Of all of the tours that Jim and I have taken with my company, Grand European Tours, one of our favorites was the Enchanting Danube river cruise, operated by our sister company Uniworld River Cruises. This was not our first river cruise, having sailed the Rhine, Mosel, and Yangtze, but it was certainly the most luxurious.
We began our trip in Prague on the 3-night extension package, which I highly recommend. Prague is a delight, steeped in history, full of sightseeing options and great beer. Shop for the famous Czech blown glass crystal, tour the castle, stroll Charles Bridge, and spend evenings sampling the pilsners at a local pub.
We were sad to see our time in Prague end but it was time for what we came for, a fantastic cruise down the Danube to Budapest. We began with a short bus trip to Nuremberg, Germany where we visited the old town square and the Nazi Rally Grounds before joining our riverboat on the Main River. The Uniworld ships are all quite fantastic, featuring gorgeous rooms and public spaces, lounges, a restaurant, and rooftop sun deck. Our cabin was comfortable in size with lovely amenities and plenty of storage to unpack our bags for our seven nights on-board.
Our upcoming week was marred only by cool, somewhat rainy weather. Each port of call offered an included walking tour followed by leisure time. In Regensburg we enjoyed brats and beer at the Historic Sausage Kitchen, said to be the oldest sausage kitchen in Western Europe. Set, scenically, next to the ancient stone bridge, they have been serving sausage here for over 900 years.
We hiked the hills around the quaint town of Deggendorf before arriving in gorgeous Passau. An included walking tour took in an organ concert at St. Stephans Cathedral, featuring the largest pipe organ in Europe in a gorgeous setting and enhanced by the sun shining through the brilliant stained glass.
The following day proved to be the most scenic as we visited Melk Abbey and cruised through the breathtaking Wachau Valley. Melk Abbey is a Benedictine Abbey founded in 1089. The famous monastic library was founded in the 12th century and soon became renowned for it’s extensive collection. The baroque design is covered with splendid frescoes and marble and features a lovely circular staircase.
Vienna, capital of the Hapsburg Empire was our next stop and we were able to enjoy two nights docked near downtown. No trip down the Danube would be complete without a visit here. Historic, impressive Vienna is a stunning city from every angle. Our tour included a short bus trip along the Ringstrasse, viewing the Opera House, Parliament, and Hofburg Palace. The balance of our time was free so took the subway to impressive and massive Schonbrunn Palace, wandered the old city, and ate our weight in sacher tortes.
Our idyllic week on the Danube ended in the twin cities of Buda and Pest. I was not sure what to expect of Budapest before our arrival, but ended up absolutely loving the city. From Fisherman’s Bastion to the spas to the excellent pedestrian areas, markets and Eastern European cuisine, our time there was truly fantastic.
I would heartily recommend a river cruise to anyone The pace is leisurely and the all-inclusive pricing and joy of only unpacking once make for a wonderful vacation experience. The level of service the staff provided was extraordinary, the food wonderful, and ease of travel very relaxing. Uniworld cruises are already selling for 2014 so if you are looking for an unforgettable vacation now is the time to book!
Our cruise was hosted by Uniworld River cruises but all opinions are my own.