Danube Cruise
July 17 - July 24, 2013: a diary

A continuation of Danube Cruise


the mighty Danube


Wednesday, July 17: Arrival in Nuremberg - then Regensburg
Yesterday we get an email from our travel guy (Mason D. at Vacations To Go) to say that, due to strikes by lock workers, cruises on the Danube may be cancelled, re-arranged...whatever.
So we phone the cruise director, Isabel Heimann to see if the cruise is cancelled and she says:

"Oh, I am so glad you phoned. You are the only person we have not been able to contact.
The cruise had not been cancelled, but it will start in Regensburg, not Nuremberg."

So I check the lock system and find that Regensburg to Budapest is downhill.

'course, that leaves us the problem of getting from Nuremberg airport to Regensburg.
We is workin' on that one...


Okay, so we land in Nuremberg by 11 am. Since Heidi speaks German, I leave it to her to discover the way to Regensburg while I inspect the toilets for aliens. We take a subway to the Nuremberg hauptbahnhof (5 euros for 2), then a train to Regensburg (39 euros for 2), then a short taxi ride to the boat (6.50 euros).
We chat with the taxi driver and I say: 'Your English is excellent."
He says: "I'm from Indiana...been here since 1972."

We arrive at the boat by 3 am. It's early. All other guests are coming in from Prague where this tour "usually" starts. (We booked just the cruise component).
Our room isn't ready, so we're given lemonade on ice and sit in the lounge.
Our room is ready by 3:45 and it's delightful!.

A quick shower and we both collapse into bed. It's been over 24 hours since our last sleep.
We're up for the 6:30 muster (where we're shown how to don our life jackets and the captain announces: "Congratulations. You abandoned ship in just four mnutes") then a champagne welcome (with snacks) and the crew is introduced (with Isabel outlining the activities for the next day)... then a delicious 4-course dinner at 7:15.

Buses will leave for the scheduled Nuremberg Tour, tomorrow morning, Isabel explains, and the Visionary won't leave Regensburg until Friday afternoon - so we're back on schedule!
We return to our bed by 8 pm.

P.S. Heidi talked to Isabel (auf Deutsch) and Isabel said she was worried that we would not be able to make it to Regensburg in time, that we might cancel. Since we did make it, Avalon would pay our expenses from Nuremberg to Regensburg. Three cheers for Avalon!


Our cabin


Thursday, July 18: Regensburg
This morning we sleep in, then head to a fantastic breakfast buffet at 8:30 am. Then, while I rest after all the exhausting work all the cerebal machinations, Heidi walks into Regensburg. When she gets back she says: 'Awesome!" ... then I see all her pictures.

At noon we head for a Bavarian (sausage) lunch buffet.
Heidi eats like a bird. I eat like a horse. The staff is so friendly.


Bavarian lunch buffet

Regensburg, in Bavaria, is an ancient city, dating back to the Stone Age.
About 90 AD the Romans built a fort there.

When Heidi gets back from her Regensburg walkabout, she says she saw many groups of children and asked their teacher (auf Deutsch) why so many children. The teacher smiles and says: "Ask the chldren" (auf Deutsch). It's the annual wander tag (wandering day).
Why don't that do that back home? ('course, they ain't too many ancient sites to visit, eh?)

We find a neat 24/7 snack place for coffee, hot chocolate, cookies, juices, fruit etc.
... and we get us some piano music while we read our Kindle in the lounge.

Because of a broken leg excessive mental stress, I take an afternoon nap.
It's so quiet with most guests having taken the Nuremberg Tour.
...and I wish I could tell bergs from burgs


Heidi's walk...about Regensburg

After dinner a Bavarian fellow came on board to entertain us with singing, playing various instruments and getting guests to perform. Outside our window, a group of Regensburgers were having a picnic on the pier. Apparently they do this frequently.

Bavarian musical treat


Friday, July 19: still in Regensburg
After breakfast, we sit in the bow, watch the boats go by and read.
Just before noon, Heidi heads off to a church service at the Regensburg Cathedral..
Due to mental physiological defects, I stay home to mind the boat (ship?).

Breakfast buffet
There is a Regensburg Tour that includes a sausages&sauerkraut lunch
...but we ain't goin' on that tour.
As Heidi is leaving to attend the church service, the gal at the front desk says she can have two tickets for the "tour lunch".
"But my husband is staying on board," Heidi says.
"That's okay, you can bring back the lunch for him"
... and we eat in our room.
Three more cheers for Avalon!
After our lunch we head to the "snack bar lounge" for coffee, cookies and reading.

At 6:45 pm we (finally!) start moving.
For them that began their "Danube Cruise" in Prague, it'll be the first "cruise" in six days.

There's a chocolate tasting and beer tasting presentation in the lounge - with videos.

Soon we reach our first lock.


The first lock (viewed from our room)

Inside St. Peter's church

  • We learn that chocolate is good for the brain: Switzerland eats the mostest chocolate and has 27 Nobel Prize winners!
    After learning this I tried to eat all the chocolate at our table, but them nasty people wouldn't let me.
  • We also learn that Bavaria drinks to mostest beer of any "similar" area on the globe.
  • (As a country, the Czechs come first, Ireland second and Germany third. Canada and the U.S are laggards.)
  • We're given four beers and lectures on how they are created: a light lager, a pilsener, a dark lager and a wheat beer.
  • Heidi, who had complained bitterly that she's in Bavaria and hasn't even had a single beer, is one happy lady.
  • I think Pilsener was 'invented' in Bavaria and so was 'praline' ... but 2 many beeers maye have clouded me mem'ry.
  • The alcohlick hic! content increaser wit each hic! beer tipe 'n I staggr to a deelishus stake dinr wit hic! bakd tato.


Saturday, July 20: Passau & Linz
After a night's travel, and a few locks, we arrive in Passau at 6 am.
After breakfast, Heidi walks about town while I check the engine   consult with the captain contemplate naval procedures.
By 10 am the boat is on its way ag'in. On an ocean cruise, they'd call today "at sea". By 6 pm we were at Linz.

Breakfast in Passau

Passau

Cruising the Danube #1
Since the Danube is so crowded with boats, they often double park at the piers. The first boat is attached to the pier and the second is attached to the first.
For guests on the second boat to go ashore, they walk through (or over) the first boat.
In Passau, we were the first boat. In Linz, the second boat (and Heidi walked over the first to see the town).

It happened to be the annual sidewalk festival, in Linz: Pflasterspektakel.

In the evening, we got us a performance by the crew.


to the Linz festival

the Crew performs


Sunday, July 21: Melk-Vienna
We arrive in Melk about 6 am and, after breakfast, there's a 1-hour bus trip to a magnificent Benedictine Abbey. However, as one guest said to us; "We're all abbey'd out". We too ... so we stayed on board (but took a picture of the abbey from the ship).

We had the "light lunch" in the lounge so we could watch the Wachau Valley go by ... probably the most scenic part of the cruise.


the Melk Abbey

a light lunch
Isabel gives a running commentary on the history of the Wachau Valley, from Celtic times to Roman, pointing out the points of interest and mentioning the 30,000 year old, 4 inch Dolly Parton "Venus of Willendorf" statuette found nearby.

It seems there are a jillion locks!!


Wachau Valley cruise
In the afternoon there's a demonstration on making Vienna Pancakes.
We all get some, with plum sauce.

Lock traffic, viewed from our cabin.

our happy bar man

Vienna pancakes
We get to Vienna late afternoon.
It's another boring same ol' same ol' georgeous day: blue skies, few clouds, warm breezes. Whatta life!

After dinner, many head off to a concert in Vienna. Heidi & I just relax on the Skydeck with a couple from Kitchener-Waterloo, who (surprise!) know the same people we know, back home.
So we get an update on mutual friends.

What's interesting? At the breakfast, lunch or dinner table, we each ask: "Where are you from?"
Most that we've met are from the U.S., but it's surprising how many are from nearby, in Ontario.
One gal says to Heidi: "You're at 2160? My mother lives at 2180!"


Relaxing on the Skydeck, in Vienna


Monday, July 22: Vienna
We're double-parked. Guests walk through a neigbouring boat to get to shore.
This morning we stay on board and read, while everyone else takes off on several buses.
Avalon even supplies a mini Canadian newspaper. Three more cheers for Avalon!

After lunch, Heidi takes a Vienna tour while I (due to chronic ossification) stay on board to advise the crew on certain technical matters. By 5 pm we're on our way to Budapest.

Tonight, the "Gala Farewell Dinner", with the captain introducing the crew...and Baked Alaska

At the reception desk (where you can accomplish anything), they arrange for us to be on a bus on Wednesday morning at 5:30 am (25 euros for 2) to take us to the Budapest airport for a 8:45 am flight.
... even though we didn't arrange our flight with Avalon. Another cheer for Avalon!


gala Dinner


Tuesday, July 23: Budapest
After breakfast, at 8:30 am, we sit in the bow of the ship and watch our entry into Budapest. Awesome city!
Then Heidi walks about, near the boat, to a nearby market ... while I check the anchors.

Lunch includes a magnificent, awesome, remarkable Hungarian Goulash with galushkas.

In the afternoon, Heidi takes the Szentendre Heritage Tour while I .... uh... nurse a fractured tibia consult with the chefs on goulash.

In the lobby there's a computer with free Internet access and a printer and I print my boarding pass for tomorrow's flight. Another cheer for Avalon!


Walking Budapest, by the pier

Afternoon "Heritage" Tour
By dinner time there are three-count-em-three ships parallel parked: we're the middle ship. I ain't never seen so many sightseeing boats.
Dinner tonight is what they call "Bistro": dozens of tasty snacks. When I see the first tiny portion I figure I'll go hungry. By the time we're finished the last treat, I'm bloated.

Bistro dinner.


Wednesday, July 24: to Home
At 4 am, a wake-up call. At 5 am our luggage is taken and we have a coffee. At 5:30 am we're on a bus for the half hour drive to Budapest airport.
We're each provided with a breakfast box with fruit and sandwiches. Nice!

Flights are all on time and we get to Lori&Jay's place to pick up Sandy by 4 pm, then home and (very soon) to bed.


Sandy


Comments
This is our first River Cruise, so my comments apply just to this particular cruise.

  • The Visionary is a lovely ship boat. Our 200-level portside cabin was excellent. The "French Balcony" is fantastic.
  • Staff and crew are extremely friendly and accommodating.
    When there was too much sun at dinner, I started to pull down the blinds.
    A waitress came running up to pull them down.
    She said, "We're supposed to do everything for our guests."
    Don't worry," I said, smiling, "I took a course in blind pulling."
  • It's neat. They have mini-newspapers for Canadians.
  • The buffets are never crowded and there's always plenty of table space available. (That's quite unlike our experiences on over a dozen ocean cruises.)
  • Anyone complaining about the quality of food needs cerebral assessment.
    The breakfast and lunch buffets are elaborate and the dinners are excellent.
    (A brochure explains that, because of the limited space, the buffets can have no more than 80 or 90 items!)
  • At dinner, the red and white wines flow freely ... with multiple refills (all for no extra charge).
  • When they say dinner begins at 7 pm, you gotta be there at 7 pm. You select everything at the start, from a multiple-choice menu.
    Then the meal is served like clockwork; starters/appetizers/salads, soup, main course, dessert, coffee, tea.
    Every guest gets the same component at the same time. That's efficiency, eh?
    You come a half hour later, you miss your goose liver pate or caesar salad and begin your dinner with the cream of white bean soup.
  • A neat thing? As we move from Germany thru Bavaria to Vienna to Hungary, the food changes to reflect the locale.
    Bavarian sausages, Wienerschnitzel, Hungarian goulash ... very nice!
  • The maid came by twice a day to fix our room, leaving bottled water in the mornings and chocolate on our pillow at night.
    (Unlike ocean cruises, the bottles of water are free.)
  • WiFi is free (unlike 75 cents / minute on ocean cruises) ... and we even got CNN on TV.
  • There are free tours / excursions at many stops ... with guides and earphones.
  • Although there is no elaborate evening entertainment (as there is on ocean cruises), we had musical entertainers, chocolate and beer testing sessions, talks and videos on local history and other things of interest.
  • In addition to lots of information and a daily schedule (delivered each day to your cabin), the cruise director explains everything over the PA system.
  • Because there are only about one hundred guests, you often bump into the same people. After a few days, it's like a "family gathering".
    Although there are elevators, the ship is cleverly designed so that the restaurant is between the 1st and 2nd floor and the lounge is between the 2nd and 3rd floors ... so there are just a few steps to negotiate.
  • What is so neat is to see the villages, farms, vineyards, castles going by ... and the locks are fun.
  • Will we go on another River Cruise? You betcha! Mebbe the Rhine, eh?
    Will we go on another Ocean Cruise? You betcha! Mebbe to Barbados, eh?

Did I mention tnat you'll want one
of these Europe-to-American plugs
and the voltage is 240, not 110.


for a youtube video.