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WDW Radio # 765 – NatGeo Danube River Cruise Review: Christmas Market Magic

This week, we’re going to take you on a virtual tour and review of our WDW Radio NatGeo Danube River Cruise. We’ll share the differences and advantages of river cruising versus ocean cruising, including the intimate atmosphere of our river ship, the AMA Waterways Viola, the blend of food, culture, and history onboard and in port, Christmas markets, seasonal magic and stunning sights.

From NatGeo’s engaging presentations and photography workshops to festive and fascinating activities and unique “choose-your-own-adventure” style excursions, we’ll explore the unique charm of river cruising that left us yearning to relive it all… and plan our next WDW Radio adventure!

Join us on a captivating journey through Europe’s majestic waterways as we delve into an enthralling review of the National Geographic Danube River Cruise adventure—charted from bustling Budapest to the vibrant streets of Munich. In this episode, Lou invites a panel of friends and seasoned travelers to recount their unique experiences from the immersive seven-day river cruise that took them through the heart of Europe’s Christmas markets, historic landmarks, and culinary delights.

Enveloped in the festive ambience, our guests share their endearing tales from the trip, from visiting spectacular Vienna to private tours at the resplendent Milk Abbey during a serene night. Hear about the exceptional guides, flexible excursion options, and how the rhythms of the water wove through their days, creating an enchanting experience for each traveler.

For enthusiasts of Christmas markets and authentic cultural experiences, this episode is a treasure trove of insights. Discover how river cruises like this Nat Geo partnership with AMA Waterways redefine travel, offering a profound connection to local traditions and providing a cozy, communal atmosphere that larger ocean liners can’t match.

From the ship’s intimate size and onboard amenities to the unique “choose-your-own-adventure” style excursions and elegant dining, Lou and his guests cover it all. Particularly for those considering a river cruise, this episode is a must-listen, providing a glimpse into an intimate travel experience that caters to various ages and interests.

Dive into the wonders of the Danube with us on WDW Radio # 765, and be whisked away by stories of warmth, wonder, and the timeless allure of river cruising during the most magical time of the year. Subscribe, listen, and let the allure of Europe’s riverbanks inspire your next adventurous escape.

Thanks to my guests for joining me this week:

The key moments in this episode are:

  • Introduction to the River Cruise Experience
  • Overview: Importance of destinations over the ship
  • Itinerary details: Seven-day trip from Budapest to Munich
  • Adaptability: Navigating high water levels and adjustments to the route
  • Trip Highlights and Memorable Experiences
  • Personal favorite experiences: Architecture, markets, and ice skating
  • Standout visits: Skating rink and Milk Abbey evening tour
  • Guided tours: Impressions of the guide in Vienna and tour quality
  • Excursion flexibility: Multiple daily options and mobility considerations
  • Inclusive and Diverse Excursion Offerings
  • Gentle option excursions: Golf cart rides and wine tastings
  • Accessibility and accommodation: Taxi arrangements for those needing assistance
  • River Cruise Destinations and Culture
  • Immersive experiences: Exploration beyond traditional tourist traps
  • Unforeseen discoveries: The appeal of less-known destinations
  • NatGeo partnership: NatGeo experts on the cruise
  • River Cruising vs. Ocean Cruising
  • Intimacy and community: The small passenger capacity and shared spaces
  • Comparisons with ocean cruises: Distinctive appeal and communal aspects
  • Future travel plans discussion: Potential river cruise and Disneyland Paris visit
  • Onboard Experience and Amenities
  • Ship details: Size, cabin levels, and passenger capacity
  • Boarding and disembarking process: Simplicity and ease
  • Ship amenities: Limited but sufficient facilities
  • Ship entertainment: Cultural immersion with local entertainers
  • Dining and Culinary Highlights
  • Central dining room: Meal settings and off-ship dining
  • Chef’s Table: Intimate dining experience
  • Inclusive costs: Meals, wine, and excursions included in the package
  • National Geographic Expedition Elements
  • NatGeo expert talks: Interactive seminars and photography sessions
  • Impactful experiences: Educational and memorable photography seminars
  • Connections and Community During The Cruise
  • Christmas markets: Cultural and historical significance
  • Food encounters: Unique local specialties and market experiences
  • Emotional journeys: Reconnecting with family heritage
  • Accommodations and State Rooms
  • State room variety: Different sizes and types
  • Balconies and views: Scenic observations from rooms
  • Communal preferences: Emphasis on shared social spaces
  • Extras and Activities Onboard
  • Continuous snacks: All-day availability in the lounge
  • Dietary accommodations: Handling of allergies and special preferences
  • Family engagement: Disney-style family activities
  • Wifi and amenities: Internet access and cozy comforts
  • Reflections and Future Adventures
  • Sharing memories: Plans for Instagram reels and video content
  • Gratitude: Acknowledging the immersive and memorable cruise experience
  • Group dynamics: Enjoyment as solo travelers, families, and as a large group
  • Entertainment appreciation: Onboard local cultural performances and events

Key Takeaways:

– Immersive Experiences: Discover how river cruising emphasizes the destinations, allowing for deep cultural immersion, engaging local interactions, and expert insights that transform your journey into an educational adventure.

– Flexible and Inclusive Options: Learn about the versatility of river cruising with excursions tailored for varying preferences and mobility levels, offering everything from wine tastings by golf cart to intimate onboard dining experiences like the Chef’s Table.

– Communal Connectiveness: Feel the warmth of shared experiences, as guests on river cruises cultivate a sense of community, whether it’s through onboard festivities or sharing local treats at festive Christmas markets.

Timestamped summary of this episode:

  • [00:00] Longtime fan of cruising, now enjoys river cruising.
  • [07:37] Excited anticipation for unique Christmas market cruise.
  • [12:20] River cruising not widely known or advertised.
  • [21:44] Key ship lounge is central for entertainment.
  • [25:47] Welcoming environment fosters diverse relationships and entertainment.
  • [28:03] Christmas tree decorating, glue wine, dance party, entertainment.
  • [33:52] Entertainers showed adaptability, added impactful, meaningful experiences.
  • [40:37] Quality, variety, and wine exceeded expectations. Pleasant dining experiences.
  • [48:29] All-inclusive cruise with excursions and relaxed planning.
  • [51:06] Interactive, educational travel photography seminars with Nat Geo.
  • [58:27] Misconception about river cruise demographics, wide age range.
  • [01:06:32] Positive review of a small cabin onboard.
  • [01:12:11] Stayed in Budapest overnight, explored local artisans.
  • [01:16:45] Amma waterways, transportation, Christmas market, St. Stephens Cathedral, presentations, Munich, personal stories
  • [01:21:23] Flexible, varied excursions with positive participant feedback.
  • [01:26:31] Memorable moments in Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic.
  • [01:34:00] Importance of answering questions about river cruising.
  • [01:38:33] Enjoy local foods as a way to connect.
  • [01:44:14] Observing others’ emotional connections during cruises.
  • [01:47:38] Unforgettable travel experience felt like being family.
  • [01:56:25] Join our adventure and future cruise, thanks.
  • [01:57:21] Grateful for memories, linking to socials, food question.

Have you ever taken a river cruise? Would you liked to join us on our next WDW Radio river cruise adventure?

Share your thoughts in the WDW Radio Clubhouse at WDWRadio.com/Clubhouse, or call the voicemail at 407-900-9391 (WDW1) and share your story on the show.

Episode Transcript

Click Here To Read The Full Podcast Episode Transcript

Lou Mongello: [00:00:00] I've been a fan... a huge fan... of cruising for years, possibly, I guess it's really decades even. And when I didn't think that cruising could get any better, I then started doing cruises with not just my immediate family, but my extended family, which is you going way back to 2007 was our first group cruise.

And there's been so much that we have been able to see. Do eat and experience together over the years doing cruises on Disney cruise line. But then I started to hear about something. Called a river cruise. And then I started to hear nothing but really good things about a river cruise. And so finally it was time, not just to try one for and by myself, but to invite you, my family to do it together, because whether it's on the high seas in the Caribbean, in Alaska, or finally on a [00:01:00] river cruise.

It is best when it is shared with friends. And so just a few weeks ago in December, 2023, we set out on our first nor shall it be the last WDW radio river cruise with our Nat Geo expedition on the Danube. To and through the Christmas markets. And this week we're going to explore and share that experience with you and some of the friends and family members that joined us.

So I would like to welcome, I have no particular order. I can't go alphabetically. I'll just do ladies first. I'd like to welcome back, not just on board, literally and figuratively to the cruise and the show, Beatrice Dennis.

Beatrice Denis: Hello. It's a pleasure to be back. And especially talking about this specific vacation, which I have been tearing for, for many years.

So this has been an incredible experience and I'm happy to be

Lou Mongello: here. [00:02:00] I am so happy to have you. And we'll talk about some of your Costume changes and choices while we were on board as well. Nobody has more fun than Beatrice other than maybe. Lori Oliveri, who we've been friends for a long time. You've been a mouse fan travel advisor for a long time, and we have done many, many cruises on the high seas and most recently on the shallow seas.

So Lori Oliveri, welcome back.

Laurie Olivieri: Hi, thank you.

Lou Mongello: Excited to be here. Laurie was not well, actually, Laurie wasn't costumed. We'll get to that too. Uh, also returning to the, uh, to the show is Lisa Denodo from, I keep wanting to call it core memory. It's the castle run and thousand circles. com.

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: Thanks for having me.

I'm excited to talk about the trip.

Lou Mongello: And of course, well, I'm going to go out of order a little bit. Uh, I want to welcome, I think John, this is your, this is your first time. Certainly not the first time we have vacation together, [00:03:00] but possibly the first time on the show. John Maloney. Guten tag,

John Mallonee: Envige. I was with you on the

Lou Mongello: Italy show.

Oh, that's right. That's right. See, as you start to get older like me, you start to lose track. And of course. None of this could happen, literally, because she would not let it happen without Becky Mankin from Mouse Fan Travel.

Beci Mahnken: You already had to start. Well, no, I mean, literally,

Lou Mongello: it couldn't, this, this, no, no, this was, that was actually a compliment.

Especially this one. It was a compliment, because I'm going to beat you to the punch, because I know you're going to reinforce at least once, see? And then you'd hit me in the shoulder, say, see, I told you how good river cruising was so long, and you finally did it, and you're right. Um, you not only convinced me, but.

We convinced a lot of people to come and join with us on our first WDW radio river cruise, which again shall not be the last. Yeah,

Beci Mahnken: I was. Yeah. I [00:04:00] started river cruising about six or seven years ago, and I remember coming back from that and thinking this is the perfect situation for a group. And I'm sure that we will talk all about why it's perfect for a group.

But. I'm so glad you

Lou Mongello: listened. See, see, I knew that even though I gave it to her, she had to make sure she got in there, that I'm happy that you listened. Other than, excuse me, Becky, I think Lori, you've river cruised on, you've done, actually done this itinerary before. Has anybody else? Have you ever done a river cruise before this?

No. Not me. So, so let's sort of talk about that, right? This idea of a river cruising, having come from sort of a world of, of doing Disney cruises and some other cruise lines as well. What was it? About this, that was attractive to you, right? Why, why did you book this cruise? Um, obviously, you know, there's, there's the group aspect of it, but what sort of [00:05:00] were your, your, your thoughts or what was sort of attractive about the group cruise for you first, anybody who wants to sort of jump in, feel free.

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: So when I travel, I generally like to see the world. And so while I love a good ocean liner cruise and relaxing and going to the buffet, there's something about really seeing the world when you travel that's awesome. And so this was sort of the best of both worlds, or at least that's what it's And that certainly played out as far as being able to have a trip that's really destination focused and seeing a part of the world that I've never seen before.

But like a snail, like sort of being able to travel with your house on your back, um, as you go and not having to relocate over and over again. And, you know, obviously the ship itself was wonderful. Um, and also mentioned quickly that we had the NAPGEO experts with us, especially somebody who was specializing in photography.

And I know that's a personal interest of a lot of ours. Mine as well. And so having an expert along that could sort of talk us through that element of things was really cool too. [00:06:00]

Beci Mahnken: For

Beatrice Denis: me, I was celebrating my 50th birthday this year and being born in Germany, I wanted to get back to that country for at least part of my 50th year.

And we ended there. So, um, that was my highlight. The places that we visited were all east of where I had been as a child. So I was going to see new things. And some of the places were on my list of places I wanted to see. So as Lisa said, it was great to be able to not have to pack up and move. We, you know, moved with our room along the way.

So it was, it was perfect in every aspect of what I was hoping for.

Lou Mongello: John, what about for you?

John Mallonee: For me, it was the locations, the variety of the locations and going with this group. This group makes a big difference. And the fact that it was Christmas markets, I, I really wanted to experience the Christmas markets and was not let [00:07:00] down. So all of that combined with getting a chance to try a river

Lou Mongello: cruise and Laurie, this, you had done this itinerary before, right?

You did a little bit of, you followed the, uh, the, the way to do it of doing a little bit of research before you actually took your family and your friends on board. But it was the same itinerary. It

Laurie Olivieri: was the same itinerary, but backwards. So the one I did in May, we started in the Passau, Munich area, and then we went down to Budapest.

So that one was more, um, history filled, no Christmas markets, obviously, because it was in May.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. The, the, the Christmas markets, it was obviously a huge selling point. And again, when I talked about, How I had not only heard really good things about river cruising itself, but specifically the Christmas markets.

Like this is the time of year to go because there is this sort of added element and layer on top of what is already an amazing experience. And these, these Christmas markets that we're sort of talking [00:08:00] about is, is this transformation of some of the City squares and, and even their palaces into these wonderful winter wonderlands that is lights and music and food and mulled wine and handcrafted goods and food and mulled wine.

And it's a tradition that goes back many, many years. Um, so let's sort of talk about sort of our expectations going in, not just for. The cruise itself in terms of looking at the destinations, but the cruise experience as a whole, because this is, and it's not a bad thing. It's very, very different than an ocean cruise, which is I think what sometimes makes people either a little hesitant and, or a little bit excited.

Um, this is a Nat Geo expedition. So Nat Geo partnered with Alma waterways to do This Danube river cruise on when we say it's a [00:09:00] ship, it is very, very, like I said, distinct and different from an ocean liner. This is a 158 passenger ship that was built, uh, about seven years ago, built in 2016, where, you know, it's, it's this wonderful and interesting balance because for Disney cruise line, for me.

The ship has always been the star, right? I, I go usually for the ships, especially for the Caribbean ports. I think the exception is Alaska, but here they really focus on the destinations and the sense of immersion that you get both on board. And when you go through the different ports, that's layered on top with the Nat Geo aspect.

Um, they provide, like you mentioned, not just the Nat Geo. Photographer, but a Nat Geo regional expert who talks about the history and the current culture of some of the places that we visit. [00:10:00] Um, and then you sort of have that the photographer sort of layered on top to help you capture those, whether you bring your giant DSLR or you just bring the phone, the camera that is your pocket, which is the phone, um, talk to me about again.

Because I think a lot of people haven't sort of done the river cruising before, especially coming from Disney Cruise Line. Anybody who wants to pop in, tell me your thoughts about going from sort of quote unquote traditional ocean cruising to your thoughts and expectations of what this cruise was going to be and what it was that was, um, interesting and attractive to you.

Beci Mahnken: Can we talk a moment first about what river cruising isn't for just a quick second? The expectations about river cruising in general, a lot of people come at it thinking you have to be 80 years old or older to go on a river cruise. Um, let's go ahead and dispel that rumor [00:11:00] right away. A lot of people don't think about doing river cruises because of that fact.

When you do add something like Nat, uh, Nat Geo on top of it, it does tend to, uh, pique our interests a little bit more because of the, the inclusion of the photographer and, um, and the history as well. But Rivercruising is now starting to reach out to the masses. So you're not going to find, um, a theater on board.

You're not going to find, uh, Um, a casino or those type of distractions, which I think is one of the reasons why I love it so much because there are, there is some entertainment, there's some great food, but it's mainly like you said, focused on the destination itself. So during the day you. Pull up to port, you get out, you do your excursions, you come back on board, you have dinner.

Um, and then you have the evening to spend with everybody in that, uh, get to know you type atmosphere rather than having all the distractions. So I [00:12:00] think that's one of the reasons why personally, I. was drawn to it. Um, after I sailed, because at the very beginning, like I said, it was kind of that, Oh, I have to go on a river cruise.

Is that, you know, only for old people. I know I keep saying that, but it, um, it, it really is a unique experience. That's hard to put into words.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. And I think river cruising too, Becky is not something that is as widely known about, or certainly I think widely advertised. Like I didn't sort of really know that river cruising was a thing.

And I think. My original preconceptions of it were, were like, it wasn't just the age thing, but I think sort of very off in terms of what it was, who it was for and what the experience was like, which is why I'm sort of curious as to everyone else before you got on board, before you experienced it, before he did a little bit more research, what your Yeah.

Your thoughts were what your expectations were, um, and [00:13:00] what you were sort of hoping to get from this experience and how it might differ than an ocean cruise.

Beci Mahnken: I enjoyed a lot of people only thought of the commercials on PBS as being a river cruise. I think a lot of people were only introduced that way. And it's just till recently that we're starting to see other lines like Ama and Avalon, um, come into the mainstream. One

Beatrice Denis: thing that I liked about it was that the food and the entertainment came from the area we were in at that time.

So that was every day the food and the entertainment was

Beci Mahnken: local.

Lou Mongello: Lisa?

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: Um, so I think, you know, a part of what appealed to me about it going in was just how little information there was out there about this [00:14:00] specific trip, which sort of signaled to me that, It wasn't going to be a super touristy spot. It wasn't gonna be sort of blanketed by quote unquote influencers walking around talking into cameras and it, and it, and it, and it wasn't, it was, you know, you, you were kind of given the opportunity to be a fly on the wall, um, in an area that was.

doing something that it's been doing since the late Middle Ages with these Christmas markets, um, and just enjoy it with the people. And I, I felt very, very welcomed by them, but at the same time, nothing about it felt tourist ridden, nothing about it felt like it was being catered to us or crafted around us.

Um, it really felt like, you know, travel in the truest sense and that we got to be a sort of fly on the wall and experience this awesome tradition and see these towns, um, that haven't really been overrun by coverage.

John Mallonee: Yeah, I agree. I was thinking The reason, as I said, I went on the river cruise partly was to, to see the destinations and my anticipation was, and what I was [00:15:00] hearing was that you pull up to a dock, you walk out and you're in the middle of town and then the day was mostly going to be about those tours. So that lived up to the expectation in that regard.

I also expected that. the ships were going to be elegant, if not small, and that the food was going to be excellent. So those are the kind of expectations I had come

Lou Mongello: in and

Laurie, what about for you before you had done your, your first river cruise? Because I know you, you have been An avid cruiser, not just on Disney cruise line, but for a long time.

Laurie Olivieri: I was on purpose. I didn't do much research so that everything I could experience was new and fresh to me. I think what I, the first thing that shocked me totally was you put your suitcase down on the road and you walk 20 steps and you're on the ship.

Um, for me, that was amazing. And, and it set the tone [00:16:00] for both trips, like a relaxing, less stressful. And then they're like, Oh, your room is ready. Here you go. Or go have snacks. And that, to me, set the tone for both of

Lou Mongello: the trips. So let's talk a little bit about the ship itself, right? And I almost want to use ship and air quotes because we think ship, we think ocean liner that has, you know, 12, 14, sometimes 17 decks.

This is a very different, you talk about sort of the boarding process. The ship itself is very, very small. There are three levels. of cabins. There's what we say back. I think there's 158 or so folks total, you know, passengers total that can be on board. So maybe, you know, there's even with with crew, there's probably less than 200.

And, you know, some cruise lines, you walk into these grand halls, these grand atrium, sometimes they are like, Mini malls with shops. This is very different. You walk on board, literally sort of off the curb and step on board. There's not [00:17:00] layers and waiting through security and boarding groups. There's a little reception area, a very small shop.

There's a dining room lounge, a chef's table at the other end of the ship. And upper deck. Um, and then there's a small salon. There's a small, from what they tell me, there's a small gym downstairs as well. It does not have the same locations, the same amenities as a, an ocean cruise, but that's not a bad thing.

And actually, it's one of the things that I found that I really, really enjoyed about this experience from. You mentioned the ease of boarding, right? The ease of getting on board. Laura, you hit it on the head. You literally, you don't go through all these different layers. You, you know, put your suitcase down and you, you're, you're on board.

Like that's it. You're, it's that simple. Um, disembarking the same way. You don't have to go through. Different groups, you don't have to show passports, you don't have to do anything like that, you step off [00:18:00] a very small sort of gangway, and you are in the middle of these small villages and towns, um, and even as you're cruising, and there's certain points where you literally can do this, You almost feel like you could reach out and touch the ground beside you, or, or in some cases, as you pass through the locks, you could literally touch, um, the walls itself.

There are some similar things, you know, you get your daily cruise guide that sort of put under your door every morning, but the programming for the cruise is very, very different sort of daily life on board. Is very different. And this is one of the things that really sort of stood out to me as I started to reflect back on the experience.

And when you go on, we'll use Disney cruise, for example, and this is not a bad thing. You have a navigator now on your phone that is filled with too many things to do, right? You have sort [00:19:00] of the, the, this bounty of choices of things to do, but you do often find yourself. Sort of scheduling yourself throughout the day, right?

I have to meet Ana and Elsa at 11 a. m. I have to go to lunch at 12 o'clock. I have to do second lunch at one o'clock. I've got to go to dinner, get to bingo, go to the show. There's a lot that sort of keeps you as busy as you may want to be, but daily life on board is not that way. Um, you have a much more.

Relaxed atmosphere. Like I never checked the clock other than to just ask how far are we from dinnertime? Talk a little bit about, um, and cause, and we'll talk more about entertainment, but talk sort of about the, the day to day on board. And we'll talk specifically about the ports and the destinations, but talk to me about how you felt about your on board.

cruise experience and the time that you spent specifically on the ship itself. So

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: just for direct comparison, I [00:20:00] looked up the numbers for some other ships just to like, get like the vastness of the difference. So for example, like the Disney Dream has 1, 250 staterooms, a max capacity of 4, 000 passengers and a crew of almost 1, 500.

The Amaviola has 78 cabins, a max capacity for passengers of 156 and a crew of 51. So you just like the scope of that really hits home really hard. I remember like the very first night, um, I remember like looking at you Lou during when we were all in the main lounge, kind of hearing about the itinerary or sort of lack thereof, at least while we were on the ship and thinking like, this is going to be the most wonderfully relaxing trip that didn't fully play out because Horts themselves are quite exhausting.

But as far as the time on the ship, like I loved not having to like have my phone in the app, like the entire time that we were sailing to see like what time bingo was and what time is, you know, what time is trivia and when is karaoke and when's the silent [00:21:00] disco like it was all just. Such a chill experience.

And I loved that everyone had one main space to gather because that just brought us all together. So naturally, um, whenever we weren't in port,

Lou Mongello: anybody else, Lori,

Laurie Olivieri: I loved having the lounge there was sometimes there was enough room to like spread out. Sometimes you had to sit closer, but it was just nice having, they had snacks in there. You could go get a cup of tea and a cookie and just relax. And sometimes nobody was in there. Sometimes it was friends in there.

I really enjoyed that part and gathering there at night for the local festivities and parties and dancing that was that was a big highlight to hang out with friends

Lou Mongello: because everything really does happen in that one room that that large lounge in the front. Sort of almost half of the ship is sort of a combination of, you know, a comfy, a lot of comfortable chairs, places to sort of [00:22:00] literally lounge around, but there's also a bar in there.

It's where the entertainment happened. It's where the snacks happened. So you're right. Unlike a cruise where after dinner, you know, people scatter, you don't know where anybody is going to be at one time. You know, unless you're spending time in your stateroom, this is where you're going to be. And I'm certainly on other cruises when it's not very cold outside, you could be up on the upper decks, um, which we really didn't take advantage of because it was literally freezing in wintertime.

But you're right. I like sort of having that central location, whether you're sitting there reading a book, you're playing a game, you're having a drink, we're just chatting with friends, we're making new ones. I really, really liked this idea of everyone coming together. In that single location,

Beci Mahnken: and that's why it's so perfect for a group of people because you know, everybody is, they're either eating somewhere.

They're off the ship. They're in their state room or they're in that room. And of course, that room also has a small bar. So you can [00:23:00] get used to, uh, or get to know the crew members as well. I got some great conversations with the crew members that were there. Hanging out at the bar, go figure. But that's one of the beautiful things about it.

And as you said, Lisa, the comparison of size of the ship and the number of people, this is conducive to a very relaxing atmosphere. Um, And like you said, the, the ports can be intensive. If you want to do a morning and an afternoon excursion, you certainly can. If you don't want to do them and you just want to sit and read a book in that, um, in that lounge space, you can do that too.

If you just want to sit with friends that you haven't had an opportunity to just catch up with and chat with, you can do that too. So you pretty much have the vacation experience that. You want to

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: create and while you're so right that it was the perfect trip for a group, I can also see how it'd be the perfect trip for a solo [00:24:00] traveler or a small family or couple because while our group was what it was, and we came in all close and knowing each other, I think we would all agree that, like, we left with a lot of other friends and feeling like the rest of the people on the ship and like you said, Becky, the crew as well have become close friends because you're all just together the entire time.

And if you're going on, I think it'd be very, very difficult to go on a sailing like that and not leave with a new group of friends.

John Mallonee: Yeah, I agree. I, and I like that you didn't have to make all those choices. You don't have to decide what am I doing at five o'clock and seven o'clock and nine o'clock. You, they, they were much more simplified. And in the evening, like you say, you just had a chance to get together either as our group or the entire group of the ship.

So it was very relaxing. After being very

Lou Mongello: active, yeah, the lounge service, you know, a wonderful purpose, not just as a gathering place, but as a relaxing place to sort of [00:25:00] unwind, talk about decompress and share memories and snacks from earlier in the day. And sometimes. More than one destination. And we'll get to that as well.

Beatrice Denis: And it was nice to have the different discussions of what was your excursion today, because not all of us did the same things. So, you know, we could connect on what we did or listen to the music or dance to the entertainment. It was wonderful to,

Beci Mahnken: to just

Beatrice Denis: share all of our experiences.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. And speaking about going together as, as a group, uh, the ship was not full, right? Becky, there was about 110 or so folks on board. And I think we were, I think we had like, yeah, we were like 57 of them. So, you know, um, but it didn't matter. Like we were not sort of our conversations and, and our relationships were not isolated to our WW radio family.[00:26:00]

You, the environment there is so warm, literally, because it's freezing outside and welcoming and friendly that it, you invariably will sit across from someone on a couch that may not have been from the group, may have ended up sort of being adopted into the group. Um, But meeting other people from, from different areas as well, I thought was, was really nice too.

Um, so again, it's, it's, I think that advantage of having that single space and while there may not be a Walt Disney theater, while there may not be a Tritons, while there may not be an evolution. The entertainment comes to you or sometimes you make it yourself and it happens right there on board. And I want to sort of talk briefly about the entertainment.

Cause Lisa, to your point, I brought a book with me. I'm like, this is it. This is finally going to be the cruise that I get to sort of dust off [00:27:00] of my virtual Kindle book and sit down and read. Cause I'm going to have plenty of time. There's probably not going to be a lot to do. And I was very wrong because every night there was entertainment in that lounge.

First of all, huge, like love and thumbs up to Gabor. The, the, the man who wears many hats. Um, he was a musician who. frequently was playing piano in the main lounge. Um, and he was wonderful and he was friendly and he's right there and accessible and, and took requests, but a big part of river cruising, and I think I'm a waterways does this, whether it's a Nat Geo.

Cruise, whether it is an Adventures by Dizzy Cruise is the integration of local cultures, not just when you step off the ship, but while you're on board as well, because every evening there was entertainment that was brought on board. That they were not on board the entire [00:28:00] time. They literally, like, as you go into port, they come on board.

And so one night there was, um, there was Christmas tree decorating. There was glue wine, which will come up many, many, many times later. There was, I think it was in Bratislava, right? Was it the father and son and the two women doing the, um, the dance performance, which I absolutely like. When I found out that he was his son, like my heart just swelled.

Um, there was a singer when we were in Vienna. Um, we couldn't go to October Fest, so they literally brought October Fest to us on board. And then one night , there was a dance party that was, I'm not sure if it was on the itinerary, but I think the WWE radio group, like it or not, uh, created their own bit of, of entertainment.

Talk to me individually, um, in any order about the onboard entertainment. And when I talk about that, it's some of the things that [00:29:00] I mentioned or some of the entertainment, maybe that you created and brought on board with you. Did you have time to sit back and read a book or just have a drink at the bar or in your state room?

Give me your thoughts on entertainment. Again, in no order, feel free.

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: So yeah, one of my favorite things about being able to like pull into these ports and be like literally in the destination and each place that we visited was the proximity, not only for us to get off the ship, but for them to bring stuff to us on the ship. So, you know, as I understand it, they were bringing on like fresh food every day and were able to give us some of the sort of local treats in each place.

And you could tell they were bringing fresh food. fresh food onto the ship at each port and also obviously the entertainment that you just talked about. Like it was a very sort of always like perfectly tastefully done, like really lovely taste of the local culture. Um, the singer from Vienna was wonderful and I think that was what kind of segued into a dance party.[00:30:00]

Um, And yeah, me too. Like when the, when the father and son were, were dancing, they were doing the traditional dancing in Bratislava. Like the whole time I was watching thinking, Oh, I hope they're father and son. Cause it would just be so cool. And in the end he said it was his son and it was a very happy moment for me as well.

Beatrice Denis: And the

Beci Mahnken: Oktoberfest. I personally liked the immersion of the different cultures because we did visit quite a few countries. We visited Hungary and Austria and Slovakia and, uh, Germany, and each one of them had their own flavor of entertainment. So you did get, you know, not only uh, the experience of being on a river cruise and seeing the different cities and the towns as you, as you toured, but each different location, you were exposed to different entertainment.

And of course, like you said, the dance party turned into the U S infiltrated wherever we were at the time, because I haven't. I have not seen a group of people go so crazy for [00:31:00] 1970s music as I did for those couple of evenings. Um, we were, we were just missing the very large disco ball in the lights, but that's okay.

But it was so neat to experience some of the different cultures and, uh, the, the different traditions in, in entertainment. So one of the very many reasons to do a river cruise.

John Mallonee: And they were also passionate about what they brought, whether it was singing or dancing, um, sharing Oktoberfest, all of those things.

You could see that they were really excited to be there and, and it, and it showed, and that everybody responded well to that. I liked also how we had Members of our group be involved. So we had people with what, what were they balancing on their head? Oh,

Lou Mongello: the bottles, the wine bottles or wine

John Mallonee: bottles, balancing on their heads.

Uh, we had a couple of, uh, members [00:32:00] of our, well, somebody was getting a little sultry with one of our, uh, uh, one of our friends and then, uh, his wife came up to dance with them as well. And so, yeah, we, we had a lot of fun interaction. I know we had later hose in and Beatrice was dressed to. Very, if she belonged there out on the, out on the stage or out on the dance floor.

And yeah, it was a lot of interaction, a lot of fun. I got

Beci Mahnken: a dance. I appreciated

Laurie Olivieri: the dinners. That were all like local flavors, the Hungarian goulash and the soups and the different fried goodies. And they matched the wines with them for dinner also. That was enjoyable. I tried

Lou Mongello: them all. So, you know, what I really liked about.

The entertainment was one. It was specific to the location where we were at, right? They were local entertainers, and I want to sort of articulate this properly. The level of [00:33:00] authenticity of the performers did not feel like. Well, this is our interpretation of what, you know, folk singers in Austria are like, these are folks singers from Austria.

This is what they do. Everything there is, um, is completely authentic as opposed to, you know, Like watching a Disney movie version of what things are supposed to be like there, the cultural immersion really helped sort of connect the dots from some of the places you visited, and even some of the places that you didn't get to visit and we'll, and we'll talk about this later too.

The way that the crews and huge, huge, um, kudos to Alma waterways. There was at one point because of the dynamic of river cruising that we'll get to, we were unable to visit one of the locations. So instead of missing out on the entertainment of the night. The entertainers drove an hour and a half to come on board [00:34:00] for an hour to entertain us and then drive back home an hour and a half as we took off late at night for their port.

Like I loved the adaptability and for them the importance of not just providing entertainment, but providing entertainment that was. Important and impactful for the overall experience.

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: Yeah. You're articulating much better. What I was trying to sort of allude to when I said it didn't feel campy. I think like if you're coming from ocean liner cruising, especially in your picture, like, you know, dancers from these different, like if there was nothing about it that felt forced or like it was an interpretation of something or being presented to us, it was just like these people from the various destinations that we were in, like coming on the ship and like with love, sharing their culture with us.

And just deepening that level of immersion that much more, um, and being able to talk to them afterwards and talk to the locals that were boarding the ship, like that also gave a [00:35:00] level of accessibility to us when we were in these cities that I think we wouldn't have had elsewhere because we were walking around in places where I know for me, like I never imagined I would be able to set foot.

So to be able to feel comfortable there because we had locals to ask questions every time we had a question or something like that was awesome, too. So just being able to interact with them as people, um, obviously added to the trip that

Lou Mongello: much more. And I know it seems it might seem silly, but there was a wonderful sense of, especially because it happened early of letting.

Guests decorate the Christmas trees, go into the boxes and decorate the Christmas trees in the lounge, right? There was a, there was a wonderful sense of, um, camaraderie and family and community because you're doing something that families do together. And you took these sort of bare Christmas trees and we made them all our own.

And I watched sort of the dynamic and interactions of people who may have been strangers 10 [00:36:00] minutes earlier, sort of become friends and sort of have some fun decorating the trees. And, and they consistently did things like that. If there was not necessarily entertainment on board, even if the cruise director during the day would come in and make announcements or share things.

There was a sort of the simple joy of the gathering space, um, that, that the lounge provided that I really, really, really liked and appreciated.

Beci Mahnken: One thing I really loved speaking of that tradition, and I know you would only get this on Christmas markets, but this didn't happen on the last Christmas markets, one that I was on.

So it was very surprising and very fun. When they told us to leave our shoes out, um, that, that night. And you're thinking, what? You want us to put our shoes outside the door? What? Um, of course that morning we all woke up with chocolates shoved into our shoes, which was such a neat surprise. And for me, I know it's a.

[00:37:00] Now I know anyway, that it's a cultural thing that they do quite often in that area, but I had never heard of that before. So it's kind of like a neat little added surprise that they were always doing throughout the entire, uh, cruise, which I do know that those types of surprises, while they. It's not going to be put out your shoes when it's not a Christmas markets.

They do that type of thing to keep everybody engaged, uh, throughout the sailings, especially on our, on our waterways. They do such a great job of engaging with our guests. And I think that

Lou Mongello: my

John Mallonee: wife protected her chocolate Santa the entire way home the other day. And then we also had the

Lou Mongello: gingerbread. There was a lot of things that are going on.

That were not necessarily this, the evening entertainment, but other activities and stuff that were going on on board as well. Yeah. John, talk about the, you were, you were mentioning the gingerbread decorating. I

John Mallonee: think it was a lot of people from our group there, and I'm sure you're going to talk about [00:38:00] this part of the ship a little bit later on, but we were at the captain's table decorating.

Gingerbread during the day. So they brought out a, the chef brought out a whole range of gingerbread. There were bells and there were gingerbread men. And there were a couple of other different, uh, different shapes, but they brought out the icing and they brought out a number of toppings and everybody decorated as many as they wanted to.

There was more gingerbread than, than you, you could even decorate. And we did that in the afternoon while we were traveling from one port to another. So sometimes we were. Yeah. In the common room in the evening, because we were done touring for the day, a couple of times we were moving from one port to another, one town to another.

And so we were doing things during the day. And I know we'll talk about some of the talks we had from that geo, uh, during that space as

Lou Mongello: well. But even just on, on any cruise, right? There was, um, Throughout the day and certainly starting in the morning, there were, uh, [00:39:00] wellness and fitness classes, um, stretching and yoga that were very popular among the ladies.

I don't know why, other than maybe because of the way the fitness instructor might have looked, but there was also, you know, simple things like afternoon tea and snacks in the lounge, and I loved having. Again, time on your own to relax, but there was always something or somebody who was around to gather with in the lounge.

So you really, as we start to talk about the excursion stuff too, this is very much a choose your own adventure, not geo expedition and river cruise. And when we talk about the, the excursions as well, Very much at your own pace to one of the things that I loved. But one of you were multiple, many of you alluded to something really not an important part of cruising for me.

But I think we need to talk about the dining, uh, both on board and off of the ship as well. Once again, I had heard. Lou, you're going to love this. You're going to love the [00:40:00] dining. There's a single central dining room where all the dining happens. All those snacks are served in the lounge in the morning and then throughout until late night.

Um, so there's, you know, a breakfast spread in the morning. There's, um, late night snacks as well. sip and sales. Um, there was, we didn't discover this until very late in the cruise. There was tapas in the lounge that I did not get a chance to participate in, which I am very, very upset about. I'd love to hear your thoughts about your dining experiences on the cruise.

Um, how did the Food, how did the service, um, the, the quality of the food as well as the variety of the food meet, compare with, or exceed, um, any expectations. I will say one thing that I didn't realize until we got on board that in addition to all of your food being included, um, having wine at dinner was also included too, which I [00:41:00] think was a really, really nice.

And again, as you're coming down from your excursions throughout the day, um, I think a lot of people really appreciate it. So, um, Anybody sort of jump in your thoughts on your dining experiences on board.

Beatrice Denis: I enjoyed being able to see. Lori,

Lou Mongello: go ahead. I'll have to start calling on you. Go ahead, Lori, go first. I tried everything.

Laurie Olivieri: I tried, we sat with different people every night so that I could take pictures of their food and maybe try a bite or two. And I tried, um, I'm a red wine drinker, so they always kept my glass full, which was.

amazing. Like he was just there, um, I have an allergy. So they were able to accommodate that.

Lou Mongello: You make a great point by the way, about it being open seating for dinner too, as opposed to again, Disney cruise line, where you have a table number that you are assigned to [00:42:00] your server rotates with you. You can sort of pick and choose where you want to sit, who you want to sit with, which I think is really nice too, whether you're going in a group or if you want to sort of dine on your own, having that option to sort of.

Mix and match your dining partners or just have a quiet evening to yourself is, is I really, really like that. You

Laurie Olivieri: could, there was, even though there was like one dining time, you could also come a little later and there was always tables available, which was really nice too.

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: We tried

Laurie Olivieri: a lot of food that they have, um, for the not so adventurous.

I didn't ever go off it, but I know some people did. They got the ones that were like chicken or steak or burger or pizza. So if you're not an adventurous foodie, there's also

Lou Mongello: options for you. And by adventurous, I mean, there's not, you know, crazy stuff on the menu, but a lot of it is also geared towards.

Where you are, somebody mentioned earlier about how on a daily basis, new food, local food is brought on board. And the menu [00:43:00] each night is, is somewhat reflective of that, but there are also sort of the, the quote unquote staple options, whether it's steak or chicken, um, vegetarian, gluten free meals, et cetera.

All those things, special needs or were also, um, from what I understand, very easily accommodated by the chef as well.

Beci Mahnken: And that's something I wanted to, to kind of pile up on is that don't be afraid if you have food allergies because they are prepared and ready and able to handle pretty much any food allergy that you might come across.

So Um, they were so accommodating. As a matter of fact, when Lori and I were on the one in May, we had probably six people in our group that all had different types of food allergies and they were able to accommodate every single one of them. And I think that, uh, kind of not gives a nod to the benefit of having.

The fresh food that is delivered every single day, or they go out from the ship and the chef and his team brings back fresh ingredients, which, [00:44:00] um, you know, is amazing. So I know that a lot of people get a little afraid, especially if they're going outside of the U. S. and they have food allergies, but don't worry if you're traveling with on the waterways.

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: Yeah, I loved that the main dining room had like a local option and a vegetarian option and then sort of a really solid, you know, steak or chicken or pizza go to if you kind of weren't feeling it that day. I also loved that our crews happened to fall solidly during the week of Hanukkah. Um, and they were nice enough to have like a Hanukkah dedicated table with some treats and kosher wines and things like that.

And I thought that was really lovely. And also I think it's worth mentioning that like, aside from like the sip and sale and the tapas and other things that happened in the main lounge, they also had like quick dining options in that main lounge for, I guess, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and then an evening snack.

So if you were just running a little bit late or didn't want to sit and have, you know, a long meal, it was absolutely an option to run into that main lounge and grab something. You know, sort of constant, like a continental breakfast type where they had eggs and things like that there. And, [00:45:00] um, you know, and, and, and each meal after that.

And also the chef's table was phenomenal, like the chef's table was such a good meal. Um, so like props to them for putting that together

Beci Mahnken: on the ship.

John Mallonee: We did use those alternative. Meals for breakfast and lunch a couple of times when, like you say, we were running late or or we just felt like taking it easy.

So you could go into the lounge while everybody's down at the main restaurant for breakfast or lunch. You could go into the lounge. They had people that would come and wait on you. They had a shorter menu, but some of the same things and bring it right to your table and, and it made it faster and more convenient.

But, but the chef's table, absolutely. I, I'm so thankful we all had that chance to do

Lou Mongello: that while we were on the ship. Yeah. The chef's table, just to be clear, um, the, the main dining room is sort of occupies the middle and the forward of the ship and on deck. Three in the aft of the [00:46:00] ship is a small, um, in a relatively small room, maybe holds what is it, Becky, about 40 or so, if, if that may be 35, 40 or so seats, it's 20, actually.

Um, so it's a very intimate experience and, and before we get to the chef's table, one of the things I want to mention too, is that throughout the ship, the, throughout the, the, the, the cruise dining is very casual. Right. You can sort of come and go. If you want to sort of dress for dinner, you can do that.

If you want to come and just warm, comfy clothes, you can do that as well. And if you want to have an elevated experience, you can sign up for the chef's table of fortunately, everybody in our group was able to do it over two different nights with Becky. That's something that once you get on board again, like Disney cruise line, we have to sign up for things advanced, trying to get Apollo reservations.

These things happen on board and sometimes it's a little bit easier because there's that single desk. It's a small It's it's a smaller ship. There's a smaller number of guests So they [00:47:00] are able to you know for a lot of people if you want to do chef's table is an option, but how does this sort of chef's table experience work?

Beci Mahnken: Yeah. And this happens if you're with Nat Geo or with your, or if you just sail with Alma waterways individually, it's no extra charge to do that experience too. And a lot of people are kind of surprised about that because it is a phenomenal experience. But one of the things, like you just said, it's so easy.

You don't have to sign up for shore excursions six months ahead of time. You don't have to worry about signing up for things, um, to figure out where you want to eat. 180 days before you sail, you actually just walk on board and work with the cruise manager and they have signups for things. And even the short excursions, you could decide the day of, you could sign up for it on the first day.

And by the day of that excursion, if you decide you want to switch to something else, it's easy to do. So. It's, that's another reason why it's just so relaxing because you don't [00:48:00] feel like you have a regimented bullet list that you have to do it days 90 and 30 and 10 days out. You get to walk on board and make decisions as you go.

But for the chef's table specifically, when you first board on the first day, they'll have a signup sheet for you and you just pick the night and you put your name by there. And I was wrong. I think it's 28, not 26 in that room. Um, Transcribed But you just sign up for the night you want to go and you get to experience the chef's table at no additional

Lou Mongello: cost.

And, and that's one of the things I think that, and we'll talk about the excursions and stuff too, you can walk on board Becky. And if you want to, you don't have to spend an additional dime because all your meals are included. If you want wine at dinner, that is included as well. The chef tables is included in when we talk about the excursion.

All of your excursions are included too. If you want to sort of literally take a bike and sort of bike off the ship, you can do that too. And all of that is, is included, [00:49:00] which I think is, is, it's very important to note. And I think it's really nice too, because when you say relaxing, I think that's relaxing in terms of planning and preparation, both in advance of the cruise.

And while you're on board the cruise, you don't have to have that sort of. You know, Excel spreadsheet sort of laid out of, you know, what are we going to favorite on the app? Because what are we going to need to go to next you could sort of pick and choose. And even one day we decided, Hey, we were going to do this afternoon excursion.

We're going to hang out on board instead. And, you know, no harm, no foul, no time or money lost, um, along the way. Um,

Beci Mahnken: Right, and just to clarify really quickly, because we were on a Nat Geo excursion, everything was included for the excursions. However, with some Alma waterways, you'll have a morning and an afternoon choices that are included.

However, There are some that are additional cost. If you want to take advantage of, say, I want to say like the, um, [00:50:00] the concert in Vienna, that is one that is normally an additional cost. So you'll find that on most of the river cruise itinerary.

Lou Mongello: So let's talk quickly about the Nat Geo difference. Uh, this is a Nat Geo.

Expedition, which is obviously a Nat Geo sort of branded cruise partnering with Alma Water Race. What makes it a Nat Geo expedition? Well, for this collaboration, um, they bring on two different National Geographic experts. One of them, Mark Baker, um, was someone who has a, a very personal history. In this region, um, in terms of, uh, the, the Vienna and the Danube and having lived in that region, I think free said, um, 11 years and presented a number of times throughout the, the cruise, uh, and, and sort of even on one of the excursions about not just the, the history of where you were, but his personal experiences and personal photos as well.

[00:51:00] Um, I think for a lot of people, one of the things that really sort of piqued their interest. Was, uh, Krista Russo. Um, she not only gave presentations and lectures, but really sort of interactive, uh, educational seminars on, uh, travel photography, whether it's using your phone, using the DSLR and unlike a presentation format, it really became an interactive Q and a almost like a workshop, which I really liked because you were able to take.

Lessons that she was giving you, no matter what phone that you have. And there was, I was watching around the room. There was so many like aha moments. Like I didn't know my phone could do that. I never thought about. Using this technique when going to photograph something, I never thought about sort of coming at it from this eye or perspective, bringing her personal experiences stories, but more importantly, expertise and making it accessible and applicable to every single person on board, [00:52:00] I think really was.

One of the highlights. And I loved watching the faces of people that it was like they discovered fire. Like they didn't know that their phone could do that. Um, so that's part of what the not geo layering on top was. Um, anybody want to share any of their thoughts about the guides themselves, the presentations or the not geo aspect of the experience for yourself?

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: I love an opportunity to like geek out on a trip. And so the ability to like sit there with People like Mark who had spent like so many years in the area and have had these just really incredible stories and things that he's been through and people that he's interviewed and being able to sit and listen to him talk about, you know, architecture in the area and the fall of communism, um, through his own experience and the Habsburgs.

Um, you know, during the trip, like we keep using the word immersion, but really like the level of depth that he was able to add to the [00:53:00] trip was so incredible. And then of course, also like listening to Krista and like being able to see her out and about on the same excursions that we were on and watching her give, you know, tips to people.

And, and also toward the end of the trip, she gave a really, really interesting talk on just her Um, and I appreciate it listening to, to that as well. So again, like we keep using words like immersion and adding depth and, you know, this, this was, I think one of the really big things for me that did that.

Beatrice Denis: One thing that really brought it home for me

Beci Mahnken: was

John Mallonee: going on the excursion. So, if there wouldn't have been a National Geographic,

Beatrice Denis: Sorry. One thing that brought it home for me was going on the excursions with them. So say, for example, Krista was with us and, and she's taking her own photographs. So we could, you know, talk to her about photography while she was with us on the excursions.[00:54:00]

Lou Mongello: John.

John Mallonee: Sorry, she cut off on me there. What I was going to ask Becky was, If it wasn't a national geographic cruise, what would have occurred in the afternoons when we were traveling from port to port? So that one of the things I love the interaction with them. I agree. Krista had office hours. She helped people either on the ship or when we were out on the excursions and Mark had great talks.

But if we didn't have their presentations on some of those afternoons as we were moving. What would, um, waterways have done in those spaces? Yeah,

Beci Mahnken: it's, it's really cool. Actually, they have somebody who will come out and talk like, like they did when we were sailing up through, um, that, that one day where we were going past all the castles and, and the really cool areas.

They do have some, uh, narration. that they talk about what [00:55:00] we're passing by, what you're looking at, what you're seeing. Um, they've also just have that quiet time where you can just sit there and read your book and watch the world go by. So it really does depend on the itinerary, what you're passing, what you're doing, what you're seeing.

And if you're sailing during the day, they'll also have people like, um, like our cruise manager, when you're going through the locks, he would talk about the experience of going through the lock. So they. they do kind of fill in a lot of those, um, times with different information that you might be going past.

The only real difference between the Nat Geo piece and what we, what we saw is The two Nat Geo folks that were on board to give lectures. So it might not be as jam packed with, uh, the Nat Geo lecture people. You might have a little bit more downtime, but you still have a lot of information that's being given by people they bring on or.

The, um, the cruise manager themselves. They also have several that are like wine cruises or specializing [00:56:00] in that. So they'll bring on, um, uh, winery owners that will talk about their wines in the area that they come from and so forth. So it really depends on the itinerary.

Lou Mongello: Gotcha. Yeah. It's different than taking an adventures by Disney, for example, where you have like adventures by Disney guides who are there.

with you all the time. And then you also have your local guides as well. They were really there to provide sort of that, not just historical information and background, but onboard presentations. And yes, they did come on some of. The excursions as well, but those really were led by local guides in all of the areas.

And again, same thing too. We'll talk about the individual ports and some of the excursions, but those local guides in small groups, um, brought, you know, a wealth of local history and local knowledge. And then sometimes was punctuated even a little bit more. I know Mark was on one of the excursions with us.

I just happened to turn around and he was [00:57:00] there and he gave me. Even a little bit more information about some of the places that we were a little bit more of his own personal history. And I loved having that sort of additional layer on top of it. And then Becky, when this is done through adventures by Disney, it, it takes on a little bit of a different flavor as well.


Beci Mahnken: Right. To make sure we clarify that, um, both Nat Geo and Adventures by Disney do contract with Alma Waterway. So it's the exact same cruise line. However, with ABD, they're looking at families coming on board, right? And as we've kind of alluded to, there's not a lot to do for kids on board the river cruise.

There's not a kid's club. There's not a lot of things happening. So with an adventures by Disney, they bring on six or eight guides, um, adventures by Disney guides who will then have activities during the day to keep the families occupied and to keep them, keep the kids, uh, engaged, uh, during the times that it's might be a little bit.[00:58:00]

Boring for kids on board, right? If you were just on a regular river cruise, so Adventures by Disney takes a whole different tactic with it, with engaging the families and getting the kids occupied and playing and games. And also the adventure guides do also go on the shore excursions as well. With the shore excursions that we were on, we did have Mark or others go with us, but they were conducted by local guides.

Lou Mongello: And just quickly to your point, you know, sort of going back to what you mentioned earlier, this incorrect preconception or misconception about what is sort of the demographic of who traditionally takes river cruises. It is, it does not necessarily skew older. I think it may depend on the line, the time of year, what cruises is.

While everyone on this cruise for the most part were, were all adults, it did sort of span a very wide range. There was one I only saw one person who appeared to be under [00:59:00] 18, uh, one girl who was with her family seemed like she was 15 years. I don't know if it was somebody here on the call, but somebody did mention while we were on board that they had talked to her and she seemed like she was having a great time.

She was interested in all of the seminar. She attended everything. So I don't think that this cruise, while it does, well, it's not quote unquote adult only. You know, especially depending on the age of your Children and how entertained they want to be either by you by what they do on their own. You know, kids are certainly welcome on board as well.

But yes, there's no kids club. There's no stage shows. There's no things like that. Um, you know, my kids are there. Yeah. you know, a little bit older, they're 18 and 20. I think they would have really enjoyed it. If your kids are maybe, you know, eight to 10, you would have to sort of decide on your own, if this is the type of cruise that, that they would enjoy as well.

Beci Mahnken: I think it really depends on the kid. Obviously when I I've been on those cruises where there was, I think, Laurie, there was one that a 10 year [01:00:00] old girl on the one in May, and she loved. everything that was going on. And she listened to the history talks and she was really engaged in, um, in the activities that were given.

So, you know, some 10 year olds are going to be great with it. Others are just not. So I think it just really depends on the child.

Lou Mongello: Yeah, and when I, whenever I saw that girl, I was happy that I didn't see her looking down at her phone the entire time, right? That's not the way she was sort of spending her cruise, which by the way, quick aside, Wi Fi is included.

Wi Fi is actually, was actually very good and included on board as well. So you can stay connected if you want to, but your screen should And was not, um, and should not be the focus of what you're paying attention to while you're on board, even on Disney Cruise, because the navigator app is there, you're now sort of beholding to your phone because it is your gateway [01:01:00] to chatting with members of your family, with the crew, if need be, but it is your, um, It is also your guide.

We're here. One, there's not a lot that you have to sort of worry about, but two, you did get a sort of paper, uh, daily cruiser each and every day to let you know what was going on. Um, I want to start again.

Beci Mahnken: I was gonna say, I think my only worry was to make sure in the morning if I walked down that the, there was hot chocolate powder left in the cocoa machine because his Lisa's husband apparently would have drained the entire thing if he had the opportunity.

Lou Mongello: I've never seen, and that's another thing. I've never seen a man drink that much hot chocolate ever in my life.

Beci Mahnken: I haven't either, but it was really good. Hot chocolate. Um, it came out of the expresso machine, but that's another thing. Those are all included. So 24 hours a day, you could just walk up and make a latte for yourself or, or get a a cup of hot chocolate or tea.

So another thing that's, you know, a good value when you're on board, I miss that frothy milk. [01:02:00] Yeah. So good.

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: Yeah. I was gonna speak up and I never had a chance. We were talking through that. I said we would be doing a disservice to the group if we didn't mention the tea and coffee machine. And also like the smallness of the ship, like kind of stands out with like That kind of a teeny little detail like there was this wonderful little like hot drinks machine like kind of as you boarded the ship, like outside the main lounge that had like hot water for tea and coffee and hot chocolate we're joking about.

And because your room is like, you know, 25 paces to the right, like it wasn't a big deal to be sitting in bed and think I could go for some chamomile tea right now and then just go grab some. In your

Lou Mongello: pajamas, you can go down and go down in your pajamas too. Yeah, totally.

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: Like little details like that made such a big difference just because it was such a cozy little ship that like the fact that that machine was there like did make a difference at 2am when you wanted a cup

Beci Mahnken: of tea.

Yeah, and I'm really disappointed. Well, obviously not because it was Christmas market. So it's supposed to be cold and it's supposed to be a little, you know, little snowy. [01:03:00] But one of the best places to utilize is that top deck that we just didn't have that much of a chance to, to hang out up there, but it, it's got a little plunge pool and it's got, you know, tons of, of seating areas that you could just enjoy the world going by as you're sailing.

So hopefully, hopefully on the next one, it'll be warm enough that we'll be able to, uh, enjoy

Lou Mongello: that. I wanted to do a little, you know, A hot tub dip, but man, it was cold when he got out of that. So I was trying to just, I was just avoiding the, um, the pneumonia. You know what? I completely forgive me. One thing we didn't talk about.

I want to just touch on quickly. We talked about the ship. We talked about the dining areas. We talked about the events. We didn't talk about the state rooms. We didn't talk about the different types of state rooms and what, uh, the cabins were like they're like a regular. Ocean liner. There are varieties of, um, of stateroom sizes and types of there are three different decks of [01:04:00] staterooms.

Becky, I believe all of the staterooms are, while they might not have a, a balcony, they do. They're all sort of there's at the very least they're fixed window, right? So they all sort of face out. There's no interior cabins. Correct.

Beci Mahnken: Correct. Yeah, everything is at least has a window, but the ones that only have a window or below the or at the waterline or below.

So not the best scenario, but those, of course, are the buy in the lead in price to get on

Lou Mongello: board. And then there are some that have a French balcony. Some have an outside. So they do go up from fixed window to, you know, full blown suites that range, you know, from about 160 square feet to about 350 square feet.

So depending on what you want, your size, your budget, the size of your family, there is a variety of state rooms to choose from. Um, anybody want to just quickly talk about your state room, your feelings of it, [01:05:00] um, whether it's the decor. But we certainly, you know, we talked about the, the ease of it. Listen, one thing, you know, you take, you go to the dream with a fantasy.

Sometimes you realize just how far some of these state rooms might be at the end of the night, but that was not an issue here. Uh, anybody want to sort of weigh in on your thoughts of the state rooms?

Laurie Olivieri: I loved being able to open up my balcony door. And when we were going through the locks and.

Lou Mongello: You're not supposed to touch the walls of the lox!

Beci Mahnken: I

Lou Mongello: know!

Laurie Olivieri: I did some videos of the lox. It just fascinates me to no end. We sat out, I sat out there one night, um, just watching us go down in the lox and then go back up. And then the scenery from the balconies was just beautiful.

Lou Mongello: I bundled up

John Mallonee: the bathrooms are definitely tighter than what you're going to get on a Disney ship.

You don't have the split bathroom [01:06:00] for larger people like myself. You tend to hit the sides, but they were very well appointed. They were very clean and elegant and more than workable for the amount of time you spend in the room.

Beatrice Denis: Um,

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: so I liked the fact that the location of the cabin didn't matter at all. You know, obviously like the ship's not rocking, so there's no preference for being on the ends versus in the middle, everything faced outward. Um, we had a, we actually had a combination of a French balcony and a traditional balcony, so that was a great use of space.

Um, and also while the room was a little bit smaller, like John said, especially like some of the, the, the bathroom. you know, spaces in the room that we had. Um, it was very well appointed. So it reminded me sort of like when you go [01:07:00] to Ikea and they're showing you like what you can do with 250 feet of square space if you use it properly.

It's sort of like how the room was laid out. So while it was on the smaller side and, you know, things like the shower were a little bit tight, um, the use of space was very good. And like there were like as many storage issues I've had on other ships.

Beci Mahnken: There's a lot of great storage in those, in the spaces and they have a little desk and it's very workable.

It's very livable. You don't, you're not supposed to spend a ton of time in your room, which is why it's kind of small because they're trying to make the most of all the space. But, um, this is one of their older ships. It's 2016 when it was built. The ones that have come out since, they've made a lot of design changes to even make that space flow a little better as well.

So you'll find different, um, different experiences on different ships.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. The thing I found here where I thought, this is great. I'm going to take my book. I'm going to sort of relax in my state room. I'm going to [01:08:00] read quietly. I found that I didn't want to be in my state room. I wanted to be in that lounge area.

And even if I wanted to just sit quietly and have my 312th, you know, cup of hot tea with honey. I wanted to sort of be in that space. I wanted to look out the windows there. I mean, if there are, you know, almost floor to ceiling windows in that lounge area, there's always somebody there. If you want to talk to there's maybe light music playing in the background, but I wanted to sort of be in that communal space as opposed to be alone in my room, which I think is really sort of a testament to the dynamic of the ship and certainly traveling together, um, as a group.

Beci Mahnken: And it. Yeah. And it had a lot of, um, of different configurations. So there were couches and there were chairs and there were tables. So many times I would just take my laptop because I didn't want to sit in the room. I'd go down, take laptop set up near that really cool hot chocolate machine [01:09:00] and work from there and you could plug in.

And so there's a lot of, of options to use that space.

Lou Mongello: And while we're talking about the state room, it just made me think while there is no. Guest accessible laundry on board. Uh, if you do need to have laundry done that are laundry services that are available. So, um,

Beci Mahnken: And it was really reasonable to you rather than for those of you who've done ocean cruising and you're, you're doing a pair of underwear for 7 and 50 cents.

It's which gets a little out of hand, um, on board. These were really, really reasonable in terms of the cost to do an entire load of laundry. So I really appreciated that. And efficient.

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: The same day turnaround time.

Beci Mahnken: Yeah.

Lou Mongello: So, all right. I want, I want to, I want to get to sort of the, the heart and the soul of river cruising, because while I think for Disney cruise line, The ship is the star for here.

[01:10:00] While I love the ship, the destinations really are the reason to go and what makes river cruising so unique and so wonderful. Somebody said earlier, it is not necessarily waking up and being in a new port. Sometimes you might have more than one stop per day. Sometimes you might not be the only ship in port as well, too, which might make for some fun.

I want to sort of. Quickly give a high level overview of our day to day itinerary, and then I'd love to hear from each of you places and experiences and the way that you either did the tours or when going out on your own, your sort of thoughts about it. Um, either things that that stuck out for you, um, our, our adventure ran from December 9th through the 16th, many of us got in, which we highly recommend a day early, uh, into Budapest.

Um, and I have to tell you. This was the cruise [01:11:00] hadn't even started yet, and maybe it was just sort of this childlike giddiness and excitement that I had. But as we all started to gather and just like get ready for the next day, some of us went out and just went exploring the Budapest, very, very walkable city from the hotel that we were staying at.

And we found, uh, we found a restaurant that happened to still be open, everything that sort of. Close things up a little early, uh, despite the Christmas markets being there and found a little restaurant called Hungry in Hungary and had one of the best meals that I've had on, on the entire trip. We tried everything that local, the schnitzel and the chicken pop, a crash and the goulash and literally every single type of sausage that they had on the menu.

And I think a lot of us, we walked out of that night. I mean, there was maybe 10 of us somewhere around there. And I was like, man, we can go home tomorrow. Like, and this was just great because this is what cruising as a group and [01:12:00] cruising with friends, whether you've met them before or not, or you've, you've maybe run across their name in the clubhouse was all about.

We start on the ninth boarding the ship in Budapest. Um, and correct me if I get any of these things wrong. We stayed there overnight, right? We stayed in Budapest on the ship. overnight. Um, so it really was almost more of a, of a place to sleep then, but it was getting acclimated to the ship. The, the crew came out, Raul, the cruise director came out, the captain came out, um, gave us an idea of what was going on, but you'd also did have an opportunity to explore Budapest on your own.

Uh, a number of us walked over to an inside market because it was cold and snowy and amazing and beautiful where It almost looked like it was in this giant old, it reminded me of sort of like this old, like Victorian era train station, um, where there was local artisans and crafts. [01:13:00] Just when I thought the meal the night before couldn't get any better, we had, it's the Hungarian version of a cozy cone.

I don't know how else to put it, like four different sausage. focused cones and we had this, uh, Hungarian flatbread. I'm going to apologize if I pronounce anything wrong, correct me. Lepenny, Lepenny, I don't know what it is. And that was the night that we boarded the ship. Um, the next day we did a guided tour of Budapest again.

It was, it was Everything you wanted it to be. It was cool. It was snowing. We toured Buddha castle. We had these cookies and sausages in the market. I was introduced to the joy that is chimney cakes. Um, some of we went off, a group of us went off. We went to go see one of this beautiful, um, Jewish synagogue.

And again, they brought local artisans and performers on board the ship. The next day, [01:14:00] we went to Bratislava, which is the capital of Slovakia. Uh, we went to Bratislava Castle, which had amazing views. And the next of the Christmas markets, that's when we went through, um, the locks, right? We went through sort of our first lock and sort of had that, that onboard.

Lock experience. Uh, more importantly, I had my first Holuski experience, which are these, um, and this is where our guide said, wait a minute, you can go to the Christmas markets, but let me take you down this other street because you have to try this and Holuski are like these little bowl of like warm potato dumplings with bacon on it.

Like, I'm not sure if you can hear the smile that is. On my face, um,

Beci Mahnken: you're, you're literally salivating. I'm so excited right now.

Lou Mongello: Um, Vienna was next. Uh, we're again, this is where you had your choice of different tours. And we'll talk about the different excursions, but, uh, we saw St. Stephen's cert, St.

Stephen's [01:15:00] church. Um, I had my next cup of glue wine, um, which is this, this mold spiced wine, um, that served in these cute little cups that are like souvenir cups, or you can turn back in for 2. Um, the next day was in the Waukau Valley where we went to Dernstein, uh, which was this small. quaint little village, which no necessarily show of hands.

I know for me was possibly my favorite stop. Everybody's raising their hand. Our favorite stop of the entire trip. There was walking tours. You could do a bike ride. We went to Milk Abbey in the evening. We had a Christmas party with Santa on board. Then it was off to, um, we docked in Linz, Austria, and some passengers could go to visit Salzburg, uh, which was sort of the setting for Sound of Music.

It's also the [01:16:00] birthplace of Mozart. Some of us traveled to Český Krumlov, which was over in the Czech Republic, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, um, an amazing castle. Great little town. I have two words for you. Ginger tea. Um, and then this is where things got interesting because we were supposed to go on the next day to pass out Germany.

But because of the snowfall and the melting snow, the Danube water levels were too high for this relatively sort of stout ship to be able to pass under some Danube, which is, So we docked in Engelhardt, so if I got that right, and again, adapting on the fly, I'm a waterways arranged for us to have ground transportation to pass out a little bit more of an abbreviated visit, but at least we were able to go.

And see what I think was my favorite Christmas market and one of the most beautiful churches, which [01:17:00] was St. Stephen's Cathedral. We had presentations later that day, and then the final day, again, affected by the water levels, but that's when we ended in Munich. Some folks stayed, uh, for a day, and some of us went back, and I'm giving a very, very High level, 30, 000 foot abbreviated view of an amazing seven days.

But I'd love to sort of go around the, the, the table as it were. And each of you talk about which or which ones of these reports, destinations, experiences, appeal to you, uh, personal stories that you want to share anything that about, um, any or all of them and, and. Feel free to jump in Beatrice. God, you go first.

Beatrice Denis: Well, I, one of the things I really wanted to see was Salzburg. So I really enjoyed a lot of the sound of music things that we saw. We saw the gazebo that we saw the church where the wedding took [01:18:00] place. We saw the Abbey where Maria goes in the movie. So if, if you're one like me who watches it every year, it was.

And I found it interesting that the people of Salzburg don't really know the sound of music because they didn't watch it over there in Europe as we did here in the States. So it was interesting that they were just kind of doing a little bit of that just for us because They don't even know about this movie, but, um, but Dernstein was also great.

So I'm sure someone else will mention that because it was such a favorite for ours, but, um, it was such a great trip all around, but that was my favorite.

Lou Mongello: What about for you, John?


John Mallonee: found it so interesting. There was not a single location that we visited that I wasn't enamored with. Every single place we went, there was something [01:19:00] architecturally that was special. Each of the Christmas markets was unique and special. So the, the food that we got to have in, in all the Christmas markets, besides what was on the ship was fantastic.

I personally loved getting the chance to skate in Vienna. So in the evening, we went to a Christmas market in Vienna and they don't have a They have it's a path and they've got these wooden fences that guide you around and every so often there'd be a rink where people could stop and skate around, but I went off and rented some skates and I was just zooming around there and having a grand old time.

It was very Christmasy. It was, it was dark with all the lights on. Uh, but. I, the Milk Abbey, I think was one other really special place. You talked about Dernstein, very quaint and everybody loved it. Dernstein was the one place where we did not have enough time, I believe. But Milk Abbey was, was eye opening to [01:20:00] me with the, it was beautiful.

It was huge. And we got to do it in the, the glow of. Light in at night, so it was just a little bit extra special because we visited at night, and

Lou Mongello: there was no I was gonna say it almost felt like a private tour for us because it was at the end of the day It was beautiful Illuminated at night and you did sort of almost have the sense of ownership because there were so few other people there Which also made for some great photos as well

John Mallonee: Absolutely, but I I have no no location that I felt that I didn't get What I was looking for, all of them

Lou Mongello: exceeded my anyone where you felt that the guide really did an exceptional job or because I know there was, there was a, there was a few times I just thought our guide was exceptionally good.

John Mallonee: Well, I thought we had a real crack up that took us to milk Abby. She was [01:21:00] hilarious. Uh, I think Vienna was the, the guide that we had in Vienna was the most exceptional, at least. In my group, we, we certainly had a couple of different groups. Some, some groups had an easier walk because they couldn't go up and down some steep inclines, let's say, or stairs.

But Vienna, I thought that was my, that was the one that I would give

Lou Mongello: the nod. Yeah. I was going to save this for later, but I, but I should really bring it up now. And then Lori, I'd love to hear from you, especially because you took part in some of these. One of the things, And Becky, you can obviously talk to this as well that I really, really loved and appreciated was not just one, you'd have to worry about signing up for an excursion in advance to what was the excursion going to cost three was the excursion going to be sold out, but was the option to pick and choose day of morning of as it was happening.

What you wanted to do. And it wasn't just a single excursion every single day. [01:22:00] There was at least two, sometimes multiple depending on where you were excursions to choose from. So for example, when we were in Bratislava. You could have done a coronation city walking tour and Christmas market. Or if you want to do a Bratislava castle hike, you could do that as well.

If you wanted to do the next day, Vienna by bike, which two people from our group did, they raved about it. You could do that. If you want to do something a little bit, maybe less strenuous, you had the idea, the option to do the Vienna city tour. and the Christmas markets. Same thing. There was an afternoon excursion that day.

There was an evening concert or the Christmas market at night. They had a second dining time to make sure you can do any or all of them. And some days had not one, not two, but three different options to choose from. So if you want to do a Dernstein walking tour and wine tasting, you could do that. If you want to do the walking tour or an apricot and sweets tasting, you could do it.

Or if you want to do it [01:23:00] by bike that you could, uh, in Linz, you had four different ones that you could do. Some could be full day excursion. So for example, when we went to Chesky Krumlov, it was a full day. Or if you wanted to just do the UNESCO sort of walking tour of Christmas market, you could to do it as well.

They had basically A regular excursion, they had maybe one that was a little bit more adventurous and athletic, whether it's hiking or biking. And I really love, love, love the idea. And I hope that other excursions, even on other lines, take inspiration from this. They had a gentle option, so, or a gentler option.

So if you did not maybe want to do as much walking, if you have mobility issues, if you, if you have anything like that. There are other options available that still allow you to experience each of the ports in its full flavor, but just without the, the, the struggle, the [01:24:00] hassle, the worry about keeping up walking, getting exhausted, dropping your, your chimney cake, whatever it might be, Laurie, I know that you, um, you, every day you did an excursion, but you also did some of the gentle ones.

I'd love to hear. Your thoughts about your excursions experience that you loved as well as the gentle option as well if you don't mind The,

Laurie Olivieri: the wine tasting one when we all got pocket bread for later, that was a big hit in our group. Wait, you

Lou Mongello: have to explain what pocket bread is. So

Laurie Olivieri: there was, I think it was in Dernstein, right?

Where we did the wine tasting and we got to walk around, they make their bread there and they stamp it with an S in the bottom. And it was amazing. And it smelled heavenly and had a nice crust to it. So after we were walking out, there was a lot of pieces of bread that people hadn't eaten. And we put them in our pockets and save

Lou Mongello: them for later.

I love the fact that you were swiping bread off the [01:25:00] table because it was that good.

Laurie Olivieri: We were bunch of us did. So that's a perfect example of the gentle Walker one. So we got off the bus just like everybody else. And we walked over to the head, like a golf cart kind of thing set up. With a seating in it.

And, um, instead of having to walk up the big hill, we got a train, like a train ride, uh, to the top of the hill. So it just wasn't so much of a struggle for the people who maybe weren't able

Beci Mahnken: to walk up to the

Lou Mongello: top of that hill. I was a little jealous as I was walking through Durnstein, watching the little like.

Golf cart choo choo train that was covered and you were like nice and warm and comfortable inside and you're just sort of waving to me as you drive by I

Laurie Olivieri: have a video of your

Lou Mongello: face on that. I knew that was an option. I might have hopped on board, but I did. I really, really appreciated that. So nobody ever felt uncomfortable [01:26:00] left out that they were going to slow down the group or more importantly.

I can't do it because I just can't be as mobile or I can't walk that far. I can't walk up steep hills. Um, one time,

Beci Mahnken: yeah.

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: One

Laurie Olivieri: time they even, um, called a taxi for us. So basically we, so we

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: didn't see a couple buildings, but we brought, we were

Laurie Olivieri: brought right to the Christmas

Lou Mongello: market. Yeah. I love that. I love that.

Um, Lisa, what was your experience like? I

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: think like so many different moments come to mind, right? There's the restaurant in Hungary that you talked about initially, that we were all sort of sitting around the table. And it was that like initial moment of like, Oh my gosh, like we're really here and we're just like chilling in this like local pub, local restaurant in Hungary.

Um, And then in Bratislava, I had like a very similar experience when we were all sitting in the pub and we're eating like this garlic soup out of like a crusty bread bowl and it was like a very local pub and it's like ancient [01:27:00] building in Slovakia. And we're just like chilling and having a beer and some soup.

Um, so that was very cool. And our, our guide going into Chechny Krumlov in the Czech Republic, like deserves such a round of applause. She was, she was this incredible woman who had lived through the fall of communism, um, in that, in like, like, and, and basically like during this, like one to one and a half hour ish, um, bus ride from Linz out to the Czech Republic, she just told us her life story.

And through the life story, like gave us the entire history in this sort of very real life context. And it was just, it was so amazing to listen to her because there's things that you've studied for so long, but to be able to sit and listen to somebody who lived through it, and it was their real life and they were really impacted by it.

It was pretty amazing. Um, yeah, and Durnstein. I mean, that's like, I put my hand up to it was my favorite place. And there's a few times in my life where I've like walked into a [01:28:00] location and it's just completely vibed with me. Like, I feel like it was like New York City when I was in high school and like, Florida, you know, at some point in my life.

And like, when I set foot in Dernstein, I, I just had that feeling again. And just to be, to be like reminded that you can be around people who are just like, okay, we're just existing and being and enjoying life. Like it was just. It's such a great reminder, you know, just that that's an option I just, I just loved it there.

It was so beautiful. And I too took pocket bread from the wine

Lou Mongello: tasting. So Becky reminded me of, of Orvieto where we went to in Italy. It's this small town that you've never heard of before. It's not this huge tourist destination, but you wanted to just take your bag off with you. It's beautiful. And spend a couple of days there, just like sipping on that amazing ginger tea in a little sidewalk cafe, just watching the locals go by, there was something [01:29:00] wonderfully beautiful about it not being, and I don't think, and I really didn't feel as about most of the places I never felt like I was walking into a, uh, Quote unquote tourist trap destination.

But this was the complete antithesis of that. This was a town where people lived and worked and, and played and lived at that much slower, simpler place. And like Orvieto. I too also felt like I could have, I didn't get to spend enough time here. Not that there was a lot to do, but because there was nothing to do.

Beci Mahnken: Right. And that's the whole thing. I think that especially Americans, we have this, this, um, particular thing that we have on our bucket list, right? I'm going to go to Paris. I'm going to go to London. I'm going to go to all of these different places, but this type of travel on a river cruise. allows you to see places that would never be on your bucket list.

You, you're not going to say, Hey, I [01:30:00] think I'm going to go to Slovakia for my vacation. It just isn't something that, that comes across most people's lists. Um, so when you take an adventure, an excursion, a trip like this, You're exposed to areas and cities and people and experiences that you would never have thought would have had an impact on you.

But those are the places like Moravieto and these locations that when you get home, these are the ones that you think about most, that you talk about most, that you remember most, that you have those, those connections in your brain to having a very unique experience. And that's why I love this type of travel because it's discovery.

It's finding things and little nooks and crannies and little cafes and things like langos. I, I need like 20 of those a day. I, well, I don't need one. I want them. That was, that was probably the best thing that I ate besides the gingerbread, which for me, gingerbread and all. Any type of form is, is going to [01:31:00] be awesome.

Um, there was so many wonderful places. Budapest for me is, I prefer ending there rather than starting there, but it's one of the most unique, alive, historic cities that tells so many stories from both sides in Buda and in Pest. Um, but obviously Salzburg is another one that is amazing to me. If you've never been there, if you are a sound and music band, you have to see it.

You have to go. Um, and in the right time of year, you also get to go up to the salt mines and ride the rollercoaster in the salt mines, which is an option on the excursion. Um, and obviously, uh, the, I really want to do the Czech Republic. I'm so jealous that you guys got to do that. Uh, but that's one of the things that.

When you work on these, sometimes you have to stay back and work on them. And, uh, yeah, [01:32:00] exactly. That was work for me. The, um, the high water situation. I do want to just touch on a couple of things, if you don't mind. A lot of people aren't aware of river cruising does have this high water or low water situation.

So when they get a big snow, like we did, uh, and then followed by really Uh, high temperatures right behind it, the waters rise up, they do have some cool things like the bridge does break down on the top so that they can fit under a bridge, but sometimes the water is just too high. So there, it is expected on river cruising that you might get high water or low water.

The cruise lines are very, very, very experienced. In what they can do in those situations. Sometimes literally you change ships, people from a ship on one side of the bridge goes to the ship on the other side of the bridge. Sometimes you end up in buses. Sometimes you end up in places that you never thought was possible because they weren't on the itinerary.

It's one of those things that you just kind of [01:33:00] embrace when you take a river cruise is to say, yep, I'm aware high water, low water, it might turn into a different type of adventure, but you're still going to be able to experience the. The location, whether it be via bus or by via, um, cruising to it. And the last thing I just want to, Oh yeah, you were talking about mobility.

Sorry to kind of go off track here too, but I also want to set the expectation. Europe is a little bit different when it comes to mobility issues. They don't have an ADA there. They don't have a lot of laws and rules like we have here in the U S so they don't always have. A lot of accommodation for wheelchairs, um, onboard the ships.

They really don't have wheelchair ability, but they do allow walkers. They have collapsible wheelchair. You, you can bring collapsible wheelchairs on some ships. Uh, they do have a lift that will take you, um, to dining or to the main level or to your cabin, it will not go to the top, so they do require people to be able to transfer.[01:34:00]

Lou Mongello: Yeah. And it's again. Yeah, that's why I think it's really important that you're able to sort of answer some questions and maybe we'll even do sort of after the show post, we'll do like a live show one Wednesday night where people have questions about, uh, river cruising one day, you know, one of the things I wanted to just mention, we, we sort of glossed over it, but I remember when Becky was like, Okay, Becky here.

You need to do a river cruise. We have to do the Christmas markets. We have to do the Christmas markets. I'm like, that's great. I love Christmas. I love cruises. You know, what a Christmas market is. I didn't know ahead of time. And I think somebody mentioned before too, I also did not, I did not do a lot of research at a time, which is very much unlike me.

Usually I like to sort of know everything and be prepared. I wanted. The element of surprise when I visited not just the, the, the ship, but visited each of the multiple ports and destinations that we were going to go to Christmas markets. Very, very simple explanation. Um, date back [01:35:00] middle ages like this is, but Christmas markets back then were really to sort of help people stock up on things that they would need when they got snowed in for months at a time.

And they've evolved to. Celebrations during the advent season, which are the four weeks that lead up to Christmas that are local vendors and stalls setting up with food and drinks and, and, and crafts, you know, seasonal crafts, oftentimes that are, that are handmade seasonal crafts, which I enjoyed, like, I didn't see one souvenir shop anywhere that we went.

Right. And I, nor, nor was I necessarily looking for one because the things I wanted to bring home for friends, for family, for members of the nation, I loved buying at each of the different Christmas markets. Because each thing that I brought back was specific to the location. It was made presumably by hand in or around that [01:36:00] town and really was reflective of it.

But. Let's also just quickly mention the food, like it was an opportunity to explore local delicacies. And I learned about things, like you said, Becky, the, the langos, this hung, it's a Hungarian street food. You know that you need it until you have one. It's a fried bread. It's a very like yeasty fried bread, and it's covered in a number of different things.

We had one that was literally. Like painted on, like with this garlic sauce and shredded cheese and it's warm and it's crunchy and it's soft on the inside, which was like perfect on some of these cold days with a little bit of glue wine, we had the chimney cakes, which I had never heard. Anybody ever heard of a chimney cake before?

I had no idea it, um. They were originally popular in, in like Romania. Like they go back to the, to the 1600s. And again, [01:37:00] it's this sweet dough that's wrapped around like this. Cone shaped baking spit and then rolled in sugar and then it's roasted the right way over charcoal It's basted with melted butter.

So it's healthy and then it's sort of it's it's like this crunchy golden brown and then there might be Coconut or walnuts or almonds or ground cinnamon put on top and when it comes off and it's like steaming warm And you've got your glue wine and it's no Man, those are nice days. Those are really somebody on our, I don't remember who it was, had like seven different chimney cakes everywhere we went and then came up with his own rating system of it.

Um, I'm going to pronounce you Beatrice. Tell me when I pronounce these things wrong. We had the case case Spitzel, the sort of the Bavarian, like it's like German Mac and cheese, the little noodle dumplings and that cheesy sauce with shallots and bacon. [01:38:00] We're amazing. Um, we had roasted almonds again, the glue wine, this, this, it's sort of a, it's a, it's a hot red wine.

I think it's also made with sugar and different spices and Becky and some of us, we were looking for gingerbread at some of the markets and we would get it and we're like, it's sort of like gingerbread, but it's not gingerbread. I came to find out because I was fascinated why I couldn't find it. It actually wasn't gingerbread, it's called Lebkuchen, and it's like gingerbread, but it's not the same, and this is sweetened with honey and spices and sometimes there's little like fruits on it, and it's, they're, they're sort of decorated into some of the things that we tried that made it look like trees or stars or little round cookies, so like it was close to gingerbread, but it wasn't quite, so we were searching for something as opposed to just enjoying the thing for, um, What it was, but I love this idea of tasting [01:39:00] local and regional specialties and food items that I think, I think food is a way to connect us.

Not just with each other, but with a culture. I really do. It's not just because I enjoy eating, but I do. I think it's one of the best ways to experience like truly what a culture is by eating what they eat, gathering around those tables in the middle of the markets with each other and with locals as well.

It was one of the aspects of the cruise that I enjoyed most. I don't need to sit down. I would prefer to stand up and eat on a garbage can in Český Krumlov or Vienna at a Christmas market than sit down for a fancy meal and you're surrounded by people who are locals just sort of gathering as they do every season.

I think especially going this time of year when the holiday spirit is in the air, it doesn't matter what faith you follow or what you believe. But these Christmas markets are just [01:40:00] such local, historical, cultural, communal, gathering places around our shared love of food and the individual tables that we join in or create for ourselves really was, um, one of the things that I.

Came to love about it. And what river cruising does is allows you to not just visit one or two, but multiple over the seven days of the river cruise, uh, any fan favorites of anything that you ate or tried unique items, something that weird, Laura, you always eat out something that's outside everybody else's comfort zone, uh, just quickly around the horn.

The, one of the things that you tried at a Christmas market that you really enjoyed.

Queso grinders. What does that word mean? That was

John Mallonee: a sauce. Uh, it's a sausage with cheese on the inside.

Lou Mongello: Yes. Wait. It had cheese on the inside? On the inside. On the inside. Why didn't you Why did I not get a heads up on this? I didn't [01:41:00]

Beci Mahnken: One thing was weird too,

Laurie Olivieri: is when we ordered the sausage, they would ask us ketchup or mustard.

And it never occurred to us to put ketchup on it,

Lou Mongello: which was interesting. I would always just tell them, just do it the way it's supposed to be. Do it the way you serve it to me, the way you eat it. Yep. Beatrice? We

Laurie Olivieri: went to, um, after the, after the room cruise, we went to Munich and I was my first time trying hot eggnog with rum in it.

So that was good.

Beatrice Denis: My favorite was that Käseschweizle cause I grew up. With that being my favorite food, but it was made in such a different way that I had never tried it that way. There's the Bavarian style is more the cheese and my mother never made it that way. So that [01:42:00] made my favorite food even better.

But, uh, but there were so many things throughout the Christmas markets that were just delicious. Even the pretzels there are better than we have here.

Lou Mongello: So I want to just quickly say, because this for you, Was there was a very personal aspect of this view as well, right? Because of where you were born, where you grew up and a lot of your family history and heritage, um, not just sort of geographically where you're from, but, you know, even some of the things that you grew up eating, just quickly touch on sort of from a personal level, what this.

Trip meant for you and some of the places and things that you were able to connect to and do and, you know, embrace and, and express a lot of your, your personal heritage on this as well.

Beatrice Denis: Well, growing up the food, my mother was a chef in Germany. Um, even the setting your shoes out every year, we did that.

Um, [01:43:00] She used to put fruit and things in there, not the yummy chocolate that we got this year, but, um, so things were different back in her day. Um, but it was just so nice connecting back to that heritage and being able to show my husband what my family was like, you know, Growing older and getting married later in life you he never met my mother and got to experience some of that So experiencing with him with my friends The Oktoberfest the music my mother was always listening to the German music.

So being able to experience both the clarinet and The accordion. She always wanted to play the accordion. So those, those sounds were just sounds that felt like home to me and the dancing.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. Cause I, I mean, there were times that I saw you that you, and I've known you for, for like almost 20 [01:44:00] years, you're, you're very expressive and emotional and, and use.

You always have a smile on your face, but I also saw that there were things that were sort of impacting you emotionally. And I loved that you had that. And we're able to sort of make that real, you know, real connect. You know, when I, I've ever, my family's Italian, but when I went to Italy, I sort of understood that, but it was even more so.

for you. And that was one of the things, because when Becky and I do these cruises, especially, I know I only speak for myself. I love watching how other people are experiencing it. I want to make sure not only that you're having a good time, but I want to see the things that impact you emotionally, whether it's touching on sentiment or nostalgia or history or heritage, or just enjoying the time.

And when I see. People not just smiling and laughing and, and dancing and singing and all the other things, but also being able to make a real connection to their own personal history. I thought that was beautiful and I loved and, and appreciated being able to, to share that with you and watch you experience it.[01:45:00]

Beatrice Denis: It was great to share. It was just nice to be able to feel like home and to share it with you all or my family, so it was nice.

Lou Mongello: So look, there is, um, there's so much more that we can, we could talk about on these cruises because there's so many different aspects to it. But I really wanted to just try and convey the flavor of what the river cruise experience was like.

Um, I would love for you to each just take a minute to go around the horn. And give me your overall takeaway from the cruise. How did this impact your view of river cruising or traveling in general or traveling to other parts of the world that you might not have thought about visiting before? Um, Laurie, Beatrice, Lisa, John and Becky.[01:46:00]

Laurie Olivieri: I appreciated the historic facts and the information and how I, it was interesting to me how each country that we went to or each neighborhood that we went to have rebounded from the war and recovered in their own special way. And still they have the same traditions to carry on the love of their country and the love of the traditions.

I appreciated that a lot.

Beatrice Denis: I loved the fact that even though we were in these countries that I never saw myself going to Hungary and some of these places, um, I still felt like I was in our little bubble of safety net. Not necessarily that it was a hundred percent, you know, nothing's going to happen, but I felt so safe and nothing did happen.

And we were in a group of friends and a guide and people who, of course, we looked like tourists in these places. [01:47:00] We, you know, had, um, people telling us all about the areas that they grew up showing photos of them at five years old in 1969. And then here's what it looks like now. Um, it was just, we had this very.

Beautiful moment with someone who could tell us specifically they've been there all their lives or when we were in the Abbey and they were locking doors behind us. I mean, literally, this was just for us, you know, they were locking the doors after we walked out. Like, let's make sure everyone's in here.

You know, we're about to lock the doors and it's closed for the night. This is just us here. That's it. It was just so special. And so, um, it felt like I was in my Disney bubble on the other side of the earth. It really did. They took us to the airport. They brought us from the airport. They, they, it was just wonderful how protected we felt in our group in a place I [01:48:00] never thought I would have been to, you know, Vienna and, and all the beautiful places, but it was, it was just great and great experience.

Lou Mongello: My up,

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: um, yeah, I mean, I think there's, you know, there's, there's that sort of touristy travel, um, that doesn't maybe appeal to a lot of us where you're sort of in a place that feels like it's just catering to you and everything's factory made. And, you know, and then there's sort of fly on the wall type travel where you're kind of just observing from afar and watching and sort of taking in, um, you know, a new place as an outsider, but not being disruptive.

And this to me wasn't really either of those things. things. This was felt like just being welcomed as family into someone's country and someone's home. And whether it was the crew on the ship or the tour guides or just sort of people that we met along the way that wanted to sort of show us their lives.

I felt [01:49:00] like very well taken care of and very welcomed and very sort of just embraced by these people. Um, and so to me, like I, it was something that I've never experienced before. Like I said, like I've been on sort of like vacations where you feel like a tourist and I've been on vacations where you feel like you want to just kind of be a fly on the wall and not disrupt anything and just sort of observe.

And this just sort of felt like being welcomed home to a place I never really knew I would ever be able to visit. So yeah, it was just like a perfect marriage of so many things. Um, and I know like a lot of us have come home and tried to kind of recreate the glue wine or recreate the ginger tea and, um, and kind of bring some of these things home with us that we, that we saw and learned along the way.

Um, yeah, and I'm just really grateful to have been able to go and to be, to be able to go with you guys just made it that much more special.

John Mallonee: I agree with both Beatrice and Lisa. It, it was so welcoming. It was so safe. I was amazed in Austria. [01:50:00] Nobody that I encountered in Austria was unable to speak English. They all spoke English, so I had no trouble with communication, but altogether I loved the variety of history, architecture, food, and culture all shared together with our group, with our family, which just enriched it that

Lou Mongello: much more.

Beci Mahnken: What I loved the most, I think, because I, I, I had done it several times. I had been on three river, four river cruises before this and the anticipation in watching everybody's faces as you went through the process, like when you got off the bus and you realized, wait, there's no pat down security that I have to put all my stuff through.

What? You mean I just walk right on? What? Um, Yeah. And the faces of each of you, because I kind of gave a [01:51:00] primer to several of you, like I remember seeing some of your faces when I said, um, make sure to close your curtains before you go to bed because of course they do tie ups, which means you might have a random, um, other river cruise ship that might tie up right next to you at night overnight.

So don't leave your curtains wide open. Otherwise, it could be a show that you're not looking forward to. But then talking to everybody. Afterwards on that last night and I was anticipating maybe one or two would say, you know, this is not for me because it is so different. And everybody had pretty much done river, sorry, ocean cruising before, but to talk to everybody and hear the experience and to say, Oh my gosh, I didn't know what to expect.

This is amazing. I want to do this again. Um, and the, the takeaways from each and every guest were right along the lines of everything that you guys have [01:52:00] mentioned, that there was something you connected with, there was something special, there was heritage, there was food, there was something unique and special and different about this adventure that you've never had before.

And. To see that and to feel that and to know that everybody's like, yep, we want to go again. That meant the world to me. And that made the experience glorious for, for me.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. You know, so I, I come at it like you, Becky, from two different angles, right? I come at it from the personal experience angle. And then as.

You know, having, having our family, you know, sort of being in charge of our family. Like there's the, there's the, the, the parent in me that sort of wants to make sure everybody's having a good time and everybody's happy from personal experience. I almost instantly fell in love with this cruise, not just this individual experience, but river cruising as a whole.

[01:53:00] It's different. Then ocean cruising, and that's not a bad thing. It is a different type of experience. It's a different type of relaxation. It's a different type of learning culinary educational vacation experience that it's not a matter of choosing one or the other. It's being able to, and if, and if you've ever been on the fence about river cruising, uh, whether you cruise with us or you cruise on your own, I highly recommend it.

Plus two, if you're like, well, I can't take an ocean cruise because I'm concerned about getting seasick. That doesn't happen here. This is a very slow moving vessel. There are no waves. There are no storms that you have to worry about. Um, you know, the biggest issue you might run into is. You can't get through one of the locks.

So you just go to a different port because they can adjust so quickly. I love the intimacy of the vessel, the crew. I felt like I knew role the, [01:54:00] the, the cruise director, like I felt like he was part of our group, right? Because we, he was so accessible. He was so friendly. Everybody on board, the entire staff was amazing.

Um, from a group perspective. I love being able to watch people's individual experiences as well as our collective, communal, familiar type of shared experience together. Um, I, I was very quickly won over by river cruising and Becky, while we were on board, we sort of, you know, we've known each other long enough to give each other that look like, okay, when are we going to do this again?

You know, and I can safely say without fear of, I may have a plan, you know, I'm not saying summer on the Sen going round trip to Paris, possibly in the next couple of years is possibly on the table, but I'm also not saying that it's not hypothetically speaking, [01:55:00] Becky, if we were to start, you know, maybe a couple of days exploring and enjoying Paris, doing a, um, River cruise on the Seine and then spending time in Disneyland Paris after may or may not be the worst idea at all.

I'm not saying it's happening this year. I want to give time enough to, to save your pennies. Um, but Again, I became so enamored with this experience that not only do I want to do it again, but more importantly, I want to be able to do it with our, our family. Yeah. And I

Beci Mahnken: may or may not have already written a couple of emails to some suppliers to get some information on when we may or may not be able to do this.

And, and the Seine, I'm just going to throw this out. That was my very first river cruise. And that's the one that is round trip Paris and it goes out to the Normandy beaches. So for anybody who has military [01:56:00] families and that type of tie, um, it really is a, a moving experience. Plus you get to go to Rion, which is amazing.

There are so many great things about. to sailing the sand. And of course, it's round trip Paris, who doesn't love Paris, and then leaving from Disneyland Paris would be an amazing experience. So yep, I'm looking forward to hypothetically, maybe working on that.

Lou Mongello: Well, my hope is that each of you who are on this call can join on that adventure.

And then you. Our friend who is listening at home in the car, walking the dog on the treadmill at work, wherever you may be, will join us on a future cruise. I'm also going to share. I really, I was, I really wanted to be present on this cruise. I spend while I took a lot of pictures, a lot of videos. I didn't upload a lot because I wanted to wait to release some of those and put some of those together in conjunction with this show.

So I'm going to share a lot of Instagram reels. I'll [01:57:00] share on Facebook as well. I know a lot of you. Who I will link to in the show notes also shared throughout your adventure photos and videos and reviews along the ways I will link to each and every one of those to all of you who made this truly one of the most remarkable and memorable vacation experiences of my life.

Thank you so much the memories and the joy. And the calories that I consumed on this cruise could not have happened without you. Um, so I love you. I appreciate you. I will link to all of your socials and your sites, uh, on the show notes over at www. com this week. And the question I will leave you with. is not just when can we do this again, but if you could snap your fingers quickly around the horn, snap your fingers and eat one thing that you experienced on the Ruru Cruise, what would it be?


Beci Mahnken: Langos with the green onions. Langos with all the cheese. [01:58:00] All the cheese. I mean, seriously, all the cheese.

Lou Mongello: Käsespätzle. What was that now? What was that word now?

Beatrice Denis: Käsespätzle.

Lou Mongello: Oh, is that the little potato dumplings that like the Yes. I call, I'm mispronouncing as spätzle. It's an egg

Beatrice Denis: noodle, but yes, absolutely. That too. That's always been my favorite food, but the cheese made it better.

Lisa DiNoto Glassner: Lisa? So I'd go with the like, I'll go with the langos too, but I'll take mine with the garlic, the sour cream and the cheese. Which I think is the

Beci Mahnken: traditional. Oh, the sour cream. That was the best part. Yes. The cheese and the sour cream. Yes. How can you go wrong with cheese and sour cream? Right? And

Lou Mongello: fried bread.

I'll only say this. We went to Buda Castle and we're going in the snow and we sort of were on our way back and there was that huge Christmas market stall of the sausages and the potatoes. The group was ahead of me. I'm like, dude, [01:59:00] there's no way I'm leaving here without one of these. I was like, I just pointed, I'm like, I want that.

And he's like pointing to the potatoes. I'm like, yeah, man, don't be shy. Put all the potatoes on it. He gave me the seven pound, like folded over thing of like dough and potatoes and sausage that I was like feeding people along the way back to the bus. It was amazing and delicious. And I would do it all again, uh, as long as I could do it with you.

So thank you guys again. So glad you listened to me. She has to just. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Bye. Bye. Thank God for where would we be without Becky? I say that every day I go to sleep at night and I'm like saying my little prayers bedside and I'm like, thank you, Jesus, for Becky, where I don't know where we would be without her.

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