The Danube’s great cities cruise with Shearings Holidays – Part 2

We joined our Shearings river cruise at Passau. The river cruise ship was moored a little way out of Passau, but we asked the receptionist to organise a taxi to take us into this impressive town where the Danube River meets the Linz and Inn Rivers. It is a confluence of rivers and you can see the different colours of the water as you stand at the vantage point where the rivers meet. This is an attractive town with churches and restaurants in abundance along its cobbled streets.

Melk AbbeyShearings Holidays arrange some excellent tours on the River Cruises, some included and some optional at a cost, but all very well planned and executed. Our first stop on the Danube was Melk with its beautiful Abbey. It is a very impressive sight from the river but once you get to the Abbey it is even more impressive.

There is an 11-minute walk from the ship to the small town of Melk – no, I didn’t time it – but it does say so on a sign! It did take me a little longer, but Shearings organise a tour of the Abbey and the Grand Tourer Coaches that brought you to the ship are there waiting to drive you up to the town and Abbey.

To allow you to follow your guide without being too close to them, Shearings have the ‘Silent Listening boxes’, a small box carried around your neck with an earpiece for you to follow your guide, even if you cannot see them.

This is a lovely tour of Melk Abbey with good knowledgeable guides. This stunning building and all its artefacts, statues and a beautiful garden area are magnificent, and the library and chapel are breath-taking. 

We decided to walk back down through the town instead of taking the bus back and it was a treat to sit in the sun with a cool drink and enjoy this Austrian town.

Vienna

St Stephen’s CathedralThe River Cruise mooring is outside Vienna, so Shearings coaches come to pick you up to take you to the included tour of the city centre. This wonderful, cosmopolitan city has such a lot to offer from famous designer shops to exclusive world-famous coffee shops and restaurants. St Stephen’s Cathedral is a major draw for the tourist and is usually a very busy area, but it is a beautiful church and a must- see attraction in Vienna.

Back to the ship for lunch then out again on an optional tour to a museum. If you prefer to stay in Vienna for the afternoon, then speak to your cruise director and tour more of this lovely city and get a taxi back to the ship later in the day.

The highlight of the tour to Vienna is the musical evening in the most opulent setting of the Schonbrunn Palace, where the orchestra, dancers and singers fill you with delight and the half time champagne finishes the ambience off a treat. A lovely night was had by all and of course Shearings coaches were there to ‘whisk’ us back to our ship.

Budapest

Budapest is a city that never sleeps! It is a multi-coloured ‘Pearl’ with culture, history and many, many river boats moored along its shore. This amazing city with its two areas, Buda and Pest joined together by many striking bridges from the Chain bridge to the plain but stunning Elizabeth’s bridge gives you a feel of the immense waterway that the Danube River is.

Glynis and Trevor in BudapestThe iconic Budapest Parliament building is so easily recognised whenever a picture is taken in front of it. Our Shearings River Cruise Ship was moored a little way from the Parliament Building so it was easy to walk along the riverbank to have a closer look at this world-famous building. 

Shearings Coaches take you on an organised tour of Buda and Pest with excellent guides that explain the ‘tale of the two cities’ as they seem to be and the history of the areas plus the wonderful bridges that span the Danube River. We were given more time to explore and our Cruise Director gave us detailed maps of the surrounding areas.

Shearings organise a Folk Lore evening after dinner on the ship in Budapest, which is a feast of energetic dancing and the fastest fiddle playing you have ever seen. This was an evening to remember, the culture of the Folk Lore dancers and musicians and the Budapest illuminations also give a spectacular light show at night.

Which city along the Danube has history, culture, statues, bridges and a UFO tower? Well, the answer is Bratislava. Our Shearings river cruise ship docked just beyond the UFO tower bridge! Let me explain – the bridge has a lift that takes you up the tower to a viewing platform giving you a bird’s eye view of this interesting, large city.

The view from the UFO Tower in BratislavaThe UFO, simply called that, as it is shaped like a spaceship. On ‘board’ the ‘Space – Ship’ is a beautiful restaurant that also gives you a panoramic view of the city.

Many tourists only visit the historic part of Bratislava with its cobbled streets and an abundance of cafes and interesting statues. Bratislava has fountains, museums and lovely churches. But the city stretches out and encompasses parks and homes that were built in the rule of the Communism. It is now a vibrant, modern city. 

The Shearings Cruise Manager organised a tourist train for guests to view the city and go up the UFO tower for afternoon tea. This was an optional trip that many people took advantage of if they had walking difficulties. However, walking around the city isn’t difficult and there is a main thoroughfare that is tree lined like a Paris boulevard with pavement cafes and lovely sitting areas.

Durnstein

This was our last stop on the Danube, used to be a sleepy, wine growing area along the Danube. It is still a wine growing area in the Wachau Valley, but sleepy it is not!

With at least eight cruise ships coming to dock there and coach tours on the way through this beautiful countryside it is a busy, interesting town. World renowned wines are produced here but Durnstein is famous for its Royal past. Richard the Lion Heart is said to have been a prisoner here on his way back from the crusades. A huge ransom was paid, and he was released after many years.

DurnsteinLocal wine, apricot wine and other apricot products can be found in the lovely, well stocked shops. A comprehensive museum and, if you are feeling fit, then a hike up to the castle ruins will take approximately 20 minutes – or so they say, and I do believe them!

Well I don’t get sea-sick or frustrated at airports, but I do get a wonderful sense of relaxation and peace when I go on a River Cruise with a company that organises my time or lets me just relax and read my book. Shearings Holidays have the knack of doing just that and after 100 years in the tourism business, their plans for 2020 river cruising are the biggest yet with 62 itineraries across 32 ships. 

Alongside the main seven-night cruises, a range of festive cruises are available on board the A-ROSA ships including a Christmas Markets on the Danube cruise, and a Christmas and New Year trip for those who want to enjoy the festivities amid the backdrop of the River Danube. Catering for a range of different budgets offering 3* to 5*, it is your choice; your holiday; and I am sure you will enjoy it the Shearings Holidays way.

We are sorry to advise that the Specialist Leisure Group, which includes Shearings, entered administration on 22 May 2020. If you have booked a holiday with Shearings, or you have any questions please visit the Shearings website.

See also

Danube’s great cities cruise – Part 1

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Glynis Sullivan

Traveller and writer for Silver Travel Advisor

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