Explore one of the longest waterways in Europe while staying in a luxury vessel and enjoying good company and magnificent food, waking up in a different city each morning and disembarking right in the heart of these iconic destinations.
Modern river ships offer 5-star accommodation, wonderful amenities and high quality food as they sail on the great rivers of the world. Many also include shore excursions and port tours, adding to the great value.
THE BLUE DANUBE 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.
- Return flights
- Guided tour of Vienna, city of Strauss and home of the Hapsburgs
- Live classical quartet recital on board
- Tour of baroque Bratislava, capital of Slovakia
- Cruise through the scenic Wachau, Austria’s premier wine region
- Visit to Melk Abbey, central Europe’s most spectacular baroque monastery, and one of its premier academic institutions
- Visit to medieval Dürnstein where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned whilst returning from the Crusades
- Tour of Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart and one of Austria’s most beautiful cities
- Explore the amazing basilica at Esztergom, Hungary’s oldest cathedral
- Tour of Budapest, Pearl of the Danube
- Price includes full-board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day
- The services of a cruise director and tour manager
You fly to Budapest from where a transfer will take you to the ship. The dedicated crew will welcome you on board, ensuring you settle into your comfortable and extremely well-equipped cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship, your 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 of you.
Day 2 – Esztergom
Experience one of the great delights of cruising as you awake in a completely different location. Overnight you have slipped upstream to Esztergom, Hungary’s capital during medieval times and today the seat of the country’s Archbishop. The town is internationally famed for its great Renaissance basilica, Hungary’s largest church, standing sentinel over the Danube and boasting one of the world’s largest altars plus a wealth of gold artefacts.
You can explore the castle too, seat of the government until the 16th century Ottoman invasion. Nestling below, there are a myriad of exquisite baroque masterpieces of churches from which resonate the enchanting sound of talented choirs, adding to the unmistakable central- European atmosphere. This is the best of provincial Hungary and little changed since Hapsburg times. As you enjoy your first lunch on board, you gently leave Esztergom in your wake, affording a fascinating opportunity to compare the landscape, towns and villages of Hungary and Slovakia on either bank.
Day 3 – Bratislava
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 shrugged off its greyness, rekindling the splendour of its imperial past, so evident in its beautifully restored baroque old town. Equally impressive is the great 17th century fortress 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 very distant as you absorb life on the river, children playing on the banks, young couples strolling arm-in-arm like generations before them, vignerons carefully pruning their vines, cobbled quaysides lined by half-timbered buildings teem with life – with no one giving you a second glance. You will marvel as the captain skillfully navigates the ship with such easy confidence along the serene river and into the fascinating locks as we cruise towards Dürnstein whilst enjoying another superb dinner.
Day 4 – Durnstein & Melk
Nothing quite prepares you for your first sight of this extraordinary, honey-coloured building, an enormous abbey standing resplendent above the surrounding countryside. Originally a palace it was gifted to the Benedictine Order in the 11th century and although reconstructed in baroque style it has remained a monastic school and monastery ever since. It is famed for its 200m long Emperor’s Gallery lined with portraits of Austrian emperors, plus many fine rooms and a large library containing a unique medieval collection of manuscripts. Rejoining the ship, dinner is served during the last upstream cruise, through the pretty Nibelungengau, now immortalised in the music of Wagner
Day 5 – Salzburg
Reaching Linz, you take the drive to Salzburg, once an independent state whose Archbishops turned it into one of the most sophisticated cities north of the Alps. The old town is delightful, displaying wonderful architecture dating from the medieval to 18th century, whilst one of Europe’s largest stone fortresses, the Hohensalzburg dominates the skyline.
Spread below is a maze of tiny streets lined with the exquisite shops that make window-shopping so satisfying. Then there is the wonderful Hellbrunn Palace with its famous trick fountains and the natural beauty of the Mirabell Gardens is a must for the fan of things horticultural. With its genteel atmosphere of bygone times, surrounded by a magnificent Alpine backdrop, Salzburg is a superb spot to relax and explore at your leisure. Salzburg’s most famous citizen was Mozart, one of the greatest musical geniuses to have ever lived. He played the piano at three; could compose rudimentary music at five and wrote his first opera at fourteen. This morning, you have a guided tour seeing all the principal places of interest then you are free to enjoy the afternoon exploring the city as you wish, before returning to the ship for dinner.
By now you will have completely immersed yourself in life aboard ship, the gentility of it all, the peacefulness, the observation of thewildlife constantly surrounding you, the ever-changing shoreline of the variety of countries through which we pass and the stimulating conversation of your like-minded travelling companions – home will seem a very long way away.
Day 6 – Vienna
Today will probably bring one of the highlights of the cruise – Vienna , whose very name provokes images of elegance, fine music, sumptuous baroque palaces, grand boulevards, noble architecture and a rich tapestry of peoples from all corners of Europe drawn to the city’s magnificent cultural heart. For two hundred years until the First World War, Vienna was the cultural centre of Europe and the huge array of showpiece buildings, galleries, aristocratic palaces and baroque churches you see today were built. Dominated by the striking multicoloured roofed St Stephen’s cathedral, you have the Hofburg, the former royal court now a collection of museums, home to the Vienna Boys’ Choir, the Spanish Riding School, the crown jewels and the world’s fourth largest art collection. Then there are the Emperor’s apartments and outstanding medieval craftsmanship in the relics of the Holy Roman Empire including allegedly, the crown of Charlemagne himself.
This morning, your sightseeing tour offers an insight into why this can truly be described as one of Europe’s great capitals, seat of the Hapsburg Emperors and home to some of the world’s finest classical composers at the peak of their influence, including Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and of course a whole family of Strausses. During the afternoon you are free to explore as you wish. Take a stroll in the Stadtpark, with its huge Ferris wheel and the backdrop to many a ‘cold war’ spy thriller. Or for something quite different, visit the Schönbrunn former royal palace and now a world-class range of outstanding museums and galleries. Perhaps though, just take a stroll through the fascinating side streets, enjoy a coffee and a slice of delicious sachertorte in one of the renowned pavement cafés, or admire the skill of the street entertainers and even the occasional opera singer.
This evening, we have arranged truly the ‘icing on the cake’: no visit to Vienna is truly complete without a live musical experience so after dinner, we have arranged for a recital on board. To hear this exquisite music whilst in the city of its creation makes a wonderful finale to the day.
Day 7 – Budapest
Dawn breaks and a glance along the shore as it slips gently past reveals Hungary’s peaceful pastoral landscape, as you majestically cruise toBudapest. After lunch, you enjoy a sightseeing tour of the city. The twin cities of Buda, built around the hilltop fortress and Pest, were fought over through the centuries until the 17th century ousting of the Ottomans. A lasting legacy of Turkish rule is the plethora of thermal baths utilising the hot springs giving rise to the sobriquet “City of the Spas”.
Subsequentl y becoming an imperial city of the Hapsburg Empire, it attracted great cultural and commercial wealth. Explore Castle Hill, the city in microcosm: three churches, five museums and a theatre amongst streets and squares with their own special atmosphere and a dramatic view over the river, its banks dominated by the impressive neo-gothic Parliament building. Endless galleries, museums, outstanding art nouveau architecture and excellent shopping offer a fittingly elegant end to your Danube cruise. At this evening’s gala dinner you sadly 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 we transfer to the airport for your return flight.
YOUR RIVER CRUISE SHIP: MS THOMAS HARDY
Click this link to view this brand new ship!
- Thoroughly air conditioned public areas and individual heating controls in the cabins
- Stunning restaurant on the Main Deck serving buffet breakfast, buffet lunch and four-course dinner
- Lounge and bar to enjoy cocktails and the early risers’ breakfast
- Bistro with open kitchen, large panoramic windows and al fresco seating
- Lift between Emerald, Ruby and Diamond decks
- Laundry Service
- Spa and wellness area featuring Nail Salon and Hairdressing Service
- Boutique gift shop for your holiday souvenirs
- Reception area open 24hrs
- Small splash pool and putting green on the Sun Deck
- 24hr self service station for complimentary tea & coffee
As you are welcomed aboard the five-star pedigree is striking, with a remarkable feeling of spaciousness and harmonious design at every glance. The three fully air-conditioned accommodation decks including notably the lower deck – are all accessed by an attractive glass lift for your convenience or the wide elegant wrought-iron staircase.
Above these is the magnificent Sun Deck – uniquely and illustrating yet again our considered depth of design, a second staircase amidships affords convenient Sun Deck access. Head on up to this truly spectacular deck and what could be better than watching life ashore slip by from the comfort of a sun lounger, perhaps under shade if the weather gets too hot! There’s always the refreshing splash pool too or why not try your hand on the putting green. Then take a refreshingly long drink and that book you’ve been meaning to read for ages on to the lovely terrace area at the fore of the ship, located right in front of the wheelhouse where you can view the Captain and his team skilfully navigating the twisting river and enjoy truly ‘driving seat’ views. Take a deep breath and relax into the pace of river cruise life – now you’re really on holiday!
The Diamond Deck is where you will find the very heart of the ship – the superb panoramic observation lounge and bar; a lounge in every sense of the word, complete with plenty of comfortable leather armchairs and sumptuous sofas where you can sink into warmly colourful cushions in beautiful quality fabrics with a freshly made cup of tea. A thick wool carpet feels lovely underfoot and the tasteful contemporary lighting above creates a welcoming and refined ambience, further complemented by the discreet and intuitive service resplendent of the finest five-star hotels. So just sit back with your favourite cocktail and take in the truly mesmerising view. After a superb dinner in the restaurant perhaps it’s time for a digestif accompanied by the soothing tones of the ship’s pianist. At the Bistro with its open kitchen, large panoramic windows and al fresco seating, enjoy a more intimate dining experience whilst taking in the fantastic views. Here in the evenings the chef presents his personal signature dishes to a small number of diners with menus varying according to the seasons; this intimate dining experience can be reserved on board at no extra charge. When the weather allows the panoramic windows may be fully opened on to the terrace to allow a delightful al fresco dining experience.
The ship’s restaurant is located on the Ruby (middle) Deck and here you will experience not only exceptional first class cuisine, but also the most attentive yet discreet service from the ship’s highly professional crew. So just sit back with a well-deserved glass of wine from the carefully selected wine list and delight in the wonderful elegance of your surroundings; beautifully laid tables of just 4 or 6 guests, crisp linen, deep wool carpets and warm wood panelling abound to offer a delectable dining experience of the highest order.
On the Emerald (lower) Deck is the fitness centre, perfect for working off all those delicious meals or for something less strenuous treat yourself to a relaxing massage. So you will always look your best there is a hairdresser’s too which also offers manicure and pedicure treatments. Simply put, these world-class ships, elegant and refined in the truest sense, take the idea of river cruising to another level – it really doesn’t get better than this!
It is extremely difficult to convey just how extraordinary this outstanding ship really is and exactly what distinguishes it from similar vessels. It would be very easy to just say ‘luxurious’ but it’s much more than that; we have deliberately avoided the current trend for a minimalist style where you could be anywhere in the world, creating instead a unique yet exquisite blend of understated taste, style and elegance at the highest level. Immediately striking is just how exceptionally spacious this new vessel is as you enter a gleaming, richly coloured marble-floored lobby flooded with natural light from a stunning atrium above. Moving inside, exceptional creativity from Europe’s finest design studio has produced a superbly balanced masterpiece of onboard style, utilising sustainable rich hardwoods, gleaming brass and polished copper, sparkling glass and intricate wrought iron. The ship is beautifully illuminated throughout – including the exterior and imaginatively furnished with harmonious colour schemes, all designed to create the serene atmosphere reflective of the golden age of cruising which time after time you tell us you adore.
The restaurant rivals the finest on shore establishments taking fine dining to another level complemented by delicate European porcelain, gleaming glassware and the intuitive service in which the Swiss excel. This superb vessel carries 44 in-house trained crew members serving just 169 guests (similar size vessels may carry well over 190 passengers) giving the ratio which our experience proves is concurrent with our first class service levels.
Furthermore your suite will easily exceed your expectations for not only will you enjoy the most discerning décor, so too the ship’s dimensions afford the ultimate in space and comfort – a minimum 17 square metres (183 square feet)
Book this luxurious river cruise today on 059 8633 836
The small print:
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