River cruise lines are making their itineraries unique and special by offering guests exclusive experiences and events when they go ashore to explore Europe.
Next year, some of these events include Oberammergau, the Passion Play which is only put on once every decade since the 1600s. The lines not only bring historic events to guests but also offer wining, dining and exclusive entertainment fit for royalty.
Be personally welcomed into the castle by the Princess, enjoy private classical performances in the most unique venues, tuck into a medieval feast and more. Other lines offer special access to the secured vaults of museums, experience local life and even the chance to craft your personal cognac blend.
Find out what VIP experiences the lines offer.
APT has the royal treatment planned for guests on their ‘Magnificent Europe‘ river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest as part of their Signature Experiences program.
It starts with visit to Namedy Castle in Andernach, Germany, home of Princess Heide von Hohenzollern on day three of the itinerary. Cruisers will be personally welcomed by the Princess as she opens the doors to her home and share the incredible story of her life as a modern-day princess. She’ll let you wander about the castle and its manicured gardens before attending a cocktail party accompanied by a piano recital, a favourite of the princess who is a classical music lover.
On day-12, the itinerary stops at the Vienna City Palace for more music and cocktail party. The private concert in the palace owned by the princely family of Liechtenstein features arias, an orchestral performance of Mozart and Strauss masterpieces, plus music from members of the Mozart Boys’ Choir.
The next day involves a ride on the The Grand Empress steam train. Enjoy a welcome reception at Budapest Station’s Royal Waiting Room, then board your steam train, featuring some carriages from the early 1900s. A meal worthy of royalty is served, before you disembark for a guided tour of Gödöllő Palace. The palace was a favourite of Elisabeth of Bavaria (Sisi), and was a coronation gift when Franz Joseph I and Sisi were crowned King and Queen of Hungary.
Scenic has the Scenic Enrich program which offers guests unique all-inclusive experiences and some even take guests behind the scenes to discover the wonders of Europe after the gates have closed to the general public. Many of these experiences feature private concerts in palaces across Europe. In France, be serenaded by exquisite classical music at the magnificent Palais des Papes in Avignon after opening hours or enjoy an acapella choir performance with the superior acoustics of the Trinity Chapel which dates back to the 17th century.
Guests can also take in the opulence of Palais Liechtenstein during a private evening Viennese concert, or enter the nostalgic world of ‘Sound of Music’ with a live performance that is exclusively produced by Scenic in Salzburg. ‘The Best of Sound of Music and Salzburg Show’ is performed right in the rolling hills of Salzburg. Foodies can also dine like a royal as they get transported back in time with a medieval feast at Germany’s Marksburg Castle.
Viking River Cruises
Viking’s Privileged Access program arranges exclusive entry for Viking’s guests to cultural treasures all around the world to get an insider’s view of those places. The optional experiences are available to guests with extra charge. In Russia, get access to the secured vaults of the Hermitage after a tour of the museum’s public collection. With the guide of a historian, marvel at 19th-century frescoes, treasured sculptures and Romanov furniture. You will also examine priceless gifts given to Russian royalty by countries all over the world, including a huge gold-embroidered tent from a Turkish sultan, and view the collection of imperial carriages. While you are there, also try to spot one of the 100 feisty felines that protect the Hermitage from rodents and are cared for by museum curators.
Guests can also witness the blending of prized cognac brandy in Camus, Bourg and Blaye in France. Enter the historic distillery for a three-course lunch paired with cognac and a private tour of the grounds. Learn about the wine-growing family that has owned the business for five generations, and see the great oaken barrels where different Cognacs are aged to perfection. Learn the secrets of Cognac blending from a master blender in a workshop and then try creating your own personal blend and have your own “brand” inscribed in Camus’s record books. Guests will be able to take home a bottle of their own blend as a souvenir of their visit.
Viking also offers an exclusive boat tour in a 125-year old vintage barge to visit the oldest Kinderdijk windmill which dates back to the 1630 in their ‘Grand European Tour‘ itinerary. Meet the miller and his family and tour the windmill to learn everything there is to know about the life of a miller’s family and also what it takes today to preserve these mighty machines. On your way through the canal and back, your expert guide will explain the history of water management in the region and the vital role of the magnificent mills in this endeavour.
The line features exclusive local experiences with their You’re Invited program. The activities allow guests the opportunity to immerse in local culture as they are welcomed into the lives of locals. Step into Slovakian home for afternoon tea and discover family life in the village of Senkvice. Guests can also learn how Croatian cuisine has been influenced by the Italians and Hungarians over many generations as they tuck into a homecooked lunch in Osijek. In Warsaw, Poland, guests also have the opportunity to attend an exclusive dinner and a private recital of Chopin’s music performed by a celebrated Polish pianist in a private manor house. Guests can also enjoy traditional Bulgarian songs and folklore with a concert by the local choir in a small 14th century church in the village of Arbanasi.
Crystal River Cruises
Be treated to a night of art and music at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna Austria. Vienna’s renowned Schonbrunn Palace Orchestra will delight with their classical performance along with dancers from the Vienna Volks-Opera. The palace is built in the early 1800s as the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, this iconic building boasts an incomparable setting overlooking Vienna with exquisite interiors and one of the most impressive gardens in Europe. Guests will enjoy private access to rooms showcasing the works of Klimt, Kokoschka, Schiele, and more. This exclusive experience is complimentary and available on ‘Delightful Danube’ and ‘Grand Europe’ itineraries.
Uniworld organises private after hour visits to places like the St Basilica in Italy and the Schonbrunn Palace in Austria. Explore the palace grounds and rooms in privacy and take a tranquil stroll in the famous baroque gardens without the crowd in this exclusive opportunity that needs to be pre-arranged at additional cost when cruising on the Danube. The doors of the iconic St Mark’s Basilica also open just for Uniworld’s guests in the evening in another inclusive experience. Guests can walk through the locked doors when the lights are off and there aren‘t any security or staff in sight. One by one, each light is flicked on to reveal the magnificent golden mosaics in the domes that is rich in history and intricate detail. Wander the church in this special experience which is offered on Uniworld’s 10-Day Gems of Northern Italy cruise.