If you’ve vacationed with Disney before, whether at Walt Disney World Resort or on Disney Cruise Line, you know just how premiere, personalized — and, dare I say, magical — your getaway can be. But there are even more next level Disney vacations out there. Adventures by Disney has partnered with AmaWaterways, a leader in luxury river cruising, for a breathtaking itinerary down the gorgeous Danube River, hitting four different countries along the way: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. Since this sailing, Adventures by Disney has added more European River Cruises to travel to; the Rhine, the Seine and their newest addition, the Rhône! Read more about the Rhône River Cruise at the end of this article.
My trip was the best gift of the holiday season. I recently had the pleasure of spending a life-changing week traveling with Adventures by Disney on their inaugural holiday cruise—and boy, does Europe know how to do the holidays right. From quaint little towns to large European ports, we sailed at a pleasant 14 km/hour down the Danube in search of adventure… and what an adventure it was!
Hop aboard to see some of my favorite moments from the trip, and find out why you too will be dreaming of a happily-ever-after with Adventures by Disney this year.
Arrival on Board
Let’s set the stage. After a brief journey from Munich through the scenic Bavarian countryside, we were welcomed aboard by a fleet of hosts and hostesses and shown to our spacious staterooms. Perhaps the best part about an Adventures by Disney river cruise is that you’re able to visit so many different ports (across four countries!) without the hassle of packing, unpacking, rinsing, and repeating. With a home base onboard the ship and a cozy stateroom to always come home to, it’s the perfect way to see the world in comfort and without the stress of constantly moving your luggage. Call it magic or just pure genius—either way, once you try it you’ll never want to travel differently.
Food, Upon Food, Upon Food
During my second night of the trip, I received a pleasant surprise: I was invited to join several other guests onboard in the private chef’s table restaurant in the stern of the ship for a meal to be remembered. What followed was one of the most memorable dinners of my life as I was propelled into an enchanting course after course of scrumptious seafood, decadent veggies, and, of course, a rich and creamy dessert.
Seen above is the chef’s welcome amuse bouche: juicy marinated heirloom tomato with a sweet sliver of watermelon, topped with freshly caramelized goat cheese. It’s tough to fathom that something so simple could be so, so, SO delicious. The most exciting part? Everyone was invited to join this culinary celebration. Be sure to chat with your friendly Adventure Guides or Cruise Director to ask for the chance to join this delicious affair. First come, first serve, of course —so this is something you’ll want to do as soon as you get on board.
Hallein Salt Mine
We traveled deep into the foothills of northwest Austria in search of one thing: salt. No, really—salt has been mined in these parts for nearly 2,500 years and is often referred to as “white gold.” In fact, Hallein Salt Mine in particular is the oldest in existence, not just in the region, but in the entire world.
First thing’s first—we were given super fashionable white coveralls to throw on over our clothes to protect against any dust or dirt. I’m looking pretty good, huh? I’m still trying to find a pair to wear around the home. Once clothes were changed and photos were taken against the gorgeous backdrop of the mountains surrounding us, we hopped aboard an electric train, tour guide and fellow adventurers in tow, and traveled deep into the mountain.
Spooky, huh? We took the train about a quarter of a mile into the mine. You could feel the air becoming cooler and heavier and we knew we were in for an adventure! With so many different areas of the mine to explore, there’s only one efficient way to travel…
BY SLIDE. Yes, the miners of yesteryear once used these steep wooden slides to traverse the nooks and crannies of the mountain. Seen above—my new friend Carlye and I taking our first plunge down into the mine. We’re talking Splash Mountain status here and everyone was getting in on the fun.
A Hike to an Ancient Castle
Just a few short kilometers away from our port in Krems, Austria, sits the ruins of Durnstein Castle. Built in the 12th century in a strategic location overlooking the Danube river, it was destroyed in the 1600s by the Swedish army and abandoned. Hundreds of year later, its ruins still watch over the small city of Durnstein.
On this excursion, we were led up a steep hill for a challenging, but manageable hike. After twenty-five minutes of walking (and perhaps a bit of panting) and with a light mist falling onto my face, we arrived to the most breathtaking view of the Wachau Valley: beautiful hills for miles, and towering over us were the medieval ruins of a once powerful castle.
This was it: one of my favorite moments of the entire trip. Staring down at the small town below us and seeing the Danube River stretch and snake on for miles and miles, I was taken back to visions of my own home in Los Angeles—a place much different than the one I was staring at before me. I think that’s one of the most profound things about traveling—recognizing that each and every one of us live our lives in our own respective bubbles, with so many different types of people, cultures, and ways of life beyond the horizon and across the oceans.
It really puts things into perspective.
Christmas Markets Galore!
As I wandered through the main town square with our Adventure Guides, I was greeted by the sight of something out of a fairytale: quaint wooden huts, pine garland hung in every which direction, handmade crafts, and delicious treats.
This is a Christkindlmarkt (or Christmas market), and we visited several of them across Germany and Austria throughout our trip.
The energy was palpable as I walked through the various stands selling homemade Christmas ornaments and hand poured candles. Friends and family huddle together to stay warm, chat, and of course enjoy a pretzel or bratwurst.
My favorite part? Glühwein (pronounced glue-wine) or German mulled-wine. It’s a sweet concoction of warm red wine mixed with cloves and cinnamon, with a slight twist of orange. Much to the delight of myself and my fellow guests on board, we were able to find this delicious beverage several times throughout our travels. With the outside temperature being quite chilly, it was a welcome reprieve from the cold and really does warm you up from the inside out. This is what the holidays are all about. And because our voyage took us through both towns small and large, we were able to see a side of Europe that very few travelers have an opportunity to see.
On the final night of our travels, we were treated to a sunset cruise the likes of which I’ve never before experienced. Our ship, the AmaViola, slowly pushed back from the dock and started a loop around the beautiful harbor between the towns of Buda and Pest.
Sparkling buildings and dramatically lit hillsides began to dominate the skyline. I couldn’t sit still as I raced from stern to bow taking in all the sights!
Surrounded by my fellow passengers and Adventure Guides on the deck, it was truly a fitting end to an unforgettable week aboard the AmaViola with Adventures by Disney. Seriously—from the most heartfelt fibers of my being, I can say that the research, planning, and logistics that go into producing such a spectacular trip truly do show. From the moment you step off the plane until the final farewell, each element of the vacation is done in distinctly Disney fashion.
I’m already planning my next voyage with Adventures by Disney because this traveler just can’t get enough. Will you be joining me? Take a look at all of the exciting itineraries ahead!
New European Adventure: Rhône River Cruise
In 2020, Adventures by Disney will offer more European river cruise sailings than ever before, including a brand-new vacation on the Rhône River!
For the first time ever, Adventures by Disney guests will sail through southern France including Provence, a diverse region rich with cultural, artistic, historical and culinary delights.
During the Rhône River vacation, Adventurers will explore ancient cities, quaint hilltop villages, fairytale castles, rolling hills of lavender, romantic vineyards and much more. Très magnifique!