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Posts Tagged ‘europe’

Cruising Down the Danube

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on August 13, 2009

As I mentioned in my first blog about cruising, the Husband and I have fallen in love with cruising over the past two years that we’ve been doing it.  Most of our cruises have been oceanliners – the traditional type of boat we think of when we think of cruising.  This past December, however, we decided to try another type of cruising – a river cruise!

The husband and I were planning on going to Rome for Christmas, meeting up with his family that lives all over the world.  We were going to be there for a week, but were interested in making it a longer trip – to take advantage of the short time I had off between semesters of grad school.  We began looking into Mediterranean cruises, but found that almost none of the cruise lines had any the month of December.  We finally figured out that all the employees probably go home for the holidays so they don’t have any people to run the ships.  Then we learned about river cruises.

In December, many of the river cruise lines offer a special type of cruise called the Holiday Market River Cruise.  We learned that apparently towns all over Europe host Holiday Markets from approximately Thanksgiving to Christmas.  These markets offer food, alcohol, toys, and decorations, all with local or Christmas themes.  We found that the cruise lines offered cruises on the Danube, stopping at a number of cities with Holiday Markets along the way.  So we got to work researching what cruise lines were out there and whether we wanted to book one.

We looked at a variety of cruise lines and found that many of them offer the same itinerary at different price levels.  Not feeling the need to spend tons of money (which usually means lots of fancy dinners on the ship), my grandparents recommended Gate 1 Travel as they had done land tours with them and really enjoyed their experiences.  We checked out their website and found that they were right in our price range!

Based on our schedule and our interestes, we chose the 9 Day Nuremburg to Vienna Christmas Market cruise.  (It looks like this year it’s just 8 days – they took out one of the cities we visited.)  We flew to Munich, took a transfer to Nuremburg, then sailed down the Danube to Regensburg, Passau, and Melk, ending in Vienna.

We originally expected to be the youngest passengers on board by far (27 and 29), but found that to be partly true.  There were a small handful of folks our age traveling with their parents; a large number of travelers in their 50s/60s; and a smaller portion in their 70s/80s.  A river cruise has a much smaller amount of passengers – approximately 100 compared to the thousands on an ocean liner.

All meals were seat yourself with a buffet breakfast and a plated lunch and dinner.  The food was AMAZING!!! and plentiful 🙂 About halfway through the cruise, we found that we needed to stop eating as much because we were stuffed.  Good thing there was an opportunity for walking in each city!  While needing to come out of our shells a bit to choose tables at some meals, we enjoyed getting to know many of the other passengers – we even came away with a close friendship with one of the older couples.

Meals were generally “cruise casual” which we enjoyed.  One night at one of the ports we walked through another ship (one of the more expensive itineraries) to get to the dock.  They were having a formal dinner night with tuxedos and ball gowns – not what we were looking for on this trip!

Each day the shipboard televisions showed a German or Austrian related movie (Sound of Music!) which we enjoyed while cruising down the river between ports.

All cities offered a walking or bus tours and there were optional tours (at additional costs) to Salzburg and other cities farther away from the river.  We chose to stay in the local cities, never having visited any of them. It’s important to note that these are very old cities and are not suitable to wheelchairs.  The walking pace is suitable for those in their 40s/50s.  Older individuals (or those less in shape) may feel challenged while those younger (or in better shape) may wish to walk faster.  We enjoyed the tours but looked forward to getting to the end to explore the cities ourselves!

At night, there was entertainment in the lounge.  This portion was our only real complaint – it felt very camp like.  The cruise was divided into three tour groups, each assigned a tour group leader.  At night, if there wasn’t another form of entertainment, they put on skits (like camp counselors).  Instead of getting very involved in that, we sat in the connecting library, enjoyed some drinks, and played lots and lots of Scrabble 🙂 (you’ll see in other later posts that we are very much nerds!)

All in all, we were very pleased with this cruise and this tour group.  We highly recommend Gate1 Travel and this cruise in particular (although it looks like they’re making some changes to the itineraries and options).  Stay tuned for posts about the individual cities and the rest of this awesome vacation!

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