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Discover the Danube with AmaWaterways

clock 23rd August 2018 | comment0 Comments

When Kate from our marketing team got the opportunity to experience an AmaWaterways river cruise on the Danube, she was keen to jump at the chance. The trip was a 7-night adventure onboard AmaSerena, from Vilshofen to Budapest. Countries en route included Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. Having never been to these places before, Kate was excited to see the culture and spirit of each destination. Thankfully, with AmaWaterways excursions are included, so she had plenty of opportunities to get to know every town and village on the way. Here’s what she made of her experience of AmaWaterways’ excursions.

 

 

I found there is plenty of choice when it comes to opportunities and experiences with AmaWaterways. Included tours and excursions were available in each port, or you could also explore at your own leisure, either on foot or with one of the ship’s bikes. The options ranged in fitness level, start time, and activity, from castle hikes and cycle trips to walking tours, and tastings. We opted for the slightly more active excursions including hikes, which also included brief city tours too. The hikes were amazing taking you high above each town for absolutely astounding views, and the local guides were excellent.

 

Germany

Passau

Here we opted for the castle hike, and I’m so glad we did. It was stunning. From the heights of Passau’s castle, you could see out across the Bavarian and Bohemian forests, and you also had an excellent vantage point for seeing where the three rivers – Danube, Ilz, and Inn – converge.

 

Austria

Durnstein

After enjoying the hike in Passau, we decided to go for another one in Durnstein. This hike was just as impressive, though a bit of a higher fitness level is definitely required, on this hike you could actually climb to the castle where Richard the Lionheart was held captive and stand upon the ruins.

Linz

In Linz, we opted for a morning bike ride along the ‘Culture Mile’, which was an informative and fun way of getting to all the hotspots and sights of the city including the Ars Electronica Center, Lentos Kunstmuseum, the mighty cathedral, and both the new and old town squares.

 

 

Lake District

This was by far one of the best excursions! The guide on the coach getting there was great, giving lots of information about the area, and when we finally arrived at the first lake I was truly in awe. After a brief tour we were let loose to wander at leisure, and of course, we had to dip our toes in the beautiful Moon Lake. A few scenic drives and lakes later it was safe to say we were exhausted from such a long and brilliant day. It really is impossible to describe the magnitude of the beauty here.

Vienna

In Vienna, we opted for the ‘active walkers’ city tour, which takes in a few more sights than the gentle group. We had a guided drive on the Ringtrasse where our guide brought history to life with each building! After the tour, we opted to stay in the city and explore for ourselves, from the Cathedral to the Strauss Statue, and plenty of gardens in-between. After some much-deserved strudel, we headed back to the pickup point, where shuttle buses arrived every half an hour to go back to the ship.

The pièce de résistance in Vienna had to be the optional Mozart & Strauss Concert in the evening. This was at an additional cost but was worth every penny. Everyone dressed for the affair and the music was sublime, but it’s not all serious - there were a few comedic moments in the performance too.

 

Slovakia

Bratislava

We enjoyed panoramic views of the Wachau Valley as we sailed to Bratislava, whilst listening to incredible commentary from our brilliant Cruise Manager. Arriving in Bratislava, we opted for the tasting and brewery tour where we got to sample three local beers and delicious, traditional Slovakian snacks.

 

Hungary

Budapest

 

 

When we reached Budapest, we chose to take part in the city tour, to try to cover as much as possible in this beautiful city. In total, we were out for around 4 hours and still didn’t see everything! The Pest side is like a classic cosmopolitan city reminding me of London with a lot of history and character, but a walk over the bridge to Buda is a must as well. This side of the bridge is another world entirely, especially if you head up to the castle. Here you’ll feel like you’re in a fairy-tale, with spires and towers and incredible views.

With at least three excursion options every day, it’s clear that the crew at AmaWaterways think of everything. If you’re feeling inspired to get out and see Europe on a river cruise, why not browse through our range of AmaWaterways Danube cruises and see this gorgeous region for yourself.



Cruise in France with Avalon Waterways

clock 22nd August 2018 | comment0 Comments

Fortunately, our very own Jack Lee from the sales team had the opportunity to experience a river cruise with Avalon Waterways, here’s what he thought of the trip.

 

 

Arrival

The arrival into Paris was quick, and we were greeted by the transport team who led us to the transfer from the airport to the river cruise port, which was about 45 minutes. Upon arrival to the ship, the first noticeable thing would be that there are only 3 decks. The ship holds 120 passengers in total, the entrance might look small but there is ample space for everyone. The gangway is small, and the ship is not located in a big port. Instead, you are seconds away from getting into Paris city centre when walking from the ship.

Cabins

Once checked in, we were able to go to our cabins and get to see them for the first time. The French Balcony is a very nice sized room; to the left when you open the door is the bathroom with a shower. On the right-hand side is a large mirror, which makes the room seem even bigger, and a large dressing table. The beds are set up as twins, but these can be made into a double if you wanted to. The balcony doors are floor to ceiling and can be opened half way.

 

 

Dining

Avalon Waterway’s dining is set every night at 7pm with around five exquisite courses. If you arrive any later than scheduled you may miss a course, which you aren’t able to request again. Having said this, there are always extra appetisers supplied for passengers in the evening. Drinks like wine, beers and soft drinks are included at dinner and lunch times, but other than dining and lunchtime you will have to purchase drinks.

Onboard Activities

There are many ways to enjoy yourself on the vessel, and when in port you are able to use one of the six onboard bikes to cycle around independently. If you stay on the ship, there is evening entertainment every day, which is held in the main public lounge. On the top deck, there are plenty of sun loungers that you can relax on. There is also a hot tub, which can be very relaxing even in the heat. There is no swimming pool onboard.

 

 

Excursions

Passengers usually get together at the nightly cruise director speech, at which you’d find out about the excursions available on the next day. Most are included in your sailing but you can purchase some extra special excursions.

The excursions are great; there was one in particular that really stood out for me – the trip to the landing beaches of World War II. We started at Pegasus Bridge where the British invasion happened, walked around a beautiful museum where you learn about the battle that took place there. Next was the crematorium, where the sheer amount of people who lost their lives in the war really hits you. This was such a beautiful and thought-provoking place, as you walk around seeing name after name. Then we went to an area where the British army had come onto the beaches, it was amazing to see some of the man-made piers/platforms. The final part of the tour was a visit to the Canadian landing beaches. Here we went to a museum and watched a video after a tour. The film shows some original footage, and the touching moment of the film comes at the end when it shows the fallen soldiers walking behind you on the beach just outside where you take a walk yourself.

 

 

Would a river cruise be for you? The option to have almost all your excursions included is amazing, as is the quality of food and intimate style of the ship. Take a look at our range of Avalon Waterways cruises to see where you could explore on a river cruise.



River Cruising at Christmas

clock 13th December 2017 | comment0 Comments

The infamous European Christmas markets are right on our doorstep, and yet so many Brits are yet to see them. With cities like Cologne, Vienna, Strasbourg, and Copenhagen all offering some of the best options around, it can be difficult to decide just where to visit when you do finally make the decision to go! One way to remedy this, however, is to opt for a river cruise in December. This way it’s possible to see multiple destinations on one trip.

 

Which Christmas markets can I see?

Europe is not short of waterways by any means, and as such there are a number of strategically-positioned, important cities that can be accessed on a river cruise. In December, The Rhine, The Danube, The Rhone, and The Seine are just some of the most popular rivers that can transport you to some incredible winter wonderlands. The Rudesheim market, in The Rhine valley boasts over 100 stalls with gifts and treats from all over the world, Budapest on The Danube offers a traditional Hungarian feel, and of course in Paris on The Seine visitors will find delicious crepes, tartiflette, and all manner of keepsakes. These are just a handful of the top Christmas markets you could see.

Can I bring my children?

While most river cruise lines are designed for adults, in general children are also welcome onboard. Amawaterways have taken steps to make their ships more family-friendly, by introducing adjoining staterooms on both AmaViola and AmaStella. Tauck River Cruises and Uniworld River Cruises are also slightly more geared towards children than some other river cruise lines, offering excursions like scavenger hunts and family bike rides. Selected Uniworld ships also offer a games room for kids and activities like craft workshops and cookery lessons which can be especially fun at Christmas. It is worth keeping in mind however, that some Christmas market locations can get very busy, and can involve a considerable amount of walking, so it’s important to consider this if bringing children.

 

What’s it like for solo travellers?

River cruising can be a fantastic option for solo travellers, owing to the extremely relaxed and sociable atmosphere onboard. Generally, river cruise ships have multiple public lounges where entertainment such as live music and quizzes will take place. This makes it all the more easy to meet fellow cruisers and converse with new friends. Excursions on these cruises are also perfect for solo travellers. Take part in an organised group tour of a new city and, of course, its Christmas markets. River cruise lines like Scenic River Cruises and Avalon Waterways often do great deals for solo travellers too.

Are there other Christmassy things to do?

While river cruises in December do have a real focus on European Christmas markets, there are other festive things to do and see in these beautiful cities. When you’ve had your fill of gluwhein and pretty trinket stalls, take a look around and you will find all sorts of other activities. Why not show off your skills on the ice rink on the Champs-Elysees, sip on a hot chocolate while becoming enchanted by the twinkling lights and decorations in Vienna, or admire the magnificence of German Christmas trees – or Tannenbaum – in Cologne.

 

 

River cruises in December can be anything from a few days to a few weeks, depending on your preference and time limitations. Considering this, and the wide selection of destinations, dates, and types of cruise, it is usually possible to find a European Christmas market cruise to suit everyone.



Paris to Normandy’s Landing Beaches onboard Avalon Tapestry 2

clock 8th June 2016 | comment0 Comments

Kathleen from our dedicated river cruise commercial team enjoyed a river cruise in France onboard Avalon Tapestry 2 with Avalon Waterways, read about her experience and first impressions below.

The ship was lovely, the food was lovely, the crew were just extremely welcoming and friendly and I met some amazing people.

Occasionally with river cruises there are complications that arise which cause changes to the itinerary, and I got to witness one of these complications first hand. as there was going to be strikes in the locks and docks, the cruise director had to make the decision for the itinerary to be sped up, meaning that we had to meet the ship in Mantes La Jolie as it picked up passengers who went on the excursion to Rouen, then we cruised on to Conflans-Saite-Honorine through lunch where the ship docked for the night.

Our Cabin
The cabin as I had expected was really luxurious, with supplied bathrobes, slippers and L'Occitane toiletries. What I especially liked about the cabin was where the beds were facing the window instead of facing away from it, you could just lie on your bed and watch the ever changing scenery along the river bank as you sail to the next port of call, you could even have the floor to ceiling window open to let in some fresh air – or if you’d rather there was a seating area right in-front of the window where you could sit and read a book whilst enjoy the nice breeze from the window as you cruise along the river.

avalon-tapestry-2-cabin

avalon-tapestry-2-bathroom

avalon-tapestry-2-inside-cabin

avalon-tapestry-2-inside-cabin


There were many other things the cabin had to offer such as a safe, a fair size wardrobe a mini fridge (which was stocked with drinks, and weren’t badly priced) and a hairdryer.

Food
The food was also very nice. Lunch and breakfast were both buffets with quite a variety of options of food to pick from, and the options changed every day - there was also if you preferred a menu in which you could order from. Dinner was always a three course meal with a starter, a main and a pudding. Once again there was a set menu that stayed the same every day, but there was also an option that changed daily.

avalon-tapestry-2-food


Excursions
Every evening just before dinner and usually just after or before happy hour (an hour when cocktails were half price) the cruise director would talk over the excursions for the next day and what’s going to happen. Also, every evening a leaflet would be put on the beds in every cabin to outline everything that was happening the next day. This was very helpful as it meant that you could carry it around with you throughout the day and refer to it. Each day there was the choice between included excursion, and on some days there was even an extra excursion with an added cost. Some of the included excursions we went on where a tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral, and a tour of the Château de Malmaison.

Overall the cruise was definitely an experience that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I personally went on the cruise not really sure on what to expect, but also not expecting much. It was a lot better than I had anticipated and it was certainly nice to get away and just sit back and chill and do stuff like relax on the sky deck, maybe even play one of the board games available in the back lounge, or even read a book whilst sipping on a cup of tea whilst eating a doughnut. After this experience, I definitely would go on a river cruise again, and I would highly recommend Avalon Waterways.

Have you sailed with Avalon Waterways? Tell us about your experience in the comments below



Enjoy the heart of the Rhine with a day in Cologne

clock 16th October 2015 | comment0 Comments

Sat on the banks of the mighty Rhine is the fourth largest city in Germany - Cologne.

A major calling point in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, the city is home to stunning architecture, friendly locals and delicious cuisine. The inhabitants have an enormous sense of pride in their city and their region, making it a hugely welcoming stop-off point during your cruise along the Rhine.

Approaching the docking point, you will be met by the unmistakable sight of both the Hohenzollern bridge, connecting the east and west side, and the Kolner Dom, a huge cathedral which acts as a symbol for the city. Beyond this beautiful skyline there is so much just waiting to be explored. With Cologne a port of call for many Iglu river cruises, here is our guide to a day in Cologne.

Cologne rhine river

Kolner Dom

Starting with the focal point of the city, the Dom is a truly magnificent feat of architecture standing tall over all of Cologne. One of the largest cathedrals in Europe, work began on building this monument to the city in 1248, eventually being finished in 1880. It is a true masterpiece of High Gothic architecture and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. It has seen a lot during the hundreds of years it has sat in the heart of city and even survived 14 aerial strikes during the Allies' bombing of Cologne during World War II. Repaired and renovated it is now one of the most popular attractions in Cologne with around 20,000 people visiting each day.

Take a stroll inside to discover the Reliquary of the Three Kings, the famous relief of the Adoration of the Kings in 1440 and the Treasure Chamber with a host of relics and artifacts. You can even climb the over 500 steps to the top of the tower to get an amazing panoramic view of the city.

Entrance to the Dom is free but access to some sections carry a charge.

cologne-cathedral

Museum Ludwig

In the shadow of the Dom is the Museum Ludwig, an absolute must for any art lovers among your party. Open since 1976, it is home to a huge collection of modern art ranging from Pop Art and Abstract to Surrealism, not to mention the largest range of works by Picasso across all of Europe.

Situated next to the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, which focuses on fine art from the medieval era, the gallery was bestowed with 350 modern artworks by chocolate magnate Peter Ludwig. The pieces, valued at around $45 million (£28.8 million), allowed the museum to get off the ground and blossom.

Among the artworks currently housed at Museum Ludwig include Kazimir Malevich's 1909 Landscape (of Winter), August Macke's 1913 Lady in a Green Jacket and Gottfried Helnwein's 1987 Last Supper. These sit alongside various works by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. Admission is €11 (£8) for adults.

Kolner Rathaus

Take a stroll into Cologne's Old Town and you will find the Kolner Rathaus, the Town Hall. The oldest public building in Germany, it can trace its history back over 900 years and was a focal point of the city during medieval times.

Over the years its architecture has been influenced significantly with main buildings suiting a 14th-century style, while the tower resembles more 15th-century styling with some Renaissance influence thrown in for good measure. The atrium even shows signs of a more modern twist. You are able to stroll around inside and see the likes of the Hansasaal and the Gothic figures of eight prophets, the nine "good heroes" and hear the sonorous carillon which plays three times a day.

Hohenzollern Bridge

Another iconic figure of Cologne is the Hohenzollern Bridge. Carrying railway tracks from the east into Koln Hbf, it has remained a hugely important gateway to the city providing a crossing point over the Rhine.

Built between 1907 and 1911, it was originally known as the Cathedral Bridge with the view of the Dom as you cross it. With three beautiful arches it is a great example of classic German engineering but was destroyed during World War II. As Allied troops began their assault on Cologne, the bridge was blown up by the Germans to prevent further access.

Rebuilt in 1959, the bridge is used for both trains and pedestrians. Take a stroll along the bridge and lay your own mark by attaching a 'love lock' along with the thousands of others that dot the walkway.

love-locks-Hohenzollern-Bridge

Enjoy a Kolsch or two in the Old Town

With a full day of sightseeing behind you, why not unwind in Cologne's Old Town? Like their neighbours in Dusseldorf, the people of Cologne are immensely proud of their roots and have their unique customs.

As the sun goes down head to the Fruh am Dom bar, just a short walk from the Dom itself. Here you will get a real flavour of life in the city with waiters filling glasses with a delicious Kolsch. You won't find many more beers on the menu here, but why would you need anything else as this light, flavoursome beverage hits all the right notes?

Another quirk of Cologne, is the serving of Kolsch. Traditionally poured out in 0.2 litre glasses, waiters will keep the beer flowing until you say stop, so maybe best to enjoy a pretzel or two to soak up the booze.

If you are feeling hungry after touring the city then head to Haxenhaus, on Frankenwerft 19. Here you will find an array of traditional German fare ranging from Knuckle 'Cologne Style' (pork knuckle with red sausage, onions, cheese with red cabbage and mash), Jagerpfanne (pork in a mushroom sauce) and Rhine Style beef with dumplings and red cabbage.

Cologne is such an amazing city to explore and will no doubt be a highlight of your Rhine river cruise.

Read our blog on Cologne's Alternative Attractions and explore more with your next Rhine River Cruise



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