AMA Waterways-The Romantic Danube River Boat cruise 2013-What a truly amazing trip it was!
Our flight was booked on Lufthansa air departing from Chicago to Munich and then Munich to Prague. What a fantastic airline, really! Comfortable seats, TV for every seat with a good selection of FREE movies to watch. No shortage of beverages, food and snacks and also very customer friendly. Imagine that with an airline??
We arrived in Prague for our 3 day stay checking into the Hilton old town, Prague. During our stay here, we did a city tour with AMA’s tour group exploring some of the city highlights such as the Astronomical Clock, Prague Castle and of course the Charles Bridge. We did a lot of city walking and getting acquainted with the area on our own. Our second day there, we took a tour to Terezin, a Nazi concentration camp (or Ghetto) used during WWII for Jews from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark. It was an amazing, yet somber visit..there was so much history there.. so much pain and suffering. It was difficult to walk through it and hear the guide’s story of the horrors that took place there. A must do if you are ever in the area.
We left Prague by bus and headed to Regensburg, Germany. A quaint little town home to one of the oldest restaurants in the world called the Sausage Kitchen and its famous stone bridge, a masterwork of medieval construction (or so they say, it was under renovation, so we didn’t get to see much of it). Onward to the the Danube river in Vilshofen, Germany. Here we had an October fest gathering and a getting acquainted event with the ship and crew. The boat took off sometime in the middle of the night for arrival in Passau Germany.
In Passau Germany we did a walking tour of this interesting little town which is also called the “city of three rivers” because the Danube, Inn and Llz rivers all converge here. After our tour, we decide to climb up vest oberhaus – the hill which over looks the city – and took some wonderful photographs. It was also an excellent workout to climb up!!
The most wonderful feeling I had about River Cruising is never feeling rushed. We always had the entire day to explore and moved at our own leisure, so there was never a concern about time!
The next day, our floating hotel took us to Linz Austria where my friend Ginny and I left the boys behind (they preferred to tour Linz) for a tour of Gmunden & Alpine lakes, a 2 hr bus ride from our docking location in Linz. This was a very scenic drive though Austria’s Salzkammergut, the Austrian Lake district, and we took a wonderful stroll around town for some craft
shopping and sweets! The guys also had some wonderful stories to tell of their adventure in the town of Linz, so after dinner that evening we all went out for a stroll into the city and explored some of its interesting notable buildings. Linz has a very busy square with entertainment and also great for people watching!
Our next morning took us to Melk and Krems Austria (our only day where we made two stops in one day). Our first tour was at the Melk Abbey one of Europe’s larges Baroque monasteries. It now houses a impressive museum with a library and medieval manuscripts and one of the most
amazing churches! After our visit to the Abbey, we were back on the boat for a visit to Krems/Durnstein. This was actually one of the only times the boat moved during the day and it also had the most impressive scenic views along the Danube river. Plenty of old castles and beautiful scenery was to behold! The picture just doesn’t do justice to the beauty. Once in Krems, walked/bused over to the village of Durnstein where we
sampled some chocolates, toured the village and took another hard climb (a very steep hillside) to a scenic view overlooking the river and the village. We actually had to come back down the hill sideways to keep from falling but it was well worth the effort as the view was fantastic and we always want the exercise!
Our next morning found us in Vienna- Austria. And, unbeknownst to me, the highlight of this trip! I was most looking forward to Prague and Budapest so I was not expecting to love Vienna as much as I did!! After a
guided off the beaten path tour of this amazing city, we walked off on our own to visit the highlights: St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Opera house, the historic city center and all of its architectural splendor. Music has such an incredible history here, so it was only fitting that later in the evening we attended a special Mozart and Strauss concert. The concert was very good, excellent music, some acting/stage show and singing. The concert was however, in a room that was small and a bit confined. It was offered as a “special” concert for the river cruise and thus it was not a large concert hall but a private room with chairs. All in all, it was good. I’m happy we went, but not exactly what I was expecting.
The next day on the trip had us in Bratislava – Slovakia. A very small town with a few interesting sites to see. We saw the old town, the main square and toured a old medieval museum. We walked off the beaten path to visit the “Blue Church” a church that looked like it was made of blue
foam!! Very unusual. We also saw Slovakia’s most famous statue, a very quirky man in a manhole or “the watcher”. Legend claims he is looking up the skirts of women! At least that was our tour guide’s theory!
Our last stop on the river boat cruise was Budapest. We did a morning tour to Hero’s square, Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. After going back to the boat for lunch, we took off on foot to visit the nearby shopping area and find more popular sites to see. One was the Parliament building, which was under construction from street view and thus we were not able to get much closer to it, although we have plenty of photos from the river view! We walked so much that by the
time we got back to the ship it was after 5 and I still did not get to see the thermal baths, which I was hoping to visit for a few hrs. Although, apparently no one else had my interest in them so I had to let my planned visit there go.. (until next time). After dinner, the ship sponsored an evening cruise up and down the Danube river for us to see the lights of Budapest. It’s really an amazing city all lit up in the evening, they also put on a wonderful laser show! Unfortunately, because our flight left at 7:00 am the next morning, we had to busy ourselves with packing, closing our account and reserving our taxi for the morning, so we had to call it a night fairly early.
We boarded our flight from Budapest, connected in Germany and landed in Bari, Italy by early afternoon. We stayed with my parents for about 5 days and it was fairly unadventurous. We didn’t go anywhere specific, never really ventured out except to find the Harley Davidson dealer in Bari which was apparently there for 20 years and we never knew it!! In all of our trips to Bari..how did we miss this?
After all the sightseeing, walking, eating and picture taking in the previous days, it was very nice to just hang out, visit with family and spend a few days on the beach! We did our customary visits with family, explored the old house (same house I was born in!!) walked all over town, went to see the farm, fixed things for my parents, shopped at market day and basically relaxed.
All in all, this was a wonderful, once in a lifetime trip. I can certainly say that river cruising is something I would definitely want to do again! And AMA Waterways is an exceptional cruise company. We never wanted for anything and the crew was just spectacular!! The food was fantastic, the tours were great catering to the needs of active to “gentle” walkers, they were very accommodating! However, it is expensive and as such, not something that would be a regular item on our agenda. Since this was my friends 50th birthday vacation choice, we naturally went along and maybe, just maybe we will do it again for another special occasion!
18 days and 6 countries. What an adventure!