Flight Centre's Shelley Hodge travels to Vienna and the Rhine to experience Europe from the comfort of a river cruise. Shelley takes in the sights of Vienna such as the world famous Vienna Opera House and St Stephen's Cathedral.
If the idea of nestling back in a comfortable chair, sipping on some gluhwein and watching the world go by appeals to you then you will love river cruising. It also has the added benefit of only having to unpack once. Seasoned coach travellers will appreciate this little treat.
Our journey started in Vienna. My husband and I fell in love with Vienna. The people are very friendly and most speak a little bit of English. It is a great city to walk around and check out the sights – so get some comfortable walking shoes. We stayed at the Mercure Wein which was a 10 minute walk to the city centre, St Stephen's Cathedral and the Opera House. The hotel was modern and clean with friendly bilingual staff. The only downside was that there were no restaurants near the hotel. However, it does force you to go and explore. I would recommend getting a map at reception as some of the streets can be quite winding and you can easily get lost.
The hop-on hop-off bus was a great way to see the popular sights of Vienna. However, if you like to do your own thing, then the metro network is easy and safe to use. In Vienna, you have to go to the Sacher Hotel and have a coffee or hot chocolate with their famous Sacher torte. Yum! Across the road is an Aussie pub called Crossfields. It's worth going in and having a laugh at how we are portrayed overseas. Oh, the clichés! Speaking of clichés, you have to have a Vienna Schnitzel and a chocolate with Mozart on it – his face is everywhere and they even have people dressed as him roaming the streets trying to sell tickets to the Vienna Opera.
I wasn't sure what to expect from the cruise. I thought that many of the passengers on board the ship were retirees. However, I was pleasantly surprised that there were travellers in their late twenties. We had Australians, Americans, Canadians and English on the cruise. It was a great way of meeting people and making friends.
One thing to be prepared for is the amount of food you will consume! Imagine three course meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Stretchy pants didn't seem like a bad idea. So, what does one wear to dinner? Smart casual works well. It is quite relaxed, so you don't have to lug a suit or ball-gown around. Obviously, wearing thongs at dinner time would not be appropriate.
One of the great things about river cruising is the freedom. If you don't want to get off the boat you don't have to. If you want to sleep in, you can. If your partner wants to stay up and enjoy the evening entertainment and you are tired you can go off to bed. If you don't want to do the guided tour you don't have to. You are free to wander off and do your own thing. If you don't feel like socialising then you can relax in your cabin or go up to the sundeck where there is oodles of space. It gives you the flexibility of being independent to a degree and having the convenience of a tour operator.
I'm totally sold on river cruises, it is a great way to travel and I can't wait to do another one. The next one involve me sipping a Riesling while on the Rhine or eating tapas along the Douro River in Spain.
Looking for more information on river cruising through Europe? Contact [email]text=Shelley Hodge[/email], an International Travel Consultant with Flight Centre in Townsville, Queensland who can be contacted at 1300 286 469 or by [email]text=email[/email].