Simon Thomas O’Neill from Oasis Travel’s Holywood Portfolio Suite sails into Central Europe on a magical river tour.
For more than 90 years, Tauck Tours has been providing travellers with what the company describes as ‘extraordinary moments that last lifetimes, filled with fun’ … which pretty much encapsulates everything we all hope for as we set off on holiday! Expectations were riding high therefore as I downed tools at the Holywood branch and set out to be spoilt with a four day river cruising experience which would take me from Hungary, through Slovakia, and into Austria.
So many miles and so little effort … and all I had to do was relax and enjoy the experience. The life of a travel agent isn’t all fun, but I have to say it has its good points.
One of Tauck Travel’s impressive and superbly maintained fleet of Jewel-class riverboats, MS Treasures carries 118 passengers, providing a backdrop of luxury and discreet elegance for a range of vacations on the waters of three historic rivers in the heart of Europe – the Rhine, the Danube and the Main. Perfectly at home gliding past fairy-tale castles, ancient monasteries and Gothic cathedrals Tauck Travels’ vessels call on such historic cities as Köln, Koblenz, Nürnberg, Passau, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and more… transporting you to exclusive experiences that bring the past vividly to life.
My experience on board the Treasures started with a quick familiarisation with the vessel itself before heading out for a brief walking tour of the fabulous city of Budapest, our port of embarkation. I have to admit that I was tempted to stay on board to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the great cuisine while I watched the world go by in the busy port, but Budapest is a city well worth exploring with a fantastic mix of sights, shopping and a seemingly inexhaustible list of visitor ‘must dos’. I crammed as much as I could into my afternoon, but now a return visit is very much on my personal list of travel ‘to dos’.
On day two of our trip we sailed sedately into picturesque Slovakia, starting in Bratislava with a guided walking tour. The city’s historic architecture tells a vivid story that goes back many centuries. Bratislava is renowned for Baroque palaces dating back to the Habsburg Era of Maria Theresa, as well as its marvellous medieval Old Town.
On day three we sailed upstream through Austria and then we cruised through the Wachau Valley, Austria's lush wine-growing region, recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved medieval landscapes. We sailed past wonderful castles and abbeys to dock in medieval Dürnstein where we disembarked to take a closer look at its 16th-century Baroque houses on a brief walk along cobblestone streets before sampling the fruits of the Wachau Valley vineyards during a wine tasting at an authentic Austrian tavern.
Our riverboat arrived overnight in Vienna, Austria, and we awoke to awe-inspiring views and a guided tour of this former capital of the old Habsburg Empire - surely one of Europe's grandest cities.
That, we experienced truly royal treatment and pageantry at our private Imperial Evening in the memorable setting and opulence of a Viennese palace. A welcome drink and dinner preceded an unforgettable spectacle of beautiful ball gowns and a musical performance celebrating the legacy of Mozart. Stunning both to see and hear and complimented with superb cuisine.
It was the perfect way to end four days which came as near to perfection as I can imagine. Tauck is a wonderful brand, offering a unique approach to river cruising. The practicalities are taken care of in every respect and I was delighted to see that everything is paid upfront including tips, so there are no unexpected bills … but they also have a charming touch with details. Each evening a little pillow memento is left as a reminder of the day’s destination, my own favourite being a gift pack of paprika from Budapest.
If you’d like to hear more about how Tauck can spice up your next river cruising break just call in and chat to me at our Holywood branch or phone me on 028 9042 6969.