Adventures by Disney has kicked off its second summer season sailing the Danube River and we’re taking the opportunity to reminisce upon what may have been the best vacation of our adult lives—at least until we go on another ABD.
For the uninitiated, Adventures by Disney is a branch of the Disney company that offers guided group tours on six continents. Trips range from a long weekend in New York City to a 12-day tour of the Ecuador rainforest and Galapagos Islands. Adventures by Disney partnered with AmaWaterways to offer two river cruise routes along the Danube and Rhine rivers in Europe.
Kevin and I spent a week on the Danube River sailing from Budapest to Vilshofen with Adventures by Disney last July, and the people and experiences made it a trip we’ll never forget. Here are just a few of the reasons why.
Our cruise began in Budapest and sailed west, making stops in Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Melk, and Linz, Austria; and Passau and Vilshofen, Germany. We saw the Hungarian Parliament Building aglow at night, watched the sun set and waved to campers along the banks of the Danube in western Hungary, and had an ice cream party in the Wachau Valley — all without stepping foot off our ship, the AmaViola.
We toured so many palaces I started to get them mixed up, took in a private marionette show and learned how to make the puppets “dance,” learned a ton about Maria Theresa, my favorite 18th Century feminist, climbed to the ruins of Dürnstein Castle to reveal a sweeping view of the valley below, and checked off five locations on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
And thanks to our handy floating hotel, we only had to unpack once.
Amazing Adventure Guides
It’s easy to believe that the Adventure Guide post is one of the most coveted and hardest to get positions within the Disney company. While the job has immense responsibility (which we witnessed firsthand when a member of our group was late showing up for a return bus in Salzburg—all ended well), our guides were some of the warmest, kindest, and most fun individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. The eight guides on our ship led our daily excursions and were more or less responsible for making sure everyone had a great experience. As far as I could tell, they succeeded.
For a glimpse into the life of an Adventure Guide, here are two of my favorites with a public social media presence:
- Jennae has been a guide with ABD since 2006 sailed with us on the Danube.
- Giselle began working as a guide in 2015 and is guiding in Italy and Central Europe this summer.
So Much Delicious Food
If you go hungry on an Adventures by Disney river cruise…I don’t even know how to finish this sentence because I believe it to be impossible. Each day began with an omelet station and breakfast buffet (special shout out to the pastry table). On days we came back to the ship for lunch, you could choose between menu options or a lunch buffet, and of course dessert. Dinner was a four-course event with several options for each portion of the meal. But there wasn’t just a lot of food—it was GOOD. I ate pasta, scallops, short ribs, strudel, beef carpaccio, and a Mickey Mouse-shaped finger sandwich (this was a Disney cruise, after all), among many other things, and they were all superb. Food was locally themed with appropriate wine and beer pairings, all included in the price of the cruise. And if someone could send me a recipe for the warm potato salad we had during an Oktoberfest-themed lunch buffet (pictured above) I will be forever grateful.
And, oh, the desserts. Between meals on the ship and the time we had to explore in town, it was not difficult to maintain a daily gelato streak. This is the kind of journalistic research I pride myself on, folks. For the record, I’m a cheap date and my favorite was probably the €1 cone we got while shopping in Salzburg.
You would have to spend months reading every Rick Steves book and TripAdvisor review to recreate all of the guided tours, activities, and experiences included in Adventures by Disney’s Danube River cruise. I’ll never forget our guide in Bratislava, who was a teen during the fall of communism and spoke candidly about what she witnessed during that time and the current economic state in her country. Or our guide in Passau, pictured below, who wore a period costume and assigned townspeople “roles” to various members of our group as she spoke of the city’s history. Then of course was our guide through Mondsee and Salzburg, who told us that Austrians don’t really get our obsession with The Sound of Music before leading us to the abbey where Maria and the Captain were wed in the movie. I geeked out, naturally.
There were also exclusive experiences, like the afternoon we spent at Devin Castle in Bratislava. In addition to exploring the grounds, Disney arranged for a special demonstration by soldiers in period costume and interactive demonstrations in archery, candle making, coin minting, and calligraphy. (Hello, souvenirs!) The outing on its own would have been enough, but these special touches really made the day memorable.
Finding ‘Your People’
I like to think I get along with most people, but I still wasn’t sure how I would like spending a whole week with the same 130-ish humans, all day every day. Turns out, when you all have something in common (a love for Disney and travel, obviously), it can be pretty great! We didn’t meet a single person we weren’t happy to share a meal with (though unlike standard cruising, meals here did not have assigned seating and we were free to dine alone) and came home with a handful of new Facebook friends. The AmaWaterways staff on the ship were also wonderful, and we enjoyed many conversations with the cruise director, maitre d’, and others.
Activities for Kids … or Without
Many of the group activities are undoubtedly planned with families in mind, but that doesn’t mean Kevin was any less thrilled when he shot a bullseye with a bow and arrow at Devin Castle. At some stops, like Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace, kids (Disney calls them junior adventurers) can choose to split off from the group for their own activities. They can also opt to have dinner with the adventure guides in the ship’s lounge instead of in the main dining room.
There were just as many groups traveling without children on our ship as there were with, and as a childless couple we never felt like we were on a kiddie cruise. But if you’d rather be guaranteed an exclusively adult experience, check out Adventures by Disney’s Oktoberfest cruise on the Danube or the Food & Wine cruises on the Rhine, which are limited to ages 18 and up.
Disclosure: Thank you to Adventures by Disney for providing a media rate for this cruise.
Will you be sailing on the Danube with Adventures by Disney this season? Let us know in the comments what you’re most excited to see!