In June I boarded Uniworld’s River Queen in Vienna to discover the
joys of river cruising.
I unpacked only once to enjoy 13 days of spectacular scenery and
delicious food, including special ethnic meals served by charming,
attentive staff. Open seating afforded the opportunity to meet all
of the other American passengers during buffet breakfasts, lunches
Built in 1999 in contemporary art-deco style with
floor-to-ceiling windows in the lounges and restaurant, the
335-foot boat has three decks of cabins to accommodate 142
Its 35-foot width allows it to clear by 1 foot on either side of
the smallest of the 66 locks it passes through along the Danube and
Rhine rivers, which are linked by the Main River and canal.
Shore excursions, included in the cruise fare, are generally bus
or walking tours led by well-informed guides.
After a half-day sightseeing tour of Vienna, we sailed overnight
to Melk, where the 18th century Benedictine Abbey and its twin
spires, overlooks the town from its cliff top. Monks have lived
there above the river bend for more than 900 years.
Along the 19-mile Wachau Valley are wine-producing villages with
apricot orchards and imposing fortresses, usually above and
alongside each lock. One stop was at the industrial town of Linz,
the boyhood home of Adolph Hitler.
At the confluence of three rivers at the border of Austria and
Bavaria, we visited the picturesque old town of Passau and explored
the baroque St. Stephan’s Cathedral, which houses the world’s
longest pipe organ.
The Main-Danube Canal is between Kelheim and Bamberg. The
important link 106 miles long and 13 feet deep was completed in
1992, linking the two main European waterways, the Danube and the
Rhine. Most of the canal passes through a nature reserve in Bavaria
and Franconia, the Southern principalities of Germany.
Along the banks of the Danube and Main rivers we could see
picturesque villages with multicolored, red-tile-roof houses and
churches with spires and domes. Along this waterway, we celebrated
on deck with champagne as we crossed the 1,332-foot-high
Although practically leveled by Allied bombing during World War
II, most of the walled center of Nuremberg including the castle and
three old churches where works of art had been stored has been
At the confluence of the Main-Danube Canal and Main River, we
visited Bamberg, a 1,000-year-old World Heritage City that contains
Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and baroque architecture.
We visited Rothenburg, one of the oldest, best-preserved walled
cities in Europe. Its ancient houses, fountains and narrow cobbled
streets are encircled by ramparts constructed in the 13th and 14th
centuries. Also on the itinerary was Wurzburg, on the banks of the
Main, which is dominated by Marienberg Castle on a vineyard-covered
A short tour of Miltenberg preceded a midnight sail toward
Frankfurt, and, the next day, a walking tour of Heidelberg, which
is dotted by ancient castle ruins.
The group joined the boat in Rudesheim and the next morning
sailed to Amsterdam, enjoying spectacular scenery along the
Passing through flat rural pastures of Holland in the morning,
the River Queen berthed in Amsterdam alongside the railroad
station. A coach tour and a boat ride along the many canals
afforded sightseeing of this cosmopolitan mix of cultures.
Famous for its tulips in the spring, Amsterdam also is home this
year to Floriade, an international flower show held once a
After parting with our tour leader and the River Queen, I headed
for six nights in Brugge to explore the scenic towns of
April-through-November rates including shore excursions, meals
and air from New York are $2,568 to $3,668.
Call 800-733-7820. Web site: www.uniworld. com.
Meg Van Winkle is a travel consultant with Travel Travel in