Virtual Slideshow: Exotic Danube River Cruise
About the Virtual Cruise
A Danube River voyage with ports ranging from war-torn Vukovar, Croatia, to paprika-producing Kalosca, Hungary -- and nary a stop at the more usual cities of Austria's Durnstein and Vienna, and Germany's Passau and Linz -- is one of Europe's most exotic river cruise adventures.
All the major river cruise lines in Europe -- Viking River Cruises, Avalon Waterways, Tauck Cruising, Uniworld -- trawl the Danube, visiting some of Europe's grandest capitals and most charming riverside cities. Yet, farther east is a less-traveled side of the river, a stretch of the Danube that offers glimpses of medieval monasteries, rides through the countryside on horse-drawn carriages and even a chance to visit Dracula's final resting place.
What appealed about our Black Sea-bound Budapest-to-Bucharest itinerary, experienced on Tauck's Swiss Sapphire, was that it combined the best of both worlds. There were major cosmopolitan cities, including Belgrade, and tiny villages, such as Hungary's Solt, nestled along the riverbank and otherwise unreachable by seafaring travelers.
Join Cruise Critic's managing editor, Melissa Paloti, on her river cruise to the most exotic reaches of the Danube -- in photos! We've chronicled each day of the river cruise -- including calls in Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania -- in an essay-style slideshow.
Day 1: Arrival in Budapest; Call in Solt, Hungary
Budapest is one of the most glittering, gorgeous cities in Europe and, for Danube River cruises, it's definitely a marquee port. Most river boats that sail Danube itineraries, whether mainstream or more exotic, begin or end there....
Click to Launch Day 1's Slideshow.
Day 2: Monday, Kalosca, Hungary
Perhaps Hungary is most famous for the cherry-red spice that flavors goulash and other national dishes: paprika. Kalosca, a rural area in the south of Hungary, produces 4,500 tons of paprika yearly, accounting for more than 40 percent of the entire country's output....
Click to Launch Day 2's Slideshow.
Day 3: Tuesday, Vukovar and Osijeck, Croatia
Croatia is a common stop on mainstream, big-ship cruises, but the focus is usually on its coastal villages, like the medieval Dubrovnik and the ritzy Hvar. On a river cruise, inland Croatia is markedly grittier....
Click to Launch Day 3's Slideshow.
Day 4: Wednesday, Arbanassi and Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
As someone who's used to the hustle and bustle of large, mainstream cruise ships that boast everything from rock-climbing walls to surf parks, I wondered if the slower pace of a river cruise would be ... well, boring....
Click to Launch Day 4's Slideshow.
Day 5: Thursday, Novi Sad and Belgrade, Serbia
With one exception, evenings are spent onboard the ship -- and there's entertainment to be had. Before and after dinner, the Main Lounge hosts live music by a pianist, who mostly plays classics from the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and the like....
Click to Launch Day 5's Slideshow.
Day 6: Friday, Romania's Black Sea; Trip's End in Bucharest
Sitting up on Swiss Sapphire's sun deck affords the best views while the boat is gliding between ports; there are tables and chairs, metal-and-mesh loungers and canopies for getting out of the sun and into the shade....
Click to Launch Day 6's Slideshow.