Sail through Austria and Germany on Avalon Vista


Tenorio Cresencio Jr walks in the footsteps of Napoleon on a European river cruise aboard Avalon Vista.

The old-world charm of Central Europe is the backdrop as you cruise the Danube River. It’s a celebration of nature’s glory and man’s genius.

We are aboard the Avalon Vista for a five-day river cruise from Passau in Germany to Vienna in Austria. Vista is one of the Suite Ships of Avalon Waterways specialising in cruises along Europe’s Danube, Rhine and Main Rivers. It has two full decks of suites that feature wall-to-wall panoramic windows.

As the Vista sails we pass medieval castles and churches, centuries-old palaces and piazzas.

For instance, as we cruise to Grein, a small city in Austria, the scenes on both banks of the Danube are picturesque, dreamy even. Trees jut out from a hill in the distance. Some are bald, others are springing to life with leaves. After all, winter is fast bidding adieu, welcoming springtime.

Kingfishers and herons are above, sometimes shadowing the Vista. The scenes on the Danube are tell-tale signs of the small city of Grein, where quiescence is the order of the day. On a shore trip we visit oldest working theatre in Austria, built in 1790 with a seating capacity of 165. Our guide tells us Napoleon Bonaparte once watched a performance here. It doesn’t take much encouragement for me to take the stage and render a few songs from Les Misérables and Miss Saigon.

I win the hearts of the Vista passengers — including a family with young children. We have become friends. Grein, for its small size and quiet aura, has a big heart and a dignified culture all its own.

The following morning, I wake up to patches and patches of wild white daisies in Melk, an Austrian city famous for its Abbey Museum and the castle of Schallaburg. Orange daffodils and yellow tulips guide our way to the castle. The nearby restaurants serve the yummiest steamed trout with boiled potatoes.

One afternoon a barbecue lunch with sausages and steaks awaits us on the Sun Deck of Avalon Vista. Castles and churches line the route. I lose track of time as the ship glides onwards. I only remember moments, and I wish I had a memory bank of a gazillion bytes so I could store all the sights and sounds.

Medieval Krems is the wine capital of Austria. The vineyard of Winzer Krems is majestic, undulating. The Winzer Krems winery is a cooperative with more than 1000 growers. It produces mainly dry white wine which is mostly consumed locally, with minimal exports to Europe, the US and Asia. We visit Dominican Square, Church of St. Veit and Hoher Markt, the oldest public square in Vienna.

A friend brings a bottle of Grüner Veltliner to the ship. She shares it with me and some fellow cruisers. I sleep soundly that night. When I wake up, the centuries-old church of St. Francis of Assisi greets me. I hear pealing bells. I am now in Vienna. So steeped in history is Vienna that it is akin to a living, breathing museum.

The Hofburg Palace is mesmerizing, the Schönbrunn Palace enthralling. The St. Stephan Cathedral is an opulent, intricate place of worship. I light a candle – I am grateful for the opportunity to witness God’s creations.

I ride the Wiener Riesenrad, one of the oldest Ferris wheels on earth, built in 1897. The child in me is carried away as I feel I am riding the wheel of time. From the top, I have the vantage point of the whole Vienna. Later, we watch opera at the Museum of Military History and my love of this great city intensifies.

Highs: The glorious vistas of Vienna

Lows: Five days is not enough

Who is it for: Anyone who loves history and the beauty of old European cities. River cruising is a relaxed way to enjoy this amazing river and its historic past.

Avalon Waterways has added two more Suite Ships to its European fleet, christening its newest Suite Ship Avalon Passion on the Danube in April, just one week after launching Avalon Imagery II on the Rhine. Avalon has 12 Suite Ships in an overall European fleet of 16 vessels.