The Danube River runs through Europe and is dotted with excellent towns, each with their own personality and culture. The best way to see all of these towns and make visits to each, is with a River Cruise. This way you can rest, sleep and relax while the boat takes you from one location to another and you see many towns and villages in Europe that are truly from fairy tales. We caught up with Jordyn, an employee of Gate 1 Travel, who took the 9 Day Danube River Cruise, and we got the inside scoop. Jordyn will give you her favorite towns, best meals and why she loved doing a European River Cruise especially.
Why did you choose this trip and what had you heard about these places that made you decide on it?
Honestly, I chose the Danube River Cruise since it was offered with an option to bring your partner. He had gone through some health struggles in the winter and I thought traveling would be a great way to celebrate his recovery. I was very interested in seeing
Budapest, but had never really thought about visiting Germany or Austria before. Budapest, and Hungary in general, has a really interesting language, since it’s Asiatic and not based in any Romance language. I also had heard great things about the city’s baths and monuments, that it was very pretty, so I was excited to travel through the countryside and take in the views. My college roommate also lives in Vienna at the moment, so the possibility of seeing her and her boyfriend was also a great reason to go.
Danube River Cruises are becoming popular international travel destinations, how was that reflected in your trip?
I completely understand why everyone’s really excited about River Cruises. After doing
one of these, it’s going to be hard to do another bus tour. You get in, unpack once, and by the second day, you know where everything is! By the third day, you know the waitstaff’s names and are friendly with the bartender. It’s truly a treat and really makes traveling feel so much less exhausting. Looking out of our windows at a new scene every morning was one of our favorite things about cruising. You wake up in a new city every day! The views from the ship were inexplicably beautiful, whether we were sailing through locks, past urban cities, or through the country-side, there was so much to see. It was really, really lovely and convenient, and the food was always good.
What were some of the highlights of your trip?
The views from the boat every morning, which was always different and always beautiful! I think a highlight for me was Passau, a super cute little town right on the border of Germany & Austria. Our guide was a student studying at the university and she so clearly loved her town. We wandered into a little bakery and purchased a pastry in order to break some larger bills, and that pastry was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life. It was a croissant, glazed, with a surprise of apricot jam inside.
I also really enjoyed the tour of Bratislava immensely, I had come in with the least knowledge of that particular city, so learning the history of Slovakia & seeing the beauty of the city was a real treat. It’s much less crowded than some of the larger cities we visted & the weather was beautiful.
Another favorite stop on the trip was Salzburg, where my partner & I walked up to the castle high on the hill to take in the view of the town from above while some others were on a tour of some gardens. There were many very friendly dogs in Salzburg when we visited, which was a treat for me, a dog lover. One even dropped a stick at my feet and played fetch with me for a bit (with it’s owners nearby and watching on, of course). It was really a magical moment and such a beautiful place.
What was your favorite meal or what food did you have that you really enjoyed or felt was very authentic?
My favorite meal on the cruise was a ricotta stuffed gnocchi dinner in a carrot sauce. It was so good that my boyfriend, a meat eater, was jealous. I am a vegetarian, & I was honestly expecting to eat a lot of salad and soup on this trip, as I had been told that veggie options could be limited in Germany, Austria, & Hungary, but to my surprise, the veg options on the ship were wonderful! The ship’s chef came out every night to talk to passengers & ask how they enjoyed their meal, so it felt as if each meal got better and better as we traveled. There were authentic options available for each destination, as well, I know that there was schnitzel in Salzburg, & there was a specific Bavarian themed lunch, as well. There was a very nice selection of options for everyone on board.
How was the shopping and did you visit anywhere specifically great for shopping?
I’m not really a shopper. There were shops in Salzburg and in Regensburg, so you could do some shopping while walking around. We were able to purchase a rain coat in a Salzburg H&M, which was very helpful through the rest of our touring, though!
What travel tips would you give to someone preparing to go on this trip?
Make sure you have comfortable shoes & an empty stomach. I would also note that I had cell service, including GPS and internet access through my cell carrier during this trip and I would truly recommend having GPS service while on this trip. You’re given maps
of every location you visit, most of them even have highlighted areas to show you where you’ll be meeting up with the group after free time, but during our free time, having the ability to search for places off of the beaten track (we were able to find an adorable pastry shop in Bratislava off of a main road & eat some absolutely life changing Bavarian Cream Pie, for example) is a huge plus. Other than that specific advice, I would just say make sure you pack comfortable clothes and shoes for your touring.
How did you prepare for this trip?
As a bit of a neurotic person, I made specific lists for everything that I wanted to pack. I
also made note of the forecast for each location on the day that we were scheduled to be there and used that to inform my clothing choices. I tried to pack as many layer-able things as I could, since it was May and could still be a bit chilly in areas. I also made sure my bank knew where I was going, and for how long, so that I could get money out of various ATMs in the locations we traveled. I made copies of our passports to bring along as well.
Would you go back?
In a heartbeat. I would really like to do a longer trip to Bratislava, if you can’t tell how much I loved it from my answers.
How was your Cruise Director and what were they like? In what ways did they affect your trip?
Our Cruise Director was great, she gave us all of the information that we needed the day before any touring in our nightly port talk. She also advocated for us, as passengers, when the ship we were sailing on ran into engine trouble in Bratislava. She made sure that we did not have to leave extremely early to get into Budapest and ensured that we were able to get lunch and do all of our touring.
What did you feel was the overall theme of your trip?
For my partner and I, this trip meant a lot. As I mentioned, he had been going through some health struggles and the idea of being able to come out of those tough times together, stronger than ever and excited about seeing the world together has truly meant so much. I’m very thankful for the opportunity, not just to learn more about the products that Gate 1 sells, but to really experience the change in perspective travel gives you, and the appreciation it instills in you when you get back home.
How did being on an escorted tour affect your trip?
It was a very fast paced trip. I think that were we to have gone on a trip like this un-escourted, we would have gone at a much slower pace. This would mean that we would have seen less, surely. I also don’t think we would have learned as much about Maria Theresa and the Hapsburgs, who I am sort of in love with now! The history really comes alive when you have the right guide! It all comes together and you can almost see your beautiful surroundings in each time-period as you tour.
Would you recommend this trip to family/friends?
I already have! My parents want to go on one next year!