Danube River Cruise: The First 24 Hours.
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Our boarding time had been slated for 3 p.m.; though, the crew of The Sound of Music welcomed us aboard an hour early.
Since our rooms were not ready yet, we were told to leave our bags by reception, and were then greeted with complimentary tea, coffee and sandwiches as well as a lot of smiles from all of the staff we encountered. As we made our way through the lounge to relax, excited conversations filtered through the lounge, blending with classic Austrian waltzes that bring the spacious panoramic room to life. Some passengers, who had red eye flights, were sprawled out on couches like teenage backpackers at an Italian train station, while others mingled with traveling companions and new acquaintances. The decor of the lounge reminds me of a Viennese coffee shop with a small dab of Disney World’s Tomorrowland, because of the retro-futuristic swiveling chairs placed along the front windows that make for a fantastic view.
When starting a six day cruise first impressions are everything, and I’m happy to report that Gate 1 European River Cruise made the grade. From the moment we dropped our luggage in the reception, I knew that we were in good hands. Approximately 30 minutes later, the staff informed us that our rooms were ready and our bags had already been placed into them.
For the next three hours, Beth and I relaxed in our comfortable room, peering out our panorama window on to the swift and mysterious Danube. The room is more spacious than the one we had a few years back on a Carnival cruise to Ensenada, Mexico. And having a full-size sliding window as opposed to a couple of port holes really makes a huge difference, creating a space that feels more like a hotel room than a berth on a cruise ship.
At 6 p.m., we gathered up stairs in the lounge to meet with the Gate1 cruise directors–Miklos (Mick) Josa, Robert Wallenstein and Erika Gyenes–who gave us the lowdown about the cruise ship, destinations and tours that awaited us. Then, we are greeted by the ship’s captain, Peter Toth, who invited all of the passengers (approximately 130 people) to join him in champagne welcome drink. After some more crew introductions from Captain Toth and hotel manager, George Pavlovszky, we made our way to the dinning room for our seven-course meal prepared by Executive Chef Ferenc Deak. The dinner excellent on every level, including the great and accommodating service from Judita Durikova and her topnotch waitstaff. Following dinner, and after a quick walk on the sun deck, we went back to our cabin to get some rest for the early morning ahead.
I woke up around 6:30 a.m., just as the soft autumn sun began its short march over head. Soon, Beth was a wake and we basked in the morning glow for a few minutes before heading up to the dinning room for the breakfast buffet, and its array of juices, fruits, American style breakfast items, breads and pastries. We had a big day ahead with a three hour tour of Vienna and then some free time in the afternoon to explore the region further, so it was nice to be able to fill up on a delicious breakfast before heading out on our excursion.
As Beth had mentioned in our pre-embarkation story about our river cruise on the Danube, Vienna had always been on the top of list of places to visit, mainly because of the fantastic class I took at San Francisco State University about the city. And while we had been to Vienna a year early and even spent a couple of days in the city before the cruise, our days mostly consisted of some light sightseeing and a lot of work at our hostel near Naschmarket. So, I was really excited to be able to take a proper city tour. The first part of our excursion with a licensed Vienna tour guide consisted of us driving the Ring Road in our bus, as the guide told historic anecdotes about the city and pointed out important Viennese landmarks. Next, we took to the streets, wondering into the Imperial Palace and down to St. Stephen’s Church in the center of Vienna’s old town. Following the guided tour, we were then given an hour to explore the area, so Beth and I used the time to hit up one of our favorite coffee shops, Cafe Hawelka.
More scenes from our excursion into Vienna:
One of the nice things about our excursion into the city center with Gate 1 was that they gave us a number of options for the day. For example, after the hour on our own, we could take the shuttle bus back to the boat for lunch, after which we could return back to the city by way of another shuttle bus. Beth and I opted to stay behind following our buffet-style lunch to catch up with some work in our room before going in search of a…
Well that brings to the end of our first 24 hours. I hope you enjoyed this snapshot into our first day on our first river cruise. We’ve got a lot more stories from our time cruising with Gate 1, so be on the lookout for more of our adventures on the Danube!
Have you ever been on a river cruise?
*While we were hosted by Gate 1 on our Danube cruise, our thoughts and opinions are our own.
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