In July, we experienced my first ever river cruise - sailing along the magnificent Danube from Prague to Vienna, with the US based company, Tauck. We travelled from 20th to 31st June with a two-night stay in both cities and seven nights on the river.
Our journey started at the Intercontinental Hotel in Prague - with its premium location (just a short walk from the old town and Charles Bridge) and rooftop bar where you are treated to uninterrupted views of the city. Welcome drinks were served on the rooftop where we met our fellow passengers followed by dinner in a private room.
After two days of architectural wonders, our coach took us to Straubing where we boarded the MS Joy and the start of our cruise. With Tauck, we kept the same coach drivers throughout the whole tour. The MS Joy was indeed a joy - a beautiful ship, well designed with plenty of space all furnished to a high standard. It had the main restaurant but also a more informal café/bar called Arthurs, where you could eat breakfast and lunch and have drinks throughout the day. We had a loft cabin which was split level, giving you plenty of room. The most amazing feature was its floor to ceiling window which made the cabin unbelievably light and airy.
Over the course of the next seven days, we docked at Regensburg, Passau, Linz, Grein, Durnstein, Tulln, Bratislava and Vienna. This is an excellent itinerary taking you through the most stunning parts of the Danube including the Wachau Valley. Despite being a busy river, in some ports, we were the only boat in town.
A variety of excursions had been organized along the way with at least two choices each day, sometimes three. They were not just limited to the town where you had docked. For example, I took the trip from Regensburg to Munich where we visited the impressive BMW Museum and showroom and the many splendours of the city. From Linz we went back to the Czech Republic to visit the ancient medieval town of Cesky Krumlov which includes Krumlov Castle. Here you experienced a private tour inside the castle, followed by a private lunch and entertainment, one of the largest castle complexes in central Europe embracing 40 buildings and palaces.
In contrast, the visit to Mauthausen Memorial, the site of an infamous World War II concentration camp was an incredibly moving experience. Once again, a private tour guide gave an in-depth talk, which gave you an incredible understanding of what happened within the camp.
Passau is the quintessential Bavarian town, and the magnificent views over the confluence of the three rivers and Slovakia's capital Bratislava. How can you fail to be impressed by Vienna? Lavish baroque palaces and wide boulevards, the fabulous Museum of Music, where you can conduct the orchestra. Schonbrunn Palace, the Vienna Woods, a city full of style and sophistication, if a little pricey. We finished the holiday on a high with a gala dinner at the Palais Pallavicini, where we were wined and dined and entertained in style by the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, plus ballet and opera, a special Tauck exclusive. I would recommend a carriage ride around Vienna, the 40-minute trip was spectacular.
I cannot recommend Tauck highly enough. Their attention to detail and organization were faultless with excellent customer service. This was an all-inclusive holiday and the quality and choice of the food and drink onboard was fantastic. There were opportunities to sample the local cuisine which involved a lot of meat! The schnitzels were delicious. Great wine and apricot liqueur tasting too.
My first experience of river cruising was amazing, and we felt very extremely well looked after. The staff made the effort to know your name and your favourite tipple.
I can highly recommend this type of holiday. Fellow passengers were friendly and engaging and it was interesting to see three families onboard with children in their early 20's, demonstrating that river cruising is not just for the older, retired generation.