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This European river cruise has wall-to-wall glass to view the Danube River’s magesty

Itching to go cruising on the Danube River? Avalon Waterways’ Avalon View opens a window to the world of river cruising.

Avalon View has wall-to-wall glass panels in luxurious suites providing enchanting views along Europe’s waterways. Sue Wallace ventures on a Danube River cruise from Vienna to Budapest to discover Avalon View.

Cruise the Danube River aboard Avalon View

Twinkling lights shimmer as we slowly cruise along the inky Danube River. We’re headed into the heart of Budapest, Hungary’s capital. My vote for the most spectacular sight goes to the fairytale Hungarian Parliament which is set aglow with 764 floodlights come dusk.

Our Danube River cruise ship is the freshly minted Avalon View. I am on the top deck wrapped in a cosy blanket, with a butterscotch schnapps in hand – it’s a memory that will last forever.

This inaugural cruise welcomes the new vessel to Avalon’s fleet of 14 Suite Ships in Europe.

Cruising through Vienna

In Vienna we watch a private recital at the beautiful Belvedere. This World Heritage-listed site comprises two baroque palaces and one of the oldest museums in the world. A talented ensemble plays Mozart classics, followed by a private tour of masterpieces, including The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. The iconic painting shimmers in golden tones and lavishes love and romance.

A horse-drawn carriage ride through the cobbled streets of Vienna is another of those pinch-me moments. A private tour of the Spanish Riding School where Lipizzaner horses perform amazing feats set to music in a magnificent baroque hall caps it off.

Explore Vienna, Austria on this Danube River cruise
A horse-drawn carriage ride © Sue Wallace | Schloss Belvedere in Vienna is one of the world’s finest baroque palaces © Shutterstock

The Danube River

The Danube River is the second-longest river in Europe. Meandering for 2,860 kilometers from Black Forest of Germany to its mouth in the Black Sea, forming part of the border between Romania and Ukraine. The river flows through or touches the borders of ten countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine.

The river is also known for its scenic beauty, with its winding path through the forests, hills, and mountains of central and southeastern Europe. Throughout history, the Danube has played an important role in the politics, culture, and economy of the region.

Slow travel on Avalon Waterways’ newest river cruise

I’m a novice to river cruising, and it doesn’t take long to fall under its spell. I am soon seduced by the rhythm of the Danube, as we cruise from Vienna to Budapest.

Slow travel at its best, the European iver cruise takes us past stunning scenery, villages, churches and farmlands. Tiny boats drift by, barges laden with goods chug along and bucolic countryside fades into a patchwork of greens.

We dock in Bratislava, southwestern Slovakia, as a gentle breeze sends pale pink blossoms cascading to the banks of the Danube. The Little Carpathians mountain range shimmers in the background and pretty vineyards in full bud line the hills.

Stop over at historica downtown Bratislava © Avalon Waterways

Avalon View’s suites

My boutique, hotel-inspired Panorama Suite is the ultimate definition of a room with a view. Forget tiny Juliette verandas; the whole room becomes an open-air balcony. Fling back the curtains, open the floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall glass doors, and watch the world go by.

Everything is about the view. My bed faces the best vista, and the glass balcony panels ensure the suite lives up to its name. There’s a marble bathroom plus L’Occitane products. The suite itself is a mix of light and dark wood, with pops of plush royal blue and artwork by Dutch artist Sofie Fisher.

The public areas are wrapped in rich taupe, brown and red decor, inspired by Dutch interior designer Liane van Leeuwen with original paintings by Eelco Maan.

Soak in panoramic views from the Royal Suite as you enjoy a Danube River Cruise
The Panorama Suite on Avalon View © Avalon Waterways

Fine dining on a Danube river cruise

Be prepared for a gastronomic journey, whether a continental breakfast in your suite or a buffet in the dining room. I loved the energising juices and alfresco lunch at the Sky Grill, which also served up tasty salads and decadent ice-cream.

Pre-dinner cocktails become a ritual followed by a feast: lemon-pepper crusted salmon and Hokkaido pumpkin soup. Then, lobster with saffron sauce on green asparagus risotto and herb-and-almond crusted slow-roasted beef tenderloin. The finale? A chocolate vanilla layer cake.

Wines include a superb Chateau Haut Mouleyre, Elesko Frankovka Modra Slovakian sparkling rosé and San Gregorio Las Martas grenache from Spain.

Austrian chefs, brothers Leo and Karl Wrenkh, are advocates of the healthy food movement. They have also created ‘Avalon Fresh’ healthful dining options, which are just as tempting.

The elegant glass-walled dining and lounge areas shine in natural light, but my favourite haunt is the cosy club lounge. Here, you can enjoy refreshments and delicious cookies as you watch the ship’s bubbly wake.

Enjoy fine dining on this Danube River cruise
You'll enjoy elegant dishes and fresh ingredients throughout your journey © Amatucci Photography

Shore excursions

There is never a dull moment when you cruise the Danube River with Avalon Waterways. There are a huge range of activities available for guests, from classic sightseeing to immersive discoveries and active adventures. The ‘Avalon Choice’ program offers up to 28 including paint and sip, river paddle and pedal excursions.

Europe River Cruises 2023

With over 160 river cruises scheduled for its 2023 Danube River Cruise season, a voyage with Avalon Waterways promises relaxed luxury and larger-than-life views. Spanning Europe’s major waterways, destinations include Basel, Amsterdam, Paris, Bucharest, Frankfurt and Lyon, among others.

Prepare for a new sight to behold around every bend as you are immersed in postcard-perfect landscapes that make your heart race a little quicker. Get ready to fall in love with the wonders of travel all over again.

This article originally appeared in volume 42 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. Subscribe to the latest issue today.