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Trip Report The Legendary Danube

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This trip was planned and sponsored by a small Travel Club from rural Colorado and we have enjoyed several trips with them. Since this was with a Travel Club we did not get to choose when to go. ‘High Season’ (late spring, summer and early fall) is more expensive and lots more crowded. Off season is cheaper and less crowded but the weather can be ‘iffy’ at times. We have wanted to take one of these River Cruises but had not gotten around to it. Have done several larger ship (ocean) cruises and really enjoy them but this was going to be very different. Ocean cruise ships may be ‘Large’ (about 2,000 passengers) and even ‘huge’ (up to 6,000 passengers). We prefer the smaller ships so the River Cruise boats should suit us fine since they have only about 150 to 250 passengers.

From Denver, it was 8 time zones and long flights overnight so we lost a day. We checked into a Hilton Hotel (included) for a couple days. Found out that the Czech Republic does not use the more common Euro currency (we had) and we did not want to end up with a lot of different types of currency so used Visa & Master card. Note: Notify your charge card companies of your travel plans before you travel so that they will approve charges. The Hotel was pretty expensive for meals so we found some local places to eat. The Czech folks are big on mushroom sauces and I am not. I ordered some Italian pasta and it came drenched in mushroom sauce. While in Prague, we had one tour included in the cruise packet and took another ‘optional’ tour (costs extra) so did see a good bit. It was foggy and cloudy in the mornings but OK later.

Then a bus ride to Nuremburg, Germany to board our ‘boat’ (not ship) and begin the cruise on the Danube. We were with the Avalon Cruise Line and the boat was the Avalon Tapistry. It had been recently rehabbed so everything was like new – very nice. These boats are really different. They are long and narrow to be able to go through the numerous ‘locks’. This boat had 80 (160 passengers max) cabins and a crew of 40. It had 3 decks with two rows of cabins and a passageway down the middle so every cabin had water views. Another open deck was the ‘Sun Deck’ where passengers could sit and watch the sights but that proved to be less than expected. Whenever the boat went under the many low bridges, passengers had to stay off the Sun Deck and the crew literally collapsed everything up there including chairs, sun shade, railings and the Pilot House was even lowered. There was just a couple feet clearance.

The Danube did not originally go all the way from the North Sea to the Baltic but a canal was constructed (Main Danube Canal) with about 17 locks to raise the boat and then lower it to the actual Danube. The first couple days were in the Main Danube Canal and weather was cloudy and misty. Most of the travel time was in the evenings and nights so as to arrive at the next stop in daytime. The trip included shore tours at every stop and optional tours were available. They provided receivers and ear pieces so you could hear your tour guides very well. There is so much history out there that the tours were very interesting. After awhile, the churches and towns started to look alike.

Food on board was very good. Breakfasts and lunches were buffet style with lots of choices. Dinners were served at your table (open seating) and (free) wine available. Some days there were instructional talks and even one beer-tasting event. We stopped at Regensburg and Passau, Germany; Lintz, Melk and Vienna, Austria and ended the cruise in Budapest, Hungary. In Budapest we learned that is actually two cities, Buda & Pest, on opposite sides of the Danube. They also had their own currency but most places would accept the Euro so we did shop for some small things. Had to watch our luggage weight since we only had a couple of pounds to play with (50 pound limit before extreme extra airline charges).

Overall, we enjoyed our trip and will go again (have signed up for a Russia cruise next September) with Viking.

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