After eight years in the Navy, I never fancied myself a “cruise” type of gal. Likewise, being a classically-trained chef, I never imagined a cruise would satisfy all my culinary and oenophile delights. And being a seasoned and adventurous traveler, unaccustomed to itineraries, I never dreamed I’d enjoy sticking to one.
In March I took my mom—my extremely intense, world-class chef, spitfire mom—on this cruise. This was her first trip to Europe, so more than winning me over, this cruise had to win her over. I’ll cut to the chase: It did.
A quick aside: I am so happy to be back to writing about travel. Although I’ve taken a long break from my athletic endeavors, for surgeries and to begin squaring much of the medical stuff away, I was still traveling and have much to share. Oh, I circled the globe in the boot and hard cast. I took vision therapy materials to glaciers. I practiced vestibular exercises on Kilimanjaro. I’m as dedicated to taking the time to still “do me” as I am to ensuring I get back to 100% health.
This trip had to be something special, as it was Mom’s maiden voyage to Europe. I can’t imagine a better primer than the river cruise we took on the Danube aboard the S.S. Maria Theresa. There were some exclusive celebratory events, both onboard and onshore, as it was the 300th anniversary of the ship’s namesake, Queen Maria Theresa, who ruled over many of the destinations we visited during the eight-day adventure.
We chose the Passau to Budapest sailing, although you can also start in Budapest and head east. After landing in Munich, Germany, we had a pleasant charter coach to Passau and met the ship. In Austria, we visited Linz, Melk, Dürnstein and Vienna. The stop in Slovakia was short but sweet, with a tour of Bratislava, and lastly, we spent a couple of days in Budapest, one of my favorite cities in the world.
Each locale had its specific charm, and the onboard menu and wine list changed with each meal. This was particularly amazing in the Wachau Valley, where the wines are simply remarkable. I spent a lot of time chatting with the ship’s sommelier, and even got Mom to taste all of the pairings. One night, we had a special dining experience I had reserved in advance in the Bar du Leopard, aft on the Hofburg Deck.
Each location we visited offered guided tours and more active options—or you could go off on your own adventure. That was amazing, because my mom and I could split up and I knew she was taken care of, but I got to be a little bit more active. Mom and I both like to work out; she chose the heated pool and I went to the fitness center each morning. As if that wasn’t enough, the ship’s masseuse doubled as a yoga and fitness instructor and each day there was a “special workout.” With the amount of great cuisine, desserts and wine we consumed, we were also thankful for the longer guided tours where we could burn some of that yumminess off.
I’d highly recommend a Uniworld river cruise like this as a special treat for a loved one who hasn’t been to many European destinations. The cruise offers an all-inclusive glimpse into the scenery, culture, architecture and cuisine of a city, and rather than traveling to the next city being a chore, it happens on a world-class luxury cruise ship where you can take a nap in your gloriously embellished stateroom or sit topside, sip champagne and wave to the locals.
This particular cruise also tops out at 150 guests, so overcrowding is never an issue. In fact, each night’s dinner was served fine dining style, allowing us to order from a menu with the expert pairings of the sommelier. Woof.
Those who love history, art, music and the feeling of having every little detail completely taken care of will also love this picturesque cruise. You can message me at Uncharted@StrongTravel.com to book right away. They fill up fast.
Scroll down to to see some more pictures from our trip. And the best daughter ever award goes to…