Cruise Review - May 30-13 Jun - part 1
OK, here’s my review of our fourth Tauck river cruise. Sorry it’s so long.
- Tauck exceeded our expectations – again. Viking - we won’t be touring with them.
- Weather was everything from high 50’s to low 80’s – used my rain coat several times
- The Scylla ships are cutting down on single use plastics – shower gel/shampoo/conditioner in dispersers – Tauck gave us 2 refillable stainless steel insulated water bottles – great for the stateroom but a bit heavy for day excursions. We worried about airport security but got through fine.
- I also noticed more casual attire by the crew this time. The wait staff wore polo shirts for day wear and shirt and tie for evening service.
- While the itinerary had a fair amount of day time cruising, it actually felt like one of the more strenuous river cruises we’ve taken – lots of cobble stones, inclines and stairs with few elevators – those with walking difficulties had a hard time. Plus several “TauckFIT” opportunities like bike rides or hikes. I never had less than 10k steps on my fitbit.
- The itinerary and the ship did a great job featuring local food and drink. Every dinner menu and most lunches featured local dishes. Also lots of local beer, wine, sausages, desserts, etc. The chefs on both ships were excellent and we were allowed to get recipes for any we particularly liked. Just had to ask at reception and they would print it out. Now I just need to figure out the metric conversions.
Pre-tour stay – 2 nights at the Tauck hotel the Intercontinental – river view rooms!!
We arrived mid afternoon after a very long travel day and one of several rains we saw during our stay. The Intercontinental is located right next to the Danube and the Chain Bridge. Great location and we were pleasantly surprised to see that our group of 6 had river view rooms. We headed out looking for an ATM (in the lobby of the hotel), a bit of walking in the sun and dinner. Ended up having dinner at Ezaz Cafe on Bajcsy-Zsilinszky street behind the church. It has a varied menu of both Hungarian favorites and standard fair like burgers and pizza. We strolled back to the hotel and tried hard to stay awake until the castle opposite was up-light but jetlag took over.
Our only full day of touring was taken up with a private tour of the Danube bend that we had booked ahead through viator - cost was about $90 each. It included a guide who picked us up at the hotel, a tour of the cathedral of Esztergom, a tour of Visegrad, an excellent lunch in Szentrendre, time to shop there and ended with a small boat trip back to Budapest. The last 2 activities were a bit marred by a pouring rain storm that hit right after lunch. We got back to Budapest a bit soggy opting for dinner in the hotel. Sadly our day ended with numerous police and emergency sirens that we could see and hear from the hotel with no idea what it was about. Turned out the next day we learned that a Viking cruise ship had collided with a small boat (not dissimilar to the one we had ridden earlier in the day) near the Margret Bridge. At last count, at least 20 South Korean fatalities. So sad. Having seen the extremely high and fast moving Danube and the number of cruise boats of all shapes and sizes in Budapest, it isn’t all that surprising that a collision would happen.
Tour Day 1 – we met our TDs in the lobby of the hotel, confirmed pickup time and set out for more touring. Another rainy day. We bought tram tickets in the Memories of Hungary gift shop in the hotel and rode the #2 Tram up to its northern end then back to the stop nearest the Great Market. The market is architecturally very interesting, the food choices in the lower level interesting (lots of meat, paprika, produce and cheese) then upstairs there is plenty of touristy souvenir choices and a couple of fast food options. We ended up having lunch across the street at Pipa Etterem. Good service, nice ambient, my food choice wasn’t my favorite of the trip. We then walked to the Dohany St Synagogue. You have to pay to enter but get a guided tour. It’s a fascinating synagogue with some unusual features like an organ, pulpits, 8 pointed stars, etc. Wished we’d had more time after our tour but had to make a fast trot back to the hotel. The ship was docked very close to the great market. Check in was fast and easy as always. We had a quick welcome from the crew, safety briefing (particularly needed after the events of the night before) and then dinner.
Tour Day 2 – 8:30 boarded coaches for a city drive-by tour, a stop at Fishermans Bastion and tour of the Mathias church, then ending at the Great Market hall where we were treated to our strudel of choice. You could return to the ship then (a quick walk) or have a little more time to shop. Ship left Budapest by 2:15. In the afternoon, there was a briefing on tour choices later in the trip (food for the night in Vienna) and another bike ride option later in the tour.
Tour Day 3 – arrived Bratislava docked in the heart of the old town. We had a guest lecturer on board who talked about Slovakia particularly focusing on the current economy. We then departed with local guides for a tour of the city including the palace. We had about 2 hours more of free time before all aboard. Arrived in Vienna about 8pm docked at Vienna passenger cruise port DDSG dock 12. About a dozen other river ships in the same area.
Tour Day 4 – tour choices today included Schonbrunn Palace or the Hofburg. Most opted for the Schonbrunn. You could then either return to the ship or go back to the city and return on a shuttle later. Shuttles every half hour shared with passengers from another Tauck ship. Dinner and music at the Palais Ferstel. The main dress up occasion for the trip and worth the effort!! Music and food both wonderful.
Tour Day 5 – arrived in Durnstein – a choice of a bike ride, hike up to the castle ruins or tour of the very small town. We opted for the bike ride which started as an easy doddle then got hard enough to feel we deserved the cold drink and rest at a tiny town called Weissenkirchen. Back on board to head for Melk. The coaches drove to the abbey but you still had a climb down stairs. There was free time in the gardens then a guided tour. You could return by coach or walk back, but I don’t think anyone did (it was 80 degrees) and was a bit confusing how you got back.
Tour Day 6 – morning cruising with a smoothie station and a Bavarian lunch. Arrived in Passau tying up next to the old town. Choice of guided walking tour, bike tour, hike and go off on your own. Nice little town.
Tour Day 7 – arrived Regensburg in the morning tied up near the old town. Guided walking tours of the town and the Thurn & Taxis Palace. Somewhat boring palace with an interesting but mostly fictional family history. Time on our own which many used to visit the Historic Sausage stand next to Stone Bridge & the river. We were also given the opportunity to stay longer in Regensburg then catch up with the ship in Kelheim. Due to a lock holdup we were much later getting to Kelheim than expected so the 4 who took this option had a much longer day than expected. Their TD took good care of them however.