We had wanted to do a river cruise for some time and had gathered up every brochure possible. It’s a pricey holiday, so we wanted value for money. We didn’t know which river to choose – so in the end went for a 14-day cruise on the Danube, Main, and Rhine with APT Travelmarvel – an Australian owned company, not widely known in the UK – but our Aussie relatives had recommended them.
We thought we’d get all the rivers done in one go. I’d been advised by a cruise consultant on my many research phone calls to go for a room with a full-length window (called a French balcony in river cruise speak), instead of the cheapest cabin – which I’d normally pick! This was great advice and worth the extra money as it meant that when we were cruising we could open the door into our room and look out at the stunning scenery.
I’d booked the Crowne Plaza at Manchester airport for an overnight stay and car parking – and was delighted on arrival to be ‘Guest of the Day’ (GOD!) at the hotel – so we were treated to a little box of chocolates and an upgrade on our room which meant that we had access to the Executive lounge. Despite our 4 am check-in we managed a few glasses of the fizzy stuff.
On arrival at Budapest we were met by an APT/Travelmarvel rep and taken by minibus to the ship moored on the banks of the Danube, close to the city centre. We were on the ship by 11 am – many of the departing guests still hadn’t left. We were offered soup and sandwiches and set off to explore Budapest.
On returning, we were shown our cabin – well appointed and comfortable with everything you needed, plenty of storage, a decent sized bathroom with glass shower screen, not those nasty fabric ones that stick to you! Even bathrobes were provided. Shower gel/shampoo was in a dispenser and there was separate conditioner and body lotion. Bottled water was provided daily – although I did suggest carafes or flasks to help with the never ending battle against plastic. The cabin was immaculately clean.
In the evening we had our first welcome talk by the best cruise director we have ever come across, the lovely Daniella. Wonder Woman of the river cruise world and enjoyed meeting our fellow guests – a mix of Aussies and Brits which proved to be a lively crowd as the cruise went on and the wine flowed.
The food was lovely, and drinks flowed freely with lunch and dinner. I’d thought I would have preferred all-inclusive, but there was no need. Coffee and tea were available 24 hours and water and squash were also available. The staff were lovely, friendly and helpful. The ship had an onboard due who were really talented, and other entertainers and lecturers were brought on board at different times. Who’d have thought that a lecture about locks could be so interesting! We did pass through 68 of them.
The scenery was stunning, and we had an included tour every day. There were some optional tours too – but the only one we did was Keukenhof gardens near Amsterdam which was stunning – and I’d recommend a visit here. Over two weeks we saw some beautiful sights, and loved the tranquillity of the river and the greenery when we were sailing.
The one downside we felt was that the ship was full (around 160) guests, and the lounge at times was crowded. Dining was communal and it was nice to chat with different people every day.
The tours had a ‘gentle’ group for people who were less mobile, but at times the gangplank or steps were tricky for people who were less mobile. The boat didn’t have a lift
We loved the cruise and would recommend Travelmarvel to anyone.