I went along on this cruise with my mother and her partner, not expecting a lot. I'd heard about the big ocean cruises which are like crowded, floating malls full of drunk people, and a million a la carte expenses: taking a cruise sounded like the last thing I'd ever want to do. Well below a root canal. But this was absolutely wonderful.
Everything was taken care of, from flights to pick up at the airport to transfers after. We did two cruise extensions, Munich and Salzburg, and had a wonderful guide, Maya, who kept track of us, answered every question, filled us in on lots of local tidbits, history, and interesting facts. We were able to relax and enjoy the experience.
The other people on our extension days moved onto the cruise with us, so we already knew people when we got on board. Dining is open seating, so you end up meeting people and making friends very easily. The food was absolutely delicious, and as we traveled down river, the chef presented local options so that we were able to taste our way through the various countries. (Hats off to Attila, the executive chef!)
The ship itself was beautiful and comfortable, and spotlessly clean. And no one under 18, so no children dashing up and down the hall screaming. Whew. Way to bring a nice cruise out of warp speed. And really, no drunk young adults screaming in the halls either. (Vegas - shudder.) Just perfect peace! And no extra expenses except hard liquor (beer and wine provided), and special shore excursions. But no surprises at all on the money front! (I had a friend get handed a drink when she got on hercruise ship, and then found a $10 charge on her bill later. No one likes to be a mark!)
The captain was very nice, and offered an interesting introduction to the ship and wheelhouse, showed us how the ship sailed... or motored, the technical array, etc. The front desk staff were *saints*. My mother is quite elderly, and didn't know her energy level until a little while before a shore excursion, and the staff who arranged those activities added us at the last minute several times, even though I know they had to reprint everything. And they always had a "gentle" option with shorter distances, fewer/no stairs, minimal cobblestones. That was a lifesaver for us, since my Mom can't walk very fast or far.
The shore excursions (there was one included one at every stop, so no surprise costs there) were amazing. I visited a farm in Austria, made bread, and then while the bread was baking, went to the Mittendorfer Distillery for a tour (yum), and then back to the farm for a lunch of our bread and homemade sides and home cured meats and cheeses. We did a home visit in Bratislava that was really a highlight. It was delightful to meet and talk with locals, and the couple's 12-year-old girl had a little business selling her own homemade soaps, so I was able to buy something really, really local for my daughters.
There are too many shore excursions to list them all here, but they were all good.
So: The food was amazing. The ambiance was peaceful and lovely. The staff were great. The activities were well-planned, interesting, and educational. I'd love to go again, pretty much anywhere on any cruise they offer. I heard rumors that they are talking about doing some American cruises, maybe down the Mississippi. I'd do that in a heart beat. I'd do the Columbia River, too, even though I live only a couple of miles from it. I know I'd have a great time and learn a lot.
My cabin was just fine. I was at the bottom of the ship, which was fine with me. I didn't feel like I needed my own personal balcony, because I could go up top to the sundeck, or to the observation deck. My steward was very nice. And when I looked out my window, sometimes there was a swan staring right back at me, eye to eye.
We had fun in Vienna. We took a short walk to the square with the automatons in the church - the Glockenspiel, and bought some Austrian candy. I was sad that Vienna was so ugly, though. Munich had much more consistent architecture, but Vienna was all over the place. The buildings looked like monuments to architects' egos, rather than something that represented the city, or tried to fit in to the history and culture. I was so sad.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We did the home visit shore excursions, and it was amazing. We loved getting to visit with local people, and talk about culture, history, politics. Our host served us tea and homemade apple strudel, and showed us all over his house. He is an artist, so we got to see his studio and his art. And his daughter had a little homemade soap business, so we were able to buy some little souvenirs for family back home, even though we didn't do the city tour.
My mother and I walked around in town instead of doing the excursion. We had a great time in a bead shop, and found her a belt. It was a nice, low-key time, and the town is really charming. We didn't quite make it to the glass museum, since it was a little too far for her, but we had enough fun without it.