One Couple’s Experience on a River Cruise Through Europe
My husband Doug and I had done Inspirato cruises, as well as cruises on our own, before but we’d never done a river cruise. We were always on a big Seabourn or Crystal boat. Those ships are amazing and have several hundred other people aboard; we enjoyed them, but on our most recent one we actually had problems meeting people.
That really made us curious about how different a small cruise might be. We thought a smaller boat would be a great way to meet other members with whom we had things in common. As soon as we saw the itinerary for Inspirato’s Danube cruise from Prague to Vienna on the AmaCerto, we signed up. It was the perfect-size boat, about 160 state rooms, with an itinerary of cities we had never been to but were interested in.
From the first time the group met up in Prague, we knew our hunch was right. The group was so small! We boarded buses— only needing several instead of several dozen—to get from Prague to Vilshofen, where the boat waited for us. We started meeting people right away. By the time we stopped for a short tour and lunch at the medieval city of Regensburg, a beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site about halfway between Prague and the AmaCerto, we were already friendly with other couples. That evening in Vilshofen, a Bavarian town that is at least 1,200 years old, a private Oktoberfest celebration for Inspirato Members and guests really kicked things off. Also, Bavaria is the birthplace of Oktoberfest, and the event really felt like a local celebration. We got to try so many different beers and there was traditional Bavarian folk music and dancing. People we met this first day are among those we’ve stayed in touch with.
We didn’t really have expectations for this trip since everything about it was new to us—the small boat, the stops—but, if we had, they would have been exceeded. I’m still surprised at how much I enjoyed things that hadn’t ever crossed my mind: On larger ships, you travel at night, but on the AmaCerto, we traveled a lot during the day. It was novel to sit out on the deck and watch the locals fishing, walking their dogs, or taking a run. It made us feel even more a part of the local culture and reinforced the more intimate vibe of a smaller boat.
This was the first cruise I’ve done where I felt like we actually learned about the lives of the people in the cities we visited. It was so easy to walk into each town, or borrow one of the AmaCerto’s complimentary bikes and ride into town whenever we wanted. (Of course there were multiple daily activities and tours to choose from, too.) One of the big topics of conversation at a couple of our dinners with new friends was how much the locals had gone through under Communism and its aftermath. We had all learned about Communism in school, but a history class doesn’t teach you as much as talking to people who lived through it. Learning about the experiences of others added real depth to this trip.
But, of course, everything wasn’t serious. I, with several new girlfriends, went shopping in Vienna. In the smaller towns and cities earlier in the itinerary—Linz, Melk, Krems—we had been shopping in many cute local boutiques on hidden cobblestone streets where we got unique gifts for friends and family, but it was nice in Vienna to be around stores and brands we were familiar with. All of us found something in Hermes or Gucci that wasn’t available at their U.S. boutiques. The husbands weren’t happy about our shopping, but, since I’ve been home, when I’ve worn the belt buckle I bought in Vienna, it conjures happy memories of a great trip.
The shopping was not the highlight of Vienna though. I would not have considered myself a fan of Strauss or Mozart (Doug was), and, before this trip, I didn’t listen to classical music at home. But Vienna is considered the “Music Capital of the World” and Inspirato arranged for seats in the front section of the Kursalon Lanner Hall for an evening concert by the Salonorchester Alt Wien. It was magical, and eye-opening. It spurred us to listen to that music more; now I love listening to it in the house.
Back home, we’ve also introduced friends to some of the foods we encountered on the cruise. We gifted all sorts of Hungarian spices—real Hungarian paprika is so much better than any paprika I’ve found here— to friends at home, and we’re planning on having a dinner party that features Hungarian and German food like sausages, Wiener schnitzel, and cheese soup. In Budapest, we took a cooking class where we made goulash (with plenty of paprika), a classic Hungarian dish. The first weekend we were home together, I made it for Doug.
Even onboard the AmaCerto, or I should say, especially onboard, the food was amazing, and the dining scene was exactly what we had hoped for. There were multiple seating times and open seating. If we wanted to have an intimate dinner with the two of us, we could without having to make a reservation in advance. Or we could decide we wanted to sit with new friends. And the flavors of each meal were different. Sometimes on bigger ships, we had a lot of the same thing every day. That wasn’t the case on the AmaCerto.
Every day was a different flavor of ice cream and the entrée options were really switched up every night. One night we had a special meal out on the deck with truly fabulous wines and locally inspired food. I had thought all the hiking and bike riding we did over the week—every stop had hiking to historic sites and we rode bikes to vineyards once—would counteract all the food we ate, but that didn’t quite happen. It was worth it though, both for the cuisine and the new friends we shared it with. Over one meal, several couples talked about planning a future Inspirato trip together. We haven’t started planning yet, but I don’t doubt it will happen