GTO Marian Durbidge organised a river cruise for her group with Scenic after experiencing the luxurious offer during a Reader Club trip. 

She tells us how it went, and why they are already looking at arranging another one for members of the Herts Theatre Club…

We had a very successful river cruise along the Danube from Budapest to Passau on board Scenic Amber between 11th and 18th April. 

A Scenic river cruise ship travelling from Dürnstein to Melk.

The group enjoyed wonderful views as they cruised on board Scenic Amber. Here, the river cruise ship is sailing from Dürnstein to Melk.

It felt like summer when we arrived in Budapest with a glorious temperature of 25°c! It was a great start, made even better by a champagne welcome as we boarded the river cruise ship which was to be our home for the next eight days. 

We couldn’t fault this 5-star holiday and are looking to offer another one.

First things first was settling into our lovely cabins and checking out the ship with our first of many delicious dinners enjoyed by all. 

We had already selected our first few days of tours - there are usually a choice of three in each port which is great. For Budapest it was ‘Budapest in Depth’ including a concert and city tour, a visit to the ‘Hospital in the Rock’ which has a fascinating history or a hike up Buda Hill - there was something for all members of our group. 

From a meeting at the GLT Show to a successful group holiday…

I met Ellen Donaldson, Scenic’s groups & partnership manager, at the Group Leisure & Travel Show in Milton Keynes in 2022. I was then invited to join a Reader Club Trip, in conjunction with Group Leisure & Travel, which was an ideal chance to see what Scenic had to offer and whether it would be suitable for my group.

Scenic Reader Club trip

Source: Keeley Rodgers

Marian (third left) enjoying the Reader Club trip in October 2022. 

The two days I spent travelling from Budapest up the Danube to Vienna were delightful. We had plenty of choices of days out and the ship itself was beautiful with a swimming pool, open deck for relaxing and sunbathing and a beautiful choice of food. Entertainment in the lounge was enjoyable and the fact that all the drinks, excursions and food options were all included helped us to decide that we would offer this to our group. The Reader Club fam trip was very worthwhile.

I invited Ellen and her colleague Jason to do a presentation for the group and this proved very successful with 42 people coming along. We then arranged the trip for the group and what a brilliant experience! 

The ship had a swimming pool, gym and plenty of options for massages as well as a relaxing salt room. We moved on to Bratislava with our personal butler (yes, that’s correct!) bringing us hot drinks to our cabin before breakfast. We then enjoyed a fantastic walking tour and some yummy cake. 

GTO Marian Durbidge with group member and friend Lynne in Vienna.

Marian with group member and friend Lynne during a guided tour of Vienna. They explored the city’s many attractions including Schönbrunn Palace. 

Vienna, Austria’s imperial city, was splendid, we visited Schönbrunn Palace and explored the city. In the evening we went to a concert at Palais Liechtenstein with a small orchestra, ballet dancers and opera singers in a luxurious setting. It was a wonderful experience. 

We then travelled overnight to Durnstein with time for a look round before travelling on to Melk and watching the scenery go by with a commentary on the way.

Some of our group enjoyed a spot of e-biking along the river path, all the way from Durnstein to Melk. There was also a tour of the castle or abbey on offer. Then, upon our return to the ship, we sampled Apricot schnapps, chocolate and apricot jam, all made locally and enjoyed by our group.

It was a great start, made even better by a champagne welcome as we boarded the river cruise ship which was to be our home for the next eight days. 

We then enjoyed a day in Linz with a city tour or hike available before cruising on to Passau for our final day featuring a walking tour or e-bike ride. 

What made the ship so impressive was the décor, the lovely staff who couldn’t do enough for us, the amazing food and choices and the evening entertainment which included a disco night, concert, dancing as well as an eclectic violin sing-along. There is such a special atmosphere on board as well as interesting conversations because of the different nationalities of guests.

The lounge is comfortable and relaxing with great views and on the top deck is a huge area with chairs loungers and shade where you are served by the staff.

We had an extra special dining experience one evening in the Portobello Restaurant, a gourmet experience of seven courses accompanied by fine wines served by the chef and his team, it was a delight.

We couldn’t fault this 5-star holiday and are looking to offer another one.

To find out more about the cruises available with Scenic, which has a range of group benefits, visit