We arrived on the ship in the late afternoon to a warm welcome from Simona our cruise director; we were shown to our Owners One-Bedroomed Suite. This boasts a bedroom which closes off from the rest of the cabin, a separate lounge area and a fantastic outdoor balcony complete with open-air system which allows you to enjoy the views whatever the weather.
We set sail in the early evening, en-route to Regensburg. The Main-Danube canal requires 16 locks to raise/lower shipping over an elevation difference of about 400 feet, so before long we were experiencing our first lock! After the excitement of the lock, the evening entertainment was in full flow, a choice of relaxing in the Horizon Lounge with George the resident pianist, or going to a ‘movie’ night with popcorn; it’s held in the pool area which has been converted into a cinema!
The next morning after a quick safety drill, we arrived at Regensburg at 2pm. Regensburg became an important Roman city in the 2nd century and is unusual among major German cities in that in never suffered serious destruction throughout its long history. This means that it contains an astonishing variety of buildings spanning every imaginable European style of architecture. In fact, it has no less than 1300 listed buildings of historic interest, so much so that the complete Altstadt has the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1810 Regensburg became part of Bavaria. We had a walking tour included and then free time to explore the Christmas markets or you could return to the ship for afternoon tea and listen to traditional Bavarian music played by ‘The Tangrindler Band’.
At 18:45, ‘ALL ABOARD!’ The MS Emerald Sun set sail to Passau overnight. This evening we had a quick port talk from our cruise director Simona, which informed us and other guests all about the next day’s optional tours.
We arrived into Passau early in the morning, Passau – ‘Three Rivers City’ is where the Danube meets the Inn and the Ilz rivers. A morning walking tour through the cobblestone streets is provided before you return to the ship for lunch and then an afternoon of leisurely sailing to Linz in Austria, or, as one of two alternatives you may wish to book an optional full day tour (including lunch) to Salzburg in Austria – one of the best preserved city centres north of the Alps and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also known as the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for the film ‘The Sound of Music’. Or, you may prefer to visit Cesky Krumlov, a small town in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. We chose to go to Salzburg which I loved, after a walking tour of the city, we had lunch in Europe’s oldest restaurant St Peter’s which was established in 805AD and then we had free time to explore the cobblestone streets. We re-joined the MS Emerald Sun at Linz in Austria to discover the passengers that went to Cesky Krumlov had an equally amazing day. The ship stayed in Linz until 21:45, giving you plenty of opportunity to explore the 3rd largest city of Austria, or alternatively you could relax in the Horizon lounge with live music or watch a Michael Buble concert in the cinema room.
Day 4 and we arrive in Melk, Austria early in the morning. After breakfast we are transferred to Melk Abbey for a guided inside tour of the 900 year old Melk Abbey which is located on a 185 foot high promontory overlooking the Danube. The splendid ceremonial interiors, the exquisite library and the remarkable Collegiate Church add up to an absolute ‘must see’.
After lunch, we set sail to Durnstein, sailing through the Wachau Valley we arrive mid-afternoon. Here we had free time to explore, or you could enjoy local product tasting of apricot products by the Wieser Company before sailing overnight to Vienna.
We arrived in Vienna ‘The City of Music’ early and embarked on a Vienna city sightseeing tour by coach, where we saw Vienna’s world famous Opera House, Burgtheater, Town Hall and Hofburg Imperial Palace, before hopping off to explore on foot , a must see is St Stephens Cathedral. Alternatively, you can book an optional tour to Schonbrum Palace – Empress Sisi’s former summer residence. After an earlier Viennese buffet dinner there is the option to go to an exclusive private classical music concert at Stift Klosterneuburg or alternatively you can explore Vienna at night as the ship sets sail to Bratislava in the early hours of the morning.
Day 6 and we arrived in Bratislava, the capital in Slovakia. Its city symbol is its fortress that enjoys an impressive hill top setting, and now it contains the Slovak National Museum & Treasury and some rooms are used by the state government. Must see sights are the magnificent Mirbach Palace and the Gothic Cathedral of St Martin, cruise ships moor close to the historic area of town, so it’s easy to reach all the important sights on foot, a walking tour is included or you can explore the city on your own. After lunch you can enjoy a special home hosted afternoon tea with a Slovakian family, in a nearby village. We visited a family that run a local landscape gardening business, doing both design and construction and even a small plant nursery in their back garden that is open to the public. Other groups visited families that run a waffle business and another that made wine from the vineyard in their garden. It was a great way to discover what everyday life is like in a Slovakian village. We were back on board the ship in time for a Captain’s Farewell Dinner, and set sail for Budapest in the evening.
Budapest – the Pearl of the Danube, we sailed into Budapest at approximately 08:30, and it was well worth being on the spacious sun deck with a camera for panoramic views as we arrived. On the hilly right hand bank of the River Danube is the Buda side and the flat Pest side is on the left bank. Widely known as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, Budapest is home to many UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Buda Castle Quarter, Heroes’ Square, the famous Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill in Buda and the Matthias Church with its colourful roof tiles. Directly below the Castle Palace you will find the city’s oldest bridge, the Chain Bridge that links Buda and Pest. We went on a city tour by coach, seeing all the main sights and stopped to visit Heroes’ Square and The Matthias Church. We then had free time to explore on our own; we even mastered the underground electric metro system!
This afternoon we partook in afternoon tea at Karpatia Restaurant, one of the oldest restaurants in Budapest. This classic restaurant is known for traditional Hungarian gastronomy and its beautiful interior of hand painted and gilded walls are unforgettable. We then had free time to explore Budapest overnight and the next day before our transfer to the airport for our flight home.
We both had an amazing time, the destinations, the sleek modern ship and exceptional service ensured we would consider this a trip to be remembered and a true example of ‘effort less’ travel.