An Adventures by Disney River Cruise experience is like no other! Imagine every detail of your trip being designed to relieve stress and maximize your enjoyment. Sounds amazing, right? If you aren’t familiar with Adventures by Disney vacations, they are guided group trips that are hassle-free and you are able to touch, taste, hear and explore firsthand the places that you visit. Think of it as your backstage pass to the world with the Disney difference of creating trips with families in mind, VIP service and where so much is included. Since 2016, Adventures by Disney has partnered with AmaWaterways, a leader in luxury river cruising, to provide unforgettable exclusive sailings to European destinations. I had the fantastic opportunity to experience the memorable and magical journey of river cruising this past November with my husband. We cruised the Danube through the heart of Europe on the incredible AmaLea. Since our “hotel” traveled with us, we were able to completely focus on getting the most out of each destination. I would love to share some of the highlights of this dream come true trip with you.
We started with a long, overnight flight and landed in Budapest which is Hungary’s capital city on the Danube River. It was a short car ride to our hotel, the Sofitel Chain Bridge Hotel, on the banks of the Danube. We weren’t scheduled to start our Adventures by Disney itinerary until the next afternoon, so we were on our own this day. Our plan was to push through the day in order to combat the time change, so we set out to just explore and see what we would find. Budapest is beautiful!! I cannot say this enough. The architecture, the views and the people were just amazing. The highlights of Budapest for us were St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Chain Bridge, Parliament, City Hall, the Fisherman’s Bastion and the Royal Palace. Plus the view from our room was stunning!
The next afternoon our official Adventure by Disney began! Here are some highlights of our trip:
Evening of Day 1: Official Welcome to Budapest
We had a welcome cocktail hour at the hotel where we met our fabulous adventure guides, followed by a dinner buffet. Our night was filled with meeting new people and it was the perfect way to kick start the fun!
Day 2: Budapest continued
We visited the local Central Market Hall in Budapest, followed by a Panoramic City Tour. Once we arrived at the famous Lazar Equestrian Park, we viewed a spectacular horse show, took a scenic carriage ride, sampled some regional wine, and made traditional Hungarian goulash that was served as part of our lunch.
Then it was on to Vienna by coach transfer to board the AmaLea for a Welcome Cocktail hour followed by the mandatory Safety and Information Briefing. The AmaLea is an absolutely gorgeous ship and the staff is outstanding.
There is a Sip and Sail Hour every night and plenty of snacks available – so much food!
Day 3: Waltzing on the Blue Danube
Our morning excursion was to Imperial Glory at the Schloss Hof Palace in Austria, an extraordinary Baroque palace with unique gardens, farm and petting zoo. We made homemade gingerbread cookies and had a few samples of different schnapps. Yum! For the junior adventurers that may be traveling with you, there was an area with a miniature theater complete with a backstage makeup room where they can dress up in costumes and put on a play with one of the Adventure guides.
Back aboard the AmaLea, there was an afternoon Apple Strudel Demonstration and Tasting in the lounge hosted by the fantastic pastry chef. The desserts that she created during our sailing were amazing and plentiful.
That evening we had the first of two Fireside Chats during our sailing. This is something new that is being incorporated on the sailings. Your adventure guides share stories from their lives that relate to the countries that you are visiting. They are riveting and one of the most impactful memories that I have of this trip. I won’t spoil the story for you, but I just have to say that I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house after this first presentation. Absolute tears! It was helpful that they combined the Sip and Sail hour with the presentation.
It was also movie night and tonight’s feature was Nightmare Before Christmas.
Day 4: Symphony of Sights
Today was another day of exploring Vienna. A Panoramic Coach tour of Vienna with a visit to Schonbrunn Palace, the famous Summer residence of the Hapsburg Emperors. I visited this palace many years ago and was excited to be sharing my memories in person with my husband.
We had free time in the afternoon to explore downtown Vienna and a couple of the Christmas Markets that are so popular during the holidays in Europe. They are so charming and I loved all the little booths! This is a perfect opportunity to walk through the quaint streets of Vienna’s old center, ride the city’s popular Ferris wheel, or relax over coffee and Sacher Torte in a cafe.
Back on the ship in the evening, we had a traditional Viennese Dinner, followed by our Sip and Sail Hour with the second Fireside Chat presentation. The late night “snack” in the lounge that night was delicious Goulash and Sausage.
Day 5: Living History
This day we left the big cities behind and entered the picturesque countryside of Austria. We visited the most adorable town of Durnstein. It was like a fairy tale village. Some of us took a pretty challenging hike up to the ruins of the castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned. The view looking down from above onto the town and the Danube was breathtaking!
**Magical Moment: After visiting Durnstein, we had a scenic cruise through the Wachau Valley on our way to Melk. A bunch of us sat up on the sun deck for the view. My husband had purchased a few bottles of local whiskey in one of the shops before getting back onboard and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, he popped open the bottles to share with everyone. We had an amazing time drinking, chatting, taking pictures, sharing about our lives and families while floating down the river. So many friendships were made that day that will last a lifetime.
Upon docking, we toured the Melk Abbey and immersed ourselves in the “Story of the Danube”.
That evening we had Disney Trivia Night!! So much fun!
Day 6: Austrian Melodies
This morning we arrived in Linz, capital of Upper Austria and fourth largest city in Austria. We had a full day of excursions that included visiting the oldest Salt Mine in the world and experiencing the quaint town of Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart. More Christmas Markets!!
Dinner this night for us was at the “Chef’s Table Restaurant”. Everyone sailing has an opportunity to dine at least once at the Chef’s table and it has a Tasting Menu that isn’t offered in the main dining room. It was fabulous!
That evening our entertainment was the live music of Billy T Rock n Roll.
Day 7: Three River City
This morning we arrived at one of the most beautiful baroque cities in Germany, Passau. We explored on our own and took a walk to the point where the three rivers (the Danube, the Inn, and the Ilz) meet. It was kind of cool seeing three different rivers melding together.
That afternoon we cruised to Vilshofen, a small, typical Bavarian town and prepared for our own private Oktoberfest! A tent was set up right outside the AmaLea on the dock for the fun beer festival. We had a live music, dancing, fresh pretzels and of course, BEER!
This was our last dinner aboard the ship before we were to be transferred to our hotel in Nuremburg. We were so sad to be saying goodbye to all the friends we had made along the way, the wonderful Adventure guides and the crew of the AmaLea.
Throughout our entire trip, all the service was incomparable. The Adventure guides were fantastic!! We were so spoiled! Adventures by Disney thinks of everything so you have no worries or hassles. We met many, many wonderful people. The friendships forged through the shared experiences and memories created are sometimes hard to put down on paper. You have to experience it yourself to believe it. The laughter, or the crying, was all experienced together in the most amazing settings.
I’m ready for another Adventures by Disney! How about you? Let’s Adventure together!!
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