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Standing up in our booth and swaying with 1-liter beer steins in hand, my best friend, new travel companions and I belted Queen’s “We Are the Champions” with our German table neighbors. Our Oktoberfest experience was drawing to a close — the froth on our beverages no longer filled to the brim — but the memory of Munich would always stay with us.
Despite having visited the country before, I had never experienced the annual festival, and it was a blast attending it with U by Uniworld. The river cruise line geared toward millennials ensured our dining nook consisted of younger generations, but the fun tunes of the live oompah band transcended age or language barriers. In fact, it brought everybody together — our middle-aged pals included.
We all shared a heartfelt moment of international friendliness that only travel can deliver. The global camaraderie was beautiful.
By that point in the night, surely none of us felt any pain. I, for one, was 3.5 liters into the festive libation, but the scene was hopping from the very beginning. Picture Europe’s famed Christmas markets crossed with a busy county fair, and you’ve accurately envisioned Oktoberfest.
Outdoor stalls sell all sorts of trinkets, snacks and beverages, interspersed with carnival attractions temporarily created for the event. It’s not uncommon to see a traditional pretzel vendor next to a flume ride, or a psychedelic hall of mirrors adjacent to a souvenir stand.
I was still relatively uninitiated into Oktoberfest life. After all, I had no idea that the so-called “tents” were actually two-story enclosed halls full of dining tables. The effective buildings were huge, and only local brewers have them.
Reservations are coveted, so thankfully we were pre-booked at the Spatenbrau Ochsenbraterei tent, perched in a balcony overlooking the festive band below. This particular tent is known for ox meat roasted on a rotisserie, and it was indeed delicious — as was the house beer to wash it down with. For those wanting something a little lighter, a shandy is also available (a beverage made of half beer and half lemonade). I also quickly learned the appropriate chant for cheering: “Prost!”
Our meal started with shared platters of cheese, sausage, radishes and pretzels. If the regular-sized pastries weren’t enough, jumbo versions — about 15 inches in diameter — were also available to purchase. Also popular are decorated gingerbread hearts for sale. Next came the hearty meat entree, served with a side of the best German potato salad I’ve ever had. For our sweet send-off, we received a scrambled pancake with cranberries (aka kaiserschmarrn).
Courses are spaced with plenty of time in between to go out and wander, and wristbands allow for back-and-forth access. Our group joked afterward that, on a full stomach, some of the thrill rides would be decidedly ill-advised. Tamer shopping is an alternative, though, so I was sure to pick up a commemorative stein embellished with the year’s signature graphic.
All the while, aisles are jam-packed with visitors, and that’s the very reason you should plan ahead for next year or even the ones after.
Oktoberfest River Cruising for 2019The festival may be over for 2018, but future river cruises can be booked for celebrations in 2019.
U by Uniworld offered the premium shore excursion for $359 per person this year, which included all transportation, a meal and beer with tent access — either Schutzenzelt, Weinzelt, Marstall Zelt or Ochsenbraterei depending on availability.
Already planning for upcoming celebrations are the likes of AmaWaterways onboard the AmaLea. Through Adventures by Disney, a special 2019 departure is available for adults 18 years and over.
Also looking ahead is Tauck with a seven-night Rhine River cruise combined with a two-night stay in Munich, new for next year.
Or, clients can get the jump on booking any other lines and itineraries by matching up the dates accordingly. Munich is next scheduled for Sept. 21 to Oct. 6, 2019.
The DetailsU by Uniworldwww.ubyuniworld.com