Thank goodness we were travelling with Travel Department on our Danube Cruise. As we approached D-Day (Departure Day), and flights were being cancelled left, right and centre, we sat back and waited. We knew that we would be informed if there was a problem and that the company would do everything possible to get us there. This is one of the reasons we prefer to use a travel specialist and for the past 15 years it has nearly always been Travel Department.
Luckily, we had no cancellations and no delays, though the Aer Lingus flight to Munich the previous day had been cancelled!
The Dublin Airport experience, while not enjoyable, was bearable, with queuing to book in bags and security checks taking just under two hours. There was no time for my Butler’s coffee, however!
AMADEUS SILVER III
We have been on two cruises in the Med and a memorable one in the Baltic six years ago but this was our first experience of a river cruise and the ‘MS Amadeus Silver III’ certainly lived up to expectations.
A floating 5-star hotel owned by the Austrian company Leuftner Cruises, it was 135 metres long and 11 metres wide and usually carried 120 guests. Much to our and the company’s surprise, some 80 guests did not make their trip because of Covid and Europe-wide air traffic chaos, so we had just 24 on board – 14 Irish in our group – and a lively Spanish contingent too!
The ship was really intimate, with luxury furnishings and even with a full complement of passengers would not look crowded. Below you can see the bar area where we gathered every evening after dinner.
Our cabin, with small balcony (only a limited number available on each cruise), en-suite, comfy seating, walk-in wardrobe and Nespresso coffee-maker, was spacious and immaculate, with twice-daily cleaning and supply of towels, which added immeasurably to our holiday.
While ours was one of the larger cabins, the others without balconies are fabulous and many would argue that it is not necessary to go to the extra expense. There were plenty of areas to sit and look at the scenery as we sailed along and most people preferred to be out on the sun deck anyway.
The fact that the ship was powered by electric motor meant the added bonus of no engine noises, smells or vibrations.
Well, let me begin by saying that I had to be strict with myself. The food was out of this world.
We had silver service table settings, highly attentive waiting staff and outstanding cuisine quality at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with menus that changed daily. There was even afternoon tea on offer every day, although we were always too busy ashore to avail of it! Did I mention that wine was included with dinner? And yes, we indulged.
Breakfasts had everything you could possibly want, from an extensive buffet to dishes cooked to order. A speciality chef was on duty each morning cooking the likes of pancakes, waffles, crepes, French toast (below) and eggs benedict.
Lunch offered local cuisine choices and if you could not manage the three courses, you could always opt for a salad.
Dinner each evening was a 5-course affair, with fish, meat and vegetarian options and with our wine glasses being constantly topped up!
The Danube is Europe’s second longest river, covering over 2,800 km flowing across the heart of Europe. Our cruise covered a fraction of that, but we did pass through four different countries – Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary – and visited three capital cities – Vienna, Bratislava (below) and Budapest.
Along the way, we cruised through the most stunning landscapes, gazed at vineyards and ancient churches and castles perched high on the hillsides and sailed right into the heart of charming medieval villages and beautiful UNESCO-listed towns and cities. The Amadeus’s extensive sun deck made viewing particularly easy.
Part of the fun was ensuring that we avoided getting hit (if we were on the sun deck) when we passed under low bridges, particularly in the early part of the trip…see the photo below! Don’t worry, the captain was keeping an eye on us.
Our trip began in Passau, where three rivers meet, and finished in Budapest seven days later. In between, we went ashore every day to enjoy what each location had to offer in terms of culture, history and architecture.
We were blessed with the weather, which was late 20s most days, but not too hot to explore the lovely places we visited. That will be the subject of a later post.
Travel Department’s tour facilitator Sean Crean
It would be remiss of me not to mention the huge impact Sean had on our enjoyment. He was so knowledgeable about the places we visited. We relied on him to make up for the inadequacies of one or two of the tour guides. Nothing was too much for Sean. His love of travel, wildlife and history was obvious and he knew exactly the type and amount of information to share with us. But most of all it was his sense of humour and his zest for life which made him such a hit with all of us. We have never been disappointed with our Travel Department Guides.
Our Irish group
Well, what can I say except that we had the best fun with this group. The craic was truly mighty and the slagging was plentiful. And in typical Irish fashion, we were able to find people in common that we knew. We got on so well that we are trying to plan a reunion on Clare Island later this year. And being Irish, we of course enjoyed the entertainment provided every night by the resident musicians, the Amadeus Duo. Also local groups/artistes came on board on two nights to give us a flavour of their traditional music and dance.
We had been to Budapest before, but had not seen the city from the river. The view was amazing as we ‘sailed’ into the city with all the incredible buildings lining both sides. There is the happy hubby below in front of The Parliament Buildings.
But it was the specially arranged magical night cruise up and down the river which made the biggest impact, with so many iconic buildings wonderfully illuminated.
July 23rd was our 40th Wedding Anniversary, so it was particularly lovely that we got to celebrate early with our Danube Cruise. We were spoiled by the crew with cake and champagne. The friendliness and professional attitude of the crew was definitely a highlight and I must mention Roman (Hotel Manager) and Alina (Cruise Director) – pictured below with Graham – who were such fun too.
We will not forget our Danube Cruise for our 40th Anniversary with Travel Department. If you want a relaxing holiday with excellent food and drink, then this is the perfect break. If you want to visit different places with minimal effort, then this is the holiday for you. We are definitely planning to do another river cruise. It ticked all the boxes for us. But then again we have never been to South America and that we plan on doing with TDActive.
Thanks for reading and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
Travel Department Press Trip