We started out by flying overnight from Eastern Canada to Heathrow and then had a smooth connection to Budapest arriving at about noon. We checked in to the Intercontinental (great hotel with a spectacular view from our room!) which I got on Hotwire for $94.00/night, and immediately fell asleep until 5PM! We spent the evening walking for many kms., mainly on the Buda side, just taking in the sights. The next day we did a little shopping and sightseeing on the Pest side and made our way to the ship at about 4PM.
The River Beatrice is a gorgeous ship! The main dining room is elegant, the piano bar is cozy and the public areas are all very attractive. The exercise room was a bit of a joke since you would not be able to use the equipment if you were taller than about 5' 8"! The self service laundry is a real plus.
Our Cat. 3 room was tiny by any other ship standards but beautifully decorated and efficiently compact with a place for everything. It was very well serviced by the staff, especially Alexandra who even left an extra chocolate on my husband's pillow when it was revealed that he is a chocoholic! All of the staff was exceptional, from the reception---especially Sandra---to the dining room, bar, the CD, Tony and the Captain, who was funny and charming and always welcomed us back from excursions with "Welcome Home"!
The excursions that were included were all very good, if sometimes a little long. The history and social stresses of Budapest today were very interesting but I think our jetlag was taking a firm grip at that point.
We enjoyed our walking tour of Vienna with Ava. It was concise, well planned and we liked the fact that we were on our own for the best part of the day. We also thoroughly enjoyed the Viennese concert. Some thought it was a little schmaltzy but, hey, what's Vienna without a little schmaltz?
We arrived at the tiny picturesque town of Durstein and this really was where the "enchanting" part of the Danube began. My husband decided to do the bike ride to Melk, while I stayed on board and enjoyed the scenery from the sundeck. It was a hot, sunny day and he said that if he had his time back he would have taken more time for the 19 mile trek instead of trying to arrive in Melk at the same time as the ship. But overall he was delighted that he had done it.
We had both been to Salzburg before so there were no surprises here. It is still the iconic, quaint little European town we remembered.
Passau, Germany, on the other hand, was a real surprise! We had a great walking tour with Brigitte, an elegant knowledgeable lady who was bursting with pride in guiding us through her childhood to adulthood throughout this memorable town.
We were sad to leave the RB in Passau but we were excited to look forward to our extended excursion to Prague. This is our new favorite city! We stayed at the gorgeous Imperial Hotel and had a great guide by the name of Jana. She was young, knowledgeable, humorous and spent just the right amount of time with us. When we weren't with Jana, we walked, shopped, took hundreds of pics, listened to the street performers, sat at a cafe and watched the "Bohemian Jazz Festival", ate at wonderful restaurants and just enjoyed each other and the whole experience.
This was one of our best vacations! We loved the ship, the sights, the food, the pace, the personnel who took such good care of us but especially the people we met from all over. We sat with different people every night but tended to connect with a certain few whom we hope to keep in touch with.
We highly recommend this type of cruise for couples or groups of friends who want to feel pampered, enjoy the great cities of the world as well as lesser known ones, go at your own pace, and don't mind gaining a few pounds! We will hopefully be doing just that again in the not-to-distant-future.