As a result of watching numerous river cruising commercials on TV, we decided that going on one would be the next Bucket List item to check off. To that end, we have been planning a European adventure that will rival our Australia/New Zealand trip in 2014-15.
After some research, we decided on a Magnificent Europe 15-day Avalon Waterways cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest in late October this year. We will visit the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Hungary while navigating three major rivers in that region of Europe: the Rhine, the Main, and the Danube. According to their brochure: “…Your breath will be taken away by the magic that separates you from everyday life on dry land. You’ll glide past imposing medieval castles, lush riverbank vineyards, and remarkable ancient wonders on your European river cruise. Every gentle bend of the river reveals another fascinating sight as your luxurious river cruise ship winds its way through scenic landscapes, delivering you right to where many of Europe’s most celebrated cities were born.” Additionally, the cruise we chose is classical-music themed and will include related special programs.
We booked the cruise in June 2015, and started our trip planning in earnest in February. The first step, was finding good airfare–it’s amazing how rates can very, sometimes from week to week. A friend of ours suggested that we check out Norwegian Air as they are trying to break into the US market and are offering low introductory rates. Indeed that turned out to be the case–we will be flying Premium Economy from Oakland to Paris for less than most other airlines charge for Economy. Oh, I forgot to tell you we’ll be spending a few days in France prior to the cruise.
I’m excited to say we finalized our plans today! We will be spending 8 days in Paris, 5 days in Rennes (Normandy) and 3 days in Amsterdam (Netherlands) prior to the cruise. After the cruise, we will spend 3 days in Budapest (Hungary), 5 days in Prague (Czech Republic), 6 days in Vienna (Austria), and 5 days in Munich (Germany). All of that intercity travel will be by train–Europe has a wonderful inter- and intra-country railway system.
For all of these stops we will be staying at VRBOs (Vacation Rental by Owners), our preferred mode of accommodation for stays longer than two days or three days–it’s so much better to have your own space, make meals, etc. rather than hang around a hotel room. Also, VRBOs allow us to experience local culture as travelers rather than tourists–we walk through and shop in neighborhoods and often have the opportunity to interact with locals.
From Munich we will fly to Reykjavik, Iceland to catch an Icelandair flight back home. The reason for this choice is twofold–the airfare was so reasonable that we will again be able to fly Premium Economy; and we will spend 3 nights and 2 days there, hoping to see the Northern Lights (which we had been disappointed to miss in Alaska last year).
Six months and counting down….stay tuned!
P.S. If any of you reading this would like to share experiences, likes/dislikes about our European destinations, I would love to hear about them.