One thing you can say about APT is that it certainly knows how to deliver the royal treatment to its guests.
APT is the only river cruise operator on Europe’s waterways to offer Royal Collection European River Cruises that feature money-can’t-buy exclusive experiences, on top of the all-inclusive luxury it’s rightly renowned for.
The first is a visit to Namedy Castle, home of Princess Heide von Hohenzollern who is the godmother of the AmaReina, one of APT’s luxury purpose-built river ships. The castle, converted into a full castle complex in 1890, sits close to the banks of the Rhine River and on the day I visited, Princess Heide was waiting on the front doorstep to welcome us into her home.
The evening begins with a champagne reception in the Knight’s Hall before quests can go behind the scenes and explore the rooms of the castle – its history dating back to the late 14th century. Only a few rooms are off limits, so this is as close to royalty as many of us will ever come. The night finished with a banquet in the Hall of Mirrors and a piano recital.
The second Royal Invitation is an exclusive performance featuring members of the Mozart Boys’ Choir at the City Palace of the Liechtenstein family in the centre of Vienna. Even if you are not a lover of classical music, this is a night of romance and Strauss that you will remember forever. The sumptuous surroundings, the sounds of clinking champagne glasses, and the stunning performance of the choir combine to whisk you off into a world from another time.
As a member of the world’s prestigious gastronomic society, the Chaine des Rotisseurs, APT’s exciting culinary choices are fit for royalty. The exclusive Chef’s Table Restaurant on Apria and Concerto ships, in particular, is truly a gourmand’s dream.
While in Vienna you should also make time to visit the Naschmarkt – the city’s biggest open-air market. There’s no need to sit for lunch. Instead, you wander in search of gastronomical delights. There’s more than 120 stalls selling a plethora of foods. Everything is fresh. Everything is available to be tasted pre-purchase. And there’s plenty of local beer to help wash it down.
The train journey – the third and my favourite Royal Invitation – takes guests from Passau in Germany to the Austrian town of Linz, with a stop for a tour in Salzburg en route. In days gone by kings and queens would ride on trains like the Majestic Imperator Train de Luxe to their summer houses. For railway buffs the Majestic Imperator, with its white linen and silver service, ticks all the boxes. The train is a recreation of the one used by Franz Joseph I and Sisi (Elisabeth of Austria) to travel from Bad Ischl to the seaside town of Opatija on the Adriatic coast.
Once-in-a-lifetime Signature Invitations are included on Royal Collection river cruises. Sipping sparkling wine at a private recital at the Hungarian State Opera House or cocktails at a private reception at Grignan Castle in Provence are just a taste.
The original train ceased to operate at the end of the First World War, with the collapse of the House of Habsburg and the Austrian Empire. Thankfully, photos and designs were preserved and that was all railway specialist Gottfried Rieck needed to bring the past back to life. The historical carriages are filled with personal artworks that once belonged to the imperial family. And at the end of the journey, we arrived in the beautiful city of Linz.
APT’s Royal Experience is not just these three events though. It’s that feeling of being treated like royalty which runs through everything the company does – from the day you book your holiday to the day you return home – and it is a key element of why APT receives a 98 per cent guest satisfaction rating.
APT takes the stress out of travelling providing some of Europe’s most all-inclusive river cruises. Its airport transfer service means you won’t be left alone at the arrivals hall. You will be transferred by luxury air-conditioned coach to your ship and the APT team will be there at the end of your cruise too, waving goodbye to you at the airport.
APT’s state-of-the-art river ships are like floating fully-inclusive five-star luxury hotels. Apart from buying souvenirs, you won’t have to open your wallet at all once you get on board. The twin balconies in most suites offer guests an unrivalled view of life along the river. The cabins are large with ample hanging space.
APT’s all-suite river ships can be liked to luxury five-star hotels. Spacious suites, including the exclusive and innovative Twin Balcony Suites, provide gracious and private homes-away-from-home, with intimate enclaves and open decks for quests to share.
On every cruise you will enjoy APT’s outstanding sightseeing programs which include special Signature Invitations – once-in-a-lifetime moments crafted especially for guests. APT also offers its hall mark Freedom of ChoiceTM, giving guests the choice of an extensive range of sightseeing options to personalist their journey at no extra cost.
While the Amsterdam to Budapest cruise I experienced is still APT’s most popular selling itinerary, the company has Europe covered, promising a little royal treatment from Central Europe to the Seine, Bordeaux, Rhone and Saone rivers of France, and the Douro in Portugal.
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Visit travel-associates.com.au/apt for the latest itineraries and prices.