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My European River Cruise Discoveries

By Denise Svajlenko July 27, 2022 Travel

We had cruised on countless large ocean vessels, but never embarked on a small ship. River cruising was on our bucket list, and we were anxiously anticipating our Emerald 14-day Danube River Cruise itinerary going from Budapest to Amsterdam.

Travel was just resuming from the hiatus caused by the global pandemic, so we did not know what to expect. I was notified an hour before flying to the UK, where we were spending time visiting with our family before our cruise, that embarkation dates were being amalgamated and was subsequently offered the same itinerary on a ship that would be leaving three dates later than previously booked.

As both the travel agent and passenger, I had booked several cabins, so I was left frantic with coordinating and rescheduling hotels and flights and negotiating some extra cruise perks for my group. It was a blessing that my entire group were all able to juggle our schedules and embark on an experience of a lifetime. I would like to share with you my discovery of seven breathtaking ports from our cruise.

Budapest, Hungary

I was so thankful for the extra three nights we had in Budapest because I thoroughly enjoyed it. The vibrant city is divided into two distinct geographical areas that are separated by the Danube River: Buda and Pest. Several bridges transport folks from one to another.

Buda’s main attraction is Buda Hill where you will be rewarded from the top with the most magnificent views of the city and river. We ended up climbing Buda Hill twice because it was so incredible.

We stayed on the Pest side where you can walk for miles down quaint cobblestone streets to cafes and restaurants and explore Kossuth Lajos Square, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Castle Hill and all the other stunning attractions. We were pleased to discover that food and drinks are reasonably priced in the older Pest district, and we enjoyed sampling all the beer, wine, and Hungarian specialties.

Bratislava, Slovakia

We took a walking tour in the historic Old Town where stone streets connect walkers to the most stunning palaces, buildings, and structures, such as Bratislava Castle, St. Martin’s Cathedral and Old Town Hall.

There is also a fountain in the middle of the Town Square that served as a meeting place after wandering the Town. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, and it borders both Austria and Hungary. The pastries are simply divine.

Vienna, Austria

We hopped on a bus and enjoyed a panoramic city ride before stopping for our guided walk in Vienna City Centre. Vienna is inundated with the most architecturally impressive buildings. Horse drawn carriages transport tourists around the town centre where you feel you are living in a past century.

Our highlight in Vienna was attending a private Viennese Evening Concert at Palais Lobkowitz. The musicians were superb and demonstrated the time and commitment that it takes to be the best in the world.

Durnstein, Austria

We explored the small town of Durnstein on our own. The focal point is the hill-top castle that tourists can walk to. The town is surrounded by lovely vineyards and is well-known for wine growing.

Locals were predominantly dressed in old fashioned attire and shops sold all of their local specialties. We purchased apricot jam as apricots are plentiful in that area. I found Durnstein to be the loveliest and quaintest small town and one of my favorite cruise ports.

Bamberg, Germany

We enjoyed a guided tour of Bamberg with a local who recanted the most interesting stories. She advised us that the most expensive and impressive homes line the river Regnitz in Bamberg and are almost impossible to rent/buy, as those homes are passed down in families and never sold.

Lots of tiny bridges connecting the colourful buildings to one another are abundant in this beautiful town. Since 1993, old town Bamberg has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Rose Garden at the New Residenz is a top tourist attraction with gorgeous multi-coloured roses.

There are also 11 breweries and many of these quaint German towns are known for their smoked beer. We sampled homemade German sausages and pretzels that were most delicious.

Rudesheim, Germany

We ventured off on our own and first rode the chairlift that took us above all of the lovely vineyards to the top of a hill to the spectacular temple and Niederwald monument. Riesling wine is the top varietal made in this fabulous winemaking town of Rudesheim, and I was most excited to try it. I liked it so much that I bought a bottle to take home with me.

We then ventured off to the brandy factory where my husband purchased the Asbach Uralt brandy that Rudesheim is well known for. The town is simply breathtaking, whether walking along the cobbled streets, riding the chairlift, or looking down from the top of the hill at the monument, and I did not want to leave it.

Amsterdam, Netherlands  

We completed our River cruise in the lovely city of Amsterdam. We embarked on a private guided canal tour that showcased all the focal points of the city and its interesting history. I loved having modern conveniences once again, but still feeling all of the old-world charm. We spent our last day walking along the many canals and enjoying the outdoor cafes and amazing sights.

River cruising was an experience of a lifetime that fed my mind, body, and soul, and an adventure that I will be talking about for many years to come.

What adventure is at the top of your bucket list? Why have you placed it there? When are you planning to take it?

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Denise Svajlenko

Yes the cycling was one of my favourite activities. My fav part was meeting new wonderful friends like you!

Bridget Pertlicek

Lisa, I think you live in the most wonderful city of all, Wien! My husband was born and raised there before immigrating to US and we made many trips there to visit before he died. I would like to live in Vienna. Do you like it?

jill gross

Great synopsis of a wonderful river cruise! We loved it! The cycling was my favorite! up close and personal!

Denise Svajlenko

I hope you do Lisa. You will fall in love with all the quaint and beautiful towns and feel like you are in a different world!

Lisa Nazarenko

I live in Vienna and have taken a cruise to Bratislava for a day trip, but now I’m inspired to check out a longer cruise that starts at home! Thanks, Denise.

The Author

Denise Svajlenko is a non-fiction writer and author of the book Evolving: My Lessons of Self-Discovery (available to purchase on Amazon). She retired from her corporate career and now spends her time fulfilling her passions of writing and travelling. You can follow her on Facebook or Instagram via denisesvajlenkoauthor or visit her website

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