The Blue Danube 2020 Riviera Travel River Cruise
Soak up all that Europe’s most cultured river has to offer, with its wealth of grand baroque architecture, medieval cities, picture perfect towns and the sights that inspired Strauss and Mozart. Stepping aboard you will appreciate the superb surroundings of your floating luxury hotel for the next seven nights with spacious and well-appointed cabins or suites, private bathrooms and meticulously prepared fine cuisine.
You fly to Budapest, where a coach takes you to your cruise ship. The dedicated crew are there to welcome you on board, ensuring you settle in and familiarise yourself with this first-class floating hotel. There’s always a sense of expectancy and excitement on the eve of a cruise and, after an excellent dinner in the stylish restaurant, conversation is sure to revolve around the delights ahead.
Overnight you have cruised upstream to Esztergom, one of Hungary’s oldest towns, a royal capital during medieval times and today the seat of the country’s archbishop. Esztergom is famous for its enormous neoclassical basilica, standing sentinel over the Danube on the border with Slovakia, and boasting one of the world’s largest altarpieces and a wealth of priceless religious artifacts. The castle is also worth exploring; it was the seat of government until the Ottomans invaded in the 16th century. Nestling below are myriad atmospheric churches resonating with the enchanting sounds of choir; this is the best of provincial Hungary and is little changed since Habsburg times.
This morning you explore Slovakia’s fast-emerging capital city, Bratislava, on a guided tour. Until recently swathed in the drab uniformity of Communism, the city has rekindled the splendour of its imperial past in its beautifully restored Old Town. Equally impressive is the imposing 17th-century castle commanding expansive views across the Danube.
This afternoon you cruise into Lower Austria, a peaceful, bucolic region and home to some of the country’s best wines. By now the stresses of everyday life seem distant as you absorb the ever-changing scenes you pass: children playing on the river banks, young couples strolling arm in arm like generations before them, vignerons carefully pruning their vines, and cobbled quaysides lined by half-timbered buildings.
You’ll marvel as the Captain skilfully navigates the ship along the serene river and through locks whose mechanisms never cease to fascinate, as you cruise towards Dürnstein during dinner.
Dürnstein is known principally for two things: first, for the ice-blue tower of its abbey, which dominates the view, and second, for the castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192 after being shipwrecked on his return from the crusades.
After lunch you visit the remarkable Melk Abbey. Nothing quite prepares you for your first sight of this enormous honey-coloured building, standing resplendent above the surrounding countryside. Originally a castle, it was gifted to the Benedictine Order in the 11th century and, although reconstructed in Baroque style during the 18th century, it has remained a monastic school and monastery ever since. The Abbey is renowned for its 214-yard-long Emperor’s Gallery lined with portraits, many fine rooms and an ornate library.
After you re-join the ship, dinner is served during the final part of your cruise upstream through the pretty Nibelungengau, immortalised in the music of Wagner.
Reaching Linz, you will have the choice to stay in the city and take a guided walking tour, exploring its charming baroque old town. At its heart you’ll see one of the finest squares in Austria, lined by grand pastel-coloured facades with an impressive central Trinity Column of white marble, crowned by a gilded sunburst. There’s also the fortress-like castle, built high above the city by Emperor Friedrich III, now a museum housing a fine collection of nineteenth and twentieth-century artworks.
Alternatively, drive to Salzburg, once an independent state whose archbishops turned it into one of the most sophisticated cities north of the Alps. Dominating the skyline is one of Europe’s largest stone fortresses, the Hohensalzburg, while beneath its walls church domes and spires rise from the delightful Altstadt, or Old Town.
For many, today’s visit to Vienna will be one of the highlights of the cruise. The city’s very name provokes images of elegance, fine music, wide boulevards, Baroque architecture and a rich tapestry of peoples who were drawn here from all corners of Europe. This morning you have a tour with a local guide offering insights into why Vienna is one of Europe’s great capitals – the seat of the Habsburg emperors and home to some of the world’s finest classical composers, including Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and, of course, a whole family of Strausses.
During the afternoon you’re free to explore as you wish. Take a stroll in the Prater, notable for the huge Ferris wheel that features in several Cold War spy thrillers. Or, for something quite different, visit the Schönbrunn Palace, a former royal residence now housing a range of world-class museums and galleries. Perhaps, though, just take a stroll through Vienna’s atmospheric side streets, or enjoy a coffee and a slice of delicious Sachertorte in one of the lovely coffee houses.
This evening Riviera have arranged truly the ‘icing on the cake’: no visit to Vienna is complete without a live musical experience, so after dinner you have a classical recital on board. To hear this exquisite music played in the city of its creation makes a wonderful finale to the day.
Enjoy a leisurely morning as you cruise majestically through Hungary’s peaceful pastoral landscape towards Budapest. After lunch you enjoy a sightseeing tour of this captivating city, which truly lives up to its reputation as the ‘Pearl of the Danube’.
This evening’s Gala Dinner closes with a Hungarian folklore show, giving you time to bid farewell to your travelling companions and reflect on all the inspirational places, sights and sounds you have experienced on a truly ‘imperial’ cruise.
Today at the appropriate time you'll transfer to the airport for your return flight.
- €200 per cabin on board credit on select departures
- Deposit of only £250pp
- Return flights from the UK - regional airports are available but may carry a supplement
- 7 Nights on board your choice of River Cruise Ship
- All Meals on board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day.
- Guided tours in Vienna, Salzburg, Budapest & Bratislava and visits to Esztergom, Durnstein & Melk Abbey.
- 5 Star service from English-speaking crew & knowledgeable local guides
- Complimentary WIFI on board
- All Port charges, airport taxes & overseas transfers
- Services of a Riviera Travel cruise director and tour manager
Dining Drinks Package
- For all departures you can now purchase a dining drinks package, at a cost of £109 per person.
- Draught beer; non-alcoholic beer; soft drinks; juices; red, white and rose house wines; and wine recommendations from the menu are included with lunch & dinner.
- The drinks package must be purchased prior to departure. Ask the team for more information
- Extend your River Cruise with a 3 night stay in Budapest. Ask the team more details