In June 2016 I set off with a group on a Travelmarvel European Gems journey from Paris to Prague. We flew into Paris early in the morning to be met by our guide for the next three nights. One of the upsides to our morning arrival was that by the time we got into the city through the morning traffic we were ready for brunch and could also go straight to our rooms. We stayed at the elegant 4-star Les Jardins du Marais Hotel in the famous Marais district which is full of charming restaurants, chic shops and fascinating galleries and museums.
Our first afternoon was ours to enjoy at leisure with the options of getting out and exploring or relaxing at the hotel – in this location, Paris was really at our fingertips. The following two days also gave us plenty of free time along with our various guided tours so we got a great overview of the City of Light. Our tours included lunch on the first level of the Eiffel Tower with great city views, and the optional extra of a visit to the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret show in the evening.
From Paris we travelled by coach to Amsterdam and went directly to our Travelmarvel River Ship. The staterooms on board are spacious and include a wardrobe, which is such a bonus as you really can just unpack once! We had opted for a 172-square-foot French Balcony Stateroom which was well worth it for its floor-to-ceiling views, especially when the sun deck was closed for safety as the ship passed through river locks.
Gliding down the great rivers of Europe like the Rhine, the Main and Danube is an incredible experience
There was so much to take in, from the array of quaint villages, the sights of locals holidaying by the river, the vast amount of history and of course the stunning scenery that passes by. We didn’t, unfortunately, get to cruise into Budapest, one of my favourite European cities, because high water levels forced us off the river at Regensburg in Eastern Bavaria. Our Travelmarvel cruise director was absolutely amazing, co-ordinating a full cruise ship of passengers from river to land arrangements seemingly without turning a hair.
The change in our itinerary led to a slightly extended stay in Regensburg which allowed us to explore parts of this charming region of southeast Germany. Among the gems we saw was historic Weltenburg Abbey, a Benedictine monastery founded in the 7th century and situated on the Danube Gorge where the river flows between high cliffs.
Weltenburg Abbey was breathtaking, especially its Baroque-style church decorated with ceiling frescoes, paintings in gilded frames, statues and other works of art
This beautiful riverside location is truly worth a visit and if you are so inclined there is also an on-site brewery which dates from 1050 AD and is said to be the world’s oldest monastery brewery. It produces award-winning beers.
Our journey continued with two nights in Vienna that included optional excursions to opulent Schönbrunn Palace – a former summer residence of the Habsburg dynasty – and a Mozart concert, both of these being recompenses from Travelmarvel for the change to our itinerary, not that anyone can control the weather or the river levels although our Captain certainly tried his best. In Vienna we stayed at the beautiful boutique Hotel Sans Souci and at the InterContinental, and in Budapest at the brilliant Ritz-Carlton which is located close to famous shopping streets and cultural attractions and just a few minutes’ walk from the Danube.
After a night in Budapest we toured the city which included a visit to the impressive grounds of Buda Castle and then departed by coach for Prague, stopping for lunch at Vila Jarmila, an historic 15thcentury wine cellar in the town of Velké Bilovice in the Czech Republic. This was followed by three nights in the beautiful city of Prague, one of the few cities in Eastern Europe largely untouched by bombing in World War II. Our hotel was within walking distance of the famed Old Town and we had an (inclusive) guided tour of the impressive 9th-century Prague Castle followed by a walk down the hill to the Charles Bridge.
While in Prague I took an optional excursion to Terezin (Theresienstadt) Concentration Camp about 60 kilometres to the northwest. The tour of this grim and heart-rending place was given by a local who was very passionate about the history of his city and the impact of the war on the region of Bohemia.
And then, after nearly a month together it was time for our group to part ways, say goodbye to Travelmarvel, and treasure the memories we had from our wonderful journey. Overall it was an amazing journey along the waterways of Europe, and I can’t wait to go back and see it again! Although the change in plan was an unforeseen glitch, being Kiwis we took it on the chin and got on with our European sightseeing. As a travel agent, seeing how professionally Travelmarvel managed the situation, I found it an invaluable experience. I now have complete confidence in how Travelmarvel would look after its guests should anything untoward arise.
Have you ever been on a European River Cruise? Let us know your highlights in the comment section below.