Another Great Viennese Day with Tauck

A great way to start the day: coffee, yogurt & some blogging at Vienna’s Cafe Demel. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

An overnight call in the opulent city of Vienna allowed guests aboard Tauck’s Swiss Jewel to spend the day at their leisure enjoying all that this historic locale has to offer.

Once again, getting into Vienna couldn’t have been more straightforward: Tauck arranged for shuttle busses at 9am and 9:30am that would transport guests from the dock to the Albertina, located near the famous Sacher Hotel and the Hofburg.

Coffee with apricot brandy and whipped cream. No sense watching the calories here in Vienna! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Many guests were interested in visiting the Belvedere, while a large portion had made reservations to view the famous Lipizzaner Stallions strut their stuff. In both cases, Christine, Andy and Staci – our Tauck Directors – made special arrangements to personally ensure guests got to their desired location.  Such a high level of service is great for Tauck’s clientele, many of whom are making their first visits to Vienna and can be still unsure of their bearings.

I utilized this free day to combine work with pleasure by visiting the Café Central at Herrengasse 14. Arriving just after 9:30am, I had my pick of the tables, which gave me the opportunity to photograph the restaurant when it was nearly empty.  By 10am, however, hardly a seat was free.

The Cafe Central has played host to many famous figures throughout history…and now one bespectacled cruise enthusiast! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

There’s good reason for that: anyone who was (or would be) anyone in the last century was seen here, including Lenin, Hitler, Trotsky, Freud, and Josip Broz Tito. I had wanted to come here last December but I kept getting turned around; it turns out I was looking too hard: I’d come within a block of the Café Central before deciding to head elsewhere!

Today though, I treated myself to coffee with apricot brandy and whipped cream, along with some plain yogurt as a bit of a late breakfast add-on.  Total cost: under €10. But the pleasure of relaxing in this beautiful and historic café would have been worth double the price. I almost considered hanging out for lunch (there’s no time restrictions on how long you can occupy a table), but I had itchy feet to go exploring.

Some decidedly old-world transportation outside of the Hofburg. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

As it was, their free Wi-Fi allowed me to post yesterday’s Live Voyage Report after being stymied by the onboard internet late last night.  But it is worth pointing out that every river cruise ship afloat suffers from similar connectivity issues; still, it’s great to know that you can go relax in a café and get some work done  if you have to!

By the time 11am rolled around, I figured I should be moving along. I strolled two blocks back, past the Hofburg and into the magnificent Austrian National Library’s Prunksaal, or Splendor Hall.

The Austrian National Library is stunning and must be seen to be believed. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Its name is decidedly appropriate: the hall is stunning, with vaulted ceilings, gold accent work and murals that rival even the finest cathedral. Over 200,000 books are held here, and some extremely rare samples are on display, such as a book written in Arabic during the 1400’s. For €7 admission, it’s well worth it if you have never been, or if you have any interest in architecture or ancient manuscripts.

After doing a little shopping, I decided it was time to come back to the soothing paradise that is the Swiss Jewel.  To make things easy, Tauck ran shuttle busses from the Albertinaplatz to the ship at 12:30, 2:30, 3:30 and 4:30pm, all of which would meet our 5pm departure time as we sail to Durnstein, Austria later tonight.

Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

I returned on the 2:30 shuttle bus, dropped my things in my extremely-comfortable stateroom, and headed back out.  Checking on and off the ship works a little differently here than on a large cruise ship; instead of swiping your keycard through a reader, keycards are exchanged at the front desk for a “shore pass” card that can be carried ashore, and can also open the vessel’s exterior doors during overnight calls.

So why, with an all-aboard time of 4:30pm, did I go back ashore at 3pm?  Simple: I wanted to make use of one of the 14 bicycles here onboard the Swiss Jewel!

Even light rain couldn’t keep people away from Vienna! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Pick a bike, any bike – they’re complimentary aboard Tauck’s river fleet! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The bikes are offered to guests on a complimentary basis; there’s no forms to sign or deposits to leave. Just check with the front desk, who will unlock the bike, and you are ready to go!  They’re also quite easy to ride, with no gears to shift or handlebar brakes to work (pressing backwards on the pedals stops the bike.)

I rode along the pierside here in Vienna for about two kilometers before crossing a bridge over to Donauinsel, a small island cut in between the Danube and “New Danube” channels that lie just outside of Vienna.

Riding around Vienna in the rain. With a camera! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Even though it poured rain halfway across the bridge, I had a great time and hope to set out in Durnstein tomorrow to explore the countryside of Austria via bicycle. Plus, I will need the exercise with all the great food they’re serving each day here onboard the Swiss Jewel!

This evening, the sun came out and shone brilliantly for our departure; it’s as if the weather is putting on a tremendous show for us each and every day. In fact, today was our first mainly overcast day – some six days after the start of this journey!

Departure from Vienna under a brilliant sunset! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

With an evening of cruising the Danube ahead of us, things are in full swing here onboard the Swiss Jewel.  At 6pm, it was time for everyone’s favorite event: Happy Hour in the Main Lounge on Deck 3 forward.  And who can complain about half-price drinks coupled with stunning views?!

Looking back along the side of the Swiss Jewel as we made our way out of Vienna, my favorite city. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

To make things more interesting, our Cruise Director Steve held a little friendly competition tonight: the quest to see who had acquired the most interesting, original image of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart here in Vienna.  His visage is, of course, everywhere: from little figurines to tour busses to Mozart Impersonators. He’s even splashed all over the little chocolate and nut-filled balls that also bear his name.  I can only hope that someday they’ll name a rich, fatty treat after me…

The setting sun illuminates the Main Lounge just before Happy Hour. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

We also had our daily Discovery Briefing during Happy Hour, which provides guests with a chance to ask questions about what they saw today, and to prepare them for our exciting day in Durnstein tomorrow.

Dinner was served in the Main Dining Room on Deck 2 from 6:30 to 8:30pm, and in the Lido Bar from 7:00pm.  If you’re booked on Tauck in the next little while, run, do not walk, to this stunning venue!  It hasn’t seemed to catch on yet on my sailing, but I hear it can be packed on others. Personally, I think you can’t go wrong with the beautiful aft-facing views, stunning cuisine, and dedicated, intimate service here.

The stunning, aft-facing Lido Bar serves up Italian fare in the evenings. Don’t miss out on this great alternate dining venue! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Not that the main dining room is any slouch; this morning at breakfast, I enjoyed a double espresso followed by one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had, courtesy of the always-smiling Dana.  Coffee barely goes empty before it is re-filled, and water, juices, teas and soft drinks are always on-tap.  With lunch and dinner, the wine and beer is complimentary – and free-flowing; there’s no rationing of any sort going on.  What’s more, Tauck serves up some darn fine wines to accompany each meal.

Another shot of the Main Lounge aboard the Swiss Jewel. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

While the average age here onboard this particular trip is skewing a little older than I had envisioned, I have this to say to everyone reading this: if you haven’t tried river cruising, you owe it to yourself to.  Tauck makes it ridiculously easy to enjoy the entire experience, from the moment you touch down to explorations in each city.  They even have Tauck Bridges, a series of specially-selected river cruise sailings that are designed for multi-generational families and friends to cruise together.  Active, stimulating and always accommodating, I think these sailings would be perfect for river cruisers of all ages.

A ship next to us departs Vienna in the glow of the setting sun. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

But even as the only 30-year old onboard aside from the crew, I am enjoying myself thoroughly. And how could you not? The ship is gorgeous, the ports are stunning and the entire experience has been wunderbar indeed!

So stay tuned – we’ve got six more days of adventure ahead of us, aboard Tauck’s Swiss Jewel!

Thoughtful design touches are to be found everywhere throughout Tauck’s Swiss Jewel, like this Edwardian light sconce. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report onboard Tauck’s Swiss Jewel continues tomorrow with a day spent in the picturesque town of Durnstein, Austria; another gem nestled along the magnificent Danube River.


4 Responses to Swiss Jewel Live Voyage Report – Day 6

  1. Kim says:

    Looks just beautiful and I love the bikes!

  2. Nancy says:

    Aaron: I am so fascinated by your review and photos! You have such a talent! I am anxious to check in with you tomorrow.

  3. Sue Z says:

    Aaron, another day you transport your readers to a wonderful day of sight-seeing through your words and photos. As a fellow photographer, you have a keen eye on composition, and the extraordinary views for travelers who might not take time to notice details, as you do in your photographs. Thank you…looking forward to tomorrows adventure.

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