01 of 09
Day 2: Passau, Germany
Walking Tour of Passau, Germany
After a full hot breakfast on the ship, period performers guided us on a walking tour through the medieval city of Passau, educating the group on the history, stories, and traditions of the city established at the confluence of the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers. During the tour we stopped for a hands-on marzipan demonstration shaping a block into the face of the Passauer Tölpel (a famous stone bust dating to the 1300s). The 90-minute tour ended at St. Stephen’s Cathedral with a private concert on one of largest pipe organs in Europe.
Lunch on the AmaViola
A “light” three-course German lunch in the dining room featured spaetzel (German dumplings), while a lighter lunch option was also available in the lounge.
Tree Top Tour in Kopfing, Austria
In the afternoon we drove about 30 minutes to Kopfing, Austria, for a walk in the treetops. Baumkronenweg (Tree Crown Walk) is a park set in the Austrian woods with wooden steps, lookout towers, and raised walkways that lead through the forest canopy. Along the way we were treated to incredible views of the Austrian Alps, and we ended at a Christmas market set in the woods, where we enjoyed complimentary glühwein and hot cocoa next to a decorated living tannenbaum.
An Evening on the AmaViola
We opted for dinner at the Chef’s Table specialty restaurant, which offers a delicious tasting menu. This dining option is available by reservation to all guests at no additional charge, and offers a different dining venue and experience during the cruise.
After our meal, the “Sound of Austria” opera singers gave a tongue-in-cheek performance (perfect for young children) in the lounge in preparation for the next day’s stop in Salzburg.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
Cruise the Danube With the Disney Difference
Looking for a sophisticated Disney cruise vacation in Europe? Adventures by Disney, the company's guided tour company, launched their first European river cruises in 2016, and you won't find Mickey, Minnie, or any Disney princesses on board.
Adventures by Disney has partnered with AmaWaterways, an award-winning river cruise line, to design a new ship specifically for family river cruises on the Danube. The AmaViola features larger staterooms than you would usually find on river cruise vessels. There are also adjoining staterooms to accommodate families as well as shipboard spaces for kid, teen, and family activities. As with all Adventures by Disney trips, trips are led by Disney adventure guides, who offer concierge service and personalized attention along the way.
My 15-year-old daughter and I recently sailed on the AmaViola on the Danube River Cruise with Adventures by Disney, and we found this to be an authentic, immersive, all-inclusive, hassle-free way to experience Europe. We joined approximately 150 passengers and were led by five outstanding adventure guides through eight destinations in four different European countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. Along the way, we visited plenty of cathedrals, monasteries, castles, and palaces. And because we traveled during the holiday season, we sampled regional delicacies at Christmas markets in every port.Continue to 3 of 9 below.
03 of 09
Day 1: Welcome Aboard in Vilshofen, Germany
Many families flew into Munich, Germany a day ahead of the cruise, leaving a two-hour bus ride to the cruise ship port in Vilshofen, Germany prior to departure. At the AmaViola, a reception welcomed the group with wine, sandwiches, and sweets in the lounge as luggage was delivered to staterooms.
Our cruise ship cabin was small but very well-appointed with two twin beds, a French balcony with floor-to-ceiling windows, a complimentary in-room “entertainment on demand” Mac computer system with Internet, music, movies and English-language television. The ship is equipped with complimentary wi-fi.
We began our vacation with a private Oktoberfest in a beer tent right outside the ship. We met our fellow passengers while munching Bavarian pretzels and drinking local beer, glühwein (winter mulled wine), and punch. Local performers shared traditional Oktoberfest music, dancing, a little history, and special Bavarian whip cracking music. Nightly entertainment highlighting regional customs would become the norm for most nights of the cruise.
Dinner on Board the AmaViola
A six-course welcome dinner in the ship’s main dining room included sushi, salad, soup, sorbet, an entrée, and dessert. I opted for the whole roasted beef sirloin with green pepper jus, vegetable bouquet, and dauphine potatoes. The food on board the AmaViola was outstanding.
After dinner, families were invited to participate in decorating the Christmas trees in the main lounge and learning about the German Christmas pickle hunt tradition. My daughter and I were exhausted from the long day of travel from New York and so we returned to our room to enjoy a holiday movie through the entertainment system.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Day 3: Salzburg, Austria
Breakfast was served on board ship as we docked in Linz, Austria. The third largest city in the country served as our closest stop to Salzburg, a 60-minute bus ride away.
Salt Mines of Hallein
We were able to choose between a “Sound of Music” tour of Mondsee or a visit to the oldest salt mine in the world. We opted for the Dürrnberg Salt Mine, established over 7,000 years ago by Celtic tribes in the region. We learned of the history of making salt and its importance for food preservation and commerce via an interactive tour that included a train ride, slide, boat ride, and videos. The salt mine tour was the highlight of the trip for my daughter.
Lunch at St. Peter Stiftskeller
Another three-course lunch, this time in a restaurant established in the year 803. Families ate together in one of the “newer” dining rooms added in 1903. The restaurant sits within the monastery walls of St. Peter’s Archabbey, adjacent to the St. Peter’s Christmas Market. Lunch culminated with a slice of sacher torte, a famous confection in the region.
After lunch, we enjoyed free time on our own to explore the Salzburg Christmas markets, shop, and stroll through the enjoying the sights of the town. We left Salzburg around 4:30 p.m. for a quiet hour-long bus ride back to the ship in Linz.
Evening on the AmaViola
The evening’s dinner was a special feast recognizing AmaWaterways’ membership in the prestigious, invitation-only La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. AmaWaterways is the only river cruise line that belongs to this gastronomic society. The four-course dinner included oven roasted, herb crusted lamb leg medallion with thyme jus ratatouille, Romanesco broccoli, and potatoes gratin.
After the full-day of activities in Salzburg, my daughter and I passed on the acoustic guitar and violin concert by “La Strada” and opted for another holiday film in our room.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Day 4: Melk to Durnstein, Austria
Melk Benedictine Abbey Walking Tour
Melk is home to a clifftop 11th-century Benedictine abbey. A guide showed us around the current working abbey and school, which was built in the 18th century. My favorite part was the 650-year-old library containing over 100,000 precious books and thousands of manuscripts handwritten by the monks. As our tour occurred on a Sunday, we could not tour the sanctuary, but we briefly observed a service from the rear of the church—a special treat itself.
Stories of the Danube
Following the Melk Abbey tour, it was off to the Landhotel Wachau for “Stories of the Danube.” The family that operates the quaint hotel on the banks of the Danube told us about the cultural activities along the river, including fishing, marmalade making, wine tasting (juice for the kids), and then taught us a traditional Austrian folkdance.
Afternoon in the Wachau Valley
In the afternoon we were given a choice of activities. Some families opted to take a four-hour bike ride from Melk to Krems, and then on the storybook village of Dürnstein.
We opted instead to sail from Melk to Krems through the Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its scenic landscapes and wines. During this short trip, children (and parents) were entertained with gingerbread cookie decorating in the lounge as we enjoyed the picturesque cruise through the valley. That left time for our second afternoon activity.
Hiking Tour of Dürnstein Castle Ruins
One of my favorite activities on this cruise was a hiking tour of the small town of Dürnstein, where a local guide led us on a short (but steep and somewhat treacherous) hike to the top of a small mountain with the ruins of the famous ruins of the castle Burgruine Dürnstein. This castle once held England’s King Richard the Lionheart captive for six months in 1192, and from the top of the hill are spectacular views of the Danube River and Wachau Valley. Afterward, we explored the charming medieval town of Dürnstein on foot including the blue-towered Abbey Church and its quaint Christmas market.
Evening on the AmaViola
Grouper, rib-eye, and pappardelle pasta were on the menu for dinner along with a Wachauer apricot dumpling for dessert. After dinner, kids were treated to a showing of the Disney animated film Big Hero 6 in the lounge.Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
Day 5: Vienna, Austria
After a hearty breakfast on the ship, we disembarked in Vienna for a visit to the Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the summer retreat of Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Bohemia and Hungary. There we observed a marionette theater performance of Mozart’s “A Little Night Music” followed by a backstage tour of the theater. Next came a demonstration of strudel baking in the Imperial Bakery while we dined on apple strudel and coffee or hot chocolate. Finally we received a tour of the Schönbrunn Palace itself, visiting a select few of the 400 bedrooms. We had a few minutes for shopping at the Schönbrunn Christmas market set up on the palace grounds.
Lunch at The Griechenbeisl
One of Vienna’s oldest inns hosted our group for lunch. Dating back to the year 1500, Griechenbeisl has entertained the likes of Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner, Strauss, Brahms, as well as Mark Twain, and other creative illuminaries. We dined on traditional Viennese fare including a goulash of beef, southern Austrian stuffed dumplings, and cheese strudel.
Free Time in Vienna
The group had the option for ice skating in Vienna or free time to explore the Christmas markets. As residents of upstate New York we have plenty of ice skating opportunities, so we opted to explore the markets and enjoy some glühwein at St. Stephan’s Cathedral, the Vienna Town Hall, and Maria Theresa Square.
Spanish Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School)
Our day concluded with a private reception at the Spanish Hofreitschule (Royal Spanish Riding School), home to the world-famous Lipizzaner Stallions. Over hors-d'oeuvres and champagne, we learned about the history of the school and its horses dating back 450 years. Afterward, we received a private dressage demonstration by a single stallion in the arena followed by a guided tour of the stables.
Evening on the AmaViola
A traditional Viennese dinner was served in the ship’s dining room complete with a veal or turkey schnitzel. This was a later meal (8:00 p.m.) due to the day’s activities, and afterward, we were exhausted and crashed right to bed.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
Day 6: Bratislava, Slovakia
Walking Tour of Bratislava
After the full day in Vienna, I skipped the group walking tour of Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava, and enjoyed a leisurely walk on my own exploring the city’s historic center and castle. My daughter opted to catch up on some sleep, and we met for lunch on board the ship.
After lunch, we headed back to Austria to tour Schloss Hof, a Baroque palace with unique gardens and farm, which was Prince Eugene of Savoy's country estate in the Marchfeld. During the tour we visited the petting zoo with its three- and four-horned goats, camels, and rare white donkeys. We also learned the basics of the Viennese Waltz and tasted chocolates and schnapps. Children had the option to bake and decorate gingerbread cookies.
Evening on the AmaViola
The day ended with a six-course dinner on board the ship. Afterward, there were Christmas carols in the lounge.Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
Day 7: Budapest, Hungary
We ate breakfast on the ship as we sailed into Budapest. We had only 10 minutes for shopping at Budapest’s Central Market before boarding buses for Lazar Equestrian Park.
Lazar Equestrian Park
A scenic hour-long bus ride through Budapest brought us to Lazar Equestrian Park, which was full of interactive demonstrations including goulash making, visits with farm animals, and a spectacular horsemanship show with Hungarian riders.
After sitting outside on a frosty, snowy day watching the horse show, a toasty bowl of goulash warmed us quite nicely. The platter also included schnitzel, pork, sausages, fish, Hungarian peppers, red cabbage, and more.
Hungarian Folklore Show
Prior to dinner on board the ship, Hungarian performers entertained us with traditional dances and music, as well as some Hungarian versions of pop songs such as Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Evening on the AmaViola
Hungarian specialties such as paprikás were served for dinner as well as somlauer nockerl, which is similar to a tiramisu or trifle, for dessert.
A group of Rubik’s Cube magicians came on board to astound us with their mastery of the toy invented in Hungary. Members of the group could solve a scrambled Rubik’s Cube in under 10 seconds, with many solving it in under five seconds. Everyone on board received their own cube with instructions for how to solve the puzzle. I still can’t seem to figure it out.
Our Danube River cruise culminated with a nighttime sailing past the illuminated monuments of Budapest, which was a perfect way to end the trip.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
What’s Included and What’s Not
Final Morning Farewells
Our flight left Budapest at 6:30 a.m., so one of the fabulous and attentive adventure guides made sure we caught our shuttle, had all our luggage and wished us good-bye.
This all-inclusive Adventures By Disney river cruise is perfect for families looking to experience the Danube in a luxurious way, but who may not have the time to plan. This itinerary gives families a taste of eight destinations in four countries (including three world capitals), but the packed schedule only allows for a superficial skimming of each stop. The trip serves as a great introduction to European travel along with the security of traveling with Disney that can serve as the base for a deeper dive on a future trip.
Group travel may not be for everyone, and my teenage daughter was certainly more comfortable traveling with me versus interacting with the group. Yet the adventure guides are fantastic at making everyone feel comfortable and welcoming all guest, including introverts. Also, the mid-size number of passengers onboard the ship made the trip feel more like a cruise adventure than a small-group travel experience.
This seven-night/eight-day trip costs $4,719 per adult and $4,489 per child (under 12 at the time of travel).
- Stateroom on board the AmaViola, with all in-room entertainment and wifi
- All meals (7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners), wine and beer are included with meals in the ship’s dining room
- Five dedicated Disney adventure guides
- All group activities, entry tickets, guided tours, group transportation
- All gratuities for meals and activities, porters, housekeepers, drivers, activity providers, local experts, and crew. Gratuities for Disney adventure guides are also included
- VIP access and exclusive experiences
- Transfers between ship port and airport
What's Not Included
- Transportation and meals during free time
- Airfare to Munich, Germany and from Budapest, Hungary
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, TripSavvy believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.