A host of Tour Directors shines a spectrum of light on the history of this commanding waterway, its artistic and musical heritage
Journey through Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, taking in the treasures of Melk, Vienna, Bratislava and Esztergom
Experience a sparkling array of musical performances, including piano, baroque flute and song recitals on board
"A wonderful way to experience the sights and sounds of the Danube - 5* for the organisation and tour managers, the high standard of the boat and its staff, the friendly expert tour directors, the music, the places we visited, the extra special experiences and the quality of the local guides."
- ACE customers on the 2022 Danube River Cruise
Bubbling up in the Black Forest town of Donaueschingen where the Brigach meets the Breg, the mighty River Danube strides across a vast stretch of Europe. For centuries it has formed the borders of nations and empires, turning the tide of history and inspiring a myriad of writers, artists and musicians.
Europe’s second longest river, the Danube flows through or borders a multitude of modern nations before reaching the Black Sea; and its banks have borne witness to an equally diverse array of languages, religions, ethnicities and ruling powers. Often a symbol of division, the river’s glittering waters have also come to represent a kind of unity through difference, a common thread in the evolution of European culture and identity.
Our nine-day journey will illuminate this diverse yet shared cultural heritage. We will journey from the galleries and palaces of Vienna to Esztergom’s magnificent basilica and Budapest’s castle district, returning to explore the old streets of Bratislava and the breath-taking abbey at Melk. Visits to some of the river’s most beautiful and important sites – from Vienna’s Upper Belvedere to its Kunsthistorisches Museum – will combine to shed light on the Danube’s story.
To mirror this variety, several ACE Tour Directors will join us at different stages of our journey, supported by a variety of excellent local guides from the different sites and regions we will visit.
"The organisation and logistics were excellent, safety was very well catered for. The visits and tour leaders were were excellent communicators and erudite, and the music was a treat. I will certainly recommend this cruise."
- ACE customer on the 2022 Danube River Cruise
Musicians Emilie Capulet, Ashley Solomon, Judy Brown and Nicholas Wearne, with guest pianist John Bryden, will perform on board our chartered vessel, giving life to the celebrated opus of works inspired by the river and connected to the countries we will be travelling through. We also hope to attend a performance at one of Vienna’s stunning classical music venues, subject to final scheduling. Meanwhile, art historians Andrew Spira, Sarah Burles and Tom Abbott will prepare us for our daytime visits with a series of on-board lectures, while also guiding at several sites.
Visits will be taken at a leisurely pace, with several opportunities to explore locations independently, and to appreciate the river’s magical surroundings during relaxed stretches of cruising.
A MUSICAL JOURNEY
In addition to immersing participants in the culture, art and architecture along our route, we have specially designed this tour to include a rich variety of musical experiences. Many of these will take place on board, allowing guests to enjoy piano, song and flute recitals a stone’s throw from their cabins. Pianist Emilie Capulet and guest pianist John Bryden will perform works by German, Austrian and Hungarian composers; while Director of acclaimed early music ensemble Florilegium, Ashley Solomon, will present a baroque flute recital.
Beyond the boat, the group will be surrounded by the complex and mesmerising sounds of the organs of Melk Abbey and Dürnstein Abbey; while we also look forward to a performance at Vienna’s State Opera House.
We build to a fitting climax with an on-board song recital from Judy Brown and Nicholas Wearne and a celebratory musical finale on our final night.
Our vessel is the MS Douce France, which has been completely refurbished to five-anchor standard (similar to a good four-star hotel standard). The MS Douce France has two decks and a sun deck. At 110 metres long, the ship has a total of 55 cabins.
This tour will feature a variety of guest Tour Directors who will join us at different stages of our journey, supported by several excellent local guides.
Ashley Solomon, FRCM, FRAM, is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music, Chair and Head of Historical Performance at the Royal College of Music and Director of Florilegium. Many of Florilegium’s recordings have garnered international awards, and to date they have performed over 1300 concerts worldwide.
Andrew Spira, MA, has worked as a specialist in Byzantine and Russian icons at the Temple Gallery, a curator at the V&A Museum and Programme Director at Christie’s Education. He has been leading tours to cultural sites all across Europe for over 20 years, and his recent publications include The Invention of the Self: Personal Identity in the Age of Art (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020) and Foreshadowed: Malevich's Black Square and Its Precursors (Reaktion, 2022).
Emilie Capulet, MA, MMus, PhD is an award-winning concert pianist, lecturer and musicologist. She performs worldwide and has recorded Beethoven, Chopin and Tomasi to critical acclaim. She is the recipient of a prestigious Leverhulme Research Fellowship. Emilie studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and is the BMus (Hons) Programme Leader at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Sarah Burles, MA, studied History of Art at Cambridge before going on to a career in museum and gallery education. This included 12 years at the Fitzwilliam Museum as well as work in other Cambridge museums. Sarah has a passion and enthusiasm for making museums and their collections accessible.
Tom Abbott, MA, is an independent art and architectural historian with extensive experience directing cultural and art tours in Europe. He has a particular interest in the Baroque and Rococo, the Romantic Movement, garden history and the musical heritage of Germany, as well as all aspects of European modern and contemporary art, architecture and history.
Mezzo-soprano Judy Brown trained at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and is a much sought-after recitalist, opera and consort singer. She works with the Monteverdi Choir under Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Dunedin Consort, the Academy of Ancient Music and Scottish Opera. Judy has performed on stages across the world, including the Wigmore Hall and Vienna’s Musikverein, and her interpretation of Schubert lieder has been praised for its “dynamism and delicacy”.
Nicholas Wearne, MPhil, is a tutor and Junior Fellow at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. His career as a solo organist has taken him all over the world and he was winner of the Poul Ruders Prize at the 2011 Odense International Organ Competition. Nicholas has held a number of prestigious positions as organist, most recently at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.
We are also pleased that guest pianist John Bryden, MA, ARCM, ARCO, will be joining us for part of our journey. John is a member of the Dartington Piano Duo and has given concerts across venues from California to Kathmandu via Wigmore Hall. For many years he coached at the Dartington International Summer School, where he performed in master-classes given by Jacqueline du Pré.