Groups sailing with APT will receive a right royal welcome on a new excursion being introduced in 2019 on the river cruise line’s 14-night Magnificent Europe itinerary.
Group Leisure & Travel was invited to Budapest for an exclusive preview of the ‘Signature Experience’; the name given to unique shore tours for APT passengers that, along with daily Freedom of Choice sightseeing trips, are all included in the fare.
The Signature Experience Tours
Guests will follow in the footsteps of Elisabeth (Sisi) of Bavaria - Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary - starting with a welcome reception at Budapest Station’s royal waiting room which Sisi once used before travelling to Godollo Royal Palace, her favourite country retreat east of the Hungarian capital.
They will then follow in her tracks and board the beautifully restored carriages of the Grand Empress Steam train based on the luxury carriages used by Sisi and Emperor Franz Joseph 1. A lunch fit for royalty will be served during the rail journey and when passengers arrive at Godollo they will be greeted by a stirring fanfare and four dashing hussars on horseback followed by a private guided tour of the palace.
A private guided tour
It was fascinating to hear the story of Godollo which was built by a nobleman in the 18th century during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and given as a gift to the new king and queen. Sisi felt stifled by the constraints of life in the Viennese court and spent as much time as she could at Godollo where she rode horses and walked for miles in the surrounding forests.
Our guide told us that 500 carts were needed to transport her furniture from Vienna to Godollo each time she came to stay, along with an incredible army of 950 servants hired simply to look after Sisi, Franz Joseph, their four children and any visitors. A style icon of her time, and admired for her clothing and hair styles, it also took Sisi three hours to get dressed!
Touring the grand gilded rooms topped by ornate chandeliers it was hard to believe that Godollo fell into disrepair after being used as a barracks for Soviet troops and a rest home following the Second World War. Work to restore the main rooms to their former glory began in 1990 and the palace and extensive grounds were opened to the public in 1996.
This grand Signature Experience will be available on all Magnificent Europe sailings from Amsterdam to Budapest, or in reverse, between April and September 2019.
APT welcomes groups on its river cruises and land tours and river cruise benefits include a free cabin for GTOs for every 20 paying passengers.
For further information contact 0800 012 6686 or visit, www.aptouring.co.uk.