When we think of river cruises, we often think of couples drinking wine and gazing off their balconies, wandering through the cobblestone streets of Europe, sitting in the lounge for performances and eating meals in a communal dining room. Those are the things that keep me river cruising, but sometimes I want a little bit more. That’s why I love Avalon’s Active & Discovery itineraries. Avalon incorporates everything people like about a traditional river cruise, but with a twist. And each of these sailings become a new favorite trip because they attract such an adventurous and enthusiastic crowd of people.
Last month, I traveled with my partner Emma on Avalon’s Active & Discovery on the Danube sailing. On the first day of the trip, we went to a Medieval Knight Tournament in Visegrad. When volunteers were called, many were quickly named to go on stage, where one had to sit on a chair made of nails, one played a court jester, and many more passengers participated at the end of the tournament shooting arrows and throwing knives at targets. From day one of the trip, I knew I was traveling with a group of people who were there to learn, participate and have fun.
This itinerary also featured unique ports of call. I visited Engelhartszell, Schlogen and Visegrad for the first time. Avalon ensures to choose ports of call that provide engaging and enriching excursions for this type of itinerary (places with rich history, culture, and interesting landscapes). For example, we sacrificed a day in the capital city of Bratislava to spend extra time in Vienna where we really got a feel for daily life.
We opted for an early morning excursion at 7AM where we took the subway (in the rain, mind you) to eat a traditional Viennese breakfast before going to a museum. We also visited Spitz, where Avalon offered a unique wine tasting experience. We didn’t go on this excursion, but we heard so much about it. Guests wore 3D glasses and scents were sprayed as they toured the winery for a full sensory experience. We also stopped in Schlogen, where we took a hiking excursion to overlook one of the bends of the river.
One of our favorite excursions, however, was another “day in the life” excursion to an apricot farm in Spitz. We visited a family who made apricot juices, wines, liquors, jams, and more. We not only did we get to saw the building where their small family business operated, we also wandered through the hills to various plots of the family farm, where we got to see the apricots grow and learn about the harvesting process. We concluded the tour with a tasting, where we tried apricot jam mixed with horseradish. A surprisingly winning combination.
At night, we played board games and cards together. One of our fellow passengers, John, even made up guessing games for us to play during the sailing, keeping us constantly entertained. There was never a dull moment on board whether we were bantering with the fellow guests and crew or participating in activities sprinkled throughout the day – like walks, bike rides, classes and sports with our Adventure Host.
An Active & Discovery itinerary is a way to see Europe in a different way with a group of likeminded travelers. Each day provides a chance for culture emersion and discovering new experiences.
These itineraries feel different to many of the others I’ve sailed, because I feel more like a part of something and less like an observer. We didn’t see many tour groups, except in the larger cities, so it really felt like we were going off the beaten path. I love getting active and discovering Europe with Avalon Waterways, and I can’t wait for the next time I get to do it. What has been your favorite excursion while river cruising?