This itinerary was at the top of my Bucket List. I looked as several different lines and was impressed at the cost savings with Emerald. We chose to spend two nights in Budapest before boarding the boat. This gave us time to recover ... Read More
This itinerary was at the top of my Bucket List. I looked as several different lines and was impressed at the cost savings with Emerald. We chose to spend two nights in Budapest before boarding the boat. This gave us time to recover from the overnight flight and to explore the Jewish Quarter on foot which was not part of Emerald's tour of the city. Never having traveled to Europe before, I was surprised how easy it was to explore without knowing the language.
Emerald includes transfers from the airport to ship and ship to airport. Since we chose to stay at their preferred hotel in Budapest, we were told that we would have free transfer from the airport on our arrival date. There was no one there to pick us up. We were told later that the person was somewhere else waiting for us even though we followed the instructions we were given as to where we were to meet out driver. The line did reimburse our taxi fare once we supplied a receipt.
On embarkation day, we followed the Emerald representative from the hotel to the bus and embarked on our journey. Once we handed our luggage over to the bus driver, we did not see it again until we were able to access our cabin where is it was waiting for us. When we arrived at the boat, we were directed to the Lounge because the cabins were not ready. A light lunch was served there and cabins were available at about 13:30. If you are unfamiliar with the 24 hour clock and you plan to use this line, you best learn. All times were given in this manner.
The boat is true to the pictures I have seen on the Emerald website. There is lots of chrome and very little color. It works because of all the windows. Bright colors would detract from the view. Every thing was clean and sparkling and stayed that way for the entire cruise. The public areas were comfortable and provided ample opportunities to meet and talk with your fellow passengers. The cabin (CAT C 234) was adequate size and exactly as pictured in their brochure. The indoor balcony is comfortable if the air conditioning is not on. If it is, the chair closer to the vent is in an uncomfortable draft. It was too warm to turn off the air. What you do not see in the brochure picture is that there is very little room between the bed and the wall where the entrance to the bathroom is located. The bathroom door slides and the opening is at the head of the bed which means the door must be closed at bedtime or the night light in the bathroom bothers the person sleeping in that bed. This narrow passage also makes it difficult at times when two people are trying to get dressed and need to get in and out of the bathroom. One good feature of the bathroom is the storage. There are shelves next to the sink and a cabinet behind the mirror over the toilet. In addition, there is a deep drawer under the sink. For clothes, there are two fairly long and deep drawers and a narrow closet with many hangers. Also there are two shallow shelves below the safe.
There is a shelf above the television which we found was a good place for hats and purses. Suitcases fit comfortably under the bed.
We could not find enough superlatives to describe the staff. The only exception was Mathew, the Cruise Director. Our Cabin Steward was a delight. He always had a smile and a cheery Hello. We accidentally turned on the Do Not Disturb light and kept it on through the first evening and the next morning. He came looking for us to make sure we did not want the room made up rather than just letting it go. I was very grateful because the Do Not Disturb is a light that is easily turned on and not noticed rather than a card you hang on the knob. The restaurant staff works so hard. The kitchen is on the first level, restaurant on the second, and bar on the third. They have to carry the food up from the kitchen and the dirty dishes down to the dishwashers. If you order a beer or soda, they have to go up to get it. All of the wait staff was pleasant and more than willing to joke with the passengers. Going to meals was something you looked forward to because of the interaction with the staff. It certainly wasn't the food.
We had the opportunity to tour the galley which was quite small when you realize how many meals are prepared in a given day for the 138 passengers on board.
There was a light breakfast and light lunch served in the Lounge in addition to the fuller menu in the restaurant. These meals were buffets. Dinner was plated and a limited menu was provided. There were two choices for appetizers, one soup, three entrees ( a meat, a fish and a vegetarian choice) and three desserts. In addition, there was Chicken soup, Caesar Salad.Grilled Chicken, Rump Steak, Poached Salmon, and Fresh Fruit on every menu. We were not happy with the food as were several other passengers we spoke with. One even called it "inedible". Breakfast was OK. The choices are fairly standard but the yogurt was so watery that you were better off using a glass rather than a bowl. Lunch buffet included prepared salads and lettuce, tomato, cucumber, toppings and dressing to make a salad. The dressings the first few days were as thin as water and as tasty. Later some were a bit thicker and slightly more noticeable on your lettuce. There were always two soups, vegetable broth and a cream soup. The carrot and the beet soup tasted as expected. The remaining soups all tasted the same as did the dinner soups. Pork was served far too often for our taste since we do not eat it. There is a different featured hot item on the lunch menu. One day it was chicken, That night the meat entree was also chicken, Who creates the menu? The lunch desserts included fresh fruit, a cake, a custard or whip, and two flavors of ice cream, vanilla and a different flavor each day. The ice cream was wonderful but the cakes were dry and tasteless.
Entertainment on a river cruise will never rival that on an ocean cruise. Most evenings there was the resident piano player who was very good. In Budapest, they brought on a string quartet and four folk dancers who were all exceptional. The crew provided the entertainment one evening and we all laughed until it hurt. The last entertainer played the zither. He showed us how it is played which might explain why there are so few professional zither players in the world. He played a composition of his own titled the Ambulance Polka written when he lived next to a hospital. You could definitely hear the ambulance siren in this piece.
There was a walking tour in all but one stop. Our guides were knowledgeable and pleasant people, many of them graduate students. The weather was unseasonably warm which made the tours more difficult than they would have been if the weather was not so hot. In some ports there was too much free time and in others there was not enough, but that is a very personal issue. Walking was not as difficult as I had expected because although we were often on cobblestones, they were worn and not as hard to walk on. The line offered several tours for an additional cost, most were about 70 Euros. One was a private concert in Vienna which was enjoyed by all who attended.
We did not choose to take any of these.
Would I do this again? No, I would not take this itinerary again and no, I do not think I would take this line again. The main reason is that my husband was so dissatisfied with the food that he actually lost weight. He lived on ice cream and soda. As I said to one of my table mates at dinner, this is a Budget line compared to the rest. You get what you pay for. If I do a river cruise in some other part of Europe, I will spend a bit more and travel with a different line. Read Less