Experience the world of luxurious river cruising when you step aboard the state-of-the-art, all-suite MS William Wordsworth. This Swiss-operated, world-class ship really sets the benchmark when it comes to luxury by combining a unique style and understated elegance with an abundance of space. Gaze in wonder at the stunning atrium that floods the marble-floored lobby with natural light; complemented by the gleaming hardwoods, polished brass work, intricate wrought ironwork, and sparkling glass throughout the ship. The sophisticated atmosphere, fine dining venues, opulent river view suites, and excellent on-board facilities set the scene for your time onboard. The impressive 4:1 guest to staff ratio ensures first class levels of service as you embark on your cruise experience along the rivers of Europe and beyond with a maximum of 168 fellow passengers.
An early risers' breakfast is served in the Panorama Lounge. Take your seat in the elegant surroundings of the main restaurant and feast on a selection of freshly-prepared dishes from the breakfast and lunch buffets. In the evening, the attentive waiters are on hand to serve you a four-course dinner menu of destination-inspired, Travelling Lite, and signature dishes. Visit the alfresco Bistro and enjoy tasty culinary delights served from the open kitchen as you take in the panoramic views. You can also indulge in a selection of chef-prepared seasonal signature dishes here in the evening.
Relax in a comfy leather armchair as you admire the unfolding views with a cup of coffee in the Panorama Lounge. The adjoining bar is the hub of the ship and the perfect spot to socialise with your fellow guests with signature cocktails and a gin and tonic or two. Alfresco drinks are also served on the Sun Deck or you can make a hot drink whenever you wish at the 24-hour self-service drinks station. The sommelier will be on hand to help you choose from a range of local wines, sparkling wines, and champagne to complement your meals.
MS William Wordsworth offers something to entertain you both day and night. A refreshing dip in the Sun Deck's splash pool will set you up for the day or partner up for a fun game of golf on the nearby putting green. Keep in shape with a workout in the fitness room or treat yourself to a pampering manicure in the spa and wellness area. The evening entertainment takes place in the Panorama Lounge and comprises light piano music and occasional visiting artistes.
Day 1: UK to Budapest, Hungary
Fly from your chosen UK airport to Budapest and be transferred to the port to board MS William Wordsworth for your 7 night cruise. The dedicated crew are there to welcome you on board, ensuring you settle in and familiarise yourself with this first-class floating hotel. There’s always a sense of expectancy and excitement on the eve of a cruise and, after an excellent dinner in the stylish restaurant, conversation is sure to revolve around the delights ahead.
Day 2: Esztergom, Hungary
Overnight we have cruised upstream to Esztergom, one of Hungary’s oldest towns, a royal capital during medieval times and today the seat of the country’s archbishop. Esztergom is famous for its enormous neoclassical basilica, standing sentinel over the Danube on the border with Slovakia, and boasting one of the world’s largest altarpieces and a wealth of priceless religious artefacts. The castle is also worth exploring; it was the seat of government until the Ottomans invaded in the 16th century. Nestling below are myriad atmospheric churches resonating with the enchanting sounds of choir; this is the best of provincial Hungary and is little changed since Habsburg times. As you enjoy your first lunch on board we gently leave Esztergom in our wake, affording a fascinating opportunity to compare the different landscapes, towns and villages of Hungary on one river bank and of Slovakia on the other.
Day 3: Bratislava, Slovenia
This morning we explore Slovakia’s fast-emerging capital city, Bratislava, on a guided tour. Until recently swathed in the drab uniformity of Communism, the city has rekindled the splendour of its imperial past in its beautifully restored Old Town. Equally impressive is the imposing 17th-century castle commanding expansive views across the Danube. This afternoon we cruise into Lower Austria, a peaceful, bucolic region and home to some of the country’s best wines. By now the stresses of everyday life seem distant as you absorb the ever-changing scenes we pass: children playing on the river banks, young couples strolling arm in arm like generations before them, vignerons carefully pruning their vines, and cobbled quaysides lined by half-timbered buildings. You’ll marvel as the Captain skilfully navigates the ship along the serene river and through locks whose mechanisms never cease to fascinate, as we cruise towards Dürnstein during dinner.
Day 4: Dürnstein & Melk, Austria
Dürnstein is known principally for two things: first, for the ice-blue tower of its abbey, which dominates the view, and second, for the castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192 after being shipwrecked on his return from the crusades. Set on a rocky outcrop high above the river, the castle is now ruined, but it’s easy to imagine England’s legendary monarch seething with frustration far from home, while waiting for his family to raise funds to pay his ransom. After lunch you visit the remarkable Melk Abbey. Nothing quite prepares you for your first sight of this enormous honey-coloured building, standing resplendent above the surrounding countryside. Originally a castle, it was gifted to the Benedictine Order in the 11th century and, although reconstructed in Baroque style during the 18th century, it has remained a monastic school and monastery ever since. The Abbey is renowned for its 214-yard-long Emperor’s Gallery lined with portraits, many fine rooms and an ornate library. After we re-join the ship, dinner is served during the final part of our cruise upstream through the pretty Nibelungengau, immortalised in the music of Wagner.
Day 5: Salzburg or Linz, Austria
Reaching Linz, you will have the choice to stay in the city and take a guided walking tour, exploring its charming baroque old town. At its heart you’ll see one of the finest squares in Austria, lined by grand pastel-coloured facades with an impressive central Trinity Column of white marble, crowned by a gilded sunburst. There’s also the fortress like castle, built high above the city by Emperor Friedrich III, now a museum housing a fine collection of nineteenth and twentieth-century artworks. Alternatively, we drive to Salzburg, once an independent state whose archbishops turned it into one of the most sophisticated cities north of the Alps. Dominating the skyline is one of Europe’s largest stone fortresses, the Hohensalzburg, while beneath its walls church domes and spires rise from the delightful Altstadt, or Old Town. Then there’s the wonderful Hellbrunn Palace and the splendid formal gardens of the Mirabell Palace – a must for horticulture fans. This morning discover some of the city’s main sights in the company of an expert local guide, then you’re free to explore as you wish. Everywhere there are sights associated with the city’s most famous resident, Mozart, who played the harpsichord aged three, composed rudimentary music at five and wrote his first opera when he was 11! Please note lunch is not included on this full day excursion to Salzburg; however, the ship will offer a packed lunch. We return to the ship for another splendid dinner.
Day 6: Vienna, Austria
This morning we have a tour with a local guide offering insights into why Vienna is one of Europe’s great capitals – the seat of the Habsburg emperors and home to some of the world’s finest classical composers, including Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and, of course, a whole family of Strausses. During the afternoon you’re free to explore as you wish. Take a stroll in the Prater, notable for the huge Ferris wheel that features in several Cold War spy thrillers. Or, for something quite different, visit the Schönbrunn Palace, a former royal residence now housing a range of world-class museums and galleries. Perhaps, though, just take a stroll through Vienna’s atmospheric side streets, or enjoy a coffee and a slice of delicious Sachertorte in one of the lovely coffee houses. This evening we’ve arranged truly the ‘icing on the cake’: no visit to Vienna is complete without a live musical experience, so after dinner we have a classical recital on board. To hear this exquisite music played in the city of its creation makes a wonderful finale to the day.
Day 7: Budapest, Hungary
Enjoy a leisurely morning as we cruise majestically through Hungary’s peaceful pastoral landscape towards Budapest. After lunch we enjoy a sightseeing tour of this captivating city, which truly lives up to its reputation as the ‘Pearl of the Danube’. The twin cities of Buda, built around the hilltop fortress, and Pest, with its wide boulevards, were fought over through the centuries. The Ottomans ruled here for 150 years before being ousted in the late 17th century, but their legacy lives on in the many thermal baths fed by hot springs, giving rise to Budapest’s other sobriquet – the ‘City of Spas’. After the end of Ottoman rule, Budapest became an imperial city of the Habsburg Empire, attracting great cultural and commercial wealth. Castle Hill is Budapest in microcosm: two churches, seven museums and a theatre among streets and squares with their own special atmosphere and a dramatic view across the river to the awe-inspiring neo-Gothic Parliament Building. Budapest’s endless galleries, museums, outstanding Art Nouveau architecture and excellent shopping offer a fittingly elegant end to your Danube cruise. This evening’s Gala Dinner closes with a Hungarian folklore show, giving you time to bid farewell to your travelling companions and reflect on all the inspirational places, sights and sounds you have experienced on a truly ‘imperial’ cruise.
Day 8: Budapest, Hungary to UK
Disembark and be transferred to the airport for your return flight to the UK.