Our Ship: The Avalon View
We planned our Avalon Waterways River Cruise on the Danube for the first week in October to celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary. We picked this particular ship because it is the newest in Avalon’s fleet and this itinerary was promoted as being an “Active and Discovery” sailing. This meant that they offered multiple touring options in each port to appeal to different interests. In addition to the traditionally included basic city overview tour, they added things like canoeing, biking and hiking for active adventures and discovery options like cooking classes, wine tastings and visiting a Trappist Abbey to sample beers brewed by the monks. We added a few of our own adventures along the way.
PRO TIP: You don’t have to take any of the tours offered by the cruise line. You are free to go off and adventure on your own or even hire a “Tours by Locals” private guide for the day. We saw lots of people on private tours in Budapest.
Here are the daily newsletters from our sailing to give you a good idea of the tour options that were offered on our “Active and Discovery” Avalon Waterways River Cruise on the Danube.
Our cabin was 330, considered a Panorama Suite in Avalon speak. The cabins on deck 2 and 3 are identical, so I am not sure why there is an upcharge for this category to be one deck higher. I would save the money and stay on deck 2. There is some vibration in the rear of the ship when sailing, so mid to forward would be desirable.
Our cabin featured a full sliding door wall that opened to let the outdoors in. It was like a French balcony offered on other river cruise lines but spanned the width of the room. The bed faced the windows which made it the perfect place to relax and enjoy the view. There was also a loveseat and chair with a table, a desk area, plenty of storage space and a wonderful bathroom. We had absolutely no complaints about our accommodations. Here’s a quick tour:
Food and service
The food was excellent onboard. Avalon Waterways featured local specialties along with traditional options and healthier choices at every meal. Breakfast and Lunch were buffet style but included cooked to order options and stations. Dinner was ala carte. The presentation of all of their dishes was excellent. Beer wine and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner. They also offered a buffet option for lunch and dinner in the lounge. We enjoyed a grilled lunch up on deck one afternoon while docked in Vienna. Afternoon tea was served daily at 4 pm. The lounge in the rear of the ship always had coffee, tea, juice, and water available, along with a selection of cookies and baked goods. It was very close to our cabin so we took full advantage of the treats. The homemade sugar donuts were amazing. My husband ate 5 one day!
The service of the waiters, bar staff, crew and cruise manager was impeccable. We prepaid our gratuities but did not hesitate to tip additional amounts because the service was that good.
We flew from Amsterdam to Budapest in the morning and were transferred to the ship by Avalon. After dropping our luggage off and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we wandered off on our own to explore the city. Budapest is clean, safe and easily walkable. We had done a bit of research ahead of time and knew what we wanted to see during our short time there. Our docking position allowed us to walk along the river to the Buda-Castle Funicular, which we rode up the hillside to visit the palace.
We also toured the church and Tom climbed to the top of the tower. The views from the castle were breathtaking.
We did a little shopping (paprika is a popular souvenir from Budapest and we try to get a Christmas ornament from each place that we visit) and then stopped in the town square to take advantage of the opportunity to increase our luck. After kissing the Blarney Stone on our last trip and then rubbing the horse’s privates in Budapest I may just wind up being the luckiest girl around! These are the stupid things to do that we love to seek out on our adventures.
We returned to the ship in time to set sail around the famous Danube bend. As we were enjoying the scenery, the cruise manager gave a running commentary and shared information about Budapest. When we sailed under one of the bridges, he pointed out that hundreds of students were blocking the traffic in protest of how their teachers at the university were being treated. The captain sounded the horn in support and all the protesters cheered. It was an amazing moment that we will never forget. What we were able to see of Budapest during our short visit was beautiful.
The first stop on our Avalon Waterways River Cruise on the Danube was in the little town of Visegrad. We opted to take the tour hiking up the mountain in Ipoly National Park to visit an ancient castle. The hike was listed as strenuous, and they weren’t kidding. Quite a few people in the group gave up and turned around about halfway up. In the first picture you can see the castle at the top of the hill. You really needed to be in shape and have proper footwear to make it up and back down again. There was a couple in flipflops, and I don’t know how they did it.
Once we got to the top, we decided to break away from the group and have a little adventure of our own. Just 1 kilometer further up the mountain past the castle there is a bobsled park that was a ton of fun. We originally learned about it after researching “things to do in Visegrad” and we found this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjPU6mV7KkU
On the hike down we passed by the tower where Count Dracula was supposedly imprisoned. The weather was a perfect 65 degrees and sunny and it was a wonderful day.
Our Avalon Waterways River Cruise on the Danube itinerary featured 2 full days in Vienna, which was perfect. The first day we enjoyed a 3-hour bike tour around the city. Vienna is a busy city and it was a little nerve wracking trying to navigate the traffic with a group of 20 bikers and a guide. There were several times when some of our group got caught by a red light and the guide just kept on going. We saw a lot of the ABC’s…”Another Beautiful Church.” We made a brief stop at a café to enjoy a coffee, water or beer and somehow 2 ladies were left behind, so the guide had to return to find them. It was a great way to see a lot of the city in a short period of time, but was pretty stressful, too.
After returning to the ship for a bite of lunch, we headed off on our own to explore Vienna. Just 4 subway stops from where our ship was docked was Café Central, a don’t miss delight. Originally opened in 1876, they offer an amazing array of Viennese pastries with coffee all set in a breathtakingly elegant surrounding. It was all very Vienna-ish. Don’t let the line outside scare you away. It moves quickly and was definitely worth the wait.
We opted out of the classical music concert tour offered by Avalon Waterways this evening and decided to explore more of Vienna on our own instead. When we took the bike tour earlier in the day, we rode past an Oktoberfest Beer festival that was taking place just outside of the Prater Amusement Park. Both the festival and the amusement park offer free admission. The festival had a huge variety of beers and wines, traditional Austrian food (we had some sort of amazing sausage stuffed with cheese) and several beer halls with live music and dancing. It was great fun.
Vienna at Night
Afterward, we boarded the giant Ferris wheel which was erected in 1897 to watch the sunset over Vienna. After purchasing a hand painted Christmas ornament, we walked back to the ship and it was the perfect end to a magical day. You can find out more about the amusement park at praterwein.com
On our second day in Vienna, we started the morning with a 2 ½ mile walk from the ship to Vienna Island and across the bridges. After lunch, I needed to get some work done so my husband ventured out on another crazy adventure. We booked it last minute through the website for Wein Hotrod Tour here: https://www.hotrod-tour-wien.com/homewien/seite124/.
We both loved Vienna.
From this point on, our Avalon Waterways River Cruise on the Danube itinerary made several stops a day for the rest of the cruise. I’ll be honest, some of the small towns and villages are blending together in my memory, but I will do my best to share the highlights.
Our next stop on our Avalon Waterways river cruise on the Danube was at the pretty little town of Krems, where we enjoyed the “Austrian Wine World Experience” tour. This was actually one of the highlights of the trip for me. We took a short motorcoach ride (maybe 10 minutes away) to the Winzer Krems winery. It was a beautiful place and our Austrian tour guide, Fred was a delight.
He took us into the vineyard and explained the different types of grapes and how the soil, elevation and sunshine determine the sweetness. The winery started as a cooperative between 8 local farmers who joined together to share harvesting and winemaking equipment, but now includes over 250 farmers. We enjoyed tasting 3 different wines and viewed a 4D film about the winemaking process.
I was happy to hear that their most popular varieties (including Riesling, my favorite) are sold at Total Wine in the US, so we can pick up a bottle to enjoy at home anytime.
We arrived in the evening and went for an after dinner walk into town. Everyplace in town was closed, but we did find a little restaurant open where we met up with another couple from our cruise for a drink.
Avalon offered an early morning walking tour the next morning before we set sail at 9:45am, but I didn’t make it up for that. My husband explored a bit on his own.
We enjoyed a 3 hour biking excursion that covered over 13 miles of trails along the Danube. The weather was 65 and sunny and the trees were just starting to show their fall colors. We stopped halfway through our ride to visit an organic farm and learn about the Austrian organic farming process. He shared some of his crop with us including organic beet and carrot juice, which was delicious. It was a beautiful ride through the Austrian countryside.
I am honestly not sure why we stopped in Linz, because everything was closed when we arrived in the evening. It looked like a fun city, but we just went for a walk after dinner and that was all that we saw. We sailed during the night to our next port.
This morning we visited the Engelszell Abbey, which was ABC within walking distance of where our ship was docked. This was the only day that we had rain and it was just a slight drizzle. Afterward, we enjoyed a Trappist beer and cheese tasting at the only restaurant in Engelhartszell. There are only 13 Trappist breweries in the world, so it was a real treat to try 3 of the beers created by the monks to sell to the public in order to provide for all of their expenses.
After all of that beer sipping I was sleepy, so I took the afternoon off to relax and get some work done. My husband and some of our new cruise friends hiked up the Daubes Schlogen Oxbow to enjoy some beautiful views of the rivers’ bend. Our adventure guide said it was another difficult hike, so I am glad I opted out this time.
Before dinner we set sail past Passau and enjoyed more commentary from the cruise manager on deck and in the lounges.
The next morning, we disembarked at 6am in Deggendorf for a private one hour transfer to Munich arranged by Avalon Waterways for our return flight home.
I don’t have a single complaint about our Avalon Waterways Cruise on the Danube onboard the Avalon View. Because it was an “Active and Discovery” itinerary, I think the passengers trended younger (or at least younger at heart) than a normal river cruise. There were no passengers onboard with mobility issues. We really enjoyed the extra tour options that were available as part of the “Active and Discovery” experience. The food was wonderful, the service was excellent, and the ship was spotlessly clean, contemporary and elegant. It was a solid 5 out of 5 star experience.
We are already talking about where we would like to go on our next Avalon Waterways River Cruise. After all, I think river cruising is more fun with friends, so I will be putting out some feelers to see if there is any interest in traveling as part of a customized group that includes many of these “Active and Discovery” type of experiences.
Happy to answer any questions you might have!