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Yvonne’s Blog – Romantic Danube River cruise on AmaSerena

Wed 13th June – Not being a great fan of airports or flying I planned my whole journey by train.  I imagined a relaxing scenic journey broken up with a couple of nights in Brussels and Vilshofen before my river cruise on the Danube on AmaWaterways  AmaSerena. 
We arrived at our local station for the first of our trains to London only to find it was delayed and then subsequently cancelled! Thankfully I had allowed quite a big gap before our Eurostar connection to Brussels, so managed to catch the next train to London half an hour later and still had plenty of time to check in for our Eurostar train which arrived in Brussels as planned at 10.38 pm. We had a short walk  to the Ibis hotel literally across the road from the station and although the room was very basic and sparse the bed was comfortable and the shower was good and the room rate included full breakfast the next morning. 

Thurs 14th June – Our next train was from Brussels to Frankfurt around a 3 ½ hours  journey.  Brussels Midi station is very large with lots of TV screens with train information so quite easy to locate your train and zone in which your carriage will stop. However, not plain sailing for us here as they changed our platform within minutes of the trains departure time which meant a very quick dash to the next platform down one escalator and up another.  Thankfully DB train staff  were available to point us in the right direction of our carriage.  
Once in Frankfurt again it was easy to locate our next train to Plattling and we departed on time. However, it was yet again to be an eventful journey as there was an accident on the line which meant the train had to reroute and consequently added  2 ½  hours to what should have been  a 3 ½ hr  journey so 6 hrs later we arrived in Plattling, a very small station close to Vilshofen but now pretty much closed except for a cafe open. We quickly ascertained the next train to Vilshofen was 30 minutes wait. We finally arrived at our destination around 9.15 and once again a small quiet station with no sign of a taxi.  We eventually managed to summon a taxi with the help of a very nice friendly Bavarian chap and arrived at the Hotel Wittelsbacher Zollhaus around 10pm   Although we had the delay the train staff were very good, all spoke very good English and they gave out forms to claim a partial refund on the fare due to the delay.   

The Hotel Wittelsbacher Zollhaus is a perfect location for an AmaWaterways cruise from Vilshofen as it is less than 100 meters from where the ship is docked.  The rooms in the hotel are comfortable, the breakfast selection is amazing and the hosts very helpful and friendly. The hotel garden has a fabulous view as it also looks over the Danube. 

Friday 15th June – Check in on the AmaSerena was very easy and as we approached the ship with our suitcases we were met by a crew member to take them from us. 
We spent a little time looking around the ship whilst waiting for our room to be ready as we were a little early but were directed to the coffee station and relaxed in the lounge with a few very nice freshly baked cakes !

Our stateroom had two balconies, a French balcony which consisted of large patio style sliding doors  and also a sit out balcony with two chairs and a small table.  There was a large wardrobe, full length mirror, hair dryer, safe and flat screen TV  which also works as a computer.  The Wi-Fi works well and is also complimentary.

The bathroom was quite spacious with good storage space and multi jet showerheads  but the best bit for me was the bed, it was the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in with lovely white Egyptian cotton bedding and soft down duvet and pillows.  With the added bonus of air conditioning I slept like a log !

Our ship stayed in Vilshofen overnight on day 1 of the cruise and in the evening before dinner we had a fabulous Captains welcome where we were treated to a taste of Oktoberfest in a marquee at the base of the ships gangway including beer, pretzels and traditional Bavarian music and dancing from a local group of musicians.
AmaWaterways and the quaint city of Vilshofen share a special relationship as it is the location where a great number of their vessels have been christened. 
The town lies on the edge of the Southern Bavarian Forest , where the rivers Vils and Wolfach flow into the Danube and the old town is located steps away from where the ship is moored. 

Day 2 we set sail around 11 am to Passau arriving around two in the afternoon, where we stayed until 11.30pm so plenty of time to see the sights either on one of the range of included daily tours or popping off the ship and doing your own thing which is what we did today. 
Passau is often called ‘City of three rivers’ as it is located at the confluence of the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz rivers. The old town sits on a narrow peninsula, squeezed in between the Danube and the Inn. Our ship docked on the Danube next to the City Centre. 
Sitting high above the rivers are the Majestic fortress Veste Oberhaus on the Danube side and the Pilgrimage Church Mariahilf on the Inn side. Passau was the largest bishopric in the Holy Roman Empire, a legacy that endures today as there are a total of 52 churches in town, a significant number for a city with only 50,000 inhabitants! The most imposing and magnificent of these is St Stephen’s Cathedral, which has the world’s largest pipe organ.
Food is certainly plentiful on AmaWaterways with early risers breakfast in the lounge from 6.30 and full breakfast in the restaurant from around 7.30 and a late risers breakfast from 9.30 in the lounge. There is always a ‘lite’ choice served in the lounge at every mealtime with full meals served in the main restaurant. Lunch today was served with a Bavarian theme with waiters in costume, and after the evening dinner  we had local musicians performing ‘The Sound of Austria’. 

Our ship sailed overnight and we arrived in Linz on day 3, (third largest city in Austria) this morning around 7.30 am. We spent a relaxed morning with a walking tour of the City and delightful brunch. There was a variety of tours on offer today ( aimed at different levels of activity) including the Austrian Lake District, a visit to Salzburg, a bike tour or visit to Cesky Krumlov in the nearby Czech Republic.    We even managed to get some sunbathing on the sun deck and a dip in the lovely warm splash pool with swim up bar ! 
Although not totally  inclusive, wines, beers and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner and there is a Sip & sail hour prior to dinner where there is a good selection of complimentary drinks available including cocktails.  There is also a tea & coffee station available 24/7 and bottled water in your stateroom which is replenished daily. 
Our ship stays in Linz to the early hours today and then sails overnight. 

Day 4 we spend the morning sailing through the Wachau Valley passing ‘Melk’ on the way so we took up our positions in the comfortable relaxer chairs on the sun deck in the warm sunshine to enjoy the fabulous  scenery as we sailed through the Wachau Valley.
We finally dock at a place called Weißenkirchen which is a 15 minute bus journey to the quaint little town of Dürnstein. We took the ‘gentle’ special interest tour called ‘Apricots & Sweets’ which consisted of tasting all things apricot!  Including apricot jam, apricot brandy, apricot BBQ sauce etc..  followed by a walking tour around Dürnstein. 
The good thing about the tours is that AmaWaterwaterways provide you with a ‘quiet  vox  and ear piece which enables you to individually listen to the tour guide’s commentary. 
There was a good selection of tours today including a guided bike ride along the Danube, a fortress hike to the castle which once imprisoned Richard the Lionheart, a Melk Abbey visit and wine tasting tour.

Our dinner tonight was at the ‘The Chefs Table’ restaurant which is a small specialist restaurant at the back of the ship with around 24 seats, it is complimentary and every guest gets the opportunity to eat in there once during the cruise.   It is described as ‘The Chef’s Table, where the kitchen — usually hidden — becomes part of the entertainment’. You’ll have the opportunity to watch the chef prepare a special, multi-course meal right in front of you. The menu here is unique, making this a truly distinct gastronomic experience. It allows you to Indulge in delectable dishes paired with unlimited fine wines, all hand-selected.
The evening was spent in Weißenkirchen with a fabulous local singer before we set sail to Vienna. 
 
Day 5 – Which turned out to be my favourite stop.  Vienna,  a truly elegant, romantic city full of monumental buildings lining the famous Ringstrasse. Again a number of included tours plus two extra tours to the beautiful Schonbrunn Palace and a Mozart & Strauss  Concert 
Our complimentary cocktail of the day this evening by the way … was a Margarita !

Day 6 – Bratislava in Slovakia.  We had a relaxing morning spent sailing into Bratislava and enjoyed a leisurely lunch with sun deck ice cream party before getting off the ship at 1pm.  We were again lucky with the weather, a lovely hot sunny day and a variety of tours on offer but very easy to do your own exploring here as the Old town is located just steps away from the ship, abound with charming houses and buildings which mostly have been restored and repaired after the fall of communism. Almost the entire city centre is a pedestrian zone and a delight to walk around.  Tonight is our farewell dinner with the Captain, we still have another full day tomorrow but this way everyone gets to have an enjoyable dinner with music and dancing until late and no worries about getting up early for flights !  Tonight we sail at 9pm for our last port of call before we disembark in Budapest in Hungary.

Day 7 We arrive in Budapest the Capital of Hungary on another hot sunny morning and what a fabulous city this is, especially the view from the Danube of both ‘Buda’ a more lush green residential area with hills and Budapest Castle,  a complete contrast to the rolling flat plains of the Pest, commercial side of the city.  Our city tour today allowed us to explore both sides of the City with a panorama bus tour, followed by a walking tour of the Castle District followed by free time in the famous Budapest Market Hall. 
Our entertainment tonight consisted of a Traditional Hungarian Folklore Show and after dinner an amazing evening illumination sailing.  All of Budapest’s fabulous buildings and bridges a glow with lights twinkling on the Danube, what a treat that was sitting up on deck in the warm night air taking in such a wonderful spectacle!  A magnificent end to a wonderful weeks cruise on the ‘Romantic Danube’ on AmaSerena with AmaWaterways.

Day 8 disembarkation day and an early breakfast followed by a taxi to Keleti Railway station for our Railjet train to Munich. The train was clean, on time and the seats were well worth the upgrade to premier 1st  which meant we had access to the business class lounge whilst we waited.  The journey was around 7 ½  hours so I would recommend the upgrade.  I had already booked first class  and  then paid 15 Euro per person to make the upgrade to premier 1st at the station. Once in Munich we headed off to the Holiday Inn where we had an overnight stay. The hotel is large with around 500 rooms and close to shops and restaurants. We ate at the hotel and the food was good quality and not too expensive. 
After an early night we checked out around 05.45 and took a taxi to the station for our 06.43 train to Paris with a connection in Karlsruhe.  Again the trains were clean, comfortable, the staff spoke very good English and most importantly they were on time ! 

On our arrival in Paris we had around a 10 minute walk from Gare de l’est station to the Gare du Nord where our Eurostar train departed back to St Pancras in the UK.

Although the train was on time, it was one of the ‘original’ Eurostar trains, so no wifi and no air conditioning, so a rather hot sticky journey back !

In summary, the ship, food and service was excellent and the Danube and ports of call very scenic with some very informative tours.  I perhaps would think twice about going such a long way on the train as it was at times a little tiring but it does prove that it is possible if like me you’re not a fan of flying or perhaps are unable to fly for any reason.  I would certainly recommend breaking up the journey and also allowing plenty of time between connections in case of delays or cancellations.

If anyone has any questions they would like to ask me or you are interested in doing the  same cruise as me I would be delighted to chat to you, please call me on 01954 232802

Yvonne Allen

Sales Director – Ponder Travel

 

 

 

 

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