with lots of convenience, great service and an opportunity to see places that are a bit off the beaten path.
Where my Uniworld River Cruise journey took me…..
Here we learned about the history of Nuremburg and its importance to the Roman Empire. There was also a visit to several of the WWII sites. The old part of Nuremburg still had some of its medieval walls, but since much had been destroyed during WWII there was much of it which had been rebuilt more recently.
Next we went to a town called Regensburg which is famous for this 15th century arched bridge.
This restaurant near the bridge is called the Historic Sausage Kitchen and it has been the site of a sausage stand since the 1600’s.
The streets of Regensburg freatured these tall patrician mansions.
And the old town Square had its own Ratskeller.
And Regensburg also had an enormous gothic church.
While in Regensburg, I took an optional excursion to the Weltenburg Abbey and enjoyed a beer brewed locally by the monks for over 1,000 years. And after our tour of the Abbey enjoyed a scenic cruise on the Danube Gorge.
The next day was Deggensdorf and we saw a glass blowing demonstration at the Theresienthal studio as well as a bread baking demonstration nearby at a family farm. Too bad the weather was so cold and rainy, I barely took out my camera.
Our next stop was Passau, and although we had a cold morning the views were beautiful. Passau is where the rivers Ilz, Inn and Danube all converge.
Our next stop in Melk concentrated on the beautiful Melk Abbey.
That afternoon we enjoyed a few hours huddled together on the sundeck to enjoy the views of the Wachau Valley.
Finally we spent our last day in Vienna. There was so much to see there I wish I had had an extra 3 or 4 days to enjoy it all.
Our last optional tour took us to Schonnbrun Palace which was the summer residence of Vienna’s most famous matriarch, Maria Theresa. It rivals Versailles (outside of Paris) but is different in that all of the exhibition rooms are original artifacts, not recreations. The gardens behind the Palace would surely be a destination in themselves during a nice summer day.
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