Blue Danube 2021

Prague to Budapest Cycling Cruise




Photo Itinerary

Danube River 2021

On Embark Day we’ll retrieve stragglers at PRG airport on our way to the Danube. To break up the 3-hour transfer (using spacious picture window coaches instead of cramped bench-seat vans), we’ll pause in historic Pilzn, where the final PreTour event is a quick tour, tasting and early lunch at Pilsner Urquell—where aficionados will never forget their visit to the authentic birthplace of translucent beer—a Pilzn innovation that remains clearly superior to all preceding brews.

By early afternoon we cross the German border to board the Amadeus Queen in the Bavarian Village of Vilshofen. Top deck bike assembly occurs as we cruise through locks to reach an early evening professionally-guided walking tour of old Passau—where the soaring cathedral houses the world’s largest pipe organ. Do you think we’ll hear a short performance before tonight’s welcoming dinner?

Our first day of cycling passes through an exotic corner of Bavaria to reach a remarkable segment of Austria. A highlight of most Danube cycling tours is pedaling through the serpentine bends of the Danube’s Shlogen Gorge; a natural preserve that can’t be viewed from a car, bus or train because it’s only wide enough for the river and a paved bike lane.

Our tailwind ride through the Schlogen Gorge ends 40 miles downriver in Aschach, where the ship ties up to prepare a buffet lunch. The after-lunch ride continues 20-miles to Linz. If your pre-lunch ride was sufficiently long for our tour’s first day of cycling, we provide two other ways to reach Linz. Easiest is to remain aboard for this afternoon’s repositioning cruise.

A third option was recommended to us by European Travel expert Rick Steves. Rick’s choice is a chartered coach ride from Aschach to Linz that detours to include a guided tour of KZ Mauthausen; a carefully-preserved remnant of Austria’s German occupation.

With all three of our afternoon options you’ll be able to stroll Linz before reboarding the ship for a twilight cruise that includes gourmet views from our ship’s panoramic dining room.

Our third day begins in Grein. During our morning ride the ship moves to Melk, where we board for lunch after our guided tours of the town’s famous Abbey.

Our afternoon ride pauses for a shuttle up the two-mile 20% driveway to Aggstein Castle (pictured below), where your admission to the Danube’s most fascinating fortress is included.

A nearly-perfect pedaling segment through a swampy nature preserve delivers you to a totally-green ferry crossing. We’ve arranged your passage on a current-powered ferry where you’ll enter a solar powered video room to view a contemporaneous show projected via centuries-old technology.

Can this day get any better? Yes! The final dozen afternoon miles weave through fabled Wauchau Valley wine villages to end where our ship is tied up for small-group early-evening walking tours that pass through medieval walls to enter a trio of Heuriger, each in a small family-owned wine cellar.

None of the three totally-authentic places should be confused with a larger Vienese-styled heurigen that’s open to the public and caters to tourists (we’ve saved that for tomorrow night!) On this insightful and unforgettable evening our local non-professional guides can be trusted to get you back to the ship in time for a late dinner which will be served as we cruise downriver.

Day four—a bit of a layover day—starts and ends in Vienna. In lieu of cycling this morning’s activity is a visit to Schonbrunn Castle. While half of us enjoy a ticketed tour of a Royal Palace that’s larger and grander than Versailles, the other half will find reserved seats in Schonbrunn’s diminutive Marionetten. Ninety minutes later, we’ll swap venues.

Remember the movie Amadeus? Schonbrunn is where a tone-deaf Emperor sequestered an unhappy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. To escape the pressure of his incarceration Mozart is said to have found refuge seated within a gaggle of royal offspring (including a young Marie Antoinette) who were schooled by Schonbrunn’s marionettes to appreciate serious Italian opera.

After the young Mozart created his own serious Italian operas (including Don Giovanni and Marriage of Figaro) the aging genius’s final opera was the fantastical and childlike Magic Flute, which is thought to be Mozart’s homage to the afternoons he spent in Schonbrunn’s Marionetten.

In yet another experience that’s unavailable to a normal cruise passenger, cyclist or tourist, Santana’s command performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute has been shortened to include the highlights. Our version of this masterpiece will be hosted and explained by a 22-inch reincarnation of the composer, who will speak English and moves a bit like Pinocchio.

Following our morning sessions at Shonbrunn, professionally guided walking tours of old Vienna reveal lots of places to find a late lunch before time on your own that ends when you decide to catch a Danube Tram to it’s turnaround spot near our ship. Alternatively, you could return on our chartered coach for better lunch aboard Wolfgang Lueftner’s Amadeus Queen.

Either way, if you can’t tolerate a day without cycling our early evening group ride loops through the Vienna Woods and pauses for a glass of young wine at the big heurigen mentioned earlier. Because it’s in a delightful neighborhood and an easy walk from the ship, you can remain for dinner or pedal back to reach the ship in time for its dinner. If you want to return or stay in central Vienna, the tram runs until late and our ship remains here overnight.

Day five’s cycling connects a pair of capitals: Austria’s Vienna and Slovakia’s Bratislava. On a tour where the shorter routes avoid all the long hills, this is the only day where all the longer routes are just as flat.

Our morning exit from Vienna cycles the traffic-free spaghetti-shaped Danube River island that includes a naturalists’ beach. Fifteen miles into our ride most will stop at a bicyclists’ biergarten for ice cream, brewed hot coffee, or a refreshing cold brew flavored with hops.

An optional prelunch loop visits a Roman archeological site with its restored victory arch and recently unearthed amphitheater. Lunch is served at a medieval walled town. If you arrive before our ship, take a look at the infamous middle-ages gate tower where a sticky latch in the year 1683 prevented the escape of eight thousand Austrian residents who were cornered and hacked to death after Islamic invaders preparing their famous attack on Vienna breached the defending city’s walls.

Today’s after-lunch route crosses a no man’s land between abandoned checkpoints. Here, as recently as 1989, Soviet border guards gunned down civilians who attempted the short sprint to freedom. Less than ten miles beyond the rusted remains of Europe’s iron curtain our afternoon rides end in Bratislava, the youthful and vibrant capital of Slovakia, a recently-minted country that’s the Eastern portion of what was formerly Czechoslovakia. If, like many Americans, you’ve never been intrigued by the changing tides of history, this tour will be a transformative experience.

For over 2,000 years the Danube River was the European continent’s most important thoroughfare. More than anywhere else in Europe, the Danube is where history occurred. Now that the Iron Curtain has finally been brushed aside, everyone can enjoy the beauty, history and great cycling that exists between Bratislava and Budapest.

Santana’s Blue Danube Adventure was created for cycling enthusiasts who aren’t afraid to experience more. The sixth day of our cycling cruise passes deserted collective farms, reawakening centers of history, Esztergom’s massive Basilica and UNESCO heritage sights to reach Hungary’s strategic Danube Bend.

A long option visits a hidden valley that now yields some of Hungary’s finest wine and the jewel-like royal castle at Tata, a summer retreat that’s older and far nicer than Camp David.

Twenty five miles above Budapest the Danube descends through a tight switchback. The 1,000-foot summit at the center of the Danube Bend is a strategic location fortified by the Romans. After the Hungarians arrived an early King cleared away the Roman ruins to erect a massive fortress castle.

This castle and its underlying village of Visegrad still exist. A later King (who hated the steep hike) built his vacation home below the fortress. His smaller, newer and well-preserved castle dates back to the 13th century. When the King arrived by boat; a knights’ procession guided him to his tower. Rarely open to the public “Solomon’s Tower” now houses the area’s archeological treasures.

Like the ancient King, our boat will be met for a procession that will ascend through the cobbled village, enter the usually-locked tower, and climb to the rooftop terrace to enjoy an expansive view, local wine, and an ancient Hungarian snack that’s reminiscent of Pizza. On the way back down, we’ll take time to examine showcases filled with priceless artifacts.

In the courtyard, a dozen knights will demonstrate ancient weapons and practiced skills. Not to be confused with the cheesy tourist show you’re now imagining, this is a real castle and these are real knights.

The Knights of Visegrad belong to ancient order that predates written history. They own and use deadly weapons, and will guide your use of their weapons after their performance. We’ll return to our ship for a late dinner.

On the seventh day we’ll wake up in Hungary’s Capital, where a score of youthful professional guides will arrive at our ship on their bicycles. Our morning tour by bike is the very best way to get a guided overview of Budapest—the city our young guides love and are proud to share.

My favorite photo from Budapest shows the prearranged mid-morning rendezvous of faster and slower groups that departed the ship at various times and in all directions.

On the way back to the ship’s lunch you’ll have time to stop for an in-depth view of your favorite highlight. The rest of the day is all yours. Why not share it with some of your new friends? Tonight’s farewell dinner concludes with a top-deck dessert served while our ship glides beneath Budapest’s spotlit bridges, buildings, and monuments.

On the eighth day our first airport shuttle will get you to Budapest’s BUD airport in time for the earliest departure. Flying with the sun, Americans who depart BUD in the morning will be able to arrive home the same evening.

MS Amadeus Queen

Danube River 2021

Behold the Amadeus Queen—custom built for cruising the finest European rivers in absolute luxury. Launched last year and perfect for cycling, she’s the first Danube River cruise ship with a real swimming pool.

Luxurious Suites with Walk-Out Balconies
Spacious Staterooms with Panoramic Drop-Down Windows

The Amadeus Queen has an assortment of staterooms and suites located on 3 decks. Lueftner Cruises’ latest river ship design has created a luxurious ship with larger staterooms and beautiful amenities.The Mozart (Top-Deck) & Strauss (Middle-Deck) staterooms have drop down panoramic windows, which are wider and cleaner than a French Balcony. You’ll both be able to lean out to share beautiful views up and down the river.

Suites
Staterooms

All staterooms are 188 square feet, and suites are over 50% larger (284 square feet!) and include a true walk-out balcony. The Haydn (Bottom) Deck Staterooms have a tall and wide fixed window. With the same floor-plan and amenities as upper deck staterooms, the Haydn Deck rooms provide superior value. With the curtains closed they feel the same as a room on the pricier Mozart Deck.

Resort Style Bathrooms in Every Stateroom & Suite
A Beautiful Dining Room with Floor to Ceiling Windows
A Comfortable Lounge–The Perfect Place to relax, have a drink, make new friends, check your emails, or read a book after a long day of cycling.
A swimming pool to enjoy after each day’s ride
A massage salon that offers spa treatments

The River Terrace

A beautiful Sun-Deck with 360-degree views and ample room to build/store/work-on our bikes

If you’d like to see more, here’s a fun video of the ship:

Frequently Asked Questions

Danube River 2021

Q: What are the exact dates?

A: August 14-21, 2021. A 8-Day/7-Night Cycling Cruise. Beautiful days of short-sleeve cycling with highs in the mid-70s.

Q: What’s the cost?

A: Due to the current strength of the dollar our first-in per-person pricing for this 8-day cycling cruise starts at $4,599 per-person. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE. Our reservations page shows pricing of available staterooms.

Q: What’s “Early-In” Pricing?

A: To manage the risk of chartering entire cruise ships, couples who commit early are rewarded with discounts of up to $1,000 per stateroom. Lowest pricing in every category is limited to the first few rooms. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE.

Q: What about tipping?

A: Jan and I don’t accept tips. A comprehensive “cruise extras” fee of $500 per-person includes a long list of port fees, off-ship activities, admissions, interpretive guides, sight fees, and ride support (gps route files, morning shuttles to give casual riders a head start, and an SOS van driven by a pro mechanic). Mandatory shipboard gratuities of $150 per-person includes valet bike handling.

Q: Are all the staterooms the same?

A: No. Lueftner Cruises’ latest river ship design has created a luxurious ship with larger staterooms and beautiful amenities.The Mozart & Strauss Deck staterooms have drop down panoramic windows, which are wider and cleaner than a French Balcony. You’ll both be able to lean out to share beautiful views up and down the river.

All staterooms are 188 square feet, and suites are over 50% larger (284 square feet!) and include a true walk-out balcony. The Haydn Deck Staterooms have a tall and wide fixed window. With the same floor-plan and amenities as upper deck staterooms, the Haydn Deck rooms provide superior value. With the curtains closed they feel the same as a room on the pricier Mozart Deck.

Q: How are staterooms assigned?

A: In any sub-category all rooms are identical. Using the PayPal timestamp, those who reserve earliest get the conveniently located staterooms closest to the front of the ship. If friends desire a pair of adjacent staterooms the timestamp of the first reservation determines the location of both rooms. In short, out of fairness to all our guests, we will not take requests for specific room numbers. Out of fairness to all of our guests, we will not take requests for specific room numbers. Those who book early obtain prime positioning.

Q: Are rental bikes available? 

A: Yes. If you own a nice bike that fits, however, bringing it with you is relatively easy and inexpensive. More info on this in Bill’s Travel Tips. Single bike rental rates are about $450 per person for this event, includes delivery to embark and retrieval at disembark. We will update you on rental bike pricing about 45 days prior to embark.

Q: How do we get to and from the tour?

A: Detailed info by September ’20. Those who arrive and leave on the embark and disembark days will receive FREE Airport transfers.

Q: How many miles each day?

A: In addition to our daily pair of zero-mile options (cruising on the ship or grabbing a seat on our Panoramic-Window coach), every day has multiple cycling routes. Anyone who can ride 30 flat miles will be able to enjoy all eleven days of cycling. If you prefer hills or want to ride 60 (or more) miles a day, we’ve got you covered. At each morning’s breakfast you’ll get a map charting the day’s cycling routes and recommended stops. During a brief route talk you’ll hear about each route’s grades and difficulty. Santana’s vets have learned to love and rely on their handlebar-mounted gps unit. Costing as little as $160, these touch-screen marvels prevent the age-old problem of getting lost or riding unplanned miles. Santana supplies free electronic mapping and route files. Simply select the route and follow the highlighted map.

Q: What’s the next step?

A: A near-immediate sell-out of this event is anticipated. Early-in pricing is limited to the first few rooms in each category. Pricing listed on the Stateroom Reservations section is the current pricing. Refresh your browser to see any changes that may have occurred if you delay booking after loading this page. To lock-in availability and the lowest pricing on a RISK-FREE basis, reserve your space through our PayPal portal. PayPal’s secure website is open 24 hours per day, accepts all major credit cards, and automatically adjusts for remaining stateroom availability. Reserving your spot is RISK-FREE. In each category the prime location staterooms will be assigned in the same order as the time stamp of your booking.

Q: What do you mean by RISK-FREE?

A: When you use your credit card and book through PayPal, we’ll give you 14 risk-free days to think it over and clear your schedule. If you change your mind, send an email to Matt@SantanaAdventures.com within two weeks to cancel the PayPal transaction and obtain a full refund. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.

Q: What if we change our minds after 14 days?

A: Because full-boat charters are binding, non-cancelable contracts, Jan and I will only enter into this charter based on your confirmed-through-PayPal commitment. In effect, we undertake a huge risk by guaranteeing full payment on your behalf. After entering into this obligation, we cannot afford for you to back out—for any reason. This is no different than the clear written policy that existed for all except one of Santana’s prior chartered-ship cruises. Here it is:

Santana’s acceptance of your registration and non-refundable deposit for this event is subsequent to your agreement to pay the remaining balance in full. While Santana allows limited refunds on rallies and tours, Santana’s cruises are non-cancelable and non-transferable. When the possibility of paying yet not attending is unacceptable, Jan and I recommend Travel Guard trip insurance. For the past 20 years hundreds of our clients have relied on Travel Guard coverage without complaint. An informative application will be mailed with your invoice; and further information is available online. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.

Q: Have you ever relaxed your refund policy?

A: Jan and I have willingly resold a number of fully prepaid staterooms for a fee of $1000 per room—which was waived when a vacating couple found someone to take their place. When there has been more than one pending resell request, those who paid-in-full earliest had their space resold next. Using this non-guaranteed method (which is grossly inferior to trip insurance) Jan and I have cheerfully refunded over $500,000 in otherwise non-refundable and non-transferable cruise fares. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.

Q: What’s the difference between a SAG-wagon and Santana’s SOS/treasure vans? 

A: Most tour companies use SAG-wagons that haul luggage and “sweep” the route between overnight stops. The drivers refill water-bottles, fix flat tires, and retrieve riders who can’t manage the easiest route between the widely spaced hotels. The problem, of course, is that the roving vans tend to be annoying until you actually need help. At that point it’s common to wait for two or more hours until one shows up. Although SAG drivers can fix a flat, they don’t have the tools or know-how to handle serious mechanical problems. Instead, they drive you to a bike shop (which explains why SAG-wagons disappear for hours at a time). This tour’s SOS van is driven by a pro bike mechanic who brings tools and spares. When you phone him with the coordinates from your GPS, he’ll arrive in a flash to get you back in the saddle. Because Santana expects participants to fill their own bottles, fix their own flats, and choose a ride they can finish, our SOS drivers are underworked, and have time to retrieve your shopping treasures.

Q: Are beverages included on the Amadeus Queen?

A: Beer & Wine are included at dinner. Other alcohol is not included but can be charged to your room. Soft Drinks, Coffee, Espresso Drinks, and Juice are all complimentary at meal times.

Q: Which meals are included?

A: During Santana’s earlier charters of Lueftner cruises the culinary staff appreciated our appetites as much as we appreciated their multi-course gourmet meals. Lueftner’s 5-star chef will curate a new menu for each meal, and will always include a surprising selection of local fruits and produce, regional specialties, the freshest-possible seafood, vegetarian options, and grilled-to-order meats. A changing assortment of desserts and pastries are produced aboard each day. Breakfast and Lunch are served buffet style, perfect for active cyclists. Dinner is a plated multi-course menu with plenty of gourmet options for all of our participants.

Q: Does the Amadeus Queen have WiFi? Does the ship have an elevator?
Will there be menu selections for vegetarians, vegans and picky eaters?

A: Yes to all of the above.

Q: What if we have more questions?

A: The easiest way to get help is by phoning or emailing Matt, who is happy to help answer your questions.
+1 (949) 677-7896        Matt@SantanaAdventures.com

Q: What if I run into problems with Reservations or PayPal?

A: The easiest way to get help is by phoning or emailing Matt, who is happy to help guide you.
+1 (949) 677-7896        Matt@SantanaAdventures.com

Stateroom Reservations

Prague to Budapest

August 14 to 21, 2021