Pat Richardson compares two treasure-laden river-cruise itineraries
Four rivers and two ama-zing sailings with AmaWaterways. Which would you do?
Choosing which river cruise can be difficult, because, on any given day and any given river, all ships are experiencing the same weather and scenery, mostly making the same port calls and taking much the same excursions when they get there.
Let me make it easier:
- Study websites and brochures to determine which cruise lines have the features and facilities you want.
Check itineraries; where they go, where they stop, what excursions they offer. List all the places you want to see, then look for itineraries that include them. Do this because not all Seine cruises include a visit to Versailles and not all Danube itineraries offer the option of an excursion to Salzburg. Also, some cruise lines stay longer than others in major ports; and some offer pre or post cruise extensions.
- Finally, compare prices by checking what is and isn’t included. What sounds like the costliest option may not be, once you’ve added up all the extras you need to pay for.
Now let me tempt you!
Recently I sailed twice with AmaWaterways. Their cruises come with a long list of inclusions – all meals on-board (with local wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner), the Chef’s Table dining experience, a choice of complimentary daily tours and excursions, complimentary WiFi and use of on-board bicycles ashore and port taxes. Their award-winning ships are luxuriously stylish, pleasingly spacious and supremely comfortable; service is impeccable
On the 7-night Blue Danube Discovery cruise we set sail from Budapest after dark, when landmark sights are illuminated, and the bridges strung with lights. The next day in Bratislava, a walking tour revealed the main sights, and some amusing sculptures. And next, Vienna’s imperial splendours, memorable musicians and mouth-watering cakes; a morning tour and a free afternoon to explore.
On Day 4 we reached the Wachau Valley, with its picture-postcard villages, lush pastures, manicured vineyards and wooded hills. At Durnstein we could choose a hike to the ruin of a castle where England’s King Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner in 1192; a tasting of Marille, the local apricot liqueur and other sweet treats; or a walk through this pretty town’s cobblestoned streets, with a wine-tasting finale.
That afternoon we sailed on to Melk, a town dominated by the massive Benedictine abbey that looms high above it. Although I’ve been inside many times, to see its magnificent treasures, superb library and breathtakingly ornate church, I couldn’t resist going again!
On into Germany to docked in Passau, where the Danube, Ilz and Inn rivers meet. Another pleasant walking tour led us to beautiful St Stephen’s Cathedral which has Europe’s largest pipe-organ.
Our Day 6 port-of-call, Regensburg, has a 900-year-old Stone Bridge, 17th-Century Salt Barn, Roman Gateway and one of the world’s oldest restaurants: the Sausage Kitchen!
The next day we entered the Main-Danube Canal, crossed the Continental Divide – and celebrated doing so with a glass of bubbly in the ship’s lounge – arrived in Nuremberg. There, I opted for the WWII tour, which included the parade ground for Hitler’s Nuremberg Rallies, and the courtroom where the 1946 War Crimes Tribunal sat.
The 7-night Europe’s Rivers & Castles cruise started in Nuremberg and ended at Remich in Luxembourg, so we still had a stretch of the Main-Danube Canal to cover, before the Main, Rhine and Moselle rivers.
Our first stop was Bamberg, which sits at the Canal’s end. Among its many well-preserved gems are the picturesque Old Town Hall, one of Germany’s most-photographed buildings, and the imposing Cathedral Square.
Then we stopped at Kitzingen and enjoyed a walking tour before our afternoon excursion to Wurzburg, where the highlight sight is the opulent Baroque Prince Bishop’s Residenz. Then Wertheim, which has a wealth of half-timbered buildings and a reputation for decorative glasswork. (A souvenir?)
Next morning we reached Mainz, where our tour included the Collegiate Church of St Stephan to admire Chagall’s stained-glass windows. On to Rudesheim, where others toured the town and its Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum, whilst I chose a gondola ride over the vineyards and was rewarded with wonderful views.
From Rudesheim to Koblenz, we sailed through the Rhine Gorge, this busy river’s most scenic stretch, dotted with castles. Our on-board commentary told each castle’s story. At Koblenz, we turned onto the Moselle, and sailed to Cochem. Having been to its restored castle many times, I chose instead to tour the local mustard mill – and was intrigued. Next came an evening in Zell, where we were welcomed to a Wine Festival.
And finally Trier, Germany’s oldest city, to see its many Roman remains, and the Cathedral, which stands on the site of one built by Constantine almost 1,700 years ago.
A 2018, 7-night, Europe’s Rivers and Castles river cruise leads in from just £2,045pp and the Blue Danube Discovery leads in from £1,978pp. Both cruises include all meals on-board (with local wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner), the Chefs Table dining experience, a wide choice of complimentary daily tours and excursions, complimentary WiFi and use of onboard bicycles for Active Discovery ashore and port taxes.
To find out more about AmaWaterways or to book a river cruise please call 0800 320 2336 or visit www.amawaterways.co.uk