Welcome to our exciting adventure along the Danube with Avalon Waterways.
I come back to Avalon time and time again for many reasons, but one has to be the Active & Discovery cruises they offer. They allow guests to do such a variety of activities and explore destinations that little deeper. This trip was no exception and the product really had evolved since I first tried it back in 2019.
Our adventure took us through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. One thing I love about river cruising is that every day is so completely different, not only in the destinations and places you visit, but how you choose the day to go with activities and excursions.
Day One –Munich and Vilshofen, Germany
Our journey began in Vilshofen, Germany. After our flight from Heathrow to Munich, we transferred to the ship which was docked in the centre of Vilshofen. It didn’t take too long to get to the ship and we found we were one of the first on board, giving us time to get to know the ship, the crew and our lovely port for the afternoon.
Given we had quite a bit of time on our hands we decided to take a little stroll into town and enjoy the charming place. We came across an urban beach on the shore of the Danube just down from the ship and it was great to spend a bit of time enjoying the tranquillity of the river.
The first sail away is always quite special on any cruise. For a river cruise, this is the first time you get to meet all your fellow guests – kicking off the cruise with a champagne reception with nibbles in the Panorama Lounge. Here the cruise director introduces themselves and the crew, including the captain of course, formally and orientates everyone for the week ahead. It’s such a charming and relaxed affair.
Following this we headed to dinner downstairs. Something that I love about river cruising is how it draws upon the localities it visits, inviting you to try local cuisines and wines. It was still early but we were genuinely shattered by this point, so we headed back to the cabin, opened the floor-to-ceiling door and sat and watched the sunset on the Danube as we sailed through Passau. A truly fabulous start to our cruise.
Day Two – Engelhartszell, Schlogen and Linz, Austria
Feeling refreshed from our early night, we woke up in Engelhartszell in Austria. As with many of the destinations on this and other river cruises, this is a picture-perfect town nestled on the banks of the river.
We met our friendly and knowledgeable guides in the morning and went on a tour of the town – firstly the famous Trappist Monk Abbey, the only one found in Austria. At the centre of this is the Abbey Church, dating back to 1754. It’s an impressive structure in the Rococo style and features a unique contemporary painting on the ceiling of the nave. We also enjoyed a Trappist beer tasting, all of which is produced on site – I mean it would have been rude not to!
The Panorama Bistro is a great casual option after being out all morning, which we enjoyed in the open air for lunch as we headed to our next destination on board Avalon Impression.
Shortly after lunch we arrived at our next destination, Schlogen. Our guides from the morning met us once again for a hike up to the observation point for the Danube Bend. This is a famous oxbow in the river which you’ll recognise from so many photos, and it is does not disappoint.
Firstly, let me tell you that if anyone ever tells you river cruising is sedate then that simply is not true. Our three guides split into three levels of fitness/activity to suit guests needs and physical confidence. We chose the most challenging of the three and can I tell you our guide did not let us off lightly. The viewpoint for the oxbow is situated 200m up from the ship on a quite steep path.
While it was a little challenging in parts, it was so refreshing to do and really gave me an opportunity to enjoy the Austrian countryside and be mindful. And can I just say that the view was something else once we reached the peak. The photos don’t do it justice.
Of course, what goes up must come down. So, after coming back down the hiking trail we can back to the ship and spent the remainder of the afternoon taking in the Austrian scenery and relaxing.
Dinner came around far too quicky, so after a cheeky martini in the Panorama Lounge, we enjoyed another fabulous dinner at sunset as we arrived in the city of Linz.
I’ve visited Linz before but this time we docked right in the city centre. After dinner we hopped off Avalon Impression as the city was coming alive. We walked along the banks of the Danube where there were various food festivals, pop-up bars and such a variety of live music – all coming together to give the city a really cool vibe.
We ended up visiting a cool cocktail bar not too far from the dock, just off the main areas. Hemingway’s is a cool cocktail bar with a speakeasy vibe to it, featuring a cool and moody atmosphere and a variety of live music. It was a great spot to enjoy some libations.
I really love the sheer choice offered on an Active & Discovery Cruise. This first full day on board was a great example of the sheer breadth of things you can get up to if you want to (and of course you can choose not too as well).
Day Three – Mauthausen and Grein, Austria
On day three of our adventure, we woke up in Mauthausen after sailing overnight from Linz. Today was another day of two halves. Very often on a river cruise you will find you visit numerous destinations in a single day.
This morning we chose to visit the famous Saint Florian monastery for a bit of history and culture. This monastery was founded in the early ninth century and is the largest one in Upper Austria with some of the most impressive Baroque architecture. The monastery is dedicated to Saint Florian, whose fourth century grave lies beneath it.
The Priory possess two organs, the larger of which is known as the Bruckner organ, with 103 stops and 7,343 pipes. It was played by famous Austrian composer Anton Bruckner, previously a choir boy at the monastery, when he was the organist, between 1848 and 1855. He is buried beneath the organ inside the church.
There were so many highlights to this excursion, including the incredible organ. But for me, the true highlight was the monastery library – it’s truly a sight to behold. This is one of the most ancient and impressive libraries in the world, not only for its collection but the incredible Baroque design and frescos. The library possesses over 150,000 volumes, many of which date prior to 1900.
By chance, we also had the opportunity to take in some live music in one of the grand reception halls and it was sublime to take in and listen to.
Back on board the ship we enjoyed a fabulous outdoor BBQ lunch on the top deck of the ship with our fellow guests as we sailed through the gorgeous Austrian scenery.
After a few hours of sailing and down time we found ourselves in another picture postcard town, Grein. Historically, this part of the Danube is famous for being very dangerous, and Grein was the last port of call where specific pilots and assistance had to join to navigate boats through the next leg of the river. We hopped off the ship and enjoyed a walking tour of the town, including the incredibly cute town theatre of Grein. This unique building was built into the former granary of the town hall in 1791. It is regarded as the oldest town theatre of Austria that is still in its original condition and recently refurbished. It can be visited every day of the week and houses regular performances.
Following this, and a short time on board the ship to enjoy afternoon tea, we boarded coaches and headed a short drive into the Austrian countryside. You see, we had a date with a Count.
We arrived at Burg Clam, or Clam Castle, where we were greeted by current Count of Clam, who’s family have owned the castle for many generations. Here we enjoyed locally produced wine overlooking the countryside in conversation with the Count – learning about the history of the castle and its role in various wars and in the locality. We also got to tour the castle and get some first-hand insight into life in the medieval castle directly from the Count, who’s family have lived here for over 550 years.
It had been another glorious day on the Danube and arriving back at the ship in Grein we enjoyed another delicious dinner on board before being treated to a local band in the Panorama Lounge while we got to know the other guests. Such a lovely day, and it was only day three!
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