A romantic Danube River cruise is one of those bucket list-worthy vacations. Yes, I used the “b” word, but this cruise was memorable in so many ways. Here’s my AmaWaterways river cruise review from Germany to Hungary, with stops in Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, along the way on the Romantic Danube route.
Danube River Cruise: What to Expect
People come from all walks of life
Whether this is your first time cruising with Amawaterways or you have sailed with this luxury river cruise line multiple times, it’s nice to be reminded of what to expect on Amawaterways River Cruise Ships. There is no typical cruiser on board these elegant ships.
I met Betty from Atlanta, a single, retired female, Sue traveling with her husband from San Jose, a group of eight well-traveled friends from Kansas, some retired and some still in the work force, a few Mexicans from Cancun and the Canary Islands, friendly Canadians, of course, and a multi-generational family traveling with their young son and grandfather, among others.
People from all walks of life were on the AmaStella, and everyone was having a good time on their well-deserved European holiday.
There are tons of all-inclusive perks
“As a solo traveler, I always pay a single supplement,” noted Betty Rose of Atlanta, Georgia. “It’s difficult to find a friend for the same travel times and where I want to go, so I travel by myself. I like having everything planned for me; AmaWaterways does that perfectly. Having done both ocean and river cruises, my experience has been that people are much friendlier on a river cruise. I like the small amount of passengers on this ship.”
All guests are fed from morning, to lunch, in addition to afternoon tapas, cocktail hour, (unlimited wine, beer & soda with dinner) and late night snacks. Dining choices include buffet lunch & daily Chef’s Menu selections, in addition to The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant. Late riser breakfast options are also available – a great option for those traveling with adult children who like to sleep late on vacation.
Umbrellas, cotton robes, slippers, bottled water & travel alarm clock are included in each room. (I actually debated about bringing an umbrella and travel alarm clock and hoped that the ship would have these items, as I travel carry-on and I hate to over-pack.)
Thank you AmaWaterways for taking the hassle out of packing for vacation. I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to only have to pack and unpack once on a week-long vacation.
Amawaterways plans pre and post trips
What I loved most about our schedule is that we had the option of pre and post tours with the company or on their own. We stayed at the Intercontinental Prague hotel in the Czech Republic for the pre-cruise land program before departing from the port of Vilshofen, Germany.
There is an additional fee for the pre- or post-cruise land program, but the fee includes hotel, breakfast & tour, in addition to transfer to the port with the purchase of air from Amawaterways.
Immersive city tours, led by local guides, deliver guests back to the ship for lunch. Afternoon tours end promptly before dinner, or you may stay in town if the ship overnights in port. I loved that I got to experience some time out on my own as well.
Our 7-Day Danube River Cruise Itinerary
Our luxury motor coach arrived in Germany and we began a walking tour in Regensburg, a UNESCO listed medieval center dating back to Roman times. We crossed the Steinerne Bridge and could smell the aroma of sausage wafting from Historische Wurstkuchl, thought to be Germany’s oldest restaurant.
In the old town we were surrounded by magnificent merchant’s houses from the Middle Ages. Fortunately, Regensburg survived the war unscathed and has many treasures to share with visitors. If you have a chance to visit Regensburg in the winter, during the Christmas Markets, you’ll see another side of this charming city.
As you can see from the video above, we spent our second day in Passau hiking up to Veste Oberhaus. I enjoyed little perks throughout the trip, like every night you’ll find a copy of the Daily Cruiser on your bed with a little background on what’s in store for your next day. You may join one of several included tours, or enjoy Passau on your own.
What I discovered is that Passau is often called “City of Three Rivers” as it is situated at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and the Illz River. Perched high above the rivers is Veste Oberhaus, a fortress worth hiking to as you’ll get your 10,000 steps quota in for the day and be rewarded with gorgeous city views.
Day 3 of our Danube River Cruise brought us to Linz, Austria. After a walking tour of the city, we were presented with tour excursions of the Austrian Lake District, a visit to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, or a trip to Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart. We selected the Cesky Krumlov tour, as this entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 4 was spent cruising the scenic Wachau Valley in Austria. Thank goodness for the on-board narration, or I would not have been able to identify all of the beautiful castles we cruised by. With a Durnstein walking tour and visit to Melk Abbey, one of the most famous sights in Austria, you’ll have plenty of postcard-worthy memories from the Danube.
The Wachau Valley produces world-class Rieslings and is also known for their apricot orchards. Make sure to leave room in your luggage to bring home some souvenirs.
Day 5 and we arrive in Vienna, Austria, a romantic and elegant city not to be missed. After a morning tour we had time for a coffee and Sacher Torte and watched the horse-drawn carriages drive by with a Fiaker. This city has so much to offer, so we had some serious decisions to make. Should we take the optional tour to Schonbrunn Palace, bike ride in Klosterneuburg or explore the hidden streets of Vienna on our own?
We opted to visit Schonbrunn Palace (for an additional fee) and visited the Vienna Imperial Carriage Museum. That evening we attended the Strauss & Mozart Concerts, a “pinch me moment” according to Sue Hamilton of San Jose, California.
“This is our second AmaWaterways Cruise,” said Sue Hamilton of San Jose, California. Our fist was from Paris to Amsterdam. Both were unique and fabulous experiences. Every stop was great – especially the smaller towns. I picked this cruise because we have never visited any of these towns before. The people on board are fun and the service is amazing! A highlight for us was the concert in Vienna. I call it a ‘pinch me moment’ when we were listening to Mozart & Strauss and drinking champagne during intermission. The dancers and opera singers were humorous and entertaining.”
Day 6 we sail into Bratislava in Slovakia. After a Bratislava city walking tour we wandered into a pastry shop by the castle and tried two types of cookies with poppy seeds and one with walnuts. I bought several cookies to take home with me, but wouldn’t you know it, they somehow disappeared along the journey. Bratislava was surprisingly hip to me. I wasn’t expecting all of the art and many coffee shops and I loved the pedestrian-friendly layout of the former Communist city.
Day 7 we cruised into Budapest and take a city tour with time to shop at the Grand Market Hall, while others opt for a castle hill hike. That afternoon my husband and I walk across the Chain Bridge and experience an authentic Hungarian bath.
Before dinner we learn about Hungarian folklore. After dinner we pack our bags and review the very well organized disembarkation process – thanks to our very well organized program manager. My highlight of our entire Danube River Cruise trip? The scenic illuminations cruise, which was the entire Hungarian Parliament building lit up like a Christmas tree for all to see. You simply must experience Budapest, the Chain Bridge and the magic of the night for yourself. It’s even better seeing it from your window aboard the ship!
Further insider tips
Some people opt to do their own pre and/or post city tours. Your cruise manager will arrange a taxi or explain public transportation options to your next local destination, making the transition to the next part of your journey stress-free.
Daily entertainment, with a regional focus, is offered on the ship each evening. With standard tours, bike tours, hikes, Limited Edition tours, fast tours and slow-walker tours, there’s an option for everyone, especially the active adventure traveler.
I covered a lot of information in this blog post, but my best insider tip is to take advantage of The Chef’s Table. Book your reservation for this unique dining experience (at no additional cost)the first day you board the ship.
I’d recommend a night when you don’t have a busy itinerary. For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and Instagram @Nancydbrown and follow @Amawaterways on Twitter and Instagram.
More information, including prices, may be found on AmaWaterways website, www.amawaterways.com
Article written by, YouTube videos and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Disclosure: As is common in the travel industry, this writer was provided with accommodations and meals for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, we believe in full disclosure.