Master the River Cruise: Read Sylvia’s Travel Diary

Sylvia at the Taj Mahal with her husband
Cruise Trip #2: Sylvia at the Taj Mahal with her husband. Photo credit: Sylvia’s private collection.

Would you like to know more about intrepid travel? Looking to go on your first river cruise?

Sylvia (long time EziBuy customer) loves colour and has an eclectic sense of style shares her travel experiences with us, going on a river cruise in Europe, train trip in India and another river cruise in Vietnam.

Sylvia and her husband emigrated to NZ in the 1960s before raising a family of four and mostly only going as far as Mahia, NZ. As soon as their children had all left home they packed their backpacks and went backpacking around Europe. Since then they have been to Europe a number of times and camper-vanned all round Australia too.

It was always a life-long dream of Sylvia’s husband to travel on an Indian train – they were forever buying Golden Kiwi lottery tickets in the hope they’d win that week (this was before Lotto!).

So, having travelled a lot, as they got older they didn’t want to stop travelling but at some point a back pack becomes a bit much. That was when they discovered small cruises. The original plan was to cross the whole of Europe from Amsterdam to the Bosphorus but there wasn’t any room left so they did the Danube.

Sylvia and her husband enjoy an active lifestyle and are actively involved with Napier’s Art Deco heritage. They both love dressing up for the various events, and Sylvia has been a part of the Trade Aid community for more than 30 years. This is why she loved the bit of ‘ethical’ visiting on their trip to Vietnam.

Hungarian Parliament Building at night time. Photo credit: Sylvia's private collection.
Hungarian Parliament Building at night time. Photo credit: Sylvia’s private collection.

SYLVIA’S TRAVEL DIARY: PART ONE

You can now traverse Europe by river and canal from Amsterdam (North Sea) to Bucharest (Black Sea). We did part of this from Prague to Budapest at the end of July in 2012, with a stop over in Hong Kong on the way back.

We were due to depart Napier on Tuesday 24th July and have a pre-tour night in Prague. Unfortunately fog in Auckland disrupted this plan, however, a day late we were met in Prague by officials from Avalon Waterways who we were touring with. We had a tour each day and then on Sunday afternoon set off in a coach to join our cruise at Nuremburg!

The river boats are not huge, they have a central corridor and cabins each side. Each cabin has ranch slider type windows so you really see the view or can open them and feel as if you are on a verandah. The top deck has loungers and shade sails, there is even a hairdresser and gym aboard but of course, no swimming pool on a vessel this size.

What to wear when you are on a river cruise?
Casual smart is the dress code for evenings. Meals are in the dining room and you can sit wherever you like with tables for 8 or 10. Breakfast is a buffet but the evening meals are waiter service, with a good menu – all food and drinks are provided!

What did we get up to on the tour?
We had seven nights aboard and day tours of Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, Vienna, Budapest. The tours were extremely interesting and we all had small radio receivers to hear the local guide (All of whom spoke good English).These tours were all included in the fare.

We added on one extra one to Cesky Krumlov. This is a World Heritage Site and after the official part of the tour we were able to wander around at our leisure. Another day we also went off on our own, the official tour was Regensburg but we had visited previously.

David, my husband, had read about a museum containing a Roman Hoard. So, much to the amusement of the Australians we put our dirty washing in a small back pack and set off for the day! David had already worked out a train route to Straubing and getting our train tickets from a machine was not easy… but we managed and had a lovely day, in a delightful small town. The launderette was near the dock so wasn’t a problem and locals showed us how to use it.

The cruise ended in Budapest where we had an extra couple of nights. Unfortunately it was over 40 so we did not do a lot of touring!

On the way home we had a couple of nights in Hong Kong as we had never been.

Sylvia at the Taj Mahal
Photo credit: Sylvia’s private collection.

SYLVIA’S TRAVEL DIARY: PART TWO

Our second cruise was Rajasthan in India by train.

The Royal Rajasthan on Wheels is a circular tour starting and returning to Delhi. Seven nights aboard visiting Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jaipur, Varanasi and Agra. Again we had our own room with ensuite and space under the beds for suitcases. Mostly the train travelled by night and then we were taken by coach to visit whichever ancient site was that days itinerary.

A very early start to go round the tiger reserve with breakfast on the train afterwards as it moved on. At Jaipur we went up the ramparts on elephants. We visited several weaving factories and warehouses where the proprietors were excellent at selling. You were expected to buy something to help the Indian economy along which we did.

This was an excellent introduction into seeing India as we were really well looked after and there was no wandering off on your own on this tour. Evening meals were aboard with an extensive menu that included Indian and European type courses but drinks were at your own expense. While out on tour we had a few lunches out and they were always at top restaurants, nobody was allowed to get Delhi Belly on this trip!

SYLVIA’S TRAVEL DIARY: PART THREE

We had never been to Asia and had so enjoyed our European river cruise that we decided that was the way to go. So in 2016 we travelled the Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap and because we went at the end of July, the weather was hot and wet. A nights stopover in Kuala Lumpur and then we travelled on. Once again we were met at the airport by the Avalon representative.

Whew! What an eye opener Ho Chi Minh was! There are about 10 million residents and 8 million motor bikes, which never, ever stop. Traffic was extremely well behaved though.

After 2 days sight seeing we went aboard MV Siem Reap, even smaller than the European boats this holds 38 passengers. Once again everything was of a very high standard and the crew all knew our names by the second day. It was very pleasant to be greeted on our return by “Welcome Home Sylvia” as our hands were squirted with sterilizer from any outing.

We had taken raincoats for the weather but it was far too hot to wear them and we only had to don a plastic cape once. Due to the late arrival of the monsoon we had to fly from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap instead of going by boat. However this was no big deal and there was no extra charge.

What to do?
We visited a school in a tiny village on the bank of the river. The school being just a roof of reeds and wood benches on an earth floor. The teacher included all the children of the village including some non paying children. He had a large map of the world and someone from every country spoke and pointed out where they came from, this is so that the children heard all the different languages as it was spoken around the world. Some of the speakers were Korean, English, NZ, Australian, Canadian and American.

One evening on board we were entertained by children from an orphanage who are learning traditional dance as a career, there are 60 children in the orphanage and no government funding. We also visited a workshop where many of the workers were deaf or maimed by the land mines.

Once again the hotels that we stayed in were in excellent condition and we had good guides who spoke English well. For anyone wondering, your knees are not allowed to show at Angkor Wat so to beat the hot weather (and the tourists!) we left really early that day to visit this ancient site.

In Siem Reap itself we didn’t try to walk anywhere, clap your hands and say TukTuk and a driver will appear! Wonderful! 

One of the spots Sylvia visits on her river cruise
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo credit: Sylvia’s private collection.

We hoped you liked reading about Sylvia’s intrepid travel and river cruise experiences. Have you visited some of the places Sylvia has? Have you been on a river cruise before? Let us know in the comments below.