“Two weeks on a river cruise?” Vikki, our local Budapest guide, shook her head in dismay. She should know – she used to be a river cruise director so she’s seen a cruise buffet or two in her time.
We are half way through our Danube cruise on the Avalon Luminary. We started in a port near Bucharest and have sailed to the mouth of the Black Sea, then back -tracked through Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary and now we are heading to Vienna and Germany before boarding a bus to Prague.
We’ve never been on a river cruise before and it only takes five minutes on board to decide it won’t be our last. The ship is spotless, the mostly eastern European staff are nice and know our names by day two, the food excellent and the organization is flawless. While we mostly feel on–the–go all the time no activities are compulsory and there is enough down time to allow for lazing about on deck in the sun with a book, which is kind of my holiday.
During the first week, which sailed from Bucharest to Budapest, we were frequently the only ship on the water and were surrounded by low forest and the odd fishing hut or settlement. The land tours were mostly on pot-holed ex-communist roads but passionate tour guides made up for it and it was a personal thrill to see places that, growing up, I never thought I would visit, like Bulgaria.
The second week from Budapest to Prague was a lot more crowded and citified. Instead of the odd fishing hut, there were villages and then towns and cities. When we docked, we often docked with two or three ships docked together so we couldn’t leave the curtains open in our cabin.
But the crew, the food, the organization of our cruise director never faltered and remained on point for the two weeks. By the end of the trip, I knew what Vikki meant. I was sad the holiday was over but it was time to take a break from the buffets. But once I can fit into my pants again, I’ll be back on board sometime and I reckon I’ll try again for another two weeks.