The popularity of river cruising has exploded over the last few years. People are seeing ads on television showing sleek boats filled with folks smiling and having good times gliding down rivers all over the world - or they are hearing people tell of their great experiences on river trips.
It seems that riverboat passengers certainly are having high adventures and that is why river cruising is luring first-timers, as well as return travelers, over and over again.
Dave and Ann Denton are Paducah residents who have taken river cruises. When asked to help explain why river cruising is a passion for them, the excitement in their voices matched the glowing smiles on their faces as they told about the four rivers they have traveled.
Dave, who laughed and was quick to point out that he is an attorney who practices law in addition to taking river cruises, said he likes the way cruises have taken Ann and him to places "off the beaten path."
Dave also said he is so proud of "THE WALL," which is the stairwell in his home that has framed photos from many ofthe trips.
He enjoys looking at the pictures every single day.
Ann discussed the slower, relaxed pace of the river cruises that allows travelers to become more immersed into the culture of the areas visited.
First, local excursions are often included in the tour price, and also fresh foods and beverages from those areas are often actually served on the vessels themselves.
Photographer Harold Leath and I were nodding in agreement to observations made by Ann and Dave because we had the pleasure of discovering these tidbits about River Cruising while on The Legendary Blue Danube River Cruise earlier this year. Harold agreed with Ann and Dave: it's nice to unpack only once and wake up each day in a new city or country - and to be able to see land on both sides of the boat at all times.
We all agreed that rivers do not have many waves and the slow "flow" of the cruises "doesn't rock the boat." The waves do not cause most passengers to have motion sickness either.
Concluding our nice discussion on river cruising, Dave shared a favorite quote on traveling in general by Mark Twain: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
The Route tothe Danube byway of Prague
The Legendary Blue Danube River Cruise was amazing. It was a seven-night cruise aboard the tastefully furnished MS Amadeus Elegant that toured the countries of Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. But, first things first: we did not start on the Danube.
The tour actually began with a two-night hotel stay in downtown Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Yes, another country â “ so, that brought the number of countries visited on the tour up to five.
Prague happens to be a delightful city that is rich in ancient history.
There is a New Town and an Old Town, but just be mindful that even New Town was built back in the 14th century.
How fortunate that almost everything survived wartime destruction of the world wars and it is a good town for walking, even with more than its share of cobblestones.
Highlights of Prague included going up to the top of Old Town Hall Tower at the famed Astronomical Clock for the view; shopping for garnet jewelry, a locally mined treasure; crossing the Charles River Bridge by foot to savor all its ancient statues and current-day artisans; touring Prague Castle (yes, they had a uniformed guard); and having dinner at a local restaurant each of the two nights.
Motorbus toPassau, Germany
There was only time in Passau for a nice tour of the city by a local guide before heading to board MS Amadeus, our "home away from home" for the remainder of the tour. How pleasant to find three levels of staterooms - many with French balconies for panoramic river viewing; an inviting dining room serving gourmet breakfasts and lunches, as well as four course dinners; a lounge that served afternoon tea and late night snacks; a beauty shop, workout area and gift shop; and outdoor lounge areas.
It was time for the fun to begin, but nothing was overwhelming.
There were only 116 passengers, all eating in one dining room at one seating. It was intimate, warm and friendly from the Captain's Welcome Reception and Dinner that first night until the Captain's Farewell Dinner at the end of the trip.
Excursion to Salzburg
"The Hills Come Alive with the Sound of Music" â “ and they were bright with the color of flowers at Mirabell Gardens, too.
Fountains were everywhere, including the one seen in "The Sound of Music."
What excitement there was upon seeing the apartment building where Mozart lived in his early years. Even eating the box lunch graciously provided by the riverboat was a delight during that busy day.
Passengers soon began to look forward to other treats; there was always a little glass of the most refreshing peach tea, along with a friendly smile from a crew member welcoming you as you returned each time you left the boat.
Each night when returning from dinner a schedule was provided for the next day. It became addicting to watch for special events to "catch" like demonstrations from the chef or a special event like the talent show by the staff and crew or the "Big Raffle" of neat items from the boat's gift shop.
Melk Abbey visited - then on to theVillage of Durnstein
Melk Abbey, founded in 1089, is famous. Perched upon a rocky crag overlooking the Danube near Melk, Austria, it is known for monks and manuscripts, as well as its absolutely beautiful Baroque-style church in the abbey that was built between 1702 and 1736.
How many "favorite times" can there be on a special trip like The Legendary Blue Danube River Cruise? The tour directors on our boat were oh, so right in telling us to grab a seat up on deck to have the best possible view while cruising down through the wine country of Wachau Valley between Melk and Durnstein. The views were dotted with castles, fortresses, vineyards, churches and a great deal more.
Then, we got to quaint Durnstein, where we walked right up the bluff into a little bit of a fantasy world. It just looked right - like you would expect a village to look. There were even several Maypoles - we were there in May, after all. And, there was the prettiest blue church tower you can ever imagine.
Waltzing through Vienna en route to Bratislava
Visiting Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, twice in the same day does seem like quite a "dance." It was just the way things happened when the tour of the palace, which was once used as a summer home for the Hapsburgs, was also the venue for a concert of Mozart music for the evening's entertainment. These days the palace is used as a museum and for other interesting purposes as well.
Little history lesson: Slovakia separated from Czech Republic in 1993. Bratislava is the country's capital. It was refreshing to see success in their businesses and hear our local guides speak of their love of freedom.
That evening local musicians entertained us on the riverboat. The group was great, but the nicest part of the evening was getting to spend time with the other passengers on the boat who were becoming our new friends. That is always one of the best bonuses of any trip.
Final stop: Budapest
Arriving in Budapest was almost indescribable. The river cruise ship glided past a long stretch of colorful, historic structures from many eras and designs: Buda on one side with its hills and Pest on the other side so flat. There were magnificent bridges, views of glorious Parliament and Buda Castle, and above it all stood Budapest's own Statue of Liberty.
Of all the castles - some looking so much like sand castles one would think they actually were made of sand - and beautifully colored roofs and churches in Budapest, the place that caught my heart, was a big, fun marketplace. You just never know what to expect.
The Legendary Blue Danube River Cruse ended after Budapest. I gave an unconditional "Two Thumbs Up" superb rating to the Amadeus Line and its amazing staff and crew, Mayflower Tours and the magnificent tour staff; and Jane's Journeys, my vote for Best Travel Consultant.
Thinking back to my conversation with Ann and Dave Denton about their passion for river cruising, I remember what they both answered when asked which cruise had been their favorite so far: No favorites. They both love the DIFFERENCES of every trip they have taken. All the trips had their own twist.
Consider taking a river cruise yourself someday and giving it your own twist. n