Day 7 - Krems and Durnstein
Today we were in Krems, docked at Donaustation 33. We had no time to explore this town as we were on a tour to Durnstein. This village is famous for the castle, perched high on the cliffs overlooking the Danube. Richard the Lionheart was held captive here in 1192, and was only released after the payment of a huge ransom; it cost England 23,000kg of silver. The silver was shipped to Durnstein and then melted down and then this was used to create the first currency in the area.
After free time to walk around the cobbled streets of this charming village we then headed to the very impressive Abbey of Gottweig, sat atop a high mountain commanding magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. This Benedictine Abbey is still unfinished and is home to monks, was founded in the 11th century and rebuilt in baroque style in the 18th century . After a stop here it was on to the Winzer Krems vineyard for a tour and talk about the wine production and of course some all important wine tasting! This was one of the best wine tasting experiences I have had, with a 3d movie and more!
Back onboard in time for lunch and the afternoon was spent relaxing on deck as we cruised back up the Wacchau Valley to Passau. After a disembarkation briefing we had time to get ready for the captains fair well cocktail party. It started at 6.30 and we got there at 6.35, and it was packed! The cruise director and all senior officers were lined up as you entered the lounge, and we chinked our glasses of champagne with each one as we took our seats. After the farewell speeches from the cruise director and captain, we made our way into the dining room for the seven course farewell dinner.
Just before the dessert was served, all the ships crew lined up in the dining room and were given a name check and applause from the guests, including all the waiters, galley staff, officers, and cabin stewards. It was a real nice touch and a chance for the passengers to show their appreciation.
Our fellow guests are all German, and some of them are living up to the stereotype, however many others are friendly and chatty and quite happy to talk in English. The average ages are late 60's plus. This cruise is perfect for those who enjoy city breaks, discovering new towns and villages, and who want a relaxing holiday. However there are a few early morning starts to join the tours, and meal times are set, so if you like late nights, partying and long lie ins then this isn't the trip for you. Of course you don't have to book any tours and can just get off the boat and explore on your own.
English language news and daily programmes have been in our cabin every day, and all the crew speak English, so that's not an issue at all. English speaking guides have been on our tours and they provide a dual language commentary. As mentioned, on a few occasions we even had a private guide. On cruises where there are 20 or more native english speakers on board then the entire bus/coach will be English language only. There is also an English language menu provided for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so we have been very well accommodated.
Food has been good and consistent here onboard, with every mealtime including a few local dishes. There is always a fish dish and a good variety of vegetarian meals on offer too. The slightly hard potatoes we experienced on the first night were never repeated and the presentation and temperature of the meals had been excellent. Some of the local dishes on offer have not always been to my taste (but thats not a bad reflection on the ship), so it's worth noting that you can always order alternative meals with a side dish from the main menu; Caesar salad, salmon fillet, chicken breast fillet and minute beef steak, so there should be something for everyone.
Service in the dining room was prompt and efficient and our waiter, George from Romania, was charming, polite and funny too. His English was perfect and his warm personality enhanced our cruise and dining experience. I never had a bad meal and actually enjoyed most of the local dishes on offer, it made a nice change from typical menu items.
As mentioned our cabin was a French balcony grade, very spacious for a river ship, very comfortable and the water pressure in the shower brilliant. The cabin stewardess miraculously flutters in twice a day to tidy up and provide fresh towels and the occasional towel animal on the bed! Beds were comfy and the temperature of the rooms good. Plenty of wardrobe space and you are provided with two robes too.
Ports of call have been very good with my personal favourite being Budapest, it was great that we had such a long time there to explore independantly as well as on a guided tour. Surprise port had to be Bratislava, to be honest I did not really know much about this capital city before I got there but it's really charming, compact and has a wonderful mix of architecture. The people we encountered were friendly and it was not very expensive for food and drink. It reminded me of Prague, before it got all touristy and overrun with stag and hen do's. There has been a nice mix of ports of call and time spent on the river, letting you experience watching the scenery and relaxing onboard enjoying the facilities.
Drinks prices are a tad expensive in my opinion on board, with nothing included in your fare, however for 2013 you can pre book a drinks package that will include soft drinks, bottled water and wine or beer with lunch and dinner for about £50 per person for the week. This is actually very good value so would recommend this is added. There is a tea and coffee station that is open from 10am to 6pm that offers free drinks, however it would be nice if this was 24 hours for those early risers.
Entertainment. Entertainment was Milo on the piano in the early evening and then later singing German and English language songs accompanied by his synthesiser. We had a few guest entertainers on too when we were staying late in port. The only exception to this programme was the crew show, which was a welcome change and very enjoyable. It would have been nice for one evening for them to put on some more, dare I say it, modern music, even just a CD of tunes that all Europeans could enjoy.
The ship was spotless the entire cruise, so credit to the housekeeping staff. The original features have been retained and the art deco style and warm colours a refreshing change from current new builds. Read my description from when I was onboard earlier in the year here /luxury-cruise-blog/blogs/ms-mozart-christening-ceremony-on-the-danube-263/
The wifi onboard is very reasonable 15 euros for the whole week. Speeds vary from time to time, sometimes very good, others slow, as is typical on a moving ship. around the reception area is better speed!
It's worth noting that the ship offers kidney dialysis to patients that need it - pre-bookable before you book the cruise. All in all a very enjoyable river cruise with great food, company and service.