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My mind settled into a calm state of bliss as I pedaled along yet another picturesque stretch of the Donauradweg, a bike path along the Danube River.
I quickly snapped to full attention, though, when a fuzzy flock of grazing sheep came into sight just ahead. I applied the brakes, dismounted and grabbed my camera. After a few quick snaps of the munching sheep and their fastidious tenders — a trio of black dogs — I jumped back on my bike and continued the ride.
I was with 16 other cyclists on a biking-themed Danube river cruise that sailed from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary — one of the first voyages stemming from a partnership between cycling outfitter Trek Travel and Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours. Unlike some river sailings, this voyage had us hopping off our ship — Scenic Amber — each day to go spinning through the hills and countryside. For those who consider river cruising laid back and slow paced, this type of themed sailing is a game changer.
Our group of active travelers was composed of a family of four from Mexico City traveling with two teens, along with couples from California, Texas, Utah, Missouri and Melbourne, Australia. We all bonded quickly while cycling more than 150 miles on rides that ranged from 20 to 60 miles daily (plus a brisk 12-mile route on the final day to end the trip in Budapest).
Active river cruises like this one are growing in popularity, and clients with an affinity for biking, hiking or other forms of fitness can get their fill while also enjoying the pleasures available on a luxury cruise, such as boutique accommodations, gourmet food, entertainment and excursions in culture- and history-rich destinations like Nuremberg; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Vienna. (See this page’s sidebar for information on other river cruise line offerings.)
Debbie Netto Jonker, a cruiser on my sailing from Melbourne, booked her active itinerary as part of a charter group sailing alongside passengers experiencing Scenic’s traditional itinerary.
“I think it’s magical,” she said. “You only unpack once, and if I want a break from the riding, I’ll join the boaties on their tours.”
Trek Travel guides took good care of us throughout the trip by providing high-tech bikes, giving daily route talks and organizing group meals at restaurants both onboard and on land.
Additionally, daily riding options offered choices for those who wanted more challenging hills or longer mileage, or for those who preferred a more moderate day of cycling. Trek Travel also offered electric bikes that gave a motorized boost on the hills. One guide rode with the group, and another drove a support van that carried bikes in addition to fresh fruit, cookies, trail mix and a cooler full of beer, water and sports drinks.
Scenic and Trek Travel offer these biking cruises on the Danube and Rhine rivers; 2018 departures are set for May, July and August.