The 2016 Hillsdale College cruise of southwest Alaska aboard Crystal Serenity (27 July-3 August) provided an impressive visit to a spectacular state. Accompanying the fine dining and entertainment was a crew which could not have done more. Crystal Cruises seems to own all the highest ratings in the business, and it’s easy to see why. There’s no separate bar bill, and they’ll deliver up to two bottles a day to your stateroom. No one could drink this much! Tips are included, nobody duns you for handouts, and you’re not presented with a list of “estimated gratuities” on your last day aboard.…
June 6: Passau, Germany
Once called “Batavia” or “Batavis,” Passau is a charmer of a medieval Bavarian town at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz, the last out of the Black Forest, spewing dark peaty water into the larger, faster-moving rivers.
With a population the same as Manchester, New Hampshire, it draws 1.6 million visitors per year, compared to 1 million down at Durnstein, population 400 and a tenth the size. Result: you can move around without masses of crowds and enjoy the transition architecture, Gothic to Baroque.
St. Stefan’s Cathedral has one of the largest organs in the world and the recital there is tremendous.…
June 5: Linz-Salzburg-Linz & Viking Cuisine
The quality of Viking’s Danube Waltz cuisine is uniformly high. There is always a choice of three or four first and main courses, nicely balanced between meat, fish and vegetarian, with excellent soups (and again, there’s no reason why you can’t order both a starter and soup). At dinner, several staple items always accompany the choices: Caesar salad, sautéed salmon fillet and rib eye steak. Meats tend to be overcooked, so specify medium-rare if you mean medium—and some are tough, for which there are two solutions: send it back and ask for another (never a problem), or bring your own steak knives (unless they’ve accepted our suggestion that these be provided.) We recorded our favorites (asterisk = regional specialty):
Starters: Hungarian Farmer’s Plate*—salami, ham, pickles, körözött (goat cheese), roasted eggplant and garlic soup, antipasti and pesto, potato crusted mascarpone cheese, seared quail with asparagus risotto, vegetable spring rolls, Greek salad, smoked fish platter, Parma ham & melon, stuffed artichokes
Soups: carrot ginger, roasted tomato, cream of white asparagus, potato leek.*
Entrees: rump steak (if it’s a good cut), seared mahi mahi and curry sauce, sauteéd turbot, sepia pasta and asparagus, zwiebelrostbraen and onions*, braised short ribs with sauteéd mushrooms, Tyrolean catfish in horseradish crust*, pumpkin ravioli with lamb loin, deconstructed Beef Wellington, sea bass and saffron velouté.…