River cruising is something I’ve never done and yet I would definitely like to do. I’ve always loved the idea of a cruise on the Danube River or more recently, a cruise in more exotic locales like Vietnam and Laos or even Burma. So today, I decided to share an interview with my dad who along with my mom went on a European river cruise back in 2012.
-What made you decide to take a river cruise?
There were a couple of factors involved. The primary one was our long held desire to visit Vienna. The river cruise was a way of traveling we had never previously done which would accomplish that.
-Which cruise outfitter did you go on? Had you researched other companies? What made you go with the one you did?
We traveled on Tauck. We chose them because of our desire to see Vienna. We did research a number of other companies but Tauck was the only one that offered two nights in Vienna.
-Where all did your cruise go to?
It began in Budapest (Hungary) and headed west. The stops included in order Bratislava (Slovakia), Vienna, Dürnstein, and Salzburg (all in Austria), and Passau (Germany).
-Did you have any preconceived opinions or notions about river cruising that turned out to be false?
I thought that since it would be smaller than a cruise ship it would not be as luxurious. This notion was immediately dispelled when we boarded the boat in Budapest. It was explained to us on that first day a vessel on an ocean is a ship while a vessel on a river is a boat. And this boat was very nice.
-River cruising is generally thought of an “old people’s” thing. Were there any families or young people on your cruise?
River cruising is so popular that travel companies have extended it to include families. Our cruise was actually one designed for families. Tauck has a subdivision called Tauck Bridges which is their family trips. They offer a number of river cruises for families. We chose it because of the aforementioned desire to see Vienna. There were a lot of families and young people on the tour. Out of approximately 120 passengers there were about a dozen (maybe six couples) not part of a family group. Another prominent tour company which caters to family tours, Adventures by Disney, has recognized the popularity of river cruising and in 2016 they are offering a river cruise on the Danube.
-While you’re not an avid cruiser, you had been on an actual cruise before. How do you feel a river cruise compares to your traditional cruise? Do you find one to be better than the other?
This is the classic “they are so different” situation. The biggest difference is of course the size of the vessels. This will dictate where the vessel can go. If there was one thing I did like more for river cruising versus ocean it was that ability to step off the boat and be virtually in most cases, at the “attraction”.
-What were some of the highlights from your cruise (both on-board the ship and also in the ports)?
Highlights on the ship included “touring” so to speak as the vessel proceeded. You were always in sight of land so there were always things to see even if you were not formally in a port. It was also very nice that the dining room menu featured local cuisine each night. This was something more possible with a river cruise as stocking of food and provisions could change each day with a different port. Some port highlights included a private concert in Vienna and (since it was a family tour) a night time visit to the Prater ,Vienna’s famed amusement park. Another port highlight was Dürnstein. This was a city we knew little about but it was a gem and included an excellent walking tour, a fantastic scenic climb, and a raucous. very entertaining wine tasting to conclude the day.
-Is there anything you wish would have been done differently? Anything you were disappointed by from the river cruising experience?
The only thing we might have preferred to be done differently was the day trip to Salzburg. We had an extended stop at Hellbrun Palace and we thought this was too long for our taste but was perfect for families. It had a zillion (conservative estimate) booby traps that squirted water at visitors as you toured. It cost us some time in Salzburg. The kids loved it and we just had to acknowledge you did sign on for a family tour.
-What’s one thing you would say to someone who’s unsure about taking a river cruise (i.e. something to convince them to go)?
You do not have to unpack-your hotel is literally coming with you for the length of the trip and in most cases with most ports being right there.
-Would you take another river cruise? If so, where?
Definitely. Our two top choices would be either in Portugal along the Douro river or in the south of France along the Rhône river.
Hope you enjoyed reading the interview!