I have always thought that a river cruise would be the perfect way to experience Europe. A blend of big cities at the beginning and end with smaller towns in between. My expectations were exceeded this past week when I was able to experience one first hand.
I sailed on the Avalon Tapestry for 4 days between Budapest and Vienna. Both cities are amazing and I recommend at least two days in each in order to take in the main sights.
The trip began with 2 days in Budapest. This is a beautiful city encompassing Buda on one side of the Danube and Pest on the other. Buda is hilly with great views of Pest while Pest has more shops and restaurants. My favorite meal was dinner at a restaurant in Pest, situated along the Danube. While we dined the lights came on and we had a perfect view of the Chain Bridge as it became illuminated. The cafes and restaurants have plenty of outdoor seating. A fleece blanket is draped over each chair making it very cozy and comfortable to dine outside in October.
Checking in and boarding a river cruise is painless and stress free compared to big ship cruising. All we had to do was walk on and were handed our stateroom key. No paperwork, no ship photographers, no security. Getting on and off the ship in port was that seamless. Our boat held 150 guests and had a dining room, bar/lounge and open upper deck. At first I thought this may be a little too confining but found that it was just perfect. During the days you are either in port or cruising down the river. Most nights there was entertainment after dinner until 10 p.m. or so. The bar was open even later for those that weren’t ready for bed. Our ship included soda, beer and wine with dinner. Some lines also include this with lunch. Complimentary coffee, tea and hot chocolate were available 24 hours a day.
The food was plentiful and flavorful, the staff amazing and everything was extremely organized. In most every port an excursion was included with the cost of the cruise. Additional options were offered in a some ports. You could sightsee all day or choose to spend part or all of a day exploring the small towns. Because we docked right in the city center – usually in the old town – we could walk right into the heart of it all. One thing to note is that these boats are not handicapped friendly. Neither is walking around the old towns with cobblestone streets and steep sidewalks.
My trip ended with a one night stay in Vienna. This is a beautiful city and not to be missed. It’s hard to walk 10 feet without seeing a cafe with delicious sweets in the window. They love their coffee and strudel in this city!
The name of my cruise was called “The Taste of the Danube.” Now that I’ve had this taste I feel like going back for more; either to finish the Danube, or the Rhine, or the Moselle, or the Seine…… The hardest part will be picking which river to experience!
To see pictures of my trip, check out Vacation Designer’s Facebook page.