For river cruise fans, sailing on the Danube is the jewel in the crown of European rivers. Europe’s second longest river meanders through the heart of Central Europe: through centuries of castles, clashing empires, palaces, sieges, sonatas, and waltzes.
A seven-night cruise eastbound from Vienna to Budapest or westbound from Budapest to Vienna is the ultimate Danube highlights package. Every bend in the river brings another breathtaking panorama. Every village, town or city has tales to tell.
But with around 200 ships sailing on the Danube how do you pick the ship that suits you best? As itineraries offered by the ships are usually similar, potential cruisers should think about their expectations for comfort, food, entertainment, and service.
Undoubtedly, Riverside Mozart is one of the most luxurious ships on the Danube. Double width, at just over 75 feet, provides extra space to make every cabin a suite with butler service too. Calming decor of blues, browns and greys match the riverscape that slides by.
Riverside Mozart has space for four restaurants with plenty of tables just for two. Waterside, the largest, has the marketplace buffet for breakfast and lunch, whilst dinner is usually full waiter service with the sommelier serving wine. At the bow, Blue serves light lunches. Drinks and snacks are available throughout the day at The Bistro, sometimes followed by a tapas menu in the evening.
When the weather is fine, there is a pop-up grill on the Vista Deck where chefs use their Big Green Egg BBQs for sizzling giant prawns, fish, steaks and vegetarian kebabs. Guests ask their butler to book a top-deck table for when the ship sails through the spectacular Wachau Valley where fairytale villages cling on to the steep sides of the emerald valley.
Extra space in the galley gives the catering staff the room to be creative. The bakery produces fresh brioche and croissants for breakfast plus a selection of ciabatta, focaccia, or granary for dinner. Everyday a range of soups simmer whilst the galley also makes its own ice-cream and sorbets.
This is a fine dining voyage through the Danube’s culinary treasures. Obviously, a Viennese Schnitzel to celebrate Vienna and lesser known local specialities too. Such as Hungarian variations on pancakes in Budapest: a Hortobagyi Palacsinta paprika spiced chicken pancake for a savoury lunch whilst a dessert option is a Gundel Palacsinta pancake served with chunks of apricot. A tour of Durnstein reveals how 19th century vineyards turned to apricots when a virus attacked the vines.
More space means more staff. Over 90 staff care for the needs of 162 guests. In the evening a turn down service also tops up the refrigerated minibar and refreshes the daily petit fours and fruit bowl. That extra space also gives Riverside an indoor swimming pool, a good-sized gym, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and spa treatment rooms.
From the ship’s berth at Linz, it is almost a two-hour drive, through Austria’s Lake District, to Salzburg to pay homage to both Mozart and The Sound of Music. Guests arrive raring to go having travelled in Riverside’s air-conditioned and comfortable coach. On the way the guide tells the true story of the musical. Salzburg was scandalised by the marriage of 23-year-old Maria to 47-year-old Captain Von Trapp. Nor was Maria a nun, she was a teacher at the convent.
One key difference on Riverside excursions is that tour groups are rarely larger than 15. As guests are shown around the grand architecture of Vienna, capital of an Austrian-Hungarian empire that once ruled half of Europe, they are close enough to the guide to see the exhibits and ask questions.
Riverside Mozart offers one spectacular excursion that no other ship provides. One evening in Vienna, guests are taken to Upper Belvedere Palace after the public has departed. A knowledgeable guide gives a private tour of the Palace’s artwork including Klimt’s famously sensuous The Kiss. Then Riverside guests take their seats in The Marble Room for an exclusive concert, mainly featuring the works of Mozart and Strauss, given by a small orchestra plus a baritone and a soprano. “We Viennese play waltzes a little differently,” our guide tells us. “In Vienna we count one, two AND three.”
Back on-board Riverside Mozart we sail on from Vienna for an unforgettable cruise. Some guests opt for bike rides and hikes whilst others prefer more sedate walking tours, perhaps with wine-tasting in Durnstein or beer tasting in Bratislava. Riverside Mozart gives guests the opportunity to design their very own individual and luxurious Danube cruise.
Riverside Cruises fact file
Visit Riverside-cruises.com to learn more about luxury cruises on the Danube and Europe’s other rivers.
Find out more about the history and collections at Upper Belvedere Palace.
Official guidance before travelling to Austria.
If you enjoyed Riverside and Mozart: A jewel of a cruise on the beautiful Danube, you can find the first part of Michael’s trip from Vienna to Budapest on our travel channel.Tags: Budapest, Danube, Michael Edwards, River cruise, Vienna Last modified: July 17, 2023