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Trip Report UNIWORLD River Boat Cruise on the Danube, Budapest to Prague

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This is the second version of my trip report. The other seems to have vanished except for a day when it popped back up unexpectedly. Luckily, I copied it at that time. I can't find it again so I'm just going to paste the original as another trip report and go from there!

THE TRIP REPORT: Started around August 23, 2017

We are back from our Uniworld River Boat cruise on the Danube, sailing on the River Beatrice. We started in Budapest and ending in Prague (after a 3 hour bus ride). It was a great trip and wonderful not being nickeled and dimed to death. Everything was included in the price - food, open bar, tours, gratuities, transfers. It was nice not thinking about whether we wanted to spend money on something or not. This was our first river boat tour and we really enjoyed it, although by the end I have to say that I experienced information overload.

The cabins were small but very nice. Clean, comfy. We were in a Category 3 so were above the water level and had sliding glass doors which opened in front of a tiny table and chairs. Not a balcony, but nice to sit there. It was also wonderful to go up on deck to be able to see out both sides of the boat. There were canopies set up on deck so we could avoid the sun if we wanted to. The wheelhouse was up there as well so we saw quite a bit of the captain who was so friendly and always seen out and about the boat. He was happy to talk to everyone at any time. That was one big difference between ocean cruises and a river boat cruise - seeing the captain all over the boat and having conversations with him.

The trip included going through 25 locks. We got stuck in one for 2 hours so that was interesting, especially since it was a national holiday and the engineers had to be paged to help get us out. We just hoped that they hadn't been in the Biergartens! Some of the locks went up and some took us down depending on which side of the continental Divide we were on (marked by a huge concrete wall at that point).

The tours provided were interesting and varied. There was always a choice of 2 tours, some of which were limited in number, but we had no problem getting what we wanted. We took several city tours, a vineyard hike, another hike, a tour of the Melk Abbey, a Regensburg Jewish tour (which actually included the city tour so that was a good choice). There was an optional (as in extra price) concert in a monastery which we loved and definitely recommend, and an optional progressive dinner in various areas of the boat (which we did not do). The BMW factory tour which we had wanted to do was canceled. They had said it wouldn't operate on Sundays, but we were scheduled to be there on Monday so we don't know what happened. On board one day there was a strudel cooking demo in the Lounge. We also had one "day at sea" on the Danube-Main Canal. The tour time in Budapest on the first day was at 8:45. Unfortunately my alarm didn't go off, but I somehow woke up at 8:33. It was a whirlwind, but I made it to the last bus. Tour times the other days were more reasonable, usually at 10 or 1.

Meal seating was wherever you wanted to sit at each meal. Breakfasts and lunches were buffet and dinner was ordered off a menu. As with ocean cruises, you could order as much as you liked, but the portions were not too large. We were comfortably full by the end of dinner but not overly stuffed. I didn't realize this until closer to the end of the trip, but you could order from a menu at breakfast as well as the buffet. I ordered delicious eggs benedict a couple of times. If anyone is going on this trip, ask to see the breakfast menu if they don't offer it to you.

The Prague portion of the trip placed us in a wonderful hotel within walking distance of the old town and only included breakfast. Breakfast at the hotel though was copious and very good. We stayed an extra day after the official trip ended and were still able to use the included transfer back to the airport.

I know one person going on this cruise soon, so if there are questions, ask away! Definitely recommend this cruise line!



jacketwatch on Aug 26, 17 at 11:28am
Good to hear all went well!

Thank you for the TR


thursdaysd on Aug 27, 17 at 9:48am
Thanks for the TR. What was the river end point?


kwren on Aug 27, 17 at 11:28am
The last stop along the river - well, actually along the Danube-Main Canal - was Nuremburg. We had a city tour, some free time, then the bus to Prague.

The previous day, the day with no stops, the canopies on the top deck were laid down flat and we couldn't go up on deck for the second half of the day because the river was high and the bridges were low. Even the wheelhouse somehow can be lowered if necessary but I don't think they had to do that.

I have read that some cruises can't actually go the entire way due to the water level and sometimes bus the passengers to different points. I'm glad we could stay on the boat our entire time.


travelchat on Aug 27, 17 at 12:18pm
Thanks for your Uniworld River recruise TR, fun to read. I took a Uniworld Bordeaux River cruise three years ago and it was terrific. As you point out this line, along with Tauck, is all inclusive. However, the price does reflect that. I find that with the various River cruise lines, I tend to choose itinerary as primary, then deal with paying any non included charges such as port, lounge and optional tour charges.

So far I've been on Tauck, Uniworld, Vantage and Avalon and enjoyed all. Currently I'm considering a ten day Avalon cruise from Lucerne to Amsterdam this Spring because it includes two land days to tour Lucerne, seven days cruising and two land days in Amsterdam. I'm totally hooked on River cruising as a senior solo lady and plan to go on at least one, if not more, each year for as long as I am able to travel.

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    Hi kwren,

    I am so excited to be going on this cruise! Ours begins on 9/20. We will spend a week in London before visiting with our son and his family.

    Did you find that the reception dinner and final dinner were very dressy? I have seen mixed answers on it will be interesting to get your first hand view.

    Was your hotel the Art Deco in Prague?

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    Hi wren! Glad you found this!

    The first reception on the boat was pretty low key. My friend and I wore summer dresses and her husband wore a sport jacket. My husband came after us and didn't seem to get the memo. He had a casual short sleeve button down shirt on, but was not out of place at all.

    I did get dressed up for the farewell cocktail party, and was told on the boat that that was to be the fanciest night. More people were dressed up that night than the first reception - I wore a black dress - and the captain looked pretty sharp in his white jacket as he greeted everyone coming into the lounge. There were some people in casual clothes though.

    We did stay in the Art Deco, also called the Imperial, Hotel in Prague. Our room was a good size and very nice with a gorgeous marble bathroom. The rooms seemed to be different from each other.
    Our friends stayed on the first floor and had a suite with a second toilet in a separate "closet", but the traffic noise was louderfor them. Breakfast was served in the adjoining Cafe Imperial and was excellent. The hotel had a bar on the first floor and was close to a little market area with booths selling potato chips on a stick, sausages, crafts. It was about 10 minutes walk to the old town and Charles Bridge. Good location. Watch out for trams when you are walking around. They can suddenly appear around a corner without much warning, as my friend found out. We pulled her back just in time.

    I recommend the Cafe Imperial for dinner, but you need to make reservations! Good food but you can't beat the convenience when you are tired. We wanted to go our second night there after the city tour and the optional trip to Terezin concentration camp as it was a very long day (only breakfast is included once you get to Prague) but it was full. I finally managed to find a server at breakfast who squeezed us in last minute, but we had to eat late. I would make a reservation for the second night as soon as you arrive if you want to eat there and get your preferred time. (The scheduled time to return from Terezin was 7:00 and that's exactly when we returned.) I was told it's a popular place in Prague because they have a celebrity chef who has been on TV. Many from the group ate there and filled it up as well. I would stay away from the traditional beef with dumplings though, unless you like pieces of bread pressed together with no flavor. It was the second time someone in our little group had it and those dumplings are just tasteless. Watch the wait staff if you go. The first batch bring out the food and stand like statues with the food on a tray until the actual servers come over to take the plates and serve them. Could have been the wine and exhaustion, but we found it very funny.

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    Thank you Kwren--I appreciate the time you have taken to write this! Since it is a little cooler toward the end of September, I think I will take dressy slacks and a couple of dressy tops. Trying not to get too obsessed with what I wear--which I tend to do at the last minute!!

    Eager to read more--I know you have a lot going on. Hoping your husband's surgery goes well and his recovery is smooth and quick.

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    You will be just fine with those clothes, and most of the other times it's very casual.

    Getting on board the boat is fun because often you have to walk across another river boat first. When we got on, there was no one directing us where to go on the top deck of our boat so if that happens to you, go down 2 levels and you will see a desk in a small lobby. You go over there to check in.

    Doing laundry is free. All you do is ask for detergent at that same desk if you need to wash some clothes. They handed me my little pack of detergent on a silver tray lol.

    If you are arriving the same day as the embarkation and using the transfers provided, you won't need to worry about this. We stayed in Budapest the night before and could see our river boat at its appointed dock from our hotel. Piece of cake right? We took a taxi over at embarkation time and the boat was nowhere to be found. Turns out it had moved to the other end of Budapest overnight. Between looking for it in the original spot, trying to figure out where it now was and driving a long time through traffic due to a festival, the taxi driver finally just turned off his meter. Don't make any assumptions! Double check the embarkation location before you leave your hotel!

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    That is good to know about the ship and its location! We are actually staying for 2 nights in Vienna prior to the cruise and taking a train to Budapest on the morning of the cruise. The four of us decided to have a driver pick us up at the station and take us to the ship. Maybe overkill--but we just think it will be easier than hailing a cab. I will be sure to have the ship's number ready to call to see exactly which dock it will be in. Thanks for that info!

    We are also staying an extra night at the Art Deco Imperial and then moving out to an airport hotel for our final night since we have early flights. I just made a reservation at the hotel restaurant and took the 7:15 time slot--the 6:45 and 7 were already gone!

    Assuming this is the dish you are referring to? "Braised beef with creamy sauce
    dumplings, cranberries"

    I feel like I am getting the inside scoop here!!!

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    Didn't mean to push send so quickly.

    We almost stayed at the Art Deco that last night but it was a good decision for us to stay close to the airport instead. If you are still looking for a hotel at the airport, the Holiday Inn Prague Airport was clean and comfortable like a typical Holiday Inn, had a decent restaurant for dinner on site and was basically on or just next to the airport property. Very convenient for us because we had a 6:00 a.m. flight. If you stay there, the organization for the shuttle was not great so be ready to load your luggage and quickly get a spot in the van. The last people to arrive in the lobby were the 1st to push their way onto the shuttle and my husband almost did not get a spot... and we were the first to arrive. We squeezed him in though. The hotel did tell us that even if you are going at 4:00 a.m, the shuttle is very busy because a lot of flights leave early so don't cut it too close. They run every 10 minutes or so and just keep driving back-and-forth from hotel to airport. This could maybe apply to most hotels in the area.

    By the way, don't just assume you won't get the free Uniworld transfer to the airport. We did not sign up for it initially because we were staying extra time and figured it wouldn't apply, but it turned out we got the free transfers anyway. The Uniworld representative at the hotel was very nice to arrange the transfers for us despite not being in the list, and to have the driver take us directly to our hotel instead of dropping us at a terminal. I would recommend you ask about it before you even leave the States, but if that would not work then I would recommend asking the person organizing everything at the hotel. She was very nice. I think you are there one extra day but it would pay to check into it just in case. We tipped the driver for taking us to the hotel instead of the airport even though it was not out of the way, but he was really shocked to get that tip.

    I will also mention that once we arrived in Prague there was a briefing for the entire group at the hotel. They gave information about some restaurants and things to do, info about the included tours and concentration camp timing and other helpful tips. They also gave the audio devices to be used the following day at that time.

    You also receive audio devices in your cabin on the boat but you leave them in your cabin when you disembark at the end of the cruise. We forgot to take ours with us for the 1st tour of the cruise, the tour which left at 8:45 on the day that I woke up at 8:33. The guides always have a couple of extras with them so if you ever forget you do not need to panic. There was just about always someone who needed to use the extras and it was not always us! Lol

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    We have the Holiday Inn Prague Airport already booked--I just booked it it last Friday when I realized how early we would have to get up to get to the airport! I guess it is the "Wren" in us that has us on the same wavelength!!!

    The tour ends on the morning of the 29th--so we will stay that night and then go out to the HI. Our flight leaves at 8:15--we fly to Vienna and then to Miami. I will ask at the desk what time they think we should be down to fight our way on the shuttle.

    I will see what I can find out about the transfer--that would be great!

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    Kwren, thank you for this report. We are looking at Prague for our 40th Anniversay Sept. 2nd and I did not even think of a River Cruise. This would be perfect! Also, I have been following this post and am truly sorry for the journey your daughter is involved in. My heart goes out to you and your DH.

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    First of all, thanks for the good thoughts dyer.

    And congratulations to both of you, wren and dyer, on your 40th anniversaries!

    We are at Hopkins doing all the pre-op things for DH today. Long process, but I'll try to get started on the itinerary while I am waiting for him to come back out. We'll see how that goes, but it will give me something else to think about.

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    We went to the Great Market Hall on our own before embarking and that was fun. Many souvenir stands, only matched by the number of stands selling various types of paprika - sweet, hot, smoky. You name it! Embroidered items, bunches of hot chili peppers, sausages galore, hand painted eggs, produce and meats, dolls, the usual tourist junk! The upstairs was our favorite section - the Hungarian foods looked amazing and some were very different!

    Once we boarded our boat (and after not being able to find it for a while), there was a Hungarian band with folk dancers in the lounge. The violinist was great. We purchased the CD and have been enjoying the music back at home. First night on the boat was beautiful. We set sail during dinnertime at sunset. The river, buildings, bridges and monuments were really gorgeous, especially as it got darker and everything lit up. This night sail was to go from one dock to another in Budapest and we had a tour the next day to look forward to.

    Budapest city tour - the tour where I had 7 minutes to get up and ready, get food and get to the bus! This was a bus tour of the Pest side riding past the Opera House, through the Jewish quarter and stopping by Hero's Square where we had about 15 minutes to get out and take pictures. Afterwards, we went to the Buda side and explored Matthias Cathedral and walked around Fisherman's Bastion for a wonderful view of Pest and the Danube.

    We left Budapest that night to start up the Danube and entered our first lock while sipping our drinks outside on the upper deck. We were traveling with friends and none of us had even been in a lock before...and only 24 to go!

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    This morning there was an appelstrudel demonstration in the lounge, followed by a testing. I asked a waiter for a second piece because I hadn't had breakfast and he brought me a huge plate of strudel slices, fatter with apples than the first servings. It was a good demo and I might try it at home.

    We had a choice of 2 tours this afternoon once we pulled into the outskirts of Vienna. We opted for the city tour. The other, a trip to 2 museums, did see The Kiss by Klimpt, but on the other hand, according to our friends, did not give enough time in either museum. Our friends felt very rushed.

    The city tour drove us from the dock into Vienna and started with a tour of the opera house. We didn't go backstage as our friends did on a non-cruise tour a few days prior to this, but was still interesting. The remainder was a walking tour past the Sacher Hotel, home of the original Sacher Torte, past the Imperial Palace, through the pedestrian streets to St Stephen's Cathedral with the gorgeous tiled roof. The enormous statues bordering many of the doorways and windows were amazing, as were the crowds. We had free time to go into the church wander the streets and do some shopping in the high end stores. This was a quick intro to Vienna, and I would like to go back to this central area. On the way back to the boat, we passed many monuments and heard about them, but there was no stopping for pictures.


    This was an evening optional excursion (i.e., extra cost) but a highlight of the trip. We were bussed about 20 minutes away to a serene monastery, the Shift Klosterneuberg, a 12th century Augustinian monastery in a little town, given a tour of the church and adjoining rooms. We saw the famous "Verdun Altar," an gold-plated copper plates and enamel work from the Middle Ages end of the twelfth century, with its 3 rows of picture of religious stories. They were connected through vertical placement of some of the panels. Finally we were admitted and seated in a small room where a quintet performed with 2 excellent opera singers. The lead violinist was incredible. We were given sparkling wine during intermission, made by the monks from the monastery vineyards. I highly recommend this!

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    We woke sailing through the picturesque Wachau Valley, just gorgeous with the scenery and its many medieval castles, cute villages, cliffside ruins, Gothic churches, vineyards of grapes and apricots on the riverbanks, and beautiful hills in the background. It's not a UNESCO Heritage site for nothing! The river was bordered with inviting bike paths. I can see why this area is said to be one of the most popular tourist attractions of Austria!


    We pulled up to the tiniest dock facing a sign which read Spitz on der Donau (Danube). There was a path to the tiny town, but no time to explore - it was time for our morning tour of Melk Abbey. We took the bus along the Danube to the Melk Abbey, an an 11th-century Benedictine monastery above the town of Melk, overlooking the Danube river, adjoining the Wachau valley. We had some free time to roam the grounds before our reserved tour time. The gardens were nothing special this time of year, but there were some whimsical bird sculptures scattered around which we laughed at. We had a guided tour through the site seeing vestments, beautiful frescoes and the enormous library housing medieval and musical manuscripts, but even better, the gorgeous artwork on the ceiling. The best part was entering the church from the spiral staircase and hearing beautiful organ music. A nice tour.


    Be prepared to eat a quick lunch if you do a morning tour and then continue on to the vineyard hike! It was worth it though!

    This afternoon's guided excursion was excellent. I huffed and puffed up a steep hill through the woods, following everyone who seemed to be in much better shape that I was, and all of a sudden, we crested the hill and spread before us were vineyards as far as we could see encircling the tiny town of Spitz. Just beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the trip! We zig-zagged down through the vineyards, bottomed out at the edge of town and made our way back to the boat. The guide stopped us now and then to tell us about the region and wine making. Highly recommend if you want not only to see beautiful scenery, but want to be smack in the middle of it.

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    kwren--what a wonderful report! It is a relaxing diversion to read it--as we have been focused on preparing for this monster storm --- hoping and praying it doesn't hit us full force!

    I hope your husband is doing well...

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    wren - I don't know where you live, but stay safe and don't take any risks! I'll be thinking of you.

    DH is doing fine. No worries yet for either of us. Our minds have been focused on building a new house and trying to sell this one. Thank you.

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    Another beautiful early morning sail until we reached and docked at Engelhartzell. This was another two part day.

    Morning - The hiking crowd boarded the bus and went up through Passau to the tiny town of Hals. From there, my friends and I went on a hike along the hairpin curves of the Ilz River, a smaller river coming off the Danube. Through woods, through a tunnel, up to a lake and across a dam, down the other side, crossing the river on a long wooden bridge, and back through the woods.

    We spent time looking at the beautiful yellow flowers along the river and photographing the pink and purple flowers. But wait! About 2/3 of the way through the hike, the guide told us that the purple flowers were terribly poisonous and not to even brush against them! Yikes - I had already walked in the midst of a lot of flowers for a close-up shot, but I am still here to tell the tale.

    We ended in a tiny and pretty town square where there was still a tall May pole standing in the center. There was also, high above the street, a place where criminals were placed in shackles set into the corner of a building to shame them for their wrongdoing.

    This hike was wonderful. If you have ever hiked between the towns of Cinque Terre, then you will have the feel for yesterday's and today's hikes if you were to combine them. Vineyards, hills, stone steps, hills through the woods. Beautiful scenery. Quite different from the fast pace of the city tours!

    Afternoon - Speaking of city tour! We opted for the panoramic tour of Passau. The boat had left Englehartzell and came up to meet us in Passau.

    I loved Passau! The pastel colors of the buildings of this medium sized town were just stunning, as were the cobblestone passageways.

    First we went up to the Fortress Veste Oberhaus, a castle with a beautiful view of Passau and where 3 rivers meet up. Each of the rivers is said to have a different color - (although the beautiful blue Danube was more of a brown). This morning's river, the Ilz, was black due to some sediments. We didn't go into the castle. Then we went to the hill on the other side of Passau and visited the Mariahilf Pilgrimage Church. Leading to this church are the enclosed 321 stairs leading up. The pilgrims are supposed to climb these stairs on their knees, praying while doing so. At the top, is a beautiful monastery. We had a chance to enter the church and peek down the steps. Mariahilf means Maria - help! This was the ry during a war, praying the the Turks would not overtake Vienna in 1683 and was used when a third of the German population lost their lives, towns were burned to the ground and miracles occurred during that time.

    Once we got back to the boat, we had the option to continue on a short walking tour of Passau through the pretty squares and alleyways. We stopped at the old Town Hall, and the group continued on to the St. Stephan Church. OK I admit that I cut out to do some shopping! But I did catch up with them to see the interior of the church. And it was gorgeous!!! Mostly white with some gilt and paintings set into the ceiling and archways. I loved the numerous cherub statues. I had never seen a church interior like this.

    Typical shopping seemed to be cuckoo clocks, wooden decorations and ornaments (the shop owner we talked to had a workshop in the middle of his little store) and laces. I visited another shop wth nice items just because there was a man in lederhosen watering the flowers outside the shop.


    We continued up the Danube through the water which was like glass and passing serene red-roofed town after town. The funny part was the solar paneled roofs dotting each "skyline". We continued on with our tradition of trying out the drink of the day and just relaxed as it grew dark and castles lit up the night riversides. Just a great trip!

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    The morning continued along the river relaxing on the deck and watching for more locks.

    The captain came out of the wheelhouse to explain to us that the huge white marble monument sitting high on the hillside that we were passing, the Walhalla Memorial, was inspired by the Parthenon. It is a hall of fame that honors important politicians, kings, scientists and artists in German history. I had to look this part up - "The memorial displays 65 plaques and 130 busts covering 2,000 years of history." Very impressive.

    We got to Regensburg at lunch time, and had a choice of a city tour or the Jewish Regensburg tour that afternoon. The latter included a city tour so we opted for that one and it was very interesting. We passed Schindler's house, underground ruins in the Jewish section, saw the ancient city wall with its main entrance, the building where Napolean lived for a while.

    I found this following passage online when researching the trip and thought I'd use it here (because I didn't remember all these facts due to impending information overload) with thanks to whoever wrote it: "Jewish people had settled in Regensburg somewhere around the year 700 and lived peacefully for over 500 years (with the exception of 1098 when the Crusades passed through Regensburg and forced baptisms on Jews). They contributed to the ever-growing economy, because their merchants had an advantage over other Germans. When they traveled to the Near Far East to buy goods, they could liaison with the local Jewish community and speak a common language (Hebrew) to get them access to traders that couldn't deal in German. The Jewish community also provided much of the capital for the ever-expanding city through lending. In the late 1400's, the economy began to suffer and the climate became more hostile for Regensburg's Jews. Because they were the only people allowed to loan money and charge interest (thanks to the Pope banning Christians from lending in 1100), they were chosen as the scapegoats for the economic downturn. Emperor Maximilian continued to offer them protection, but his death on February 12, 1519 changed everything. Just a few days later, all Jews were evicted from the city with five days notice. The Jewish quarter was burned out, and the synagogue was immediately destroyed. 500 people (the entire Jewish population) left Regensburg on February 25, 1519. The townspeople also raided the Jewish cemetery and used tombstones as part of buildings throughout the town. The remains of the burned out Jewish quarter were used to construct a new church on the site of the destroyed synagogue."

    We did see one of those tombstones mentioned above decorating the side of a house and it brought home the hardships of the time. Also in evidence throughout the city were small golden plaques in the sidewalks stating the name and some information of past Jews who had lived in the building near those sites and who had perished in the Holocaust. (Other cities displayed these as well, but on the walls of the buildings instead of down on the walkways.)

    We had free time after this tour but we weren't hungry and didn't feel like standing in line when we came across the oldest restaurant in the world, the Regensburg Wurstkuche.

    We also watched about 2 dozen divers in training trying to swim through the dangerous current in the river. A couple of them really struggled and almost had to be rescued by the boats stationed nearby. I gathered that a few people a year die once they get caught in that current and divers must be ready to effect rescue missions at a moment's notice. Crowds of people were watching from the bridge and shore.

    I do have to add that we were absolutely inundated with UNESCO World Heritage sites throughout this entire tour. This was a great itinerary!

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    Thanks for the wonderful trip report, Kwren. I have been following your reports about your daughter and you definitely deserved this fabulous get-away!

    A couple years ago we did a river boat trip on the Rhine with Avalon and loved it. The trip you just took is on my bucket list -- Prague to Budapest or visa versa. We really enjoyed our Avalon experience, but I will check into the company you took also. Last year we did a small sailboat (300 people) trip along the southern coast of Italy and while we enjoyed it, I still liked the smaller river boat trip. I would never take a large cruise boat trip.

    Thanks again, for taking the time to post your observations about your trip. With all that's on your mind I'm in awe that you can concentrate on anything!

    PS. Congratulations on selling the house and sending good thoughts your way for you and your husband as he has his surgery.

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    "DAY AT SEA"

    Our next day was spent on the river, rather...on the Danube-Main Canal - the canal that connects the Danube and Main Rivers in Germany. It was so nice to have a day to just relax onboard. We ate good food, drank, watched the bikes cycling along the flat paths on either side of the canal, watched the birds swimming, the passing boats, the cute villages with their multiple spires, and enjoyed watching the mechanics of the locks and how the crew secured us to the sides. We had 10 locks to navigate that day, mostly going up as we reached the high point, the Continental Divide. This milestone was indicated by a huge concrete wall. After this point, we started going down in the locks.

    In one lock, we had to wait for quite a while before getting started. Finally, we were told that we had been waiting for another boat to enter the lock. I decided to go to the back of the boat to see who had held us up and it turned out to be the tiniest rowboat-sized vessel with a tiny motor. It had tied up at the far end of the lock and looked so funny sitting there all alone. Who would have thought that a rowboat could hold us up!

    We sat at the bow of the boat for a good part of the morning since the upper deck's canopies had been collapsed due to the high water levels. On some cruises, the water level is so high that sailing is not even possible and those cruises end up turning into bus trips. We were so glad that that did not happen to us. We could put up with avoiding the upper deck for one day.

    At another point, a small watercraft zoomed by us despite it being a no wake zone. The captain was with us when the boat horn sounded long and loud. Boy, did the captain boot it out of there (ad everyone on the deck jumped!). That boat just stopped in front of us to taunt us it seemed and got another belt of the horn. He sped off into the distance.

    We knew a very deep lock, and a lock which went over a road were coming up so we decided to go to lunch once we entered a typical lock. Tables were not assigned, but people tended to sit at the same tables every day, not unlike high school. We did the same after the first few days and settled at the table next to the captain's table. We talked to him now and then as we ate, but not on this particular day, although he was eating at the same time. We sat down and noted that the wall was moving down, meaning that we were rising along with the water level. We got our food and heard a loud BANG. I quickly glanced at the captain to gauge what my reaction should be and noted that he didn't even flinch. He continued to eat calmly so I went back to my conversation. We next noticed that we seemed to be going back down. When the server arrived with drinks, we asked about this and he said that was normal, although we didn't really believe it. We hadn't seen this happen before.

    Next thing we know, someone is talking to the captain and then he literally ran out of the dining room. (This must have been a very tiring day with all the running!) Something was going on after all.

    Here is some lock information. The boats tie up to a mechanism called a pollard. The pollard rises along with the water and the boat is tied to it to prevent it from floating around and hitting the sides or other boats. The loud bang was the line snapping because the pollard was stuck down below. The lock crew lowered the boat back down because they were afraid that if the water level continued to rise but the pollard didn't, that it could dislodge and shoot up like a rocket either next to the boat, landing on the wheelhouse, or shoot up through the bottom of the boat. Neither would be a good scenario.

    So we were stuck in the lock!

    So the on-call engineering crew was called. Only problem was that it was a national holiday. Also, there is no complete crew for each lock. Instead, there are people spread around, all of whom are called together if there is a problem. In addition, hopefully, we weren't calling them out of a biergarten!

    A couple engineers arrived with a lot of peering down the lock wall, a lot of head scratching. The captain was out looking down the sides as well. Quite a few phone calls. Crew members studying the frayed ends of the enormous rope - it obviously took a lot of force to snap that baby!

    Finally after about an hour and a half, the boat started to rise ever so slowly. It seemed to take forever (enough time to order another drink of the day and finish it...which was the one horrible drink of the trip - gin, creme de menthe, lemon juice, tonic water, sugar syrup and a long slice of cucumber - beautiful pale green with a translucent cucumber but bleh!..) but finally, we reached the top without a rocket display. Were we ever happy to exit that lock! The excitement of the day.

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    kwren--I really appreciate you taking the time and effort to write a great trip report! We have changed our trip around because of Hurricane Irma--whereas we were going to go to London (on the day of the storm) and then to Vienna/ Budapest for the cruise, we were able to alter our itinerary and fly this Sunday to Vienna, spend two nights there, train to Budapest and embark on the cruise, then follow up with a week in London. Lots of scrambling, but I think this will now all transpire!

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    You're welcome wren! It brings back memories of the trip and stretches out the enjoyment to do a trip report. (I just hope Fodors doesn't end up getting rid of them!)

    My friends went to Vienna first and really enjoyed being there on their own. They took a tour which included going backstage at the Opera House. The Vienna city tour provided by Uniworld included the Opera House but did not take us backstage. If you like artwork, and the artist Klimt, maybe you would prefer to go to the art museum on your own because it was too rushed for my friends through Uniworld.

    Stay safe in London.

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    Our last morning on the boat so I had my traditional debarkation eggs benedict. Somehow that has become a tradition with me the last breakfast of any cruise. (And they were really good!)

    We had to be out of our cabins by 8:30 and off the boat by 9:00, but once getting out of the rooms, everyone (except for DH who decided he would go somewhere on the boat to read!) went right to the busses and we got an early start for our Nuremberg city tour. (We were the last ones to board the bus - I do NOT recommend doing this!!!) The first part of the tour was on the bus, stopping at the old Nazi rally site and Nazi building which was never finished but resembled the Colesseum, following the wall of the Old Town, passing the building where the Nuremberg Trials took place, and then they dropped us off at the Nuremberg Castle. The group walked downhill in a guided tour to the center market square. We had to leave our audio devices on the boat of course, and it was very hard to hear the guide without replacements. Stick close to the guide! Anyone going on to Prague automatically got signed up for this tour. The tour ended once we reached the market plaza, and then we had a few hours of time on our own.

    At the entrance of the main market plaza is a gilded structure, dating from the fourteenth century, surrounded by an iron fence. It's called Schoner Brunnen, or "beautiful fountain'. Shaped like a Gothic church spire, it is over 60 feet high and is covered with colorful 3D figures which represent the world view of the Roman Empire. Woven into the fence was a golden ring with the tradition that if you turn it 3 times, it will make your wish come true. Of course I gave it a try.

    The plaza, I am told, is normally full of booths selling food items, but that day, there were only a few up and running. Pretzels were sold as were the specialty gingerbread cookies. (We had also noticed that a nearby outdoor restaurant had served baskets of pretzels instead of bread.)

    Checking out the booths and taking samples (watch out for the bees!) was a good time filler until noon when the famous clock would ring.

    This mechanical clock from 1506 is on the spire of the Frauenkirche church in the corner of the plaza and it chimes at noon with mechanical figurines which alternately drum, trumpet, ring a small bell (which we could hear despite it being high up on the spite). After all that, some higher pitched bells ring and a line of figures circulate around the central seated Emperor, each in turn turning to face the him and then swiveling back. The market area hadn't been particularly crowded before that, but at noon it had become packed.

    After this, we walked around the area and saw some serene views of the river with half-timbered houses reflected in the water. Add in weeping willow trees, wooden bridges, flowers and a steel suspension bridge, and it was the stuff of beautiful photos!

    To get to the best area, turn right at the Starbucks at the one corner of the marketplace and continue down between the Starbucks (where the restrooms were open and free) and the river until you come to a small bridge on the left. Cross that bridge and go onto the small island and continue on in the same direction. Many great views after the row of shops. You'll pass a covered bridge and then at the end of the island a steel suspension bridge. We crossed that bridge back over to the right side of the river, crossed the street ahead of us and next we happened upon the Weissgerbergasse, a short pedestrian street of colorful buildings. It was pretty deserted and it lead us around to the St Sebaldus Church, which in turn was near the market place once again.

    We were to meet our busses at 1:30 for the 3 hour drive to Prague. That was sort of a madhouse getting onto the busses. No organization. We were waiting to get onto the first bus, but there was an announcement that the third bus was empty so the mass of people surged on back. Of course by the time we reached it, it was full so we ended up back at the first bus. Once we left, there was an announcement that some people might have been left behind, but as there was no actual list of everyone who should have been on those busses, so they finally decided that they had everyone (not sure how they knew that) and the busses continued on. Morale of the story - don't be late for the busses to Prague! They might not notice that you are missing! (or they might think you are missing when you are actually there!)

    Would it have so difficult to tell everyone to board the same busses they were initially on coming from the boat? Food for thought Uniworld!

    We made it though, had a rest stop halfway to Prague and arrived at our hotel, the Imperial Art Deco.

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    I have loved reading your trip report, Kwren. We took a trip a couple of years ago with my dad to Vienna and the Czech Republic. Since we were driving, we also went to Klosterneuburg Abbey on the way into Vienna. We really loved it. Did the main tour and the winery tour.

    Now I want to see some of the other destinations on your trip... Budapest and the Wachau Valley especially.

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    5alive - I'm so glad you wrote. I forgot to finish my trip report and your reply reminded me to do so. Also glad you enjoyed my report! Thanks for the comment. Now on to finishing!

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    Once we arrived at our hotel, we checked in and found a bottle of champagne chilling and a bowl of luscious strawberries to celebrate our anniversary. Nice touch Uniworld! The hotel was beautiful with a gorgeous marble and granite bathroom and many designs in the tiled floors. It was in a great location not far from the Old Town – an easy walk.

    We attended an orientation meeting for the group. It was a helpful meeting, especially for the restaurant suggestions for the evening.

    We set out with our friends to a traditional restaurant nearby called the Kolkovna Celnice. We were taken downstairs to what looked like a beer hall and we all ordered off the Czech Specialties section of the menu. My turkey schnitzel and potato salad were out of this world. I wish I had some now! My friend ordered the braised neck of beef in wine with pumpkin puree and that was just as good. My husband had the most traditional entrée (according to the meeting leader) and it was just OK – Roast beef in a cream sauce with bread dumplings. The meat was not bad but the dumplings were like pieces of white bread pressed together and baked. We all agreed…Bleh! As tasteless as that sounds. We were led astray on that one.

    On the way back to the hotel we went into a food store. I love visiting food stores when in different countries. This one did not disappoint. I particularly enjoyed the deli counter. Similar to France with their dozens of cheeses, this one had dozens of different sausages on display!

    We also noticed that the sidewalks in Prague were usually made of small cubes of pale and dark grey colored stone and we noted the large sections being repaired. Thousands of pale cubes painstaking laid out in perfect rows surrounded by dark grey frames and stripes or designs. Beautiful! Amazing that people still go to that trouble, and very cool to see the workers placing each one just so. There were other areas of concentric semicircles or little designs. Just as in my Barcelona trip report, I will suggest when in Prague, look down! I can just imagine the backaches after a long day’s work!

    The next morning was our included walking tour. Our bus drove us to the top of the main hill and dropped us off at a monastery near the palace. We walked through the grounds for the spectacular view of the city and were greeted by …fog! We could just make out the closest rooftops. Go later in the day to give the fog time to clear up! We could see the grapes growing on the grapevines though. Imagine the monks working hard to make their wines!

    We walked down from the monastery through the New Town to the palace to see the changing of the guard, and then continued down across the famous Charles Bridge and through Old Town to the large mechanical clock in the main square. I think that clock activates every hour, but it only lasts for a very short while. Nevertheless, the square was full of people waiting for it to chime, and performers and living-statues. Definitely a high-energy area surrounded by spires. This was all a wonderful walk downhill, even better since we had a guide leading us and describing everything. The artwork on the outside of many of the buildings and the red rooftops were gorgeous, as was the bride dressed in salmon-color dress along with her new husband in a matching shirt! We passed priests with cameras and Thais massage studios, where you can have your dead skin removed by putting your feet in large tanks sitting in full view of passersby filled with little fish which would nibble off the dead cells. (No, I didn't try that!) By the way, anyone who has read many of my posts knows I love the Eiffel Tower. On top of the hill closer to the monastery, there was a smaller version which served as an observation tower. I didn’t get there but that didn’t stop me from having my picture taken with it in the background.

    We got back with a little time for a snack and then on to the afternoon excursion.

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    We took the optional excursion from Prague to Terezin this afternoon. It took about 45 minutes to get to this walled fort with orderly graves out front. Terezin started as an actual fort and then fell into disrepair in the late 19th century. It later held military and political prisoners, until the Nazis took it over as a transit and labor camp during WWII. Many of the Jews imprisoned here were tortured to death while others were deported to Auschwitz, among other concentration camps. This camp was used as propaganda for the Red Cross and Allies as a tour was given through certain hurriedly improved quarters. The children had been trained to put on an opera, a group of artists was compelled to “beautify” some of the facitilities, and the more highly ranked residents were shown as model citizens. Of course, it was a front for all the atrocities going on in the untoured areas.

    We were taken through the long narrow and dark hall through the surrounding walls to an execution site, but found out that that was used during a different part of its history, not by the Nazis. After this, we were taken to another part of the Terezin ghetto to the Ghetto Museum where hundreds of pictures drawn by the camp’s children had been displayed after being smuggled out. Some were really heartbreaking. One piece of artwork was a grouping of Jews’ suitcases labelled and piled high. Terezin also was used as a holding area for the Jews’ belongings as the suitcases were emptied and the contents were sorted and sent to the front.

    We were taken to the “Barracks” where there was a typical dormitory reconstruction, giving each person less than 2 square meters of living space, as well info on the epidemics which ravaged the camp due to the lack of hygiene and water shortage. Some of the artists I mentioned above, artists who were working in drafting offices and who had had better living conditions than the Jews, also secretly drew more realistic depictions of the actual living conditions at the camp and asked the Red Cross delegation to smuggle them out to inform the world of what was happening on a daily basis. They were caught, arrested and imprisoned with the Jews. Many died from the harsh conditions, but dozens of other drawings were discovered hidden in the camp are are now displayed in the museum.

    This was a really tiring day, very emotional and we were ready to return to Prague. We had made reservations for the Cafe Imperial, which was attached to our hotel, because we had heard that the executive chef there was a well-known television chef and because we knew that we would be exhausted after such a busy and grueling day. The food was excellent. We loved that the "bus boys" brought food out on trays and stood at attention amongst the tables until the waiters came to relieve them of the meals for each diner.

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    Our last day was a gorgeous day, one during which the four of us split up. Our friends went to the Jewish Quarter and DH to the Apple Computer Museum. I went to the Miniature Museum after wandering through a small market near our hotel. I especially liked the spiralized potatoes which were fried on long skewers – one long stretched out potato chip on each. There were all sorts of sausages, pretzels and crafts. I continued through the Main Square of the Old Town, across the Manes Bridge (I think that was the name – it was the bridge to the north of Charles Bridge) and caught the 22 or 23 tram up the hill past the Prague Castle and around to the Pohorelec tram stop.

    It took me forever to find the Muzeum Miniatur. Despite asking about a dozen people in the vicinity, including people in a hotel and restaurant, I ended up going up and down the street quite a few times. Finally, someone told me that it was actually in the Strahov Monastery. Why didn’t anyone say so in the first place! Once inside, still no one was familiar with it. I asked in the beer restaurant/brewery on the left side of the inner courtyard and the man said he never heard of it. Well, I decided that I would at least go to the viewpoint out to the back which was so foggy the previous day and on the way, there was a sign for the museum! It was off in the back left corner of the monastery, just next to the beer restaurant. Amazing that that waiter never heard of it and that it gets any business at all having had such a hard time finding it!

    I went to see the view first and it was stunning in the sun. I could see forever and the red rooftops, multiple spires, river and bridges were beautiful. So much better without fog!

    Back to the museum. It wasn’t cheap, but I love anything mini and it was worth the trip. Inside were two rooms lined with old-fashioned microscopes and small containers. Each one contained a miraculously detailed object set on a ridiculously small item including a seed, hair, mosquito wing or in the eye of a needle. The detail of the items was impressive. There was a group of swans on a seed head, a line of cars on a mosquito leg, a portrait on a poppy seed, a parade of zoo animals on a hair, a long train on a hair, a camel caravan in the eye of a needle and a beautiful gold Eiffel Tower in a cherry pit. There were horseshoes on a flea. It was really amazing! If you like tiny things, this place is for you!

    A tram ticket is good for 1 ½ hours so I hurried out of the museum just as a large group arrived. I hopped the tram back into the city and got off at the stop at a mall to see the gigantic “kinetic” Franz Kafka moving head sculpture – more than 30+ feet tall and shiny reflective silver. I read that there are 42 horizontal panels which move around thereby changing the appearance of the face. We went to the café next to it so we could watch it while we had a drink and after waiting a while, we asked the server when it would start moving, Well…the computer was broken that day so we actually watched it on YouTube while having our drink. Pretty funny way to enjoy it, but we got the idea and had fun anyway. I found this on the Internet and it made me laugh: “Across from City Hall, it's meant to distract people from the frustations of dealing with government employees.”

    We wandered through the Old Town and saw a local specialty made in many shops: Trdlo, also called Tradiční, or even Trdelnik! These are pastry cones made by winding long strips of dough around a cone-shaped metal mold, rolled a bit to stick it all together, baked over an open grill and sliding the mold out. The one I had was coated inside with chocolate, filled high with ice cream and strawberries and topped with shipped cream a cherry and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. It was huge and heavenly!!!

    Prague seems to be known for blown glass items so we did a little shopping and met our friends back at the hotel. Uniworld included transfers back to the airport and they were nice enough to take us to an airport hotel instead, the Holiday Inn Airport. It was a nice enough Holiday Inn and we had a very good dinner in their restaurant. We had decided to stay there since we had a very early flight the next morning. We hopped the free shuttle at 5 a.m. the next day and were there in about 10 minutes (due to heavy traffic – who would have guessed!)

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    Kwren--thanks so much for finishing up your report. I went to Prague a couple of years ago (will try to do my own report soon). Wondering if you remember approximately the cross streets or a nearby landmark of the foodstore that you liked near your hotel. I do really want to go back to Prague and tend to bookmark places like that.

    Also, I was at the Strahov Monastery too and never saw any signs for the Muzeum Miniatur. That sounds fun too if I am up that way again.

    As to the street food you mentioned, is this it? Because I have seen it at a foodcart here in the USA and it was identified as Hungarian or Romanian (I forget which).

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    The food store I think was to the left of the restaurant Kolkovna Celnice on nam. Republiky, and near Republic Square which has a very strange sculpture. However, when I tried to Google it, it says its address is around the corner on V Celnici. I'm thinking that there were 2 entrances. I didn't remember the name but from Google, it appears to be a Supermarket Billa. Here is what I googled:

    V Celnici 1031/4, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia

    Those in the link look more like the ones I saw in Budapest so maybe they are Hungarian. They looked like bread. The ones in Prague can be the same shape but also a bit narrower on one end than the other (better for holding ice cream!)

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    Thanks for your great trip report. DH and I are thinking of doing this trip for our 20th anniversary. We’re normally very independent travelers so I do have a concern that we will feel like the groups on the tours will be too big. How many people would you estimate were in a sight seeing/tour group?

    Did you feel rushed? Or that you always had to wait due to too much shopping time?

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    Hi patandhank! Glad you enjoyed my report.

    We are independent travelers as well and this was definitely a switch for us.

    The size of the groups varied. For instance, the hike through the vineyard was very small, maybe about 15-20 people. Same for the hike along the river.

    The trip into Vienna on the other hand was huge. 2 or 3 busses because of course everyone wanted to go see Vienna and the dock wasn't in the center of the city (the river didn't flow through the center). Once we got there though, everyone was split into smaller groups into one of two different excursions, and everyone had a headset so we didn't need to crowd around the guide. It was as you would expect in an already crowded city. If you wanted to do some serious shopping in Vienna, you would need to be very organized and know which stores you wanted to visit - not much time for that. The tour in Passau was a small group. It will vary depending on the excursion, the more active, the smaller the group. Some excursions had a cap on the number of people - the Mozart concert was one of those.

    Of course, it is not mandatory that you go on every excursion.

    By the end of the trip, we felt like we couldn't absorb any more info. We didn't feel rushed other than hurry up and get to the bus after breakfast/lunch!, but with a guided tour every day, it was a lot. There was not a lot of shopping time on our trip. As a matter of fact, I split off alone from one tour for 30 minutes and did some real damage.

    The flip side was that it was so relaxing on board the boat - that was where you find your downtime. The trip was perfect for us. I needed a break from the planning and that was all done for us. A nice change. We're going to go on another with the same friends, this time to the fjords of Norway.

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    Thanks keen.

    Years ago we took a trip with Viking River Cruises to China and Tibet which was more of a land trip with 3 days on the river. What you describe sounds a lot like that trip. We had 20 people in our group. Now after arranging so many trips where DH and I have private guides as needed, 20 sounds like a lot, but DH is really wanting to try this type of trip. I’m going to do some itinerary comparisons with AMA because the question now is whether We do a 14 day river cruise (his preference) or split the baby and do 7 days and the rest independent (my preference). LOL

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