Travel Weekly executive editor Joe Rosen recently sailed the
not-so-blue Danube aboard the Peter Deilmann vessel the Mozart. His
have never been much for
cruising. In my nine years with Travel Weekly, I have set sail
twice: Once on a Caribbean jaunt mandated by business obligations
and, in my first year here, on a coastal cruiser that plied the
wintery waters off Norway from one frozen zone to another.
I enjoyed both voyages, but not enough to forgo my land-lubbing
But now, following a four-country voyage on the Danube, I want
more. I want the Rhone, the Rhine, the Elbe, the Moldau. I want the
Po and the Moselle. In fact, so taken am I with ol' man river that
I'll settle for the Hudson River, just a few miles of New Jersey
marshland from my office, if something more exotic doesn't come my
It turns out I like inland cruising.
And why not, if the paradigm of such a journey is a leisurely,
luxurious lay-about aboard the Mozart, the queen of the extensive
Peter Deilmann Cruises fleet.
The Mozart, a four-deck, 100-cabin vessel that comfortably
accommodates 207 passengers, sails two itineraries: A seven-night
roundtrip from Passau, Germany (near Munich), which includes visits
to Vienna and Budapest, Hungary, and 10- and 11-night voyages in
May, June and July that link Passau with Constanta, Romania.
My wife, Carolyn, and I took the seven-night version. A warm
welcome put us at ease when we stepped aboard that first Sunday in
October ("Relax. Slow down. You are now on holiday."), and at our
disembarkation eight days later, we were laden with souvenirs of
seven port stops in central Europe -- plus the extra load implicit
in contending with the Mozart's six-meal-a-day regimen (add
midmorning broth, afternoon tea and a late-night buffet to the
usual Big Three).
Ship's in shipshape shape
As a jaunty Tony Curtis assured a wide-eyed Marilyn Monroe in
the film "Some Like It Hot," this vessel, in fact, does shape up
nicely. The public areas, from the main deck lobby to an elegant
dining room, are richly appointed in wood paneling, burnished metal
accents and art objects after -- who else? -- the eponymous
Wolfgang Amadeus himself.
The Mozart features a beauty salon, a cozy bar and a windowed
lounge -- buying a round of German-brewed Konig-Pilsen on draft is
a fast way to win new shipboard friends, I found -- as well as a
gift shop, fitness center with heated pool and a small library with
an eclectic collection of English and German titles. Between port
stops and meals, how anybody finds the time to read is beyond
Up top, on the ship-length Papageno sun deck, is a great place
to watch the Mozart float the many locks that help tame the Danube
and make it comfortably navigable for clients and cargo alike. In
fact, so smooth is the passage that often we were unaware the ship
was moving along swiftly.
According to a travel agent familiar with the range of ships
plying European waterways (see story below), the Mozart's standard
accommodations -- all cabins measure 203 square feet with the
exception of two 406-square-foot suites -- are unusually spacious
by river cruise standards.
Our cabin reminded my wife and I of a compact continental hotel
room, with a queen bed, sofa, TV/radio (including CNN for the
compulsively news-hungry like myself), built-in wardrobe, writing
desk, minibar, safe and a cleverly designed bathroom.
One caveat: The Mozart permits smoking in most of its public
venues and in the cabins. Smoking, however, is not allowed in the
For mature audiences only (well, not only)
My wife and I are no kids, but we felt young and carefree
compared with many of our gerontologically challenged fellow
This is not to suggest that all of us weren't physically active,
mentally alert and of high spirits. But dinner talk at my table of
six (no names, please!) one night included the following subjects
dear to all our hearts and other vital organs: multiple bypass
surgery, angioplasty for an occluded artery, an enlarged prostate,
menopause (a spirited conversation, I might add) and the pros and
cons of walking with a cane.
One other note about the passengers: I am told the usual ratio
of English-speaking guests to German-speaking is 50-50; however, on
our voyage the split was more like 25-75, which lent the shipboard
experience a distinctly, and to my mind much-appreciated, European
All ship announcements are made in English and German, and the
staff, at a service-plus ratio of one to every 2.5 passengers, is
bi- if not multilingual.
Passengers aboard the Mozart dine restaurant-style in a
single-seating, fixed-table format, and meals generally comprised
an a la carte menu and/or an extensive buffet. An attempt is made
to match ethnic dishes to the cuisines of the countries visited,
including a selection of reasonably priced regional wines and
For example, when we docked in Vienna, the entrees included a
pork dish with a sauce from "Archduchess Maria Theresa's court
chef," and in Budapest the menu featured a cabbage roll and a
kohlrabi cream soup "Esterhazi"-style.
Passengers familiar with meals served on traditional Caribbean
cruises said they thought the Mozart's fare stacked up well in
comparison, and one wanna-be food critic offered the following
backhanded compliment to the Mozart's galley: "The food is gourmet,
but not too gourmet."
A personable wait staff is more than willing to accommodate any
reasonable dietary request. My wife, for example, is allergic to
fish. One mention of the problem to our waiter on our first night
produced agreeable substitute dishes throughout the rest of the
Talk of the town
If you want a stress-free way to see the world, a river cruise
such as this one is the way to go: No packing and unpacking other
than the initial sorting out upon embarkation and reassembly at the
end; no check-ins and checkouts at impersonal hotel desks; and with
new-found friends among fellow passengers, none of that
In fact, we experienced all the comforts of home -- well, no dog
and no cat, comforts both, to be sure -- while touching ground at
such storied cities as Vienna and Budapest as well as Bratislava,
the capital of Slovakia; Durnstein, Grein and Melk, Austria; and
Of course, the Mozart offers separately priced escorted tours at
all port stops, some more extensive than others, with city walks
(including van or coach rides to places of interest) generally
ranging in cost from about $23 a person in Bratislava to $26 in
The Budapest outing seemed particularly worthwhile. About
three-and-a-half hours in duration, the tour took us to sites such
as Hero's Square in Pest on one shore of the Danube and to St.
Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion across the river in hilly
All port stops, incidentally, put us conveniently within hailing
distance of each destination's main attractions, with only Vienna
requiring as much as a 10-minute metro ride from the docks to the
Stephansplatz pedestrian zone.
Agents take note: Clients who have ambulatory problems probably
would do well to take the vehicular-based land tours in Esztergom
and Melk rather than explore on their own.
The cathedral in Esztergom -- the main attraction there -- is a
hike from the ship, and uphill at that, while walking to the
impressive baroque abbey that overlooks the town of Melk tested our
In any event, a hearty walk is not a bad way to burn off some of
those six-meal-a-day calories. Or so I kept telling myself with
For more information or to book, call (800) 348-8287, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.deilmann-cruises.com.
Passenger finds Mozart voyage a perfect fit
By Joe Rosen
ABOARD THE MOZART -- In many ways, Paul Schneider is the perfect
Retired but for volunteer work; financially secure enough to
travel when, where and how he wishes; and driven by an interest in
history, Schneider is intent on seeing the world -- at least the
parts he hasn't already visited by ship, plane or on foot.
When I met Schneider, he was sailing with his wife and two other
couples aboard Peter Deilmann Cruises' Mozart as the middle leg of
an extensive jaunt through central Europe.
Schneider, 68, a retired physician who volunteers as a docent at
the Holocaust Center of Michigan, said it was his interest in the
Jewish experience that found him and his travel agent, Steven Kalt
of Bee Kalt Travel in Royal Oak, Mich., agreeing that the Mozart
would be the perfect vehicle for a trip tracing aspects of 20th
century European history.
"As a docent, I talk about the Holocaust and how it played out
in a number of countries, such as Austria, Hungary and Croatia -- I
spent time in Croatia prior to embarking on this cruise -- so I
wanted to see those countries for myself and get the experience
firsthand," Schneider said.
But why a river cruise? And why this one?
"I told my agent what I was hoping to do, and he recommended a
cruise on the Danube, in particular aboard the Mozart, which he
described as the 'Cadillac of river cruises,'" he said.
When contacted at his firm, a Virtuoso agency, Kalt explained
the sales-and-selection process:
"When a client, especially an itinerary-driven client, comes in
with a destination in mind such as central Europe, I suggest there
are a number of touring options -- escorted tours, FITs and hosted
trips -- and that a good option is a river cruise such as the
Mozart's Danube program. I generally work with affluent,
well-educated and well-traveled clients, and Peter Deilmann Cruises
is at the high end of the quality scale.
"In addition, I tell prospective clients the Mozart overcomes
some of the traditional objections some people have to river
cruises -- small cabins, a sense of confinement. The Mozart, with
its large cabins and bathrooms huge by river-cruise standards,
becomes a very logical choice."
For Schneider, the Danube voyage also represented the chance to
add a page or two to a memory book already replete with images from
cruises in the Mexican Riviera with the Sitmar line, the eastern
and western Caribbean with Royal Caribbean, the Mediterranean with
Silversea and China with Holland America.
"I really liked using a boat as a floating hotel and as a
location, in this case, that is virtually within the center of so
many major European cities," he said of his Mozart experience.
"No unpacking. No hassle. I've driven through Italy, France and
England by car, but as I've gotten older -- and as my bad back
becomes more of a problem -- driving is less and less my thing.
"In fact," Schneider said, straightening up gingerly from a
chair in the Mozart's lounge, "I am about to head for the ship's
masseuse right now for a back massage."
After all, you can't get one of those riding in a car.