Budapest to Amsterdam – Amanda’s Avalon Cruise Part 4

Here are my thoughts on my last few days in Europe.

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Rudesheim was a cute place. We went up the cable car to the top and saw a huge statue that was built in commemoration of the union of Germany.  Here we visited Siegfried’s musical instrument museum where they had old musical instruments that played by themselves using punch-hole strips of paper. They had lots of music boxes there of all kinds. We sailed through the Rhine Gorge that had many very old beautiful castles.  Some are ruins and some are used as hotels today. Also, I saw the rock of the legendary “Loreley”. Luckily our captain didn’t get wooed. Haha.

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Cologne was nice and more modern than what we were accustomed to seeing. The Cathedral there is very large and was hit during WW2 but is still standing and has been restored.  My favorite thing about this city was the Lindt chocolate museum the Schokoladenmuseum,haha. During our free time we went to the museum and it was interesting to see the whole process from beginning to end of how they make the Lindt chocolate we see today in stores. We even got to sample some fresh made chocolate while there.  YUMMY! ☺ We saw a bunch of different molds of all sizes.  I went to the gift shop and bought some very delicious chocolate items.

In Amsterdam we hopped onto a canal cruise to tour some of the older downtown part of the city.  I got to see houseboats where people live on the canals.  I can’t imagine living on a boat but at times it was more cost effective for the inhabitants there. The canals are small and parking is very limited. The most used mode of transportation in Amsterdam seems to be bicycles.  The streets are very crowded with cyclists and bikes parked everywhere.

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We had a lovely lunch at a little local restaurant called Haesje Claes.  It had traditional Dutch food and was very good. I would recommend it.  We also did a windmill tour in the afternoon at Zaanse Schans – not far from Amsterdam. I learned a lot about using windmills as a power source. My favorite part of this tour was seeing the demonstrations. We saw limestone grinding by using a complex gear system using wind power. There was also a Gouda cheese making demo. Best of all was seeing how they make their world famous wooden clogs. It used to take a while with knives and other tools. Now it takes about 5 mins as they have a machine that is similar idea to key cutting machines to form the outside of the shoe.  Then they have a tool system to cut out the hole for the foot.  Apparently these shoes are very comfortable and wearing wool socks inside is definitely the best. The shoes are water proof and like steel toed boots for protection as they are very hard.

At the end of the cruise we had to say goodbye to our new friends and to all the wonderful staff on the ship who catered to us hand and foot. I was sad to leave Europe as this whole experience was such a wonderful adventure and felt like going back in time in a sense.


For those who may have concerns about sea or motion sickness on a cruise, there are no worries about this on a river cruise as you don’t feel it at all.  I do recommend getting a cabin around the middle of the ship.  At the back you get more of the noise and vibration from the engine, at the front you can hear a lot of people traffic and music from the lounge in the evenings.

My overall experience with Avalon was phenomenal. The staff were great and got you whatever you needed.  The ship, cabin and amenities onboard were wonderful.  The cities we visited were all interesting and amazing in their own unique ways.  This trip was definitely a great combination of relaxation, friendship building, amazing architecture and education about history.

It was recommended to me that if you want to upgrade to a higher cabin category (if available), do that before you leave home as it is much lower in cost than if  you try when onboard.  When considering booking a river cruise, the best pricing and availability are available further out from departure.  The earlier you book the better.


A few tips about travelling to Europe:

  • It costs money to use public bathrooms most places I travelled to in Europe this trip.
  • Remember to ask about tax free purchases when shopping.
  • The weather is best over the summer as some places get colder and even have frost or snow during the winter.
  • Bring Forint (HUF) when travelling to Hungary and Crowns (CZK) for Czech Republic. Euros were used everywhere else I went.
  • Make sure to bring an adapter with 2 round prongs in Europe.  A converter may be needed as well as their power is 220Volt.
  • Pack for all types of weather, shorts and t-shirts, to pants and warm shirts. Make sure to bring a light jacket as the wind can be cool and it rains from time to time. A small umbrella could be useful as well.

 

Watch the video of my cruise here:
AVALON WATERWAYS – Cruise Ship Tour

If you have any questions about Avalon or just River Cruising in general please feel free to reach out to me!  You can call me in Saskatoon at 306-934-3400 or email amanda@uniglobevacation.com.

Uniglobe Basebar

 

Budapest to Amsterdam – Amanda’s Avalon Cruise Part 3

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Our day trip through Regensburg was great. I like how you can see that the buildings have been kept as they were before World War 2.  The Gothic look of their main cathedral was neat. We had their famous bratwurst and sauerkraut in this city. Then we went to Weltenburg Abbey/monastery which has the oldest brewery in Bavaria. There was beer and pretzels there for us.


The transition was made so smoothly by Avalon to the next/new ship. We arrived back at the Avalon Expression, got to our cabin and our luggage was there. They had made sure that our preferences in the room were duplicated too. The new staff had to get to know our needs again but they are quick. This staff is younger with most being under 37 which is nice too because they are lively, energetic and made us laugh a lot.  There was a guy “Thorsten Loher” who is a one man rock and roll show who played this evening.

I had mentioned 68 locks and climbing a hill then going back down.  From Budapest until Kilheim we were going upstream and uphill. From Kilheim we started going downhill all with the help of the locks.


Nuremberg was an interesting place. I loved the castle/palace within the old stone walls and the Roman Catholic churches are so beautiful outside and in.

I loved Bamberg Germany.  It is a UNESCO world heritage site and everything has been kept as original as possible in the old part of the city. The most unique thing about this city is the old town hall location.   I also loved the paintings on the side of the building behind it. We got to see Romeo and Juliet’s balcony. We went into the nicest Cathedral so far in my opinion. It has a statue of “Bamberg Rider” and has the tomb of Henry II and his wife there. There was a beer tasting afterwards back at the ship and we met all of the chefs during dinner.

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Wurzburg 5In Wurzburg we saw a beautiful palace that used to be the Bishops Residence. We couldn’t take any pictures inside but it’s absolutely beautiful. It was partially damaged in World War 2 but has been rebuilt with some of the original belongings. They took pictures of every room and tried to take as much out as they could before the bombing started during the war.  They wanted to preserve as much as they could. After the war, upon rebuilding, they tried to make every room look exactly like it did before it got hit during the war. I really liked how they molded stucco to make frescoes on the ceilings of the palace.  It has one of the largest frescoes…it tricks the eyes, making the roof looked curved and things look like they are 3D. I must say the local guide we had for this city walking tour was the best one yet out of our entire tour so far. He was very down to earth, honest and made funny jokes.

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My favorite place so far has to be Rothensburg. It is a preserved Renaissance city and so amazing. I loved all of the buildings and the preservation of the traditional medieval city look. My favorite shop was the Christmas shop, Kathe Wohlfahrt, although it was very expensive to buy stuff.  I have discovered that I wish I could build a half-timbered house in Saskatoon. The design and look of them are amazing and I especially love the ones with flowers outside all the windows.

Rothensburg 1
In Miltenburg I woke up to see some swans swimming beside the ship. It was very unique. This city is small with 9600 inhabitants. Our guide said everyone knows everyone and there is no crime. We saw the oldest hotel in Germany here and they have 2 very cute market squares. And my favorite…again the half-timbered buildings.

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I’m slowly coming to the realization that my trip is almost over. I’m very sad to be leaving all of the beautiful historic buildings and luxury of Avalon waterways. But we still have a few wonderful things yet to come like Cologne chocolate museum and Amsterdam. I am also going to sum up my experience with Avalon and my overall impression of Europe (it is my first time over here). Stay tuned…

Budapest to Amsterdam – Amanda’s Avalon Cruise Part 2

On days two, three and four of our cruise we sailed to Vienna, Durnstein, Melk and Cesky Krumlov.

Vienna 3

Vienna

Vienna was a great city to see. We walked around the downtown area by the opera house and palace. We lucked out and saw the Spanish stallions they use for shows. That was neat. We visited a local market then got in the hop on/off bus. It was a great way to see much more of the city.

Vienna 1

Spanish Stallions

 

Durnstein Austria was an older city and very tiny (only 30kms long). It was quaint and visited by a lot of tourists. They make pretty much anything you can think of out of apricots. They are also well known for their wines.

In Melk Austria we went to the Abbey and walked around the town a bit. The Abbey is a monastery and a school. The church and library in the spiritual wing were beautiful. The imperial museum had lots of old significant pieces from Catholic history there. The frescoes on the ceilings were amazing.

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I really liked Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic as it had old buildings and people dressed up. The cobble stone streets were a bit hard to walk on but it was worth it. I tasted traditional Czech ice cream which was vanilla and blackberry. It was so yummy.  I thought it was black licorice at first until I read the sign.  The 5 Petaled Rose celebration was just wrapping up when we were there.  People dressed up in Renaissance outfits and many traditional foods and activities from that time period there. It was like literally going back in time, a very neat experience.  This is a UNESCO world heritage site.


CRISIS AVERTED!! We found out about a change in plans. A cargo ship got stuck sideways blocking the river westbound as the river level was very low. It was going to take 5 days to move it. It happened that Avalon ExpressionAvalon had another ship, the Avalon Expression, that started in Nuremburg headed to Budapest and they were stopped in Regensburg on the other side of the cargo ship. We had to pack up last night as we were switching ships. We have the same cabin numbers for most part, just 3 people had to move. They gave us an all day excursion in Regensburg which was nice.

If this change of trip hadn’t worked out so well, we would’ve had a land tour for the remaining days with coaches and staying in hotels. Luckily with the Globus Family of Brands this would have been an easy solution as well since they have Avalon, Cosmos, Globus and Monograms. No other river cruise company would have those options at their disposal so quickly.  This is an excellent way of showing how Avalon / Globus goes above and beyond for their guests and always has best interests in mind. They always say on their documents to be prepared for changes as needed and this is a perfect example of the type of change that could come up!

The transition to the new ship was very smoothly. Our new cabin is very similar to the previous one.

On these ships you can really feel and hear vibration of ship from engine from the back to about mid ship so I recommend booking early (at least 6 months out) to get closer to front or middle of the ship for a quieter cabin.

Also, our ship climbed a hill and went back down going through 68 locks in total!   I’ll have more details for you in my next post so stay tuned…

 

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Budapest to Amsterdam – Amanda’s Avalon Cruise Part 1

Well hello from Europe!  It was a long flight here but we made it. Over the next two weeks I’ll be taking the Avalon Panorama river cruise ship from Budapest to Amsterdam.  This is my first time to Europe and first time on a river cruise!

The architecture in Budapest is amazing and historic. They preserve the culture and history that the buildings represent. There are also more modern buildings near the river docks.

A note, make sure to get Hungarian Forints (HUF) when going to Budapest as all prices everywhere are in HUF.

 

The first day in Budapest was a Baths in Budapestcatch up on sleep day.  I did go to the Szechenyi Baths the next day. They have 18 pools, 10 saunas / steam rooms as well as several massage therapies, facial treatments, and more.  It is a great place to relax for the day and spoil yourself. The water was nice and warm and it was 28 degrees outside.  The 3 outdoor big pools were all heated.  It was some much needed rest and relaxation after the jetlag.

When I boarded the Avalon Panorama I got a wonderful first impression.  Right from when you arrive you see the sleek and modern ship outside and in.  Everyone was saying hello and friendly.  The cabin was ready and I love the floor to ceiling windows. The fact that the patio/balcony opens 7ft wide is wonderful.  It makes the room feel so spacious and it’s nice to have fresh air.

I also took a tour of Budapest.  My favorite part of the Budapest city tour was when we walked around Fisherman’s Bastion and the Cathedral.  It was my first experience walking around in an older part of a European city. When the tour was done we took the complimentary Avalon bikes out for a 20min bike ride along the river. When we pulled out of Budapest and it was beautiful to see the city at night.  We went by the parliament building; they’re so pretty.

 

 

We went through the first lock on our journey. June 26 -3That was a really neat experience. It can hold up to four river cruise ships.  Ours only had three ships in it today.  The total time to go through it was about half an hour. It was so unbelievable to experience how the locks work bringing you from one water level to another; filling from the bottom and pushing the ships up (in this case). Apparently we will go through 68 of them on our entire journey from Budapest to Amsterdam!

old town bratslavia 2We arrived at Bratislava Slovakia and saw a very traditional/original part of the city buried among newer buildings.  We were shown how you could tell the different time periods represented in the buildings from the design outside. There were lots of souvenir shops, restaurants, local vendors, and cool treats like ice cream and sorbet. There are so many interesting facts about the history there.

old town bratslavia

We are off to Vienna Austria and will be docked in the morning.  This has been a fantastic journey so far and it’s only just begun.  Stay tuned for some more fun adventures.

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