| Bernd Kubisch |
DPA – The journey aboard the MS Vista Fidelio begins in the southern German town of Passau, where the Inn, Ilz and Danube rivers meet.
From here, the cruise takes in the Austrian city of Melk, Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava before returning to Germany.
Castles, palaces, vineyards, villages and small islands pass by in slow motion. Cyclists wave from the bank.
The organised city trips take in the Schoenbrunn and Hofburg palaces in Vienna, while in Budapest you can visit a cafe and walk through the lively streets, taking in their lovely old buildings.
At the Nagyi Palacsintazoja cafe, more than 50 types of pancake are on offer. These Hungarian specialities come topped with anything from walnuts to ham, or cinnamon to chocolate.
Most of the jetties where the ship stops are near the city centres. In Vienna, guests can walk along the Danube’s banks to the tram and be in the city centre in 25 minutes. After passing through Bratislava, the ship anchors almost in the heart of Budapest.
If you like the sound of these stops, it is worth checking the timetable before booking, since it’s possible to stay for longer than 24 hours. “I prefer to work through without a break,” he says – although of course he takes several weeks’ vacation afterwards.
Kossack, who has experience as a cruise director on the oceans and on ships with more than 4,000 passengers, loves rivers. He has been on the Yangtze in China, the Nile, the Volga, the Mekong, the Dnieper in Ukraine and almost all the rivers of central Europe.
Passengers listen attentively whenever Kossack tells them about the route and the history of the locks. The cruise covers 1,158 kilometres along the Danube, from Passau to Budapest and back, which takes eight days and seven nights.
Because river boats have to navigate bridges, locks and sometimes shallow water, they tend to be long and narrow, with a small draft, in comparison with ocean cruise ships.
The Fidelio has room for 147 guests, is 110 metres long and has a draft of 1.45 metres – which is good in case the water level drops.
The porthole cabins at the bottom are the most affordable: When the water washes across, you get a free “aquarium view” or “washing machine TV”. The slapping noise the water makes does irritate some people, but luckily there’s always plenty to see from the deck.