When Avalon Waterways crafted its 2017 Active Discovery itinerary, the river cruise company decided to define "active" as more than just tacking on a bike ride alongside of the Danube River.
"We do not believe that if you're going to add another bike ride, you can call it 'the best thing since the invention of the wheel,' because this is not active enough," said Burghart Lell, Avalon Waterways' director of operations. "We wanted to define 'active' as physically and mentally active so that you're going to do a bit of sports, whether it's learning archery, hiking or biking."
Cycling excursions, which range from light city rides around Vienna to longer trips through the vineyards surrounding Durnstein, Austria, are just one component of the nine-day Active Discovery itinerary from Linz, Austria, to Budapest onboard the 138-passenger Avalon Luminary (starting at $3,549 per person). The program will launch on the Luminary, one of the company's 16 ships, next year, but Lell said there are plans to expand it.
With the Active Discovery itinerary, excursions will focus on light adventure as well as cultural immersion at some of the region's lesser-visited landmarks, giving cruisers the chance to discover the destination and be as active as they want. Instead of the popular Melk Abbey in Austria, for example, passengers can visit the ninth-century St. Florian Monastery and watch a musical performance by the St. Florian Boys' Choir.
Avalon passengers bicycle along the Danube. Cycling excursions are just one component of the nine-day Active Discovery itinerary being offered aboard the Luminary next year.
Other activities on the itinerary include an early-riser walking tour of Vienna; a guided hike through the Danube-Ipoly National Park in Hungary; a paddling tour down the Danube in Krems, Austria; and a bike trip in Mauthausen, Austria, to an ancient Roman border-defense fort.
"We have active excursions, excursions that are a bit more engaging and excursions that are classic but have a surprise touch," Lell said. "With this, we also hope to address a different demographic that's perhaps a younger one."
Due to this mix, some of the options, such as the longer hikes or steeper rides, will require a higher level of physical fitness. But cruisers can still take part in many of the activities even if they aren't a top sportsman.
The excursions are just one of the program's main draws, but those who want to stay onboard and enjoy the scenery are catered to, as well. "When we put together the itinerary, our focus was to have all the scenic stretches that there are on this river done during daylight so that you get the feeling for cruising, and cruising the most scenic parts of Austria and Hungary," Lell said.
The ship will make stops at new ports such as Schlogen, picking up cruisers who hiked the three-hour trek up to the Schlogener Schlinge viewpoint, which overlooks the Danube Loop of Upper Austria, one of the most picturesque spots on the cruise.
For 2017, Avalon will also give its European ships' menus a healthy spin with the introduction of Avalon Fresh. The company partnered with Viennese culinary stars the Wrenkh brothers to design a selection of healthier menu items that incorporate local ingredients sourced from small farms and producers.
Known for their vegetarian-focused cuisine, the brothers add a modern spin to classic European dishes.
"Vegetarian dishes should be on the same level as meat," they said during a press conference onboard the recently christened Avalon Passion. Next year, Avalon Fresh items will be marked on the menu and include daily dishes, such as celery schnitzel with Viennese potato salad, that are designed around the ship's destinations.