Signature Travel Network welcomed its members onboard the grand AmaMagna for an active week of cruising the Danube and exploring, from Vilshofen to Budapest. Hitting 5 countries in 7 days, this itinerary offered something for everyone, with two-three levels of excursions included in every port. The ship itself is double the width of traditional river ships, which offers comfortable commons spaces, a great gym and spa (with multiple fitness classes daily and even outdoor spin bikes), spacious cabins (most with full balconies), and an expansive top deck that features a pool, hot tub, pickle ball court, and even a walking track.
Upon arrival in Munich, we were promptly greeted by representatives of AmaWaterways and boarded our spacious motor coach towards Vilshofen. Our guide for the drive was a local woman from Vilshofen, filled with tips to explore the town. She shared about the one product made right in Vilshofen, a long standing tonic made onsite from herbs grown in the gardens. We hiked to the Monastery at the top of the hill to find it! It’s said to help with aches and pains and the recipe has stayed amongst the members of the monastery. Upon arrival, we were welcomed on board the ship and then set free to explore. On the first evening we enjoyed a traditional Bavarian band, pretzels and local beer. After, we returned to the ship to enjoy our first dining experience in the main dining room. The menu was well thought out, with options taking dietary needs into consideration. After a long day of travel we returned to our cabin to get some rest. I was pleased with the consistent replenishment of bottled water (in glass bottles for sustainability reasons) and turn down service every night, complete with dark chocolate on the pillow.
The next morning, we sailed to Passau, Germany. We loved the walkability of the city, with many pedestrian only streets. We shopped, toured the Baroque St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and tasted some local fare. St. Stephen’s was under construction, but we were still able to visit and take in the second largest organ in the world. I would also recommend either the hike (or inexpensive tax ride) to the Veste Oberhaus Fortress, which offers amazing views of the city and river. We opted to go at night, so a taxi was an easy ride up and back to the boat.
The next day we opted for the half day trip to Czesky Krumlov, a UNESCO world heritage site in the Czech Republic. Another great option was the full day Salzburg excursion but we wanted to visit this hidden gem (and for those counting countries, add one more to your list). Again, our guide (having grown up there) was very knowledgeable about the history of the region through some challenging political times. We loved this picturesque walled city, with a castle built into the stone, towering over (with Bohemia’s second largest castle) and a river running through it. We visited the historic center of town, with cobblestone streets, cute shops, and restaurants at every turn. One thing to note, is although they are a part of the EU, they are not on the euro. They will accept them, but your change will be in crowns.
The next day was a busy one with a stop in Melk, to visit the Melk Abbey and a final destination of Spitz. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Melk Abbey, looms over the town with amazing views and stunning architecture. The library was a favorite spot along our tour, boasting 100,000 volumes of historic manuscripts and beautiful spiral staircases.
After a brief stop in Melk we made our way further into the Wachau Valley, Austria’s most famous wine region. The hills are terraced with vineyards at every glance, and sitting in one of the common spaces on the ship, with floor to ceiling windows, we had a picture perfect view of it all! I originally wanted to bike along the river, but with the cold windy weather, we opted for a hike. (I love the options and flexibility AmaWaterways allows for their excursions. A quick call to our cruise manager Martina, and we were able to make a last minute change!) We enjoyed hiking through the grape vines, overlooking the river and even had a snowfall. We ended the day with an Austrian wine tasting event and local music. Tip: we enjoyed the Austrian dry Riesling versus the sweet version in the US, and the Gruner Veltliner, which is a standard from that region.
View of the Danube and surrounding vineyards from the Hinterhaus Castle Ruins
Our next day was an exciting one, as we sailed to Vienna. Unfortunately, we were scheduled to be in Vienna on a Sunday (our one full day there) and the shops are all closed on Sundays! Luckily the city is filled with amazing architecture, museums, and palaces so we had plenty to see. Another note for travel to Vienna, is that it’s one of the few ports where you couldn’t step off the ship and be a short walk from the city center. You can choose one of Ama’s great excursions or take a quick taxi ride into the city center. After a driving tour along the Ringstrasse (a circular road that surrounds the historic center) we were off on foot, to see the beautiful St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Parliament, and finally the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum). After lunch in one of the many great cafes, we headed to the Schonbrunn Palace (the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers). The Palace is not in the historic city center, but is easily accessible by a tour or taxi. We loved the ornate inside, but a highlight for us was heading to the back of the Palace and making the trek up the hill to see the views of the city. A café sits at the top where we enjoyed a dessert and coffee with lovely views.
Our final stop along the Danube was Budapest, and it was worth the wait! As we sailed closer to the city the sun was shining, and we headed to the top deck to take in the magnificent views of the Parliament building and both sides of the river. Again, the excursion options were hard to choose from! We opted for an outdoor lunch at Gerbaud (which dates back to the 1800s), topped it off with one of their famous slices of cake, followed by shopping, and a visit to St. Stephens Basilica. I would recommend purchasing the pass for the church as well as climb to the top to enjoy the city and river views.
Entering into Budapest from the river, offers amazing views of the Hungarian Parliament Building.
The AmaMagna ship and staff exceeded our expectations in every way. The team onboard went above and beyond to make our experience seamless, from the airport transfers, to the daily communication, and the ease of using the “myAMaCruise” app (definitely download the app in advance, we used it the entire trip). Our seven days on the Danube was a perfect mix of exploring (seeing amazing architecture, castles, and churches), followed by delicious food (with many options to choose from) and down-time to recharge.