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5 Budapest to Europe - Black Sea Cruise Reviews

What an absolutely fabulous time! River cruises are not for the folks looking for on-board entertainment! One fantastic musician/singer (Valentine!) and an evening with the crews talent show, and 1 Bulgarian folk dancers! The rest of ... Read More
What an absolutely fabulous time! River cruises are not for the folks looking for on-board entertainment! One fantastic musician/singer (Valentine!) and an evening with the crews talent show, and 1 Bulgarian folk dancers! The rest of the time was used to rest for the next day! this tour was non stop once on the boat! Every day we were in port for most of the day except the day going through the Iron gorge. If you haven't exercised in a while, make sure you start walking NOW!!! we averaged about 5 miles a day walking. At 53 I was the youngest passenger out of 81 (ship was only partially full!) - Budapest was AMAZING! We stayed at the lovely InterContinental, 9th floor overlooking Buda - the beauty of the city at night reflected over the Danube and was simply beautiful. Both Buda and Pest sides were fascinating - old in Buda, new in Pest,,,,and they did an excellent job of infusing the old and the new into a gorgeous city. The local food was delicious but be wary of restaurants that have buffets sitting out, even if it's behind a counter! We ate at a Chinese restaurant but as the food was sitting out and then reheated for eating, my companion got very ill. Luckily it passed before we boarded the ship the following day. Take the Hop on Hop Off and jump on the Funicular to head up the mountain to the Castle district. Also visit Margarita Island, but find out exactly where the Hoho boat picks you up!!! there are NO signs anywhere so get exact directions (it's the first boat launch area facing the Pest side) - other than graffiti all over the city, the place is stunning! And visit the Grand market for souveniers, especially Hungarian Paprika! great deals and everyone at home loved them!! The first day of the trip we met with the passengers and cruise director - the 2nd day we had a morning city tour and did our own thing in the afternoon. The following day we did the Hop on Hop off and in the evening boarded the ship. Boarding the ship was very easy. Everyone travelled by bus to the ship where we got on! that simple. Turned in our passports, got our room key, and it was done! Food aboard the ship was delicious - awesome steak, and soups!! terrific!! Salad dressings other than the Ceaser were mediocre, but everything else was great!!! and eating while sailing and so close to the water was a great experience! The Danube is a beautiful river that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime! Serbia city tour was very interesting, as was Vir Lipinski - an ancient civilization excavated on the banks of the Danube - during our travels through Serbia the Captain even let me steer the ship!!! :) Bulgaria - Belgradchik Rocks is a must (included tour) - and the restaurant where we ate lunch was fabulous as well. Lovely views, but again, the graffiti is overwhelming and detracts from the beauty of the city. Most of the folks on the ship gave locals any extra currency they had before leaving the country - and make sure if you like to shop, you get local currency for at least Hungary and Romania. The other countries would prefer their own money but we did use Euros - but the exchange rate isn't the greatest. Romania was very interesting, and a side trip to Transylvania was a interesting as well.. ..the castle Bram was in a lovely part of town but didn't resemble what tourists imagine it to be! well lit, light in color, and housing a bunch of modern day costumes! the views overlooking Transylvania were spectacular. We went with Avanti tours which took us to a 2nd castle which was fully designed as in the day it was used by royalty, and was the highlight of the trip! Plenty of Dracula items to purchase outside of the Castle Bram. Plan on a very busy day, unless you choose to do your own thing. Our normal day on board was wake up at 630, breakfast at 7, done by 8, on the bus at 820 and returned late afternoon, dinner at 7 with everyone, and then bed by 930. then the next day same thing!!! it rained and was chilly most of the time which was perfect for me, but remember to bring an umbrella, a rainproof poncho, and a raincoat if you get tend to get chilly!! we did not find any places to shop except H & M in Bucharest, but it was pouring and the bus stop was too far to walk over !! normally I like to buy clothing from Europe but did not have a chance this trip...just no locations that we visited were in a "city" but more of town visits. Flight home was long, 28 hours total travel time! next time I fly to the western portion of Europe, stay a day or two, and then fly directly home to the US! too many layovers makes for a very long trip!! Everything else was very smooth and well done!! the only disappointment was that I was expecting a presentation on what we would be seeing the following day, but the nightly chats were more of an itinerary for the following day- I was hoping for history lessons of what to see, look for, etc but that did not happen. The ship was small, lovely, clean, no sundry shop so make sure you have everything you need! Crew was excellent! it helps if you learn a little of the languages before you go (simple phrases, often included in the Avalon packet!) - thank you, please, hello, etc. Very much enjoyed this and would highly recommend a river cruise for people who are interested in history and education over beaches and personal activities! both are great vacations!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
The AMA Certo is a beautiful new ship in the AMA fleet. It is bright and well maintained. We had a category BB cabin on the Cello Deck. At 210 sq. ft., the cabin was compact; the bathroom was even more so. Our cabin had both a French ... Read More
The AMA Certo is a beautiful new ship in the AMA fleet. It is bright and well maintained. We had a category BB cabin on the Cello Deck. At 210 sq. ft., the cabin was compact; the bathroom was even more so. Our cabin had both a French balcony and an outside balcony. The use of the outside balcony was very limited when we were docked because there were so many other riverboats and they tied up alongside each other. It was not uncommon to have to walk across one or two other boats to get to shore. This meant that our balcony was only 6” from another balcony or boat so it was often of no use in port. But very little time was spent in the cabin so this was not bothersome. The dining room is nicely laid out with a double row of booths down the middle and tables on the outsides. There are two smaller separate areas with a large table in each which were used by two of the groups on our trip. It is very noisy during mealtimes due to the low ceiling and high number of people. The food was uniformly good. Breakfast was a bountiful buffet. Lunch was buffet with some menu choices and table service. Dinner was off a menu with multiple choices. Any time you did not care for a dish, the waiter would offer to replace it with something else. Beer, wine and soft drinks were unlimited at lunch and dinner. You literally had to put your hand over your glass or it would be regularly refilled. The sundeck is a plus. There were several parts of the cruise when it was essential to be up there. The departure evening included a tour up the Danube to the beautifully lighted Parliament building. Get a blanket early from the storage boxes. There were not enough to go around that cool evening. The day touring the iron Gorge was sunny and warm. There were plenty of seats and most were shaded. The staff spoke excellent English and everyone was cheerful and ready to assist. Our cruise director, Nicola, was probably the best one we have had on any cruise anywhere. He delivered his daily briefings with a lot of comic genius. We were most impressed that he accompanied the pre-cruise tours to Vienna and Budapest as well as the post-cruise tour to Istanbul instead of passing us off to someone else. This was a winning point in our minds. We did the pre-cruise part on our own. We flew into Vienna, stayed at a hotel a half block from the Opera and easily saw all of the main sights without needing a guide. We took a train to Budapest and checked into the gorgeous Sofitel hotel where the AMA pre-cruise tour also stayed. This location is right next to the Chain Bridge, on a tram line, near a metro, included an incredible breakfast buffet and our room was upgraded to a view of the river. From here, we could walk or use the public transportation to see everything. Nearly every guide in each port spoke English well and filled us in on the history of the town/country as well as often giving personal insights into local life. AMA offers a ‘gentle walkers’ tour plan where those who might wish to walk slower but see a little less are given their own group guide. Pecs was our first port. The morning walking tour included a church and some underground Roman ruins. It ended in a city square where we had time to explore a bit more or shop. During lunch we cruised to Mohacs. This was the first chance to take a bicycle tour. The ship carries 20 well-maintained 7-speed bikes suitable for both men and women. The tour went about 5 miles down the flat riverside levee path to a small town where we toured the Stock Museum and then biked back. It was a great way to get out in the country and take an easy, refreshing ride. If you have ridden a bike within the last several years, this is for you. The rest of the port stops were equally well done as the first. We had very nice buses and informative guides. Many of the other countries we visited were Communist ruled up until recently and the poorly built apartment blocks, incredible snarls of exterior wires, and stressed economy were evident. We heard many stories about the hardships of Communist rule and visited several sites with heartbreaking stories. My personal favorite excursion was a visit to a Bulgarian home where we learned to make banitsa. The lady was very welcoming and opened her home completely. The lunch in Bucharest was also unique. The restaurant endeavored to recreate a dining experience in the golden years of the city. Waiters in long black aprons delivered soup served in individual large pewter tureens. The décor was like a movie set. We were serenaded by a violin player and then an opera singer. My husband and I elected to take the Istanbul extension. We were very surprised at how modern the city suburbs are … modern malls and architecturally stunning buildings. The center of this city of 16 million has buildings mixing a broad span of history and there is also evidence of abandoned buildings from their fairly recent earthquake. There were both morning and afternoon tours which covered everything on our bucket list. We felt that we had enough time at each site such as the Topkapi Palace and mosques and weren't rushed. Our guides also led those who wanted help through the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar while the rest of us could wander alone. The hotel was the Istanbul Intercontinental which was in a great location for strolling and eating. Overall, I would rate this AMA Waterways trip highly. We visited countries that we would not have traveled through independently and saw off-the-beaten path areas which all had interesting stories.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
I loved my river cruise from Budapest to Romania last August (2014). I am a single woman and was traveling alone. I might have been a bit uncomfortable in some of the places we went if I had been on my own, but since I was with Tauck, ... Read More
I loved my river cruise from Budapest to Romania last August (2014). I am a single woman and was traveling alone. I might have been a bit uncomfortable in some of the places we went if I had been on my own, but since I was with Tauck, everyone was friendly and the tour guides were always sure to keep us well looked after. I had a single room on the lower deck, and was perfectly happy with it. I only had a single high window, but could see the river bank and little towns we passed. The room had a nice flat screen TV but I had little time to watch anything but the news. People were always happy to have you join them for meals, and I thought the food was quite nice. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style with plenty of choices, including an area for pancakes and waffles in the morning. Dinner had quite a few choices. In the evenings, there was an excellent piano player in the lounge and I was able to borrow a laptop at the desk and send e-mails as I listened to music. At times the guides would take us on evening walks through various cities, even stopping to buy us ice cream. In Budapest they took us to the Market where they gave us warm cherry strudel. I always felt a part of the group. Our hotels were quite nice, and we seemed to always have rooms near each other, so that I was not concerned about being alone. Our hotel in Bucharest was across from The Palace of Parliament, which was an amazing view. But as a warning, there were hundreds of marble and granite steps to climb on the tour, though for dinner we went to another entrance with only a few steps. But in Europe, or at least Eastern Europe, there were often no elevators, no handrails by the steps and the steps were all uncarpeted stone and steep. Take comfortable shoes, especially for the evening dinners in palaces. Tauck was excellent, and there were many excursions that were a part of the tour. Dinners in palaces, folk dancing on board in the evening, and in Romania a fantastic formal dinner the last evening in Ceausescu's 1000 room palace, where we were greeted with the traditional offering of bread and salt, before a lovely dinner with chamber music and gifts. Tauck's special events were always outstanding. We did many things that would not be on a regular tour, and they were all included. Every evening before dinner we all met in the lounge to hear about the choices for the next day- such choices as a visit to Dracula's castle, a hike to Rock Churches, guided walks to historic churches and art museums, visits to an island, or a visit to a local home in Croatia. The tour guides were always attentive and helpful, there were always additional local guides provided in the various cities, so it was a great opportunity to hear stories about what it was like to live through Communist times or the wars for freedom. Our guides were from 3 of the countries we visited, and they were all open and friendly and enjoyed telling us about their experiences. I can't say enough about my Tauck River Cruise and am happy to be booked on another one in April 2015. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
This was my first cruise on Scenic River cruises,and won t be my last.Have already booked another for next May.The ship,food,staff,cabins,etc.all great,would rate 4 to 4 1/2 stars.I m just picky about some details,so not 5 star(very ... Read More
This was my first cruise on Scenic River cruises,and won t be my last.Have already booked another for next May.The ship,food,staff,cabins,etc.all great,would rate 4 to 4 1/2 stars.I m just picky about some details,so not 5 star(very subjective,I know) .The itinerary would not be one for newbies,as not as scenic as others I ve been on.Budapest was great,lots to see,hotel(Marriott)nice and good location.Only really great cruise section was Iron Gorge area(lots of tall rock formations),but rest sort of dull and industry based.I Bucharest had some lovely sections but not a city I d want to go back to. I wanted to see the whole Danube and did it in 3 different sections. Really glad I upgraded to jr.balcony suite.The tub,room service,butler,extra space all worth it.That s one of the reasons picked Scenic in first place.Also loved the airport transfer,tips for everyone(bus and guide) and left ship owing nothing.Every port had city tour and then choice for free tour(not extra charge as with some). The food,in general,was above average(for a river cruise).Breakfast with room service was usually warm,but not hot.Had to eat of tray on balcony(not trolley cart).The table la rive(special dinner for Danube Deck and suites)was the best one.Then Portobellos was second.Dining room could be very loud,and service generally quite good,but long.,,usually 2 hrs.Did have tables for 2,4,6 and could sit where you wanted. Entertainment was 2 folk bands and dancers,crew show,and piano player.It started at 9 15 pm.Lasted 45 min.or so.Fun to watch,but not like ocean liners.Many newbies thought it was "amateur hour",but I liked it.Have been on 10 other river cruises and knew what to expect. Staff was helpful,esp.nice to have a Butler.Very prompt with granting requests,from pillow selection to explanation of cabin,TV,and all details.Room service and 2 treats a day delivered on time,But they also had to serve as waiters too.\ In conclusion, if you want a great ship,food,service,and all inclusive you ll be very happy with Scenic.Just know what to expect so your experience will be what you really want.Not an ocean liner,ships on river are smaller,entertainment is low key. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
This was our sixth trip with Vantage, thirds on the Navigator......and all in the same cabin!!! We started in Prague with the pre-trip extension and it was a highlight of the trip! Prague and Bratislava are both beautiful and our group of ... Read More
This was our sixth trip with Vantage, thirds on the Navigator......and all in the same cabin!!! We started in Prague with the pre-trip extension and it was a highlight of the trip! Prague and Bratislava are both beautiful and our group of 24 really bonded in the first 24 hours or so. Navigator has been remodeled since our last trip on her, and she looks beautiful, although I hate the new name of the Lounge......Rat Pack Lounge? Really???? But it seemed a lot more spacious than before and there was ample room for the on board entertainment, which there didn't use to be. Our cabin was comfortable as usual and the walk-in shower was a big relief after 5 nights struggling in and out of deep bathtubs in hotels. Plenty of storage space, especially now that I have a Vera Bradley hanging vanity case......what a find THAT was. Our cabin steward was excellent and fearless.....he came right away the afternoon I found a spider as big as my fist on the outside of the door for our french balcony.....and he didn't even laugh at me for standing on the bed pointing at the door! We were divided into 3 groups and I love the way they did it: Blue group were people who did the pre-trip extension; Green group those who were doing the Danube from Bonn to Constanta and the Yellow group those who boarded in Budapest and did not do the pre-trip. Only negative to that is that all three groups tended to stick together and not mingle a lot. The ports we visited ranged from wonderful to okay, but only because in some of them there just wasn't a lot to see and do. We did one optional on the cruise and that was the puszta tour to see the Hungarian cowboys. I know I read reviews of this tour from people who said the horses were thin and seemed mal-treated. While we saw absolutely no evidence of abuse or mal-nourishment, I would not book it again because it just wasn't worth the money. Those who went to Tito's Palace met the Prince and Princess of Bulgaria! As for the food, I thought it was great. I read previous review from vegan who had trouble finding food to eat. What a shame, because our trip had one of the best vegetarian cooks on the planet!!! I had no trouble finding many choices for breakfast from cold Muesli to yogurt and fruit and for lunch the salad bar and cold fruit soups were to die for. Dinner always had a vegetarian menu and there was only one I didn't care for and that was nobody's fault....sometimes you just don't care for a recipe and this was one of those times.....and the chef made me something else!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2014

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