Cathy Jabusch, Travel Specialist, Email | 780-341- 3741
There’s no better way to experience Europe’s charms than an AMA Waterways River Cruise down the romantic Danube River. This amazing 8-day experience takes you from the town of Vilshofen, Germany all the way to the city of Budapest, Hungary, all the time experiencing authentic gourmet food, wine tasting, and the incredible architecture that can only be seen in Central Europe.
Our journey began at the Munich airport, which is the closest international airport to Vilshofen and where the transfer company met us before taking us on the 90-minute drive to town in a van complete with panoramic windows. I was thankful for the views because it meant I didn’t have to look at the roads – the speed of some vehicles on the highway made me glad I wasn’t in the driver’s seat!
Even though we toured in November, the town of Vilshofen set up a tent near our ship, the AMABella, to show us their special version of Oktoberfest before we set sail. Vilshofen also produces an amazing mulled wine called Gleuwein, which is popular at Easter and Christmas — it definitely stood out as a highlight of this tour.
With our appetites whetted by Pilsner and pretzels, and our legs nice and loose from dancing to German music, we boarded for our first gourmet dinner at Ebilnes, one of the ship’s specialty restaurants. This is an experience in itself, as you can watch the dedicated chef prepare several delicious courses for the table.
Our stateroom had balconies perfect for taking in the stunning scenery, regardless of the weather. Not only do you have the extra space the enclosed French balcony gives you, but you also have a walkout balcony for fresh air and better picture taking. The room also comes complete with complimentary wine, champagne, and chocolates – the famous Viennese Mozartkugel, which is made with dark chocolate, pistachio marzipan, and nougat; they are quite the delightful treat.
The theme of the AMABella was “Celebration of Wine”. To hone our wine-tasting skills, we made sure to take advantage of the wine knowledge and seminars by wine expert Barry Wiss, from Trinchero Vineyards in the Napa Valley. He helped us refine our palate by teaching us to understand good and bad wine aromas. Afterwards, we played a little game to see whose nose was the most sensitive to the various bouquets. Apparently, my nose still needs a bit of training — time to practice!
Later, we visited the Winzer Krems Winery, where we were taken on a tour of a 500-year old wine cellar, with hundreds of dusty bottles stored in caverns cut into the walls — some dating back to 1947! But the winery that really made an impression on me Schloss Gobelsburg, which is an estate just outside of Krems. They make a wonderful white wine from the Gruner Veltliner grape that has given me a new appreciation for Austrian wines, which are not as prominent in Canada, but are renowned worldwide.
In addition to all this wine tasting, we saw some of the most memorable sights during our excursions to smaller towns. The impressive pipe organ in Passau, with 18,000 pipes, some so small that the frequency can only be heard by children; the apricot mustards and toasted apricot kernels in Durnstein; and the Benedictine Abbey in Melk, an inspiring Baroque palace used by the Hapsburgs on their journey between Vienna and Salzburg that’s now used as a school for 900 students.
The tour also takes you to the picturesque city of Salzburg, the home of the famous von Trapp family that served as the inspiration for the 1959 musical, The Sound of Music. Salzburg is a beautiful city with intriguing little shops selling linens, chocolates, and tempting liqueurs along its pedestrian streets.
We were also awestruck by the architecture of Vienna and Budapest. While in Vienna, you can actually experience a concert that features a wonderful selection of Mozart’s and Strauss’ music, complete with champagne. In Budapest, the stunning Fisherman’s Bastion, Heroes’ Square, and Parliament buildings are beautiful enough during the day. But they’re even more beautiful lit up at night, as we sailed the Danube on a special Illuminations Cruise.
From the amazing scenery during the daytrips, to the late-night pubs and restaurants, the AMA Waterways cruise down the Danube River gives you the opportunity to experience a side of Europe that many people never get a chance to see. Trust me, you’ll want to experience Europe’s original highways on a river cruise, first hand.