Just Back from the Danube

Just back from the Danube

A Question and Answer Session with one of our Europe River Cruise Clients

Questions by Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

Answers and pictures from Marc Erlandson, one of our Great Clients


Kris and Marc Erlandson at the Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest with the parliament building in the background—he is our answer man about the cruise!

Kris and Marc Erlandson at the Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest with the parliament building in the background—he is our answer man about the cruise!


We recently had two client couples return from the 11 Day Classic Prague & Danube Delights River Cruise on the Emerald Dawn.  One of these folks was Marc, my 1971 West Point Classmate.  He and his wife Kris, were on their first Europe River Cruise.  Here are his really in-depth answers to my questions about his experience.

Marc, Kris, Julie and John—our clients on the Danube cruise on the Emerald Dawn

Marc, Kris, Julie and John—our clients on the Danube cruise on the Emerald Dawn

These were originally in an e-mail to me and he gave me permission to put them into a question and answer format.

We constantly tell you about the value and great experiences of Europe River Cruising.  While we also are very high on all eight companies that sell river cruises, Emerald is my #3 favorite river cruise line—you can read more about Emerald on our website—please use this link: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5918854fcd0f68c07c377c68/t/592c31083e00be0c6cec3c0d/1496068366719/Emerald_Sun.pdf

So, are you ready to hear what our client, Marc, had to say about his Emerald Waterways Danube cruise?  Let’s go!

So, let’s get your overall reaction to your Emerald Waterways cruise right from the start—were you happy you went on this trip?

Bottom line up front:  The trip exceeded my high expectations in nearly every respect!

How was the pre-cruise trip to Prague?

Prague was wonderful.  Your suggestions were very useful.  Emerald did a great job.  There were reps waiting at the airport to greet us and got us loaded in the van for our hotel.  The free transfers they arranged throughout our trip worked really well.  I noted that on one of your new slides on your travel blog website you indicated that Emerald transfers were not included free of charge.   They are!  (Hank note—the free transfers are only included if you purchase air from Emerald Waterways).

The Grandium hotel was fine.  It is a very modern and clean hotel that was clearly designed to support large tour groups.  The included breakfast was very nice. There were a number of Viking groups there as well. 

For you, what was the highlight of the pre tour?

The highlight of the entire trip was the Emerald included dinner on the balcony of Lobkowicz Palace that is part of the Prague Castle complex.  The view of Prague from that point is magnificent, and the music, dinner, and included wine and beer were perfect!  I'm not sure that every Emerald group got the same treatment.  That evening and throughout our stay in Prague we were part of a group of about 40 people that were all passengers along with us on our cruise.  Our Emerald guide, Petr (I don't recall his full name), was fantastic.  He was funny, good natured, and very well informed.  He stayed with us throughout our stay in Prague, rode the bus with us Nuremberg, and saw us aboard our ship.  

3 Emerald ships docked together

3 Emerald ships docked together

Since you received a complimentary upgrade to the Owners Suites, What are your thoughts about suites versus balcony cabins?

We were literally blown away when we were told on boarding that we had been upgraded to an Owners Suites.  Needless to say there is a huge difference between the typical 180 sq ft Panorama Balcony Suite (I don't know how they can call those a suite) and the 315 sq ft Owners Suites.  Besides having more space, two floor to ceiling lowering windows, a walk in closet, and two actual rooms that could be divided; the free mini bar and laundry service spoiled us. 

The Balcony of their suite cabin on the Emerald Dawn

The Balcony of their suite cabin on the Emerald Dawn

We likely will never know for sure how we managed this double upgrade, but, besides your influence, I think the fact that we booked early and selected cabins immediately adjacent to the deluxe cabins (8 Grand Balcony and 4 Owner Suites) made us the logical choice to get moved up. 

 If someone wants to try to repeat our good fortune, I would suggest that they do what we did.  Book early and select Panorama Balcony cabins 309 and/or 318.  To even get a better chance for an upgrade to an Owners Suite, book a Grand Balcony cabin.  On our cruise this would have cost $400 per person more.  Those cabins have essentially the same configuration as the Panorama, but are larger (210 vs 180 sq ft) and offer some additional perks like two pieces of free laundry each day.  My guess is that the people most likely to get upgraded to an Owners Suite are those who have booked Grand Balcony.  The cost differential between standard balcony and an Owners is a whopping $1,200! (Hank note—we do not know how these selections are made, but respect our client’s opinion, however, we cannot vouch that this is a good method to help secure an upgrade)

How were the cruise tours—did we advise you properly about Emerald Waterways?

The cruise itself was just as advertised and you described to us.  There was at least one guided tour at each daily stop.  Usually this was in the morning, which gave us the afternoons free.  There were alternative active tours that included hiking or bike riding.  There were also several Discover More optional tours/events with an extra fee.  We all took advantage of one of those, the Viennese Concert, and it was the other highlight of the trip.  Even if someone is not a huge classical music fan, this is an exceptionally enjoyable and memorable event.  Everyone who went loved it.  I strongly recommend that anyone who takes this cruise include it in their itinerary.  

Vienna Concert

Vienna Concert

Ceiling of the Concert Hall in Vienna

Ceiling of the Concert Hall in Vienna

Overall, did you like the food and beverages on board?

I thought the food on board was great.  I grew up eating traditional Bavarian/Austrian dishes so I was delighted to eat roasted duck and pork with wonderful gravy over dumplings and pretty much every local dish we encountered.  Throughout the cruise the chef adjusted the menu to local, traditional dishes. 

They also generally paired local wines with those dishes.  I thought all of the wines they served on board were excellent.  They did not change beer offerings throughout the cruise, but I was fine with that.  I drank about as much beer as wine.  The beer they served was an excellent, typical German lager beer, not the fortified, pasteurized version of German beer you can buy in the States. 

I spent a fair amount of time in southern Germany and have drunk my share of beer.  Thanks to the German Reinheitsgebot and local custom, it usually tastes pretty much the same wherever you are there.  Changing the beer at each port wouldn't have made a lot of sense.  They did offer other varieties of beer from the bar including a couple of wheat beers, a Pilsen, and I believe Budweiser, but these weren't included in the free beer served with meals.   

What was a typical breakfast and lunch meal like on your cruise?

The breakfast and lunch meals were served buffet style.  The breakfast menu was pretty much the same throughout, but include such variety that I can't imagine who could complain.  They always had excellent eggs and omelets to order.  The lunch buffet usually included some regional specialties.  Something that I didn't realize until a few days into the trip was that there was an optional lunch menu at every table.  Several people took regular advantage of this.

Since the dinner meal is served at your table, could you describe your dinner cruise experiences?

Dinner was always from and menu with four or five courses.  For each course there were usually three or more choices that included regional specialties.  For the main course there was always a fish, vegetarian, and at least one meat option.  In addition to these, there was always the option of a steak, roasted chicken, or grilled salmon.  Our traveling companions opted for the steak and chicken a few times and can attest to how good those were. 

 I liked every meal but one, and sadly that was the night we were guests at the Captains Table.  Kris (my wife) and I chose cod, which was not a good meal.  Other meals more than made up for that one though.   

How was the service and crew on board?

The service on board was amazing.  The crew was friendly and very attentive.  All spoke excellent English.  Our tour director was a stunning, blonde young lady from Holland.  The entertainment director was a lively, multi-talented Irish lad who kept everyone entertained each evening with singing, disco, and games.

Paul, our cabin steward, scrubbed our suite from top to bottom each day.

How would you rate the guides on the included tours during your cruise?

The tour guides at the individual stops were all locals who seemed to support whichever cruise line was in port.  Some were better than others but all were at least very good.   

We provided you with a lot of tips prior to your cruise, but do you have any other tips for first time river cruisers we might have missed?

One tip I would like to pass along is to bring a small umbrella.  One day in Prague and on a couple of days on the cruise we experienced sudden down pours of rain.  Weather forecasts were usually wrong and these sudden cloud bursts often caught people by surprise.  I don't usually like to carry an umbrella or any kind of bag when we are out touring for the day.  On a whim just a day or so before we left I bought a little Totes umbrella.  When it is fully collapsed it is only six inches long and could easily fit in my pocket.  It worked like a charm whenever we got caught out in the rain.  Kris (his wife) carries a small bag and had a slightly larger but still smaller than average umbrella that served her well.  The hotel in Prague and the ship provided golf style umbrellas but hardly anyone ever used them because they were so big and awkward to use on a foot tour.  A small pocket poncho might be a suitable alternative for someone who disdains umbrellas.

What did you think about the quality of the Captain and the sailing crew?

I was impressed by the skill and professionalism of our crew.  We seemed to slip in and out of those tight locks flawlessly with scarcely a bump or a scrape.  I watched our captain (a 40 year veteran on the Danube) personally dock the ship using a joy stick at a special docking station near the side of the ship.  We docked without a bump.  There is not an unlimited number of captains and crew with that skill and experience.   

The Emerald Dawn approaches a lock—Marc was impressed with the Captain’s skill!

The Emerald Dawn approaches a lock—Marc was impressed with the Captain’s skill!

Great view of the narrow locks—you can see why a lot of navigational skill is required from the captain to safely enter a lock!

Great view of the narrow locks—you can see why a lot of navigational skill is required from the captain to safely enter a lock!

Do you have any final comments?

Thanks again for all of your assistance and advice.  Our cruise was amazing and I'm anxious to go again.  

My Final Thoughts

Wow—what great, in-depth answers!  To me, it just reinforces what we say about river cruising in general and the value of Emerald Waterways!

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process.  We think we have all these qualities.  I think Marc’s comments reinforces our qualifications.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.comWe want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader.JPG

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist

  • Viking River Cruise Specialist

  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist

  • Emerald Waterways Specialist

  • Avalon Waterways Specialist

  • Brit Agent