While we wait for the world to slowly open, I wanted to look back at one of my most memorable vacations, an Adventures by Disney river cruise on the Danube River in the summer of 2019.
First, let me start with how we ended up on this trip. My husband and I were contestants on the Wheel of Fortune in 2018 during their Disney Cruise week. Crazy, right? We had auditioned in late 2016 and didn’t hear until late 2017 that we were cotenants… and that we needed to go to L.A. two weeks later to film.
On the show, we solved the prize puzzle and won a river cruise for two. As Pat Sajack was telling us about the trip my brain went blank and for a moment I thought…”Where is the Danube River?” We eventually made it to the bonus round but sadly did not solve the bonus puzzle but still left with some cash and an amazing trip. I will have to share our whole W.O.F. journey in another post. For now, let’s get back to the cruise.
My husband, kids, and I are all big Disney Cruise Line fans but have never been on a river cruise, let alone one in Europe. The husband and I have each spent time in Europe in our younger days but the kids have never been. Since the prize was only for two, we knew we needed to book a connecting room for the kids. This was a trip they just could not miss, and because it was an Adventures by Disney, we knew it would cater to us as a family.
In June of 2019, we flew into Munich, Germany before departing on an 8-night cruise that would take us through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. We met the rest of our tour group in Munich, taking a two-hour bus ride to our departure port in Vilshofen. During the bus ride, we got to know our Disney Adventure Guides that would be with us the entire journey. They would become part of the family by the end of the trip. Once we arrived and were settled into our cabins, we met for an Oktoberfest style send-off, complete with a polka band, dancing, beer, and lederhosen.
If you have never done a guided tour before, this will be the biggest difference in the type of traveling you are used to. We’ve always been the type to go off on our own so I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of group travel but it ended up being fabulous, particularly when in a new country. Here is a breakdown of how it works. Each evening you get a guide for the following day’s itinerary along with information about the city you are visiting.
From there, your family can decide what it is you want to do. You can even split up and go on different excursions. There are typically at least two options for the morning and for the afternoon with lunch usually onboard the ship. However there are day long excursion options as well. They range from very relaxed and easy going to much more adventurous and physically challenging. Each ship (during pre-Covid times) held around 150 guests with everyone splitting into different groups each day based on the activity. But because you could choose whatever excursion you wanted, the people in your group often varied. You always had at least two Adventure Guides with you on every excursion as well. They made you feel comfortable where every you were going, took care of all the little details, and had tons of inside knowledge and info to share. Since it is Disney, they are focused on kids and making sure they have a great time. Within many of the excursions, the kids went off separately with two guides for a more kid-friendly tour. So while the adults were visiting a castle and taking in all the architecture and culture, the kids might be off baking authentic Austrian cookies in the castle’s kitchen. The number of kids on the ship was actually just a dozen or so and they all became pretty close by the end of the trip.
If I were to go day by day for our trip, this could easily be a dozen or more posts. We did so much as we sailed along the river and explored four countries. Instead, I’ll just share a few of the highlights of things we did on this trip.
- Walking Tour of Passau, Germany with a costumed guide
- Hike in the treetops along the famous Tree Path Kopfing in Austria
- Visit famous filming locations from the Sound of Music in Salzburg
- Explore the Hallein Salt Mines, one of the oldest in the world that is open to the public
- Visit the Melk Benedictine Abbey
- Learn a traditional Austrian dance
- Make apricot marmalade
- Explore Vienna on our own – saw some Hundertwasser buildings I’ve wanted to see my whole life
- Tour the historic Schönbrunn Palace and attend a private marionette show at the palace
- Attend an evening Mozart and Strauss concert at the palace
- Take a walking tour of Bratislava, Slovakia
- Lunch and tour at the Schloss Hof Baroque palace
- A trip to the Lazar Equestrian Park in Hungary
- Visit the Budapest Central Market Hall
- A walking tour of Budapest, Hungary
- A farewell celebration with live music, dancing which involved balancing bottles of wine on your head
These are just a few of the highlights. We saw so much more than this but I don’t want to keep you all day. If you are interested in learning more about the cruise we did, you can learn more here. In addition to Danube River Cruises, Adventures by Disney also covers other river cruises in Europe as well as land adventures all over the world. I’ve got my island on their Iceland trip next. They have also added some incredible adventures to the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. Those are definite travel goals.
Have you ever done guided travel? Let me know in the comments.