Review: MS Johann Strauss
Cruise - River Cruise
Excellent cruise on the river Danube
147 people found this review helpful
The cruise was a package through Noble Caledonia flying to Budapest with a 7 night cruise through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany and finishing at Passau. We flew out with Malev Hungarian airlines and returned by Air Berlin. We had not flown with these airlines before but found both to be very good. Representatives from Noble Caledonia met us at Budapest airport with two coaches waiting. We were transferred to Matya's Pince Restaurant, a well known restaurant in central Budapest for lunch. It was a fairly slow process serving us all lunch including another Noble Caledonia party that had arrived on an earlier plane. It was a good lunch if rather heavy – goulash soup, chicken with rice and salad, followed by pancake. We were wondering how we would manage dinner just a few hours later! We then went on a short ride to a scenic point in Budapest in order to take some photographs but as lunch had been quite long, it was rather dark for taking any photographs although a beautiful view.
We were then taken to the MS Johann Strauss and we thought that boarding might be quite slow with two coach loads arriving together but it was very quick. Unlike sea cruises there was no paperwork to complete, no health forms to fill in, no credit card details taken! We just handed in our passports and were immediately taken to our cabin. Very efficient. We were pleasantly surprised by the size and comfort of our cabin which had large patio windows and a French balcony opening up to the lovely river views. Our cases were delivered straight away and we unpacked everything into the ample cupboards and drawers.
Tea was served at 5 pm in the lounge and some of our party even managed sandwiches and cake after our large lunch! We were then given a talk by the Cruise Director, Cesar Perez, about life on board. Some of it went without saying such as use your 'Do not Disturb' sign if you don't want to be disturbed! However we found Cesar to be an excellent Cruise Director and the organisation on board and on tours was fantastic. Soon it was time for 'Happy Hour' which actually lasted from 6.30 – 7.30 and then again from 9.00 – 11.00 pm so it was really 'Happy 3 Hours"! Prices for drinks on board were very good. A gin and tonic was 5.90 euros but during 'Happy Hour' was 3.30 euros. Wine was included with dinner, as were gratuities, so most people had very small bills to pay at the end of the cruise!
We found the meals on board to be very good. Breakfast was a good range of hot and cold dishes, including an 'omelette man' cooking eggs to order, a daily smoothie, fresh fruits, excellent rolls and croissants etc. Lunch was 4 courses with a salad starter, soup, main course and dessert. We usually skipped all the courses at lunch apart from the salad which was buffet style with a tasty range of different salads which made an excellent lunch. Tea was served at about 4 pm. There was often a long queue for this with the line right across the lounge – it would be good if they could find a way to serve this so that it was a quicker process. Dinner was usually served at 7.30 pm and was single sitting with tables of 4 or 6. We were encouraged to sit in different tables meeting different guests. We would have quite liked there to have been an option of tables for 2 occasionally although we did meet some interesting people and made some good friends over the week. Dinner was at least 4 courses with special meals at the Welcome Dinner and Farewell Dinner. We found all the food to be excellent, well cooked and efficiently served. There is a small cafe area next to the lounge where there is the option for a light breakfast or lunch. There is always a late night snack although we never stayed up to try it!
The cruise was quite port/tour intensive, mostly with sailing during the night. Most of all we enjoyed the two afternoons of daytime sailing when we could relax and watch the lovely river views as we sailed along. We would have liked more relaxing sailing time. However, all the tours were brilliantly organised with fantastic knowledgeable local guides at every place. Altogether we were four coach loads but were broken up into smaller groups for the tours with earphones to hear the guides.
We embarked at Budapest on the Tuesday. In the evening we changed our dock which meant sailing through the city of Budapest all lit up in the evening. We all went up on deck and the beautiful buildings looked spectacular with all the lights. We didn't leave Budapest until the Thursday so had plenty of time to explore this beautiful city with a city tour. All the buildings and the River Danube looked glorious in the sunshine with all the autumn colours. The next day we had a visit to Godollo Palace, the home of Emperor Franz Josef and his wife Elizabeth, which was fascinating. We had an excellent guide who made their story come alive.
On Friday morning we were in Bratislava in Slovakia which we found to be a delightful city where we had a fascinating walking tour.
On Saturday we were in Vienna. This was quite a busy day with a city tour in the morning and a "Great Composer's Walk" in the afternoon, again with very good guides.
Durnstein and Melk
Sunday was probably our favourite day with a visit to a lovely little town called Durnstein. We awoke to find the sun shining through the trees through the early morning mist and we went up on deck to take photos of the lovely colours. After our Durnstein visit, we went on the coaches for some wine tasting which we enjoyed although as last year was not a good year for production, they had none to sell us. More autumn views in the afternoon with the coloured trees and vines reaching down to the river as we sailed through the very scenic Wachau Valley and finally a visit to the beautiful Benedictine Melk Abbey which really was magnificent. We walked back to the ship from the Abbey and had a lovely evening on board with a farewell drink with Captain Marko Bura and then a delicious farewell dinner including scallops and beef wellington or sea bass, followed by an ice parade (baked alaska) by the waiters and crew. The evening finished with a performance of highlights from the Magic Flute by the London Festival Opera on board.
After such a busy day and a week that included a lot of coaches and tours, on our last day we opted out to spend the day on our own instead of having the full day out that had been arranged in Salzburg. We decided to explore Linz where we were docked and had a lovely relaxing day, giving ourselves a guided tour of the town and walking by the river, then the hot tub!. About 30 of us enjoyed the ship to ourselves that day! Great.
I haven't yet mentioned the music. The cruise was called "Mozart on the Danube" and we enjoyed fantastic music throughout. There were three optional performances on shore (Anna Karenina at Budapest and the Magic Flute or La Sylphide in Vienna) which we didn't choose to attend but in several towns a quartet played for us. Best of all, on board we had members of the London Festival Opera who were just wonderful. They performed for us on three evenings and some of us were even lucky enough to enjoy Susanna Stranders, pianist, practising during the daytime. A highlight of the cruise for sure. Rodney Greenberg was also on board and he gave two lectures which were really interesting.
We enjoyed the ship very much. Apart from the comfortable lounge area and restaurant, there is a small gym, a sauna and a hot tub which was lovely after a busy day touring! The top open deck was well equipped with chairs and sunbeds which would be great in the summer. We did find it fairly noisy when going through the locks at night.
On disembarkation, we had a three hour drive to Nuremburg where we were taken for lunch at Bratwurst and Roslein (German sausages!) and then a very interesting tour of the town. Then we were taken to the airport. Excellent organisation again.
… and in Summary
On our questionnaire, we were asked for suggestions. We couldn't really think of anything that needed improving but our suggestions were:- Wifi on board would be great. We thought it would be good to get to know the Officers and Noble Caledonia staff and we suggested they may like to join the passengers for meals sometimes. Also, we would have liked a bit more free time to do our own thing in ports and more sailing during the daytime.
So in summary we enjoyed an excellent cruise on the friendly and comfortable MS Johann Strauss with the added bonus of fantastic sunny skies, beautiful weather and glorious autumn colours everywhere we went. Noble Caledonia's organisation at every port and on every tour was great and how they managed to get us all in the right place and on the right coach at the right time was amazing! Most of our fellow travellers were retired with a number of single guests and indeed it made an ideal holiday for the older traveller as everything was taken care of from airport to airport with such excellent organisation and all tours arranged, expertly guided and included in the price. From our experience, we would highly recommend Noble Caledonia and the MS Johann Strauss.
147 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.
Silver Travel Advisor Recommended Partner: Noble Caledonia - Small Ship Cruises