Crystal Ravel River Cruise

A Danube Melody

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river running in you, a joy” Rumi

Apart from a river cruise many years ago on the Irrawaddy in Myanmar, river cruising was a new concept to us at Destination Elite. Like many of our fellow passengers, we were savvy ocean cruisers but were yet to experience the joys of river cruising; we were all in for a delightful surprise.

The Ravel is a sumptuous ship luxurious in its embellishment; the suites vary in size, but all with the same superb finishes, floor to ceiling balcony windows, state of the art rain shower bathrooms, walk-in closet, Wi-Fi and accommodating butler service. The colours of the soft furnishing, emerald greens, and soft greys reflect the river scene as you pass through one picture-postcard village after another.

One quickly settles into the seductive pace of the cruise; breakfast, lunches, and dinners served in the Waterside Restaurant with a burgeoning buffet lunch and elegant a la carte dinner. The waiter with a boyish grin walks us through the varied wine menu. The food is immaculate both in creativity as well as presentation, a take on Modern Continental, peppered with regional dishes enhancing your journey and knowledge of the county. Service throughout the ship, including the Palm Court, is slick and professional. If you wish, there is a delightful Bistro serving casual dishes as well as a private dining room.

The days onboard are top and tailed with tours, as diverse and extensive as the countries visited. Most tours are complimentary. These tours are not a shuttle bus drop off to the nearest mall, but well-designed expeditions with knowledgeable and well-versed tour operators, employing Crystal Clear listening devices that are charged and ready to go in your cabin each day. The excursions are designed to accommodate all levels of fitness and include bus transfers to and from your destination. For those even more adventurous take the E-Bike tours you can ride from one city to another in an afternoon and pick up the cruise at the other end.

The Danube is a river made for romance, a deep, full artery linking some of the most beautiful and historically abundant cities in the world. Our Journey started in Vienna, Austria, and flowed onto the chocolate-box perfect Wachau Valley and then Durnstein, Melk, and Linz before venturing onto Passau in Germany, Bratislava, Slovakia. Finally, as with Ravel’s musical masterpiece Bolero, the cruise gathered momentum, reaching an exciting finale in the city of Budapest.

Memories we will take home!

Oh Vienna, despite your changing fortunes, you remain the elegant lady of Central Europe, with your design-savvy window displays, haute couture, grand café’s where Sacher Torte and Sparkling wine are vital at any time of day. Our chic Boho tour guide, with a penchant for Viennese pastries, waltzed about the impressive Ringstrasse encircling green swards of parkland, pointing out Imperial Palaces, State Opera houses and Parliament before venturing on to some of Vienna’s liveliest neighbourhoods.

Winetasting at 9 am? Why not its 5 pm somewhere, hence we find ourselves touring one of Austria’s oldest wine estates, Schloss Gobelsburg. The Chateau, like its owner, has a fanciful past, one our host is only too happy to share along with generous pourings of delicious Austrian wine. We left with a new appreciation for not only the wine but the detailed tracing of the roots of the chateau back through Pre-Celtic history. Following a delicious lunch in the Waterside restaurant, we boarded a bus to take us to Artstetten Castle a magnificent Baroque residence weighted with memories of an assassination that was instrumental in leading Europe into WW1. Princess Anita von Hohenberg, an entertaining and warm hostess, casually chatted over wine about her illustrious and rather tragic Hohenberg Family and her Great Grandparents, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie von Hohenberg who are laid to rest in the family crypt located in the grounds of the castle.


The Hills indeed was alive with The Sound of Music as we listened to the dulcet tones of Julie Andrews as our coach traversed the spectacular Alps and pristine countryside to the Birthplace of the revered composer, Mozart. Salzburg, Rome of the North with its Italian inspired Ornamental town centre. Salzburg Cathedral and the home of Mozart. Lunch in supposedly one of the oldest restaurants in the world, they had changed the chef since then and one of the most ornate and peaceful cemeteries I have ever walked through, in fact where the Von Trap children hid from the Germans in the movie. Quaint hide and seek alleyways leading onto sunny squares full of people enjoying the moment.


Passau raised from the ashes during the 17 th Century, in all its cobbled beauty and romantic promenades is a joy to walk through, past century-old churches and the splendour of the old Town Hall. And then there rising in front of you is the magnificent St Stephens Cathedral, it's Verdigris Onions domes crowning the highest point in town. We spent the rest of the afternoon dreamily listening to a sublime organ recital; the music reverberated throughout the heart of the Cathedral a surreal moment in time!

Ilz River

On a gloriously sunny day, we find ourselves mooching along the banks of the Ilz River, a vibrant and thriving landscape full of wildlife and natural flora. Our effervescent guide was an expert on every tree, nut, seed, and wildlife. We glimpsed remnants of a once-thriving logging business and the tranquil lifestyle of the pristine homes along the river bank. After our 4 mile hike, we all agreed we had earned a good lunch and glass of wine!


A quirky but charming Old Town elegantly frayed about the edges with biscuit coloured courtyards and a labyrinth of winding alleyways. A panoramic drive to the immense castle suspended above the town gives you a bird’s eye view of Bratislava’s stunning European architecture. We joined the locals at a typical Slovakian beer hall and tucked into a generous beer tasting complete with the most delicious and moreish Slovakian Pretzels fresh from the oven! One unforgettable and moving recollection were the plaques outside many of the local houses a memento mori to the victims of the Holocaust.


Budapest, a dynamic beating heart with a spicy obsession for Paprika in everything. The city has an extensive and fascinating history reaching back as far as the Celtic and Roman occupation. Andrassy Boulevard, the monumental Heroes’ Square, The Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Robust, larger than life monuments lord it over the pulsating city full of quirky wine bars, beer halls, and Michelin starred restaurants. The vast Great Synagogue in Dohany Street with its mix of Moorish, Byzantine façade, and the Jewish quarter, sheltering many treasures of the Holocaust. A very moving Memento mori is the Silver Weeping Willow tree where each leaf holds the name of a victim. The old part of Buda houses the beautiful Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion from this stony point the views over Pest are stunning.

Crystal Signature Event, Princesses of Violin

On a sultry summer evening in the Glass roofed courtyard of The Budapest History Museum within the Buda Castle, we gathered to witness the captivating genius of three beautiful women. A classical repertoire combined with a rousing modern approach, the three young violinists, have become global stars. Dressed in Agent Provocateur styled bustiers and skin-tight white pants the trio had the audience on the edge of their seats, but it was the vivacious talent and sheer brilliance of their transcendent performance that had us all up on our feet cheering toward the end.

Nights on the river would often find us up on deck, complete with a retractable bar; the sundeck is a very inviting place to sit, drink in hand and watch the ever-changing scenery along the banks of the river. The cities and towns by night are captivating, a cloud of sparrows caught in the surreal floodlights over Budapest is a lasting memory.

Another Mesmerizing insight into sailing on the rivers is the locks, an engineering marvel. Negotiating the locks must be a nerve-wracking experience for the captain and his crew. The walls at times are so close you can touch them, turning day into night as the boat slowly rises with the filling water. Most of the locks are traversed at night, but the first time we witnessed entering the lock, and the workings of a very bustling river were riveting!

A river cruise onboard Crystal Ravel revitalizes the Golden Age of Travel you will make many new friends some for life. You will share stories and experiences, gain a wealth of knowledge about towns, cities, countries, and religions. You will see places you may have otherwise overlooked on any other mode of transport. You will be sad when the cruise comes to an end and be envious of those continuing their journey, but it doesn’t end here, now you have found your rhythm on the river you will be planning your next big adventure.

Smooth Sailing always! Let your dreams set sail!

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