Home' Active Retirees : Active Retirees Feb Mar 2014 Contents The Danube
A SUMMER’S afternoon in Budapest and
all is right on the river. River Cloud II sails
in a loop past the imposing Hungarian
parliament; with its spires, columns and
curlicues, the tremendous building looks
like an ornamented wedding cake.
Our heads swivel from one Danube
bank to the other, between low-lying,
tourist-thronged Pest and the high
fortifications and forested hills of Buda.
We sail as sedate and regal as a swan
under bridges and past trees that bow to
the water’s edge, their low branches and
feathery leaves dipping and trailing. Larch,
fir, spruce, beech and alder -- or so I guess.
There definitely are pines and the breeze
carries the cleansing, almost antiseptic
tang of their needles. As we round a bend,
our wash causes a small boat to rock; the
fisherman aboard beams and doffs his cap.
He looks so happy and tanned I’d swear
he’s swallowed the sun.Wide-winged
white birds fly in formation like an honour
guard above River Cloud II, our floating
home for the next eight nights.
What’s not to love about river
cruising in Europe? It’s my first such
journey and barely an hour out of
Budapest I am hooked. On the rooftop sun
deck, passengers lounge in teak steamer
chairs as the scenery passes like an
unfolding concertina of pretty postcards.
Tall and handsome waiter Sebastian is
circulating with a tray of drinks.
There is the constant prospect of cake.
Somewhere down below, chef de
cuisine Mathias Leischnig from Liepzig and
his brigade are prepping dinner, turning
out small miracles in a galley kitchen the
size of a pantry. Onboard entertainer
Geza is changing into a dinner suit to take
his place at the Steinway grand piano in
the lounge bar.
The German-operated 88-passenger
River Cloud II is one of the smallest
cruisers on Europe’s waterways and has
the long, low nautical lines and brass
fittings of a proper river vessel. It sits
3.65m above the water line, is 103m long
and 9.8m wide; its maximum speed is 10.5
knots, or less than 20km/h.
On embarkation day in Budapest, our taxi
driver can’t easily find it. ``Very small,’’ he
concludes when we finally pitch up at the
gangway. He sounds disappointed for us;
we are thrilled.
You could never call River Cloud
II an apartment block afloat; instead, you
might imagine you are aboard a private
charter and, at the very least, you would
acknowledge that service is personalised
and highly efficient. There is not a speck
of dust or a flaw in the organisation and
delivery of meals and lectures and guided
shore excursions, from which passengers
are welcomed back on board with chilled
towels and juice.
This is river cruising for grown-ups,
for seasoned and often scholarly travellers
who know Belgrade from Bratislava and
care about the difference. Culture is
important; so is history, conflict, context
and the process of transition in the
Balkans. Local guides are chosen for their
deep knowledge; groups of passengers
are divided into English and German
speakers. We pal up with a well-known
history professor from Melbourne and
her scientist husband, an authority on the
ecology of freshwater ecosystems.
They are the very best of company.
There is plenty of opportunity,
too, just to kick back and relax on board
and not feel the tiniest bit guilty. River
Cloud II was built in 2001 and intended
for cruising on Italy’s River Po, hence the
Venetian paintings, the arched cathedral-
like windows, the gold taps and the
slightly gilded faux-palazzo interiors. But
navigation proved tricky on the Po and
so River Cloud II was redeployed to the
Danube five years later.
There are two decks of cabins,
with the best (bigger windows, no stairs)
being the Panoramic category on the
upper Promenade Deck, where the
restaurant, reception and lounge bar are
located. Aside from size and location,
cabin features are identical, including a
small but well-planned ensuite, television
with satellite channels and DVD player,
adjustable air-conditioning, quality bedding,
cream-painted furniture, complimentary
mini-bar stocked with your choice of soft
drinks, ample storage and a colour scheme
of scarlet and gold.
The boat’s so-called hotel director,
Elisabeth Vogel, says the composition
of nationalities changes each voyage,
occasionally families and friends bulk-
book as a houseparty, but usually there
are Australians aboard (three couples
in our case). She tells me 40 Australian
doctors and pharmacists once cruised as
a group and when a German passenger
became unwell and rang the front desk for
assistance, the receptionist was able to ask
precisely what kind of medico she needed.
No one seems the slightest bit
wobbly on our tour, however.
Mostly we gather on the sun deck and the
Australians (identifiable by our
broad-brimmed hats and cover-up tops)
instantly appreciate how Europeans
worship the summer, which has been
short this year and truly welcome after
the Danube flooded in June.
Captain Mihail Chebac, as it
transpires, is the jolliest of masters and
has an open-all-hours policy for visitors to
the wheelhouse. Chebac is Romanian, and
if you should find yourself at his table for
dinner, be prepared for the most enjoyable
of evenings, complete with an unstinting
amount of fruity white wine and “special
drinks’’ such as Ron Zacapa XO rum.
He loves his job, he tells me with
a wink. I love River Cloud II, I tell him,
returning the wink.Twirl the Danube in
circles as much as you like, River Cloud II
- - I can’t wait to return to the river. d
On a slow and civilised river voyage
from Budapest to Vienna
Written by: Susan Kurosawa
“This feature first appeared in The Weekend
Australian on September 28, 2013 and is
reproduced with permission”
Your River Cloud II Itinerary
22 September to 14 October 2014
22 Sep 2014 Australia to Europe
Luxury car transfer to SYD/MEL or BNE international airports.
Depart SYD/MEL/BNE on your flight to Europe (stopovers can be arranged)
23 Sep Arrive Budapest/Hungary
Make your way to your hotel for 2 night pre-cruise stay
24 Sep At leisure in Budapest
25 Sep Budapest
Embarkation on the RIVER CLOUD II at 16.00 hours.
26 Sep Bratislava/Slovakia
City walking tour of Bratislava with concert.*
27 Sep Vienna/Austria
City tour with visit to the Augarten porcelain factory and
a chance to see restoration work being carried out on the
dome frescos in St Charles Church.*
In the evening: option to attend various concerts.**
28 Sep Vienna/Austria
Hofburg Palace, its treasures and the famous Cafe Demel.*
In the evening: option to attend various concerts.**
29 Sep Vienna/Austria
City walking tour with apricot product tasting.*
Tour of the Benedictine Abbey.*
30 Sep Passau/Germany
Costumed tour of Passau with organ concert in the cathedral.*
1 Oct Regensburg/Germany
Tour of the old town and visit to the Thurn and Taxis Castle.*
Perfect Indulgence - River Cloud II
The privilege of being a passenger on River Cloud II is reserved for a very few. Even at full capacity she carries only 88 travellers.
On the other hand there are 35 crewmembers to attend to you in every imaginable way.As in a five-star hotel you can expect
impeccable and courteous service with a distinctly personal touch.
River Cloud’s All Inclusive Service - you can expect beautifully appointed cabins; a welcoming bottle of champagne in your
cabin; all meals every day; a five-course gala dinner during the cruise; selected wines and beers to compliment lunch and dinner;
soft drinks, juices, tea & coffee throughout the cruise, bottled water on the excursions; a fresh basket of fruit in your cabin which is
replenished daily, English speaking tour guide and bicycles and Nordic walking poles, if required.
02 Oct Nuremberg/Germany
Half way on our cruise. Relax with a free day in Nuremburg
03 Oct Bamberg/Germany
City tour of Bamberg.*
04 Oct Wurzburg/Germany
City walking tour with visit to the Wurzburg Residence.*
05 Oct Miltenberg/Germany
City tour of Miltenberg.*
06 Oct Cruise along the romantic Middle Rhine and the Loreley.
Evening trip to Schloss Vollrads with a courtyard wine tasting and concert.*
07 Oct Worms/Germany
Short tour of Worms and trip to the Schembs
vineyard including wine tasting or a tour of Heidelberg.*
08 Oct Strasbourg/France
City tour including a boat trip through “Petite France”
and cheese tasting with affineur Rene Tourrette.*
09 Oct Strasbourg/France
09.00 hours disembarkation.
Transfer to your hotel for a further night.
10 Oct Strasbourg/Paris
We board the DB Bahn for the train journey to Paris (arriving 12:30pm)
then to your central hotel.
11 Oct Paris
A day to enjoy the sights of this famous city.
12 Oct Depart Paris
You depart Paris late in the day for your flight home.
14 Oct Arrive Australia (again, stopovers can be arranged) for your luxury
car transfer to your home.
Your Package Includes -
• Economy class airfares ex SYD/MEL/BNE to Budapest and from Paris back to Australia
• 14 Night River Cloud II Category C Cabin twin share cruise with all meals and selected beverages
• 2 Night pre-cruise in Budapest • 1 Night post-cruise in Strasbourg • Train Strasbourg to Paris (First Class)
• 2 Night Paris stopover • Luxury car transfers to and from SYD/MEL/BNE airports*
• Plus all gratuities on the cruise are included. • Subject to availability • Offer may be withdrawn at any time.
* Included in cruise package - ** Optional extra
European River Cruise Aboard The River Cloud II
Departs Australia – 22 September 2014 (Full Itinerary on next page)
22 nIghT Fly CRuISE holIDAy
• Return economy class airfares*
• 14 night cruise Budapest to Strasbourg aboard River Cloud II - with all
meals, beverages with meals and gratuities.
• 2 night pre cruise in Budapest
• 1 night post cruise in Strasbourg
• 2 night post cruise in Paris
• Train (First Class) Strasbourg to Paris
• Transfers (airport/hotel/pier/station/hotel/airport
• All pre-payable taxes
MuST BooK AnD DEPoSIT By 28 FEBRuARy 2014
From $12,799 per person, ex-Syd/Mel/Bne*
BonuS Chauffeur driven luxury car transfers to/from SyD/MEl/BnE
* Conditions apply. Subject to changes in air taxes, fuel and exchange rates. Offer may be sold out or withdrawn at anytime. Transfers
limited to 35 kilometres. See Ultimate Cruising website for full conditions. Based on exchange rate of Euro 0.61.
Lic # 2TA 003131. Office hours 9:30am to 5:30pm Mon - Fri.
To order a brochure or to make a booking call Ultimate Cruising on
1300 4 ULTIMATE (1300 485 846) or visit www.ultimatecruising.com.au
13/01/14 5:59 PM
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