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Adventures by Disney Danube River Cruise and Christmas Markets with AMA Waterways

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Adventures by Disney Danube River Cruise and Christmas Markets with AMA Waterways

Have you ever wanted to explore European cuisine? Explore a castle or two? Tread in palaces where royalty have trod? And do all this while on a luxurious boat? With your kids?! That's right, I said “with your kids.” I know when most people picture Europe they do not envision their kids trailing along with them, but stick with me a bit and continue reading. Doing all this is not only possible but pleasurable with the help from Adventures by Disney (AbD). Most European river cruises do not offer options for bringing your kids on board but, when using AbD, you can!

Over Thanksgiving break I had the privilege of taking a cruise on the Danube river with both AbD and AMA Waterways. While AMA Waterways provides wonderful guided tours on every cruise they offer, they are not tailored to families like they are when paired with AbD. I know we all view the Disney brand in different ways. While many eyes will light up at the thought of anything Disney, some will roll their eyes and picture crowds, screaming kids & being bombarded with Mickey all day. For those with the Disney World aversion, AbD is still a great option.

Depending on the daily excursion selected, you will be in groups of 40 with two Disney adventure guides. On a river cruise, it will be closer to 100 depending on the ship. While 100 or so may sound like a lot, we still felt like we had plenty of space and we got to know most of the other cruisers on the ship.

About AMA WaterwaysAMA Waterways is a family run river cruise line. Disney had looked around and decided to use AMA for their Europe cruise trips. Disney standards are high, so that means a lot! The staff and crew were always friendly and professional. I loved the little extras they did for us. For instance, each time we got back on the ship from an excursion they had a warm drink and a snack waiting for us. They had a mango tea that I adored. One of the staff had heard of my love of it (and that I came back many times for refills) and he made me a special container with the tea inside. The ship itself was luxurious, kind of like being in a Disney inspired palace. You will feel pampered and treated like real Disney royalty on this trip! Please message me for any questions pertaining to this trip or any trip to Europe!

Day 1: Our embarkation started in Budapest. Due to the hot summer and the low amount of rain this past summer, the Danube river was low. Therefore, we were not able to board the ship until Vienna. This, of course, was not a problem for AbD or AMA. They were quickly able to book rooms for us in the Sofitel hotel right by the Danube and chain bridge in Budapest. When we landed we were greeted by an AbD employee who directed us to our shuttle. We were able to check in to the hotel and meet with two very knowledgeable and friendly adventure guides from AbD and the cruise director from AMA. The guides (one of whom was a Hungarian who lives in Budapest) gave us a sheet with recommendations for food and activities, so we went to the Christmas market. The scent of cinnamon and spices greeted us as we approached the cute Christmas village scene. After shopping and filling our bellies we crossed the chain bridge and arrived on the Buda side of the city. Budapest was originally two separate cities with the Danube running between the two, Buda and Pest. They were later joined and made into one city. On the Buda side we were able to journey to the top of castle hill via funicular. We saw the castle, fisherman's bastion and St. Matthias Cathedral. From this area we saw wonderful views of the popular and picturesque Parliament building. Usually, we would board the ship again for an Illuminations cruise in Budapest. Instead, we joined our fellow travel agents for dinner at the hotel and later some went out for a walk to see Budapest at night. My husband and I were still fighting jet lag so we went in for the night.

Day 2: The next day was spent at the Budapest Central Market Hall & Lazar Equestrian Park near Budapest. On the way to both venues we were given a panoramic city tour via motor coach. Budapest is a striking city. There are many opportunities for those who like to take selfie and wanderlust pictures. We first arrived at their central market hall. We were given the opportunity to explore the beautiful market hall and shop like a local. We could see their farmer's market and also their crafts and restaurants. We returned to the bus and after seeing the city via motorcoach and hearing the history of the city via a live guide, we arrived in Lazar Equestrian Park. This rolling, pastoral family estate was gorgeous. We were greeted in cold rain with warm drinks and appetizers. As the rain let up we were encouraged to do any of the family friendly activities they had planned. We went to the petting zoo and saw ponies and mini horses. We were able to compete against each other in a goulash-making competition. Then we took a horse drawn carriage around the grounds. Some were able to take part in a wine tasting as well. Later, we enjoyed their Hungarian Cowboy horse show. That night we were so happy to settle into our staterooms on the AmaLea in Vienna. My husband and I have been to various places in Europe on four separate trips. We have mostly done backpacking trips consisting of hostels, hotels, castles, bed & breakfasts while in Europe. We usually don't stay in one spot for long, so having a “homebase” was a nice change. We had never been on a luxury cruise before, so we were more than pleasantly surprised with the beauty of the boat and the warm welcome from the staff when we walked aboard.MORE ABOUT THE BOAT

Day 3: The next day we traveled via motorcoach to Schloss Hof. This country estate belonged to Prince Eugene of Savoy. As an added touch, the tour guides greeted us in dresses and wigs from that time. They do not dress like this for every tour, but they make special preparations for the Disney tours to accommodate families. Because of the holiday season, we were able to make our own gingerbread cookies and later have them as treats. The estate was decorated for Christmas and there were gingerbread creations to look at inside some of the rooms. The estate has some interesting and quirky things the kids can enjoy as well such as a petting zoo with rare animals and an adorable theater - the children can get ready in a professional looking dressing room and put on a show. As if that wasn't enough the costumed guides provide history and interesting tid bits about the royals and life during that time.

Day 4: Now we come to one of my favorite days. My husband and I have been to Vienna many times before and it remains his favorite and one of my favorite cities. It is hard to explain why it is our favorite, but I will try. For me, it is the overall feel of Vienna. I feel like it infuses all of my 5 senses with the picture perfect European experience. The buildings and the cathedrals look European. The cafes you pass by smell like European coffee. You can walk down pedestrian friendly streets within the ring of Vienna. Vienna has a tourist friendly ring or street that circles the city. The dark and mysterious St. Stephens cathedral sits in the center of this ring with these pedestrian friendly streets veering away from the cathedral and towards the ring like spokes on a wheel. What made these streets even better this time were the various Christmas decorations that hung on each street. Huge lit ornaments and music notes were among some of the décor. But even better than all this décor were the 4-5 Christmas markets throughout the city. Every market was different than the other and in a different scenic area. Each market had a different collectors Christmas mug with purchase of a kinderpunch or mulled wine. One of the more adventurous passengers on our trip was able to get all of the collectors mugs! My favorite of the markets was in front of the town hall because it was the most decorated of all of them. This one had a skating rink, rides, special lights and a big market.

That same day in Vienna the group went to Schonbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. Many have said that Schonbrunn rivals Versailles palace, and I agree. I had been on the tour inside Schonbrunn twice before and I really wanted more time to explore the grounds and gardens surrounding the palace. The adventure guides granted this request and we met up with the group again after their tour of the palace. My husband and I walked around and found the zoo and the maze. We walked up the hill to another building on the grounds that now houses a cafe. Unfortunately, because we were there during the off-season, the zoo and maze were closed. The inside of the palace is an opulent maze of history and ….. mozart

Day 5: On this day we woke up to the view of a small town along the Danube named Durnstein. We had a few options this day including staying on the ship, taking a tour of the town or hiking up the mountain to the castle ruins. Due to some rain and loose rocks the Disney adventure guides were not permitted to take us on this hike like they usually would, but we were allowed to do this on our own if wanted. When we walked into town we were about the only ones on the street except for a lone -accordian player playing Edelweiss. Unbeknownst to us, we took the most-difficult (but still very enjoyable) path up to the castle ruins. This castle once imprisoned King Richard the Lionheart. My husband and I have always enjoyed exploring castle ruins. They are more fun for us than the more intact castles. In ruined castles there are usually no tour guides and few rules. You can climb and explore the castle on your own. On some of the castles we have explored in the past, we were the only ones there and it felt like our little secret spot. After we explored and took a few selfies we headed back down the easier path that we found and then explored the town. Some of the other passengers bought Christmas presents and local wine from this town. After leaving Durnstein, we bundled up and sat on the deck to watch the towns and castles pass by, while listening to interesting commentary via the ship's PA on the sights we passed. In the afternoon our ship docked near Melk Abbey. This imposing abbey sits atop a hill like a yellow palace overlooking the river. We enjoyed our privately guided tour through this working abbey. I was secretly hoping for a monk siting while on the premises but instead I was greeted by beautiful views of the river and a magnificent library that reminded me of “Beauty & the Beast.” That night we were engaged in some local activities & flavors of that region of Austria. We learned about fishing in that region and how to make their famous apricot marmalade. This family establishment also taught us a traditional Austrian dance lesson. While my husband have a long way to go before strapping on lederhosen and taking our show on the road, we had a lot of fun learning this dance. This family also has it's own wine and juice to taste.

Day 6: On this day we headed to the backdrop of the iconic movie “The Sound of Music,” the city of Salzburg. This city is filled with sights from “The Sound of Music” and these sights can be found easily. City specialists guided us through much of the city. We were given a few sight and lunch recommendations and then given the choice of continuing the tour to see the Mirabell gardens or to go off and have our own adventure. I had been to Mirabell gardens twice before, so we decided to shop at the Christmas markets. But our first stop was McDonalds. I know that sounds like a crazy idea. We are in Europe and we should be eating the local food. Usually I would agree, but McDonalds are a fun thing to visit while overseas. The menus are very different than in the states and even the burgers taste different. Some countries have higher standards on their meat so many of the McDonalds taste better. This McDonalds had buffalo wings and shrimp, but honestly my husband just loves McDonalds and he was craving it. After that we enjoyed shopping at the markets. These markets had egg decorated ornaments and smokers (characters that you burn incense in). On my other trips to Salzburg I have gone on professionally guided “Sound of Music” bus tours. These tours have a constant mixture of commentary, history and “Sound of Music” music. These tours are not for everyone, but I am a big fan of the movie and I adored the tours. While on the tour you see the beautiful movie locations outside of the city of Salzburg. We drove to the Salt Mines of Hallein. These are among the oldest in the world that are still open to the public. Salt was considered “white gold,” in years past. Salt mines were very important to this region. Here you can take a raft ride through the underground salt mines and zoom down a mineshaft slide. There were a few on the tour that preferred not to do this trip due to either claustrophobia or activity restrictions. They were able to visit an old celtic village and museum and climb to the top of the town for a sweeping view of the countryside and to visit an old cathedral.

Day 7: This morning we awoke to the site and city of Passau. This cute riverside town is known as the “Three River City” because of it lies at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Iiz rivers. We had some time that more to explore the town on our own. We walked to the edge of town where the rivers meet and looked at their Christmas décor. They have some interesting things to see there like the Dachshund museum. We were not able to end the trip in Nuremburg per usual, so the Adventure guides were able to work out some different itineraries that would suit everyone. There were different times during the day that groups would be driven to Nuremburg. Some would leave the next day for Prague or Munich depending on their travel schedules or flights. We chose to leave during the day after the farewell celebration for Nuremburg. The adventure guides dressed in traditional German attire and greeted us all individually. They used pictures from fellow passengers and made a slide show of the trip. It was fun to see all the different experiences and places we have been together. We said goodbye to many of our friends and left on a motorcoach for Nuremburg. When we got to Nuremburg that night we hopped on the metro and headed downtown to eat with friends from the ship. We were instantly charmed by the city. Some towers of the old wall still remained and we walked over a bridge leading to the city wall and into the old town. While looking at some of the cute buildings (replicas of the old half timbered craftsman shops) and the beginnings of the Christmas market we found the perfect place for a good German dinner. There were many locals in the establishment, which is always a good sign. Also, we picked a very unique place as this was an old hospital (Holy Ghost) that spans over the river. We enjoyed the night out but couldn't do much more because the shops had closed early. In Europe, many shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays.

Day 8: My husband and I set off on our own and on our own time schedule. We started off at the Nazi Documentation Center. This is a museum housed in the Nazi's unfinished congress hall. We have been to concentration camps before, and I strongly recommend taking a tour of any of them, but this was different. This museum provides a way to see the progression of the Nazi movement. It was shocking to see the propaganda used and how it slowly affected its audience. Nuremburg (also called Nurnberg) was a favorite spot of Hitler. Outside of this museum are the old rally grounds and zeppelin field where Hitler would address his audience. You can also visit the site of the famous Nurnberg trials where Nazi war criminals stood trial.After our thought provoking tour, we went back into the old town to see it during the day. We enjoyed seeing the old and new buildings and walking up the hill to see the castle and its beautiful view. We ended the night at an authentic Italian restaurant.

Get in touch with Amanda Burch


Amanda Burch

Adventures by Disney Danube River Cruise and Christmas Markets with AMA Waterways

Edmond, OK Travel Agent Near Me

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Hello travelers!  I have been planning travel for myself and others since high school.  I love visiting new places and I love becoming immersed in different cultures.  I also love finding those magical moments in each trip for myself and my clients.  It could be a number of things, like exploring the ruins of an old castle by yourself or eating a delicious meal while staring at the Alps without another tourist in sight.  While I have helped plan trips world wide, I tend to book more Disney, Caribbean, and Hawaii trips.  My personal favorite places to travel are Europe and anything with the wor...  Read More >>>

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'Amanda was wonderful to work with! She had a great communication and checked in with us to make sure our trip was going well. We’d absolutely work with her again on future trips'

-Heather Levy

Girls Trip to Europe

The trip itself was not what we expected due to some travel issues. However, Amanda was great in helping me plan it and helping us when we got stuck. She was quick to respond to my messages and went above and beyond in trying to get us rebooked. Even though we didn't make it to our intended destination we had a great time.

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-Angela Sonaggera


Amanda, was awesome! We had one hiccup with delayed flights and she got it fixed within an hour! I will be using her again

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Adventures by Disney Danube River Cruise and Christmas Markets with AMA Waterways

Have you ever wanted to explore European cuisine? Explore a castle or two? Tread in palaces where ...

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In 2014, I traveled to Ireland with my husband, my sister and her hubs.  We had a great time driving down country roads (on the left side of the road) and exploring hidden gems.  Many of the old castle or abbey ruins we explored were done on our own with only a few cows to consult us.  And I really mean it!  We had a whole castle to ourselves and there were cows living in it, ha! One night we even stayed in a beautiful castle turned into a hotel and golf course.  We did a mixture of luxury stays and B& B's on this trip.  I like to be pampered but I also like to get to know the people in the country I am enjoying! I would love to tell you more about one of my favorite trips that started in Dublin and meandered through central and southern Ireland until we ended up at the Cliffs of Moher.  Better yet, I would love to help you plan a trip like this for yourself!

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