On Embark Day we’ll retrieve the final arrivals 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 will cross the German border to board the Amadeus Silver III 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 miles of afternoon cycling 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 Schönbrunn 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 Schönbrunn’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 Schönbrunn’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 Schönbrunn, 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 its turnaround spot near our ship. Alternatively, you could return on our chartered coach for a gourmet lunch aboard Wolfgang Lüftner’s Amadeus Silver III.
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 the ship in time for dinner aboard. If you want to return later (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 all of the shorter cycling routes avoid challenging climbs, this is the only day where all the longer cycling choices are similarly 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 pre-lunch loop visits a Roman archeological site with its restored victory arch and recently unearthed amphitheater. Lunch is served at the center of 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 fleeing Islamic invaders preparing their famous attack on Vienna’s city walls.
Today’s after-lunch route crosses a no man’s land between abandoned checkpoints. Here, as recently as 1989, Soviet border guards prevented the escape of 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 haven’t been previously 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 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 upriver from 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. If you reach Visegrad before the ship, another optional loop climbs up and through this mountaintop citadel.
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, the carefully-restored “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 a 270-degree 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 an ancient order that predates written history. They own and use deadly weapons, and will guide your use of their weapons after their performance.
On the seventh day we’ll wake up in Budapest, where a score of youthful professional guides who usually guide tourists for their bus tours of Hungary’s compelling Capital, will instead 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 beautiful 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 in the morning will be able to arrive home the same evening.
Amadeus Silver III
Prague to Budapest Cycling Cruise
Danube River 2024
The Danube River is the perfect place to replace a string of hotels with a no-repacking week aboard the luxurious Amadeus Silver III.
On most days the Amadeus Silver III will move through the night to find a perfect place to start a morning ride. After we are off, it will move ahead 20-30 miles to where it docks and waits to serve lunch. After a 2-hour pause, the ship unties and moves another 10-15 miles downriver to reach our late afternoon tie up. With this arrangement you can ride in the morning, afternoon, both, or neither.
The day’s shortest and easiest rides stay close to the river. Longer options loop inland, and find a few hills. Our late afternoon tie-ups are always at the center of a town that merits your pre-dinner exploration. Once everyone is seated for dinner in the panoramic dining room, the ship can untie and move to our next day’s ride. Instead of spending your precious vacation time re-packing and moving between hotels each day, this floating resort transports you overnight while you sleep.
The Mozart & Strauss Deck staterooms have floor to ceiling drop-down windows. You’ll both be able to lean out to share beautiful views up and down the river. All double-staterooms are have plenty of room for a king-width bed. Suites are 50% larger and provide room to entertain your friends. The Haydn Deck Staterooms have a tall and wide fixed window. With a similar floor-plan and amenities as upper deck staterooms, you can’t tell which deck you’re on with the curtains closed.
Mozart & Strauss Deck Staterooms
At 188 square feet, the Mozart & Strauss Deck staterooms are not only large by cruise ship standards, they’re nearly twice as large as what you’ll find on a European barge.
Resort Style Bathrooms in every room
Suites on the Amadeus Silver III are 50% larger than the staterooms (284 square feet!), have French balconies, and enjoy more than enough room to entertain your friends or enjoy your sanctuary while gliding down the Danube River.
Compared to an inn-to-inn tour, where every day starts where the previous day ended, you’ll experience better rides while gaining an hour a day by not having to repack and change hotels. The staterooms on the Amadeus Silver III are not only cleaner, fresher, and quieter than most hotel rooms, on this bicycle tour you’ll sleep better by not having to adjust to a new mattress, pillow, and thermostat each night.
On any day you don’t feel like riding, an inland cruise comes with fascinating scenery. While aboard you can nap, read, use the wifi, catch some rays on the sundeck, or enjoy a massage or spa treatment.
Lounge & Bar
Another daily option is to hop aboard Sergio’s picture-window coach to reach and enjoy the mid-ride attractions without pedaling.
Panoramic Dining Room
Meals? The ship’s panoramic dining room accommodates all, and serves three gourmet-quality meals per day curated by our 5-star chef, each with enough choices to please everyone.
Bike Parking on the Sun Deck
(about to go under a low bridge)
Frequently Asked Questions
Prague to Budapest Cycling Cruise
Danube River 2024
Q: What are the exact dates?
A: Santana’s Prague to Budapest Cycling Cruise will take place June 22 to 29, 2024. 8-days/7-nights. Perfectly scheduled for short sleeve cycling in the Danube River Valley. These dates were specially selected to experience the best cycling weather the Danube has to offer, short sleeve days in the mid-70s.
Q: What’s the cost?
A: Due to the current strength of the dollar our first-in per-person double-occupancy pricing for this 8-day cycling cruise starts at $3,999. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE. Our reservations page shows pricing of available staterooms.
Q: Single rooms?
A: The Amadeus Silver III has a rare pair of single 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 port fees and a long list of off-ship activities, tours, admissions, interpretive guides, site fees, non-rider touring coach, and ride support (gps route files and a pair of SOS vans driven by pro mechanics). Note that this is less than the average cruise passenger pays for a week of “deluxe excursions.” Shipboard gratuities of $185 per person includes wash & fold laundry and valet bike handling.
Q: Are all staterooms the same?
A: No. Lüftner Cruises designed the Amadeus Silver III to be the most luxurious ship that can navigate the Danube River. This cruise ship is the perfect place to dine, sleep, and relax between rides. Staterooms on the Mozart & Strauss decks have a spacious 188 square foot floor plan, and the Haydn deck staterooms have a 172 square foot floor plan. Suites are 50% larger (284 square feet) with a small balcony, and provide room to entertain your friends. The Mozart & Strauss Deck staterooms have floor-to-ceiling drop-down windows. You’ll both be able to lean out to share beautiful views up and down the river. The Haydn Deck staterooms have a wide fixed window.
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. 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, about $500 per-person for the event, includes delivery at the PreTour OR cruise embark and retrieval at the end of the final ride. More info on single-bike rentals and e-bike rentals can be found on our Welcome Aboard page.
Q: How do we get to and from the tour?
A: Detailed info by July ’23. Those who arrive and leave on the embark and disembark days will receive airport transfers.
Q: How many miles each day?
A: In addition to our daily pair of zero-mile options (remaining on the ship or reaching prime attractions via Santana’s non-rider touring coach), every day has multiple cycling routes. Anyone who can ride 30 flat miles will be able to enjoy cycling in all four countries. Longer routes are available, and typically allow 60 or more miles. 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 attractions, lengths, grades, and difficulty. For more info on the GPS navigation which requires a smartphone or supported GPS unit, take a look at our GPS Guide: SantanaAdventures.com/gps/
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. To lock-in availability and the lowest pricing on a RISK-FREE basis, reserve your space through our reservations portal. Our 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 timestamp 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 Cancellations@SantanaAdventures.com within 14-days to cancel the PayPal transaction and obtain a full refund. Please do not send your request to any other email addresses. 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 (this charter will be our 69th!). Here it is (again) in writing:
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 25 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 $1,000 per stateroom—which is waived when vacating participants find 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 pair of SOS vans are driven by pro bike mechanics who bring tools and spares. When you phone one of our drivers with the coordinates from your GPS, they’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?
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 Lüftner cruises the culinary staff appreciated our appetites as much as we appreciated their multi-course gourmet meals. A 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 from a viewing queue, 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 Silver III offer WiFi?
Q: Does the ship have an elevator?
Q: 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 quickest and easiest way to get help is to use Santana’s Contact Form. One of our team members will follow up with you as soon as possible.