Marsha Chestnut has been traveling and sending people on vacations for 28 years. She recently returned from The Magnificent Europe river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest on Avalon Waterways’ Avalon Expression. Before you choose your river cruise, find out what her trip was like in this Q and A.
GCI: What were your favorite ports of call?
MC: For the smaller ports, I loved Rudesheim, the winemaking town in the Rhine Gorge, which also makes it a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The heart of Rudesheim’s old town is called Drosselgasse, where you will find cobblestone streets, historic buildings, restaurants, bars and shops. The authentic and magical atmosphere takes you back to the 15th century when boat owners used Drosselgasse Lane to move items from the river to homes in the town.
For the larger ports, I loved Budapest. There is nothing like sailing down the Danube and seeing the view of the magnificent Hungarian Parliament Building. The city, originally two cities, is split by the Danube, the Buda side and the Pest side. Buda is much calmer surrounded by beautiful hills. Pest is busier, lots of bars, restaurants, with many companies having their offices located there.
With my love of history I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the Habsburg Empire, which led me to reading more about it on my return home.
GCI: What excursions would you recommend to a member?
MC: In Budapest, we did the Budapest Night Walking Tour. The spectacular views of the Danube, the Parliament Building and the Chain Bridge all lit up with lights from a hilltop on the Buda side is something you don’t want to miss.
One of the optional excursions we took was to Cesky Krumlov, a fascinating medieval town. Located in the Czech Republic, Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town was built on the banks of the Vltava River (which surrounds the town) around a 13th century castle with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. The historical town center is a car-free zone.
In Vienna we loved the Vienna Supreme Concert, featuring the beautiful classical music of Mozart, Schubert and Strauss.
I also loved the tour of the Weltenburg Abbey. The church is one of the oldest and most beautiful in Bavaria.
GCI: What tips do you have for someone traveling to Europe?
MC: Major credit cards are widely accepted, but some places may require a minimum purchase amount. Visa, MasterCard or American Express are usually your best options while traveling, as these will be accepted at most shops, stores and restaurants.
You will need spending money for meals, beverages, entrance fees or gratuities that are not already included, as well as additional activities and excursions, shopping and incidental expenses. We suggest that you take more money than you think you’ll need because it is time consuming and sometimes difficult to obtain additional money from home when you are traveling in Europe.
For initial convenience, and as a general guideline, it is recommended that you bring approximately $150 cash with you in U.S. dollars. Also, advise your bank and credit card companies where you will be traveling so they don’t expect fraud.
To help adjust to the new time zone, set your watch to the time zone of destination as soon as you take off.
If taking your cell phone, contact your wireless provider to inform them of your travel plans. Most companies have an international plan that saves you money, but you will need to purchase it prior to leaving.
GCI: Any other tips for someone cruising here?
MC: I recommend that you take a change of clothing and essential toiletries in your carry-on luggage. Pack light for cruise or land tours. Many women are guilty of wanting to be sure they have enough with them, myself included. Choose two or three colors that you can mix and match and keep it light. You will be glad you did.
GCI: Any must-pack items for this kind of trip?
MC: There are a few!
- Comfortable walking shoes with rubber soles that help grip slippery/uneven surfaces are a must.
- Mini umbrella or fold-up poncho for the occasional shower.
- A small travel pillow and light bag with a strap that can be worn crosswise over your body.
- Don’t forget your camera/video equipment and have plenty of memory cards, extra film and spare batteries to capture the amazing moments!
GCI: Do you recommend a pre- or post-stop where the ship sails from?
MC: I would definitely recommend a pre- and post-stop. You never know when your flights could be delayed out of the United States. There have been a couple of times that if I had not left a day early I would have missed the boat or the start of my tour.
I don’t know about you, but I sure do want to experience Europe on a River Cruise sometime soon! You can book your very own Avalon River Cruise from Marsha, just give her a call at (855) 999-7654.
Photos courtesy of Marsha C.