I had a great year of river cruising, having experienced a range of all that river travel has to offer – from barges to bikes to luxury river cruisers plying the gorgeous waterways of Europe. Would my trips be ones that you’d enjoy? Let’s find out. This week and next, I’ll be writing about six river cruises that I was fortunate enough to do this year.
1. Paddling The Loire River
My first trip of the year took place in April on the Loire Princesse. Few things in life can beat being in France in April, and this trip was no disappointment. Operated by CroisiEurope, Loire Princesse is a new paddlewheeler capable of navigating the extremely shallow waters of the Loire River. In fact, the vessel is the first hotel ship ever to explore the Loire and its tributaries.
If you’re someone like me who has done the Danube, rode the Rhine, meandered the Moselle, then the Loire River presents you with something new. And even if you’re brand new to river cruising, the Loire would not be a bad choice. The châteaux are beautiful and worth the trip alone. Nantes, where CroisiEurope’s cruises begin and end, is a gorgeous city, with lots to do. The Loire Princesse? She is an innovative ship, with comfortable accommodations, good food and drink, all set within a French ambience. So if a little cultural immersion is your thing, you’ll enjoy a cruise along the Loire. See my Loire Princesse voyage recap here.
2. Sensational Scenic Jasper
At the conclusion of my trip on Loire Princesse, I flew from Nantes to Budapest to board the Scenic Jasper. I had cruised Scenic once, but that was several years ago. And even though I had read up on how the company sought to differentiate itself, seeing (and experiencing) became believing for me.
Scenic Jasper’s ambience was stunning, from its large aft suites to its beautiful lounges and restaurants. In fact, I’m still not certain I know how many dining venues there were on Scenic Jasper. I know that I dined in at least five venues. You can count them yourself in this post but be prepared to salivate a bit over the dishes I photographed in Table La River, where a six-course menu was offered paired with fine wines.
In addition to the dining experiences, there’s a lot to love about Scenic, including its innovative Sun Lounges (see my video), its electric-assist bicycles (which we pedaled from Durnstein to Melk) and a wonderful (and complimentary) concert in a Viennese palace.
If you’re someone who enjoys a luxury river cruise experience with everything included — as well as opportunities to be active (the bikes are truly wonderful) — then Scenic’s for you. Also, it’s good to know that it’s nearly impossible to dig into your wallet or fumble for change once on board. Even the gratuities for tour guides and bus drivers are included.
3. Uniworld’s Maria Theresa
In May, I cruised Uniworld’s new S.S. Maria Theresa from Wurzburg to Budapest. Uniworld offers an upscale experience, with sumptuous surroundings and impeccable service. Butlers strut down the hallways in tux and tails, high tea is poured in the lounge in the afternoon, and dinner is served with ceremony and flair.
The ship itself employs a design that harks back to the days of the Austrian empress. Its baroque inspiration aspires to something stately and palace-like. There’s also a bit of whimsy, with an on-board movie theater (complete with popcorn), an indoor pool with glass that obscures upon entry (for privacy), and a favorite watering hole of many, the Leopard Bar.
Maria Theresa is a good choice for those who appreciate high standards of service on a ship that encourages flights of fantasy back to the period when the Austrian empress reigned. Imagine floating along the Danube on what feels like a Viennese Royal Palace, and you’ll have a sense of what it’s like to cruise on Uniworld’s S.S. Maria Theresa. Read more about my trip on Maria Theresa here.
Continue reading about my six favorite cruises in 2015.