Avalon River Cruise
June 25, 2018 at 11:31 AM
Avalon River Cruise – Budapest to Linz ( 9 days )
My first cruise and I have no idea what to expect. Having sailed in a yacht for many years I had a very strong opinion regarding 'cruises' and it wasn't all good, but reading about the Avalon package it seemed an ideal way to travel on my own and the thought of seeing part of Europe without having to lug a suitcase around was tempting.
DAY 1 evening
The first night was spent in the Intercontinental Hotel on the Pest side of Budapest where our cruise director introduced herself and briefed us on what to expect. The Hotel was easy to find and central to the city beside the magnificent Szechenyl Chain Bridge completed in 1849.
After our briefing we were left to our own devices, I found a place for dinner and did a bit of exploring and shopping, the shops stayed open until 9 or 10 o'clock!
We were offered a half day bus tour with a guide which was well worthwhile as it took in all the major sights including a trip to the beautiful Opera House where we were treated to a glass of champagne and a small concert by 2 of the opera singers. They performed and aria each and a couple of duets. What a stunning place! Probably my favourite of the tour. We also visited the Fisherman’s Bastion, St Stephen's Basilica and Hero's Square. The bus passed through the Jewish quarter and by the Great Synagogue, its huge and a stylised weeping willow in the courtyard commemorates the victims of the Holocaust.
The guides commentary was really good and made me realise what a history this county has. We drove past what was the Nazi headquarters until the Russians liberated them and made the building theirs. As he said it wasn't really liberation and they weren't finally liberated until 1989 from the Communist Regime. It has made me want to study the history of this place which is amazing as history has never interested me.
Arrived in Visegrad last night so woke up in this little town. In the middle ages it was much bigger than Budapest and was originally meant to be the capital of Hungry. it is a small castle town famous for the remains of the summer palace of King Mattias Corninvus of Hungry and a medieval citadel. Dates back to 1009!
King Charles 1 of Hungry made it his hometown. So full of history. We had the best time there as one of the activities of the day included a Medieval Knights Tournament which was held by the Saint George Knightly Order. We first chose a king, queen, court jester and prisoner out of our group who were seated on their respected thrones and dressed up. Then, wearing the fashion of the day, the knights demonstrated the old weapons and then had a mock competition. It was dry vigorous and scary! The falconer also came with his bird and showed us his skills. We were then able to try the stuff out, it was fun. The other activities involved walking up the hill to the castle ruins or bike riding around the area.
I'm really enjoying the interactive activities this cruise is putting on. The bed is really comfortable, the internet generally good depending on where the ship is, and the food great. The staff are really helpful, a couple of the people have celiac and the chef is wonderful sorting out a menu for them.
We set off today from the spectacular Visegrad and headed on up the Danube, went through our first lock which was interesting and sailed through the night to Vienna.
Sailed into Vienna and docked at 8am. Usual delicious buffet breakfast and we took off on a bus tour from the Ringstrasse to 'The Kiss’ morning programme. What a treat viewing the magnificent baroque buildings to Art Nouveau to the latest architecture. Then visited the Belvedere Palace to see Gustav Klimt's painting 'The Kiss', plus a whole bunch of wonderful paintings. I was totally awestruck!
The other activities included an Insiders Tour which included a visit to a musical instrument maker an meeting and interacting with residents and various business professionals. There was also a biking tour offered which the folk enjoyed very much, a tour covering what took the Habsburgs more than 600 years to build and would take 3 days to walk they did in 3 hours!
This afternoon there is a discover the Secret of Absinth a popular drink of the bohemians in the late 19th century.
Tonight I'm looking forward to a concert involving orchestra, singers and ballet dancers in a stunning venue. Will let you know tomorrow what that is!
Last night’s concert was really good. great singing, dancing and orchestra in a beautiful venue. Plus, a bit of humour and pantomime. Enjoyed it a lot, plus the illuminated tour around Vienna viewing the beautiful buildings all lit up.
Real treat this morning going to the Museum of Fine Arts. the tour group was allowed in early and we were taken around the Habsburg collection. A priceless collection of objects including gold ships with moveable parts, totally out of this world. Then to be guided through the Italian and Dutch Masters Gallery. Just superb. Some of the travellers chose to go on to the Military Museum but I chose to latch myself onto a couple from Oklahoma and visit the Spanish Riding School. What a treat, they practice for a couple of hours in the morning and we can watch. The stallions are handpicked at 3 and a half to 4 years old. For the riders training starts at around 15 to 18 years of age. The first 3 years they train as a qualified groom by doing stable work and horse care. If they show potential, they are given equestrian training then for the next 1 or 2 years work at lunging and perfecting his (there were actually 2 girls training) seat without stirrups. there are more hoops to go through for them, I tell you it is tough. The aim of the programme is the presentation of a fully trained school stallion in a show. If the student gets approval from the riding school, he is appointed as assistant rider. This means he receives his first young stud, whose entire training rests on his shoulders. They are so fabulous!
There were other activities I could have joined in to today but enough already.
Another fabulous day of activities to suit everyone.
1. a Local Wachau Valley experience, going on a bus ride to a local apricot farmer, which is very big in this area, and tasting the produce.
2. Biking in the Wachau Valley
3. Wine World experience.
4. Canoeing the Wachau Valley
I chose the Wine world as it finished earlier so I could rejoin the boat and sail up from Krems to Spitz, the other two options finished up there either by bus or bike. the canoeists were driven to a spot and canoed downstream for a bit then by bus to Spitz.
I only had a very small sip of one of the wines as it was only 9am! the tour was very interesting as white wine is very big here. in some places the vineyards very precariously cling to the rock faces.
The boat trip up the Wachau Valley was beautiful. lovely villages, churches, ruins and monastries. Tonight we have an early dinner. We then dock at Grien and get to meet the Count at Clam Castle. Count Carl Philip Clam Martinic. Included is a tour of the castle and taste their home made craft beer!
Last night they had a gala dinner and a local band came and played really good dance music. A great time was had by all.
I hadn't mentioned this before but there is an onboard musician so we are serenaded during lunch and dinner.
Also, a tip for clients is to book activities online as you advised me to do as they do fill up quickly. Some have been disappointed as they weren't told that. So thanks. Of course some pull out so there is room but not always. Also some activities are open to all they just add an extra bus.
The visit to castle Clam was wonderful, what a history. The current Count had been in business in Hong Kong and was called back to take over his duties as count. He was a very charming person, lived in Vienna during the week and come home weekends and holidays to the castle. He was very entrepreneurial and opened the castle to the public. Plus, they made the craft beer, wine, cider and sold sprout spruce juice. The cost of upkeep of the place must have been huge! A ton of history as we have come to expect around here.
Today we visited St Florian Monastery. It is one of the oldest operating monasteries in the world. Founded in the early 9th century and is the largest monastery in Upper Austria. Amazing 150,000 volume library and imperial marble hall and church with an impressive pipe organ. All of the major rooms had intricately painted ceilings and the library walls and door were inlaid timber. It was incredible!
The other options were biking the Roman Limes or a vidi to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. in the evening people could choose to go on a pub crawl in Linz or just explore on their own, which I chose to do with 2 another couples.
Sadly, the last day of a really fabulous interactive cruise, lots to do, friendly staff and fellow travellers.
The last day was full. We visited a Trappist monastery and sampled their delicious beer. Plus, we were given a complementary bottle of their herbal liquor. Once again a very beautiful church.
The other choices of the day were visiting the Danube Power Station or going for a tree top walk.
In the afternoon we went for a hike along the Danube Steg. Which was a steep climb and well worth it for the amazing view at the top. we came back to the boat for a delicious gala dinner and fun time.
In summary, I would recommend the Avalon experience. There were fancier boats on the Danube but this one seemed to have the active discovery experiences the others didn't. There were several experiences to choose from each day, some required no booking, just show up, and others needed prior booking. They were varied and lots of fun.
The food was great, complementary wine with meals, even champagne for breakfast if you wanted! A lounge with tea and coffee at all times and you could get a drink from the bar if you wanted to pay for it at all times. The bed was super comfortable and plenty of drawer and cupboard space in the room.