River­boat ride re­veals lux­ury

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - NEWS -

has been a river­boat cap­tain for the past eight years and be­fore that he had close to two decades on the sea.

De­spite all the whiz-bang technology at his fin­ger­tips in the wheel­house, Dutch-born de Bruijn has a Stan­ley split level on the ledge as an old-fash­ioned mea­sure to make sure ev­ery­thing is shipshape.

It can be easy to for­get you are on a ship, es­pe­cially in your cabin and bath­room, un­less you are some­one who notices the gen­tle rock­ing of the boat over the dim hum of the ship’s en­gine when it sets off.

My room had a pri­vate bal­cony from which to watch the pic­turesque Danube scenery. In­side there was per­sonal in­ter­net ac­cess, in-room movies and mu­sic and a mini bar. The boat has a good-size lounge and pi­ano bar, with an ac­tual bar. There is a li­brary to pro­vide some­thing to read on the sun­deck, an on­board gift shop, an el­e­va­tor be­tween decks and 24-hour re­cep­tion.

A down­stairs res­tau­rant serves a hearty break­fast, a three-course lunch and four-course din­ner, plus snacks in be­tween if you still feel peck­ish, in­clud­ing pas­tries made daily in the on­board in­dus­trial kitchen.

Most hol­i­day-mak­ers on board, pay­ing from $ 6245 each, are in the 55 year-plus age group and ei­ther re­tired or tak­ing a hol­i­day from work, free of the re­spon­si­bil­ity of kids. ( The price in­cludes meals, tours and trans­fers.)

River cruis­ing now ac­counts for 50 per cent of the rev­enue for the fam­ily-owned APT. The com­pany, born in 1927 as a bus com­pany dur­ing a tram strike in Mel­bourne, has a fleet of seven river cruise ships.

Al­though it takes just un­der three hours by road to travel from Budapest to Vi­enna, this ship takes a cou­ple of days to make the same jour­ney and in­cludes a stop at the charm­ing Slo­vakian cap­i­tal of Bratislava.

De Bruijn makes it look ef­fort­less but the route and de­par­ture and ar­rival times in each port have been care­fully planned a year in ad­vance to take ad­van­tage of the open­ing and clos­ing times of the 68 locks on the 1811km jour­ney be­tween Budapest and Am­s­ter­dam. The first lock just out­side Budapest feels like a gi­ant park­ing lot on wa­ter. Four river boats and a few smaller craft ma­noeu­vre in be­tween con­crete walls. The doors be­hind us close and the space fills with wa­ter, lift­ing the boats 80m un­til they can pass over the other side.

The gen­eral rou­tine is the ship trav­els overnight and you awake in a new city each day.

A new idea be­ing tested by APT is to of­fer golf tours. On this jour­ney there are four days where guests can for­get sight­see­ing and play 18 holes of golf with for­mer pro golfer and con­tes­tant Lu­cas Par­sons.

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