Date of Trip: July 2003
After several ocean cruises, a friend told me of their river cruise in Europe. They had gone with Vantage Travel and so I asked for their brochures.
We selected a 14 days plus cruise and went in July of 2003. The boat is one build especially for rivers, it carries 170 passengers and crew. It has only one class: excellent. In these trips airfare is included from several USA airports, transfers, sightseeing trips, all meals (including those when you are sightseeing). There is a guide with your group all the time (each group has 30 persons) and the meals are gourmet. There is only one sitting, and during breakfast you are given the dinner menu so you can choose. This way food is not wasted. Breakfasts are buffet style and they serve you everything!
We flew from JFK to Budapest, in Luftansa, via Frankfurt. The trip included 3 nights in Budapest, in a Hilton hotel by the Danube river, sightseeing, breakfasts and dinners, plus a trip to see an equestrian show with lunch.
We then boarded a train to Prague, where again we stayed 3 nights, also with hotel, meals, sightseeing included. By bus we went to the city of Passau to board our ship. It has just 3 decks, and an open one on top. The room where the captain manns the boat goes down when passing under the bridges.
We travelled the Danube, the Main and the Rhine rivers. We crossed over 20 locks which was unbelivable. You could touch the sides of the locks, and at the same time see the water going up or down in the lock.
The boat travelled by night, and docked in a different city each day. After breakfast we went on the tours, and returned in time to change for dinner, have a complimentary drink, and after dinner we had a show: either a folkloric group dancing or singing, a piano player playing music from the area, a glass blowing demonstration, a lecturer, etc. No Broadway shows like in the ocean cruise ships. The day we cruised the Rhine where all the castles are, we recieved a brochure with information on every castle, and over the loudspeaker a detailed narrative of what we were passing.
We finished the cruise in Amsterdam, where we stayed on board for an extra night and day so we could enjoy the city. Then by bus we went to Brussels for a post cruise tour (included in the price) for 3 nights, via Bruges (which I loved), and finally were taken to the airport to return to JFK. It cost us around $1350. each. Today the similar trips cost over $4,000. It was before the euro…
After over 25 ocean cruises, some very good, some excellent and some not so good, I still consider my Rivers of Europe cruise the best I have taken. I would repeat it again any day.
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