In November 2022, I joined APT for my first river cruise onboard one of their brand-new four-star premium ships, Travelmarvel Vega. Travelmarvel Vega is one of three identical new river ships introduced by APT, alongside Travelmarvel Polaris and Travelmarvel Capella. With so many burning questions unanswered, I couldn’t wait to experience this way of cruising, and to discover why APT is so well-loved by many of our Cruise Club Members. I’d like to share with you my adventure along the delightful Danube, summarised into six highlights that made me want to return.
The Travelmarvel Vega
Compared to ocean giants, river ships look small, so I was taken aback to discover how much Travelmarvel Vega had to offer. The ship’s interior resembled a boutique hotel, with modern décor combined with cosy areas, it felt like a home away from home.
My favourite area was the lounge. Located at the centre of the ship, it is a multi-functional area that transforms throughout the day. Mornings were the perfect place to relax in quiet, with floor-to-ceiling windows producing natural light and tranquil surroundings, savoured with a variety of speciality hot drinks from the self-service area. In the afternoon, the lounge is a place to socialise over a board game and light-lunch. The glistening bar area, music and entertainment created a brilliant evening atmosphere, and with a reasonably priced cocktail menu it was hard to say no to a delicious Amaretto Sour.
Besides the main Constellations Restaurant, which was located at the bottom of the ship, a unique culinary experience can be found at the only Irish bar on the river – McGeary’s Bar. It felt like stepping into a pub in the middle of Dublin, except stunning aft vistas replaced the bar’s back wall. Here, I tried some traditional pub grub; a pie, a panini, as well as a bottle of Guinness.
On the top deck, there’s a terrace area large enough to get some exercise/steps in, there’s even a small gym onboard. Although I joined the ship in winter, it was revitalising to spend time on the top deck as we sailed the Wachau Valley, which presented the best views in the house, especially whilst sat in the heated whirlpool.
I always assumed river cruising was all about your experience off the ship, but my time onboard was just as memorable!
My French Balcony Suite
After swapping my suitcase for a glass of bubbly, I was escorted to my suite. If my first impressions weren’t great enough, I was surprised when I entered the room. The suites onboard Travelmarvel Vega are incredibly modern, spacious and comfortable. The suite featured a seating area for two, a marble bathroom with a waterfall shower, a TV and vanity area with an additional seat, a wardrobe with plenty of draws and a deluxe queen-sized bed – which made a perfect night’s sleep!
The main attraction was the French Balcony. I was clueless as to what a French Balcony was, – in fact when I first entered the room, I assumed it was an inside cabin, until I later discovered the button on the wall. When pressed, the top window gradually disappears, creating a French Balcony. I thought this was a brilliant idea which is perfect for all types of weather conditions, offering fresh air and the feel of a balcony but from the inside.
For me it’s all about the little touches, so I appreciated the cosy robe in the wardrobe and the chocolate left on my pillow each evening.
The three main dining options onboard consisted of McGeary’s Bar, the light buffet lunch served in the lounge and the main Constellations Restaurant where breakfast and a four-course affair are served at lunch and dinner.
Breakfast consisted of a fresh buffet and an eggs station, with other dishes available at your request when ordering from the table. The four-course menus provided fine-dining with a twist, which were inspired by the destinations we visited. The menu also featured well-known dishes and the Indonesian chef’s speciality Asian dishes. My favourite dish was the Kasespatzle, an Austrian-style macaroni and cheese. The set meal times worked well around the excursions, and there is no need for a drinks package as an adequate amount of complimentary soft drinks, local beers and wines are served at lunch and dinner – the Austrian white wine went down a treat.
There’s a misconception that evening entertainment on a river cruise is non-existent. After dinner, the lounge hosted a variety of evenings from quizzes and charade nights to a jukebox disco, where guests could request their favourite songs.
Whilst docked in Linz, we enjoyed one of APT’s Insider Experience’s – an included special or unique excursion or event. A group of traditional Bavarian Dancers ‘The Bavarian Devils’ joined us onboard to perform traditional folk music, song and dance. That morning, the crew delivered vouchers to our room, which could be exchanged at the bar for local beer, accompanied by canapes. This thigh-slapping entertainment saw guests and crew join the dance floor to attempt the iconic movements. This was a night I’d remember!
With only 44 crew members onboard, I quickly got to know each friendly face. I was greeted by a smile wherever I went and was waited on with the highest level of service.
One morning, I joined Captain Rudy on the deck, admittedly I was nervous to ask if I could view the wheelhouse (the area where the ship is piloted), not wanting to interrupt him from his important job. An hour passed by, and I was still stood chatting to the captain, who turned out to be so friendly and approachable. He was keen to share his expertise with me as I learnt about the scary buttons, I even got to sit in his seat! A truly personal encounter.
Docking within the heart of a port and being able to visit more than one destination in a day is a huge benefit to river cruising. Over five days, I visited three countries and six destinations, impressive right?
- Český Krumlov – Czech Republic
- Dürnstein, Melk and Linz – Austria
- Passau and Nuremberg – Germany
I wouldn’t usually pay to partake in excursions, and I never imagined I’d enjoy following a lollipop tour guide with a headset in as much as I did! APT Travelmarvel offers included sightseeing excursions at most ports, so making the most out of this, I joined each one.
Out of everything I have taken away from my trip, the excursions were the best part. I’m not a huge history advocate and tend to walk through historical points of interest; museums, cathedrals etc. without paying attention to my surroundings. But the concept of having somebody transport you back in time through storytelling completely changed my usual experience. APT works with local tour guides at every destination and the service they provided was phenomenal. They were so knowledgeable, passionate and surprisingly humorous. What stood out the most to me were the more unusual facts and stories that you would never uncover when exploring independently.
One example being the old town of Passau, which is famous for its baroque and gothic architecture as well as its Balamory-style houses. These multi-coloured houses make a great picture for your social media, but they weren’t painted for decorative purposes. Once upon a time, many of the towns’ inhabitants could not read or write, so the houses were painted so that pass-byers could identify a buildings purpose, for example a green building was a pharmacy, fascinating!
With later evenings in port, I also got an opportunity to explore three different authentic German Christmas markets, one advantage to choosing a river cruise at that time of year!
I felt I’d really made the most out of each destination thanks to APT.
After five days on the Danube, I’m a converted river cruiser! And I’m already searching for my next adventure. Would I sail again with APT? Absolutely! Reminiscing on my experience with APT, the value for money when booking a Travelmarvel river cruise is incredible – there wasn’t an hour that went by where I wasn’t receiving the best-in-class travel experience.
The question is, which river will I sail next?
Many more dates are available throughout the year, call our River Cruise Experts on 01246 819 819 for more details.