Water way to cruise Danube

Lux­ury is taken to an­other level on board the River Beatrice, from the state­rooms to tours and food travel2011

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2011 - MAR­TINE BARKER

AS WE set sail from the small town of Pas­sau in Ger­many on an icy Novem­ber af­ter­noon, the but­lers of­fered us mugs of hot choco­late up on deck. Wrapped in warm blan­kets, we were gen­tly swept away for a week’s ex­plo­ration and ad­ven­ture on the Danube in a style and com­fort you would be hard pressed to beat.

Ahead of us were stops at Linz, Melk, Durn­stein, Vi­enna, in Aus­tria, and Bu­dapest in Hun­gary.

A won­der­fully ap­pointed state­room be­came my re­treat for seven nights and, on Day 2, af­ter Ste­faniya, my ap­pointed house­keeper, had met me and qui­etly as­sessed my height, I stepped into the shower to find it had been low­ered overnight for me. I did not even have to tweak the hot/cold set­ting. Just turn on the flow.

The lux­ury of the ship, with its high-end panache epit­o­mised by the 2-me­tre hand-crafted Murano glass chan­de­lier that hangs in the two-deck mar­ble lobby, is re­peated in ev­ery de­tail. Plush up­hol­stered silk panels line the cor­ri­dors and state­rooms or suites (they are not called cabins here). All state­rooms/suites are stocked with L’OC­c­i­tane en Provence toi­letries, ex­cept for the smarter suites where the prod­ucts are from Molton Brown.

State­rooms of all cat­e­gories are laid out in iden­ti­cal fash­ion, with twin beds that can be made up to­gether to be­come an ex­tremely com­fort­able queen (fab­u­lous linen and each pas­sen­ger gets to use one of those lovely fluffy big white tow­elling robes), but those on the two up­per decks are dis­tin­guished by hav­ing French bal­conies with slid­ing win­dows that can be opened in sum­mer and even in the win­try tem­per­a­tures at this time of year (rang­ing from -4°C to a max­i­mum on one day of 7°C), were won­der­ful to have for the views of pass­ing land­scapes, and oc­ca­sion­ally to open for a brac­ing dose of crisp air. On the lower deck, the state­rooms are set largely be­low the wa­ter­line, so win­dows there give just a view of the water sur­face, and a glimpse of the shore­line.

The River Beatrice has been one of the jew­els in the crown for the Uniworld Bou­tique River Cruise Col­lec­tion. Among nu­mer­ous other awards, it was voted, in an in­ter­na­tional travel sur­vey, best new ship of 2009. It is now one of the older ships in the Uniworld river fleet, the SS An­toinette be­ing Beatrice’s newer and flashier sis­ter, which plies the Rhine. (It has a pool, which the River Beatrice does not. Prob­a­bly great in sum­mer, but on this trip I strug­gled to imag­ine when there would have been time for swim­ming.) The names of the ships will ring a bell for any­one who knows the Toll­man fam­ily which owns the brand: Beatrice and Stan­ley Toll­man, founders and own­ers of Travel Cor­po­ra­tion, which owns Uniworld Bou­tique River Cruises Col­lec­tion, are South Africans (re­mem­ber the Toll­man Tow­ers in down­town Jo­han­nes­burg?) who ex­panded their em­pire to be­come big play­ers in the global travel in­dus­try. The River Beatrice is named for Mrs B, as she is known within the com­pany, and the SS An­toinette is named for daugh­ter Toni who de­signs the ship in­te­ri­ors.

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PIC­TURES: MAR­TINE BARKER

LUX­URY ON THE RIVER: The River Beatrice, moored at Durn­stein.

COLD COM­FORT: Pas­sen­gers wrapped in blan­kets against the cold take in the win­try sights of the banks of the Danube as the ship sets sail from Pas­sau.

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