By: Dana Woods, Senior Travel Consultant, CTA Certified
Our Active and Discovery on the Danube with Avalon began in Budapest, and we arrived at night. Budapest by night was gorgeous. The Matthias Church Cathedral and Castle on the Buda side and the Hungarian Parliament Building on the Pest side illuminated stunning views that straddled the Danube River. Our Hilton Hotel sat centrally located atop the Buda Castle Hill in the castle district, right next to the Holy Trinity Square. We dined at a table situated directly in front of the glistening black Danube as ships sailed by in both directions. What made it more stunning was the Parliament building lit in opulent amber light as its backdrop. Dinner included a piping hot bowl of delicious traditional Hungarian Goulash.
I recommend arriving a day earlier into Budapest to have leisure time to cross the bridge and explore both the Buda and Pest sides of the city. On the second night, we visited the Ferris Wheel of Budapest (known as the Budapest Eye) that stands 65 meters tall and offers spectacular views of the city and the Danube River.
At night, the park was bustling with locals and tourists alike. We walked to the nearby Rezkakas Bistro for dinner with new friends and enjoyed great food and music from their live mini-orchestra.
The Avalon Impression was beautifully designed with a spacious dining room, panorama bistro, bar & lounge, intimate club lounge in the rear of the ship, and sky deck areas. Her amenities included a fitness center, fitness instructor, and elevator. The ship’s lounge hosted a variety of music that included live piano music, small local band performances, and a DJ. Her capacity of only 160 guests provided an intimate, relaxed atmosphere, and afforded each guest exceptional service. The Captain, Cruise Director, and stateroom attendants were very courteous, professional, and informative.
The first night on the ship, we met Captain Rollin, whose sailing career started in 1992, and who has been the Avalon Impression’s only captain since her maiden voyage in 2014. His passion for sailing was made apparent by the warm and funny introduction he shared with us during the welcome reception, where he spoke of his days as a young boy growing up near the water. He welcomed everyone to visit him in the Wheel House of the ship at their leisure. To my surprise, he was also very hands-on throughout the sailing, and often got off the ship in his crisp white shirt and dressed blues to help the crew anchor. Many times throughout the cruise, he saw us off the ship on brisk mornings, as we headed off to our various excursions, and greeted us back on board with a smile and interest in what we saw and did while ashore. He had an engaging soul, which my husband and I recognized and appreciated.
The Active and Discovery on the Danube with Avalon cruises is chocked full of adventure for those who want to inject a little excitement into their sailing experience. Hiking, jogging, biking, canoeing, city walks, and yoga offered a great variety of options to suit the broadest of interests.
In Visegrad, we participated in a guided canoe excursion, where we rowed a 6 man canoe through the scenic Bend region of the Danube.
In Vienna, we opted for a leisure morning and after breakfast, took Avalon bikes out to explore a little island across the bridge, and also to immerse ourselves in the streets of the nearby local neighborhood. We rode by a nearby church within a city park and took pictures during our short rest stop there. We continued and found ourselves at a local restaurant for Viennese coffee and tea at their outdoor cafe. On our ride back, we stopped into the neighborhood market and picked up Viennese snacks to take back to our stateroom. So much fun!
In Grein, we toured the main square of the town and were invited inside the historic theater, which is the oldest in Austria that still holds regular performances. In the evening, we visited Greinburg Castle (also known as Clam Castle), where we met Count Philip Clam Martinic and his family as they hosted us on a castle tour and sampling of his own family made beer, wine, and grape juices. So delicious!
In Linz, we docked across from the Ars Electronica Center, which was all lit up in bright technicolored designs, and took a leisurely nighttime walk after dinner with a small group of newfound friends from the cruise.
The next day, we were offered an impromptu surprise opportunity by Avalon Waterway’s Director of Innovation Research and Development, Burghart Lell, to accompany him on a pioneer excursion to Wilhering Abbey. This Cistercian Monastery and College is located in Withering (Upper Austria) in the beautiful hillside, just a short drive from Linz, and was founded by Ulrich and Kolo of Withering. These gentlemen donated their family’s old castle in honor of their deceased father’s wishes after the family moved to a new castle in another town. Here, the students collectively hosted a tour of the grounds and revealed its rich history as they demonstrated their command of the English language, and shared aspirations to broaden their careers to include international endeavors. The list of notable alumni included a member of the Austrian resistance (around the time of German annexation of Austria), a composer, a journalist, a baritone singer, an orchestra conductor, and a theatrical musical director to name a few.
The Active and Discovery on the Danube river cruise with Avalon itinerary included many exclusive highlights. It was an amazing experience and I highly recommend this cruise.
Senior Travel Consultant, CTA Certified
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