A first-time river cruiser shares her experience on Melodies of the Danube

Thoughtfully curated, our week-long journey encompassed four countries, three capital cities and breathtaking tucked-away towns we would never have discovered on our own.

Our Arrival into Luxury

Our experience could not have started off better. Our travel advisor had booked our flights through AmaWaterways, which meant we were welcomed by AmaWaterways staff at the airport and whisked away on our included transfer* from the airport to the ship. This was our first taste of the upscale service in store for us throughout our week-long river journey.

We arrived at the beautiful AmaSerena in Budapest, Hungary around 11 am and were able to drop off our luggage and go exploring on our own. Tracing my husband’s Hungarian-Jewish heritage, we headed to the Jewish Quarter, the Great Synagogue on Dohány Street and the Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial, where we were treated to a free performance by a local klezmer band. On our way back to the ship, we were tempted by the enticing aroma of chimney cakes at every turn – we settled on sharing one as we certainly didn’t want to spoil our appetite for the wonderful multi-course dinner that was awaiting us.   

Brilliant Budapest, Hungary

After a refreshing night’s sleep in our comfortable stateroom, we woke up ready for our hike through Budapest, which was absolutely spectacular. Our guide led us to Fisherman’s Bastion, which transformed the city into an absolute fairytale with its gorgeous turrets, as well as St. Matthew Cathedral, with its impressive mosaic roof, and across the grand Chain Bridge. Having missed the opportunity to see The Shoes on the Danube Holocaust memorial the day before, we were relieved we had the chance to pay our respects during our included excursion.

But nothing compared to the magnificent sendoff we had as we sailed past the Hungarian Parliament Building illuminated against the night sky on our way to Bratislava, Slovakia. It was a romantic moment and truly felt unreal – what a way to cap off the first full day of our journey!

Vienna, Austria: A Wonderful Surprise

I did not anticipate the joy this lovely city brought me. On our walking tour, we discovered St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the beautiful façade of Hofburg Palace. We were enchanted by the sound of horses’ hooves clip-clopping against the cobblestone as carriages trotted through town, momentarily transporting us back in time. Wandering just a block or two away from the iconic cathedral, I was taken aback by how quiet and secluded Vienna felt, as though we had the city all to ourselves.

My husband and I then ventured off in search of our Cruise Manager Mariana’s favorite Wiener schnitzel restaurant, where we enjoyed the local culinary specialty before indulging in a little souvenir shopping. Vienna is where my cherished collection of miniature hand-crank music boxes began. We found them in almost every European city after that – much to my delight!

Tucked-Away Towns: Weissenkirchen and Dürnstein, Austria

We woke up early to enjoy a delicious breakfast before experiencing our approach into this postcard-perfect hamlet. It was breathtaking and most people were up on the Sun Deck taking pictures. This was one of the highlights of my river cruise—watching Weissenkirchen come into view as we sailed down the Danube River.

We also loved our hiking tour in nearby Dürnstein. Our guide, Stephen, was very animated and kept us entertained with delightful stories on the history of Richard the Lionheart’s imprisonment at the fortress and more. Every time we stopped to take a picture, from the cobblestone lanes to the storied dirt path on our ascent, he assured us there would be an even more spectacular view once we reached the top. He wasn’t wrong – the thrilling scenery of the castle ruins, green vineyards, blue Danube, red-roofed buildings and AmaSerena docked below are now seared in my memory forever. The Dürnstein Fortress hike is a fantastic excursion that, for us, culminated in a tasting of apricot wine and other delights at a local winery on the town’s main lane.

Exclusive Experience: Greinburg Castle

That evening, our ship docked in Grein, Austria for an exclusive tour of Greinburg Castle. We were treated to a champagne reception and performance of local dance and were invited into a special room covered with an elaborate pebble mosaic. This was a truly unique experience offered only to AmaWaterways guests.

Do Re Mi Through Mondsee and Salzburg

I have been a fan of The Sound of Music since I was a little girl. So, of course I had longed to see the church where Maria walked down the aisle with Captain Von Trapp, as well as the Salzburg sites where the beautiful young governess led the seven Von Trapp children through singing lessons.

Our journey began with a ride through the peaks and valleys of Austria’s phenomenal Lake District, where we stopped in Mondsee to visit St. Michael’s Church. I walked slowly down the main aisle to the front of the church, pretending to be Maria as I heard the wedding song from the movie playing in my head. But as exciting as it was to visit the church, I was even more in awe of the surrounding beauty of the mountains and lake. Like Maria, I just couldn’t resist doing a little twirl in the green grass taking in the gorgeous countryside around us!

In Salzburg, our active walkers group had an incredible jaunt across the city. We saw Mozart’s birthplace and the spectacular Mirabell Gardens, which was the site of many filmed shots in The Sound of Music. I even danced around the fountain answering our dirndl-clad guide’s trivia questions about the movie! It was another unforgettable day, to say the least.

Bavarian Charm in Vilshofen, Germany

After treating ourselves to a hearty traditional Bavarian breakfast, we decided on a relaxing day wandering around Passau before the ship sailed on to Vilshofen, Germany. Vilshofen was the cutest little town, walkable in about 30 minutes, and gave us a true taste of what daily life is like in small villages along the Danube River.

That evening, AmaWaterways and the local community welcomed us at a private Oktoberfest celebration complete with complimentary Pilsner beer or local wine and fresh-baked pretzels. Some of us opted for the fresh air of the summer evening outside the tent, but we still danced to the live music and enjoyed the camaraderie. It was a wonderful way to wrap up our amazing week on the Danube River.

Join us on our Melodies of the Danube sailing – best reserved with our pre-river cruise land package in Prague, Czech Republic!

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