No One Pretends That River Cruise Ships Are Pretty Things
No one pretends that river cruise ships are pretty things.
tour hạ long 2 ngày 1 đêm, squat and wholly out of proportion to the scenery and many of the buildings they pass along their ever-increasing routes, they are more like dolled-up barges or exaggerated narrowboats.
But when you're on one, gliding silently along the Danube, staring at the riverbank from the comfort of a balconied cabin, they are, well, not quite so offensive after all.
And this is a mighty river, kynghidongduong.vn the second longest (1,770 miles) in Europe, tour hạ long 2 ngày 1 đêm after the Volga, flowing through nine countries before spilling into the Black Sea.
Mark Palmer boards the Amadeus Silver II (not pictured) for a 'Classical music on the Danube' cruise - and has a fabulous time.
Despite very low water levels forcing a change of boat
We are on board Amadeus Silver II for what is called its ‘Classical music on the Danube' cruise and, in addition to my wife, we have with us my father-in-law, Noel, who will soon be 90, and although he tries not to be a music snob, he would probably plead guilty if charged.
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We half expect Vivaldi's Four Seasons at breakfast, Strauss's Blue Danube at lunch and repeats of both on an endless loop at dinner.
But, shortly after embarking at Passau in Germany, we bump into the BBC's former arts supremo and biographer of Leonard Bernstein, Humphrey Burton CBE, who is guest speaker on the cruise and one of Britain's leading music authorities.
He is 88, but still razor-sharp.
What's good for Mr Burton will be good for us — and so it proves, beginning with our first evening when he introduces a quintet led by famous Austrian violinist Luz Leskowitz. They start with the overture from the Marriage Of Figaro and end with Mozart's G minor quintet K516, played with such love and exquisite timing that even dear old Humphrey seems to well up.
Amadeus Silver II can carry about 180 passengers, but it is only two-thirds full, made up of Americans, Canadians, Germans, a good representation from Israel and a fair-sized contingent from Britain.
I'm not exactly in the first flush, but feel young in comparison with most of the other passengers.
Even the cruise director is getting on a bit. Caspar, from Holland, is 69 and says he doesn't intend to retire until he's 74. Bravo — but what is it about cruise directors who make The Donald seem shy and retiring?
It must have something to do with loving the sound of their own voices, as they take to the tannoy to impart some important piece of information. In Caspar's case, he has every right to like the sound of his bass/baritone voice, flitting seamlessly between German and English.
In Vienna (pictured) Mark and his travel companions go to see The Magic Flute at the Volksoper opera house, where a seat in the stalls is less than £60, 'a fraction of the prices back home'
But on our second day — after we had stopped in Linz (near the birthplace of Hitler), with its attractive Baroque centre and prized cathedral (the largest in Austria), then moved on to Melk, where we visited the famous monastery and attended a wonderful concert in St Koloman Hall — Caspar sounds almost conspiratorial.
‘Please would everyone — and I mean everyone — come to the Panorama Bar at seven o'clock this evening for an extremely important announcement.'
Clearly the ship is sinking.
On entering the Panorama Bar, glasses of kir royale are being handed out, a sweetener of sorts before Caspar announces that in 24 hours we will have to change boats.
It has been a record-breaking hot summer, water levels in the Danube are low and the Amadeus River Cruises fleet is scattered in all the wrong places, he tells us gravely.
There is an audible gasp — pianissimo but a gasp all the same.
One of the great joys of a cruise is visiting several countries on a single trip without having to pack and unpack. But not this one.
Never mind. We have arrived in Vienna, with Bratislava and Budapest still to come. All meals are included, plus soft drinks, beer and wine at lunch and dinner.
And we are impressed with our cabin, bigger than expected, wi-fi complimentary.
Some excursions are gratis, others you pay for. And as seasoned cruisers will know, there is nothing to stop you organising your own, often cheaper, outings.
In Budapest (pictured) the Danube cuts through Buda and Pest 'as if desperate to be the centre of attention'
<div class="art-ins mol-factbox travel halfRHS" data-version="2" id="mol-5295e5b0-b54f-11e9-839b-6fd7aa203b84" website classical music-themed cruise along the Danube hits the right notes