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Tips for First-Time Passengers on a Europe River Cruise

Pushing the boat out on a European river cruise has become de rigueur for many Australians, and we recently had the opportunity to cruise along the Danube with Evergreen Tours. Here are some of the highlights of the trip, and tips for what you can expect on board.
Tips for first-time passengers on a Europe river cruise
Tips for first-time passengers on a Europe river cruise. Image: Luftner Cruises

While recently browsing at a bric-a-brac and antiques fair, I happened to overhear a conversation between a greying purveyor of timeworn wares and a potential purchaser.

‘Why are you getting rid of all this stuff?’, the buyer enquired. To which the merchant merrily replied: ‘Why do I need this old junk? I’ve taken up cruising’.

So, it seems, have most Aussie baby-boomers, and one of the most popular options is European river cruising. Droves of retirees are pushing the boat out on all-inclusive cruises along the gentle waterways of what is still very much the ‘old-world’ Continent.

Having recently hitched a ride on a section of Evergreen Tours’ 15-day Splendours of Europe cruise along the Danube River — from picturesque Passau on the German-Austrian border to Hungary’s capital Budapest — I can understand the attraction. Here are some useful tips for first-time passengers on a Europe River Cruise.

Watch our video of ten great things to do on a Danube River Cruise:

10 Great Things to Do on a DANUBE RIVER CRUISE, Europe | Passau, Melk, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest

Cruising the great rivers of Europe is what holiday dreams are made of. Along the way you’ll see grand hilltop castles and chateaus, and visit medieval towns and atmospheric old-world cities. And unlike doing a coach tour of Europe, the big attraction of a river cruise is that you only have to unpack once.

River cruising is sublime; no doubt about that. This is the Europe dreams are made of, with hilltop castles and chateaus, stunning medieval towns, and cobbled city streets — and passengers get to enjoy it all from the comfort of their floating hotel. I actually expected to see lots of cruise ships on the Danube, but much of the time we seemed to have the river much to ourselves.

Unlike coach tours through Europe, which can be pretty taxing in terms of the early starts, the big attraction of a Europe river cruise is that you only have to unpack once. All meals on board are generally included in the cruise price, and in most cases alcohol served with meals is also part of the package.

Tips for first-time passengers on a Europe river cruise
Tips for first-time passengers on a Europe river cruise: Budapest

On our itinerary with Evergreen Tours, there were port stops every day and an included shore excursion in every port. Alternatively, you’re welcome to go exploring at your own pace. Many of the town centres are accessible on foot from the ship. If not, it’s a short taxi ride at most.

Evenings on our cruise were relaxed and informal, with a well-stocked cocktail bar and live entertainment. Most of the passengers were Aussies and unlike larger cruise ships, the relatively small number of passengers on a river cruise means it is possible to get to know as many of your fellow passengers as you like.

Europe tours

Save $100pp on Europe Multi-Day Tours and Cruises

While I travelled on a chartered trip on board Luftner Cruises’ Amadeus Brilliant, Evergreen Tours has since launched two of its own ‘Star Ships’. They’re stunning by all accounts, and offer a choice of balcony staterooms and one-bedroom suites. Complimentary Wi-Fi is provided and there’s even a swimming pool that converts to a cinema by night.

Tips for first-time passengers on a Europe river cruise
Tips for first-time passengers on a Europe river cruise. Image: Evergreen Tours

It’s hard to pick a particular highlight from this experience — there were many. But if I had to, the Austria capital Vienna would come top of my list. This incredible city is packed with cultural and historical attractions, and will wow you at every turn.

We got started early with a visit to the Hofburg — the centre of the mighty Habsburg Empire for six centuries. Tour the Kaiserappartements, the home of Emperor Franz Joseph I and his beloved wife Elizabeth (also known affectionately as Sisi). Ferdinand ruled Austria from the mid 1800s to his death in 1916 during World War l. The apartments are largely undisturbed and a fascinating insight into this chapter in Viennese history and the life of Austria’s longest reigning emperor.

Tips for first-time passengers on a Europe river cruise
Tips for first-time passengers on a Europe river cruise: Vienna

Art aficionados should make their way to the nearby Albertina Museum. It has an incredible collection of works by the great masters, including Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Cezanne, Klimt and many more. Good things do come in small packages: the museum’s most famous piece is Albrecht Durer’s small, unassuming watercolour Young Hare — painted in 1502.

Europe tours

Europe Tours, Activities & Attractions

If it’s time for a restorative latte, pay a visit to one of the city’s world famous coffee houses. A word of warning however: the Viennese take their coffee drinking very seriously. There are no takeaways from a traditional coffee house. They’re a place to sit and put the world to rights. Drop by Café Bel Étage (located near Albertina) and try a piece of their famous chocolate Sacher Torte.

For a more substantial bite to eat, head across town to the historic Griechenbeisl inn. It’s the oldest restaurant in the city and is famous for serving generously-sized Wiener schnitzels. A word of warning: they’re massive! Famous diners have included Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Schubert!

Tips for first-time passengers on a Europe river cruise
Mozart Monument, Burggarten (Vienna)

Speaking of Mozart — no visit to Vienna would be complete without attending a Mozart recital. Mozart was born in Salzburg but spent much of his life composing in Vienna. Purchase a ticket to the concert of your choice from the sellers in the main square around St Stephen’s Cathedral. We chose the Vienna Residence Orchestra, which performs nightly at the wonderful Palais Auersperg.

Once all passengers are safely back on board, the cruise departs for its next enchanting destination. Drifting down the Danube is without doubt one of the finest ways to travel.

The writer travelled as a guest of Evergreen Tours.

Browse our range of Europe River Cruises here.

Do you have any tips for first-time passengers on a Europe river cruise? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

This episode of Tour the World was co-produced by Peppercorn Productions, publisher of Top Oz Tours & Travel Ideas.

Additional images: Bigstock

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.

 

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