After many ocean voyages, we decided to give river cruising a try. Although we were concerned about water level, it was all for naught. Our river cruise did not disappoint. Our adventure began with 2 pre-cruise days in Budapest & 4 ... Read More
After many ocean voyages, we decided to give river cruising a try. Although we were concerned about water level, it was all for naught. Our river cruise did not disappoint. Our adventure began with 2 pre-cruise days in Budapest & 4 post cruise days in Prague, with 7 days of accommodations on the Avalon Luminary in between.
Upon arrival, there was a signage holding Avalon agent waiting for us right out side the Customs area. After the arrival of other guests within the specific pick up time, we were all transferred in a very comfortable air conditioned coach to our hotel the Corinthia. The trip took approximately 40 minutes, but could vary due to the traffic conditions.
Unless you're going back to Hungary, it is just easier to take out Hungarian currencies (Ft), & ONLY the amount you need, from the ATMs which are all over the place. The ATMs there I'd understand & the one I'd used have English as an option. I'd followed the rule where I'd ONLY withdraw monies in the local currency. If you are in the Euro zone, withdraw in Euros, so in Budapest, withdraw in Ft AND do not choose the option where the ATM do the exchange for you. I am lead to believe that you get better a rate that way. For more info on that "google" dynamic currency conversion or DCC. However, take the latter info at your own risk. Upon arriving home, I noted that we were charged a withdrawal fee by our own banking institution, but not by the local ATM operator.
The accommodation, food & staff at Corinthia were 2nd to none. The breakfast buffet is magnificent & the staff were friendly, helpful & courteous. Our room was very clean, quiet & comfortable, especially important after a long flight from the west coast. Fully furnished with the comforts of home & free wifi. The only negative, if it is a negative, is that the Corinthia is about a 30 minute walk from the Danube River, where most of the attractions are, however there are cabs & a tram just out of the hotel. If you want a cab, it's best to have the hotel get one for you, as it'll be easier & they can give you a good rough estimate of what the fare should be.
We found Budapest to be very safe, although you're warned about & wary of pickpocketings. Fortunately, no one in our group encountered any problems. We did not encounter any problems with the food & water in Budapest. The food & beverages there are very reasonable compared to North America. For all intent & purpose, most of the locals we encountered spoke some English.
We had an inclusive 3 hour city tour with a local guide on our 2nd day, with stops at the Fishermen's Bastion & Heroes' Square. This tour gave you a "taste of the city" with narrations from the guide. We found the tour enjoyable & at a comfortable pace especially if you're trying to get over jet lag.
We returned to the hotel to freshened up & took a cab (2000 Ft) from the Corinthia to the Central Market. We could have taken the tram, but it would have involved a transfer inbetween & the cost difference was negligible. The tram cost 350 Ft/person, so 2 people would have been 1400 Ft. Why not take a private direct air conditioned ride.
This market is for you, if you like visiting farmer type markets. Locals shop there for their meats, vegetables & the such. On the 2nd floor of this huge market are souvenir & street food kiosks. Good local food! From there we meandered to the Chain Bridge, taking in the sights & sounds of the city. It took us an easy 45 minute walk by to the Corinthia.
We had to check out on the 3rd day by 11 PM, but the transfer to the ship did not occur until about 3:30 PM. So you have several options, store your luggage with the hotel & explore more on your own or take an inclusive lunch excursion & get dropped off the ship at around 4 PM which we did.
The Avalon Luminary is a very nice vessel. It has 3 decks of state rooms, with the sky deck & wheel house on the 4th deck. There are elevators going from the 1st to 3rd deck. The reception & lounge are next to each other at the fore of the ship, while the dining room, also at the fore of the ship, but 1 deck down. There is also a small quiet sitting section on the 3rd deck aft, where there is a coffee/expresso type machine, juices & pastries. The fitness room, albeit small, is on the lower deck, is equipped with a tread mill, 2 bikes & some very light dumbbells.
We were on the 2nd deck, portside, midship with a french balcony (sliding patio door if you will) on the Luminary. Although the room is not as large as the ocean vessels, it was suffice & comfortable for the 2 of us. There was ample space for storage, with suitcases fitting under the bed. Our room was furnished with among other things, a king size memory foam bed, flat screen TV, writing table with cushioned chair, safe, iron, hair dryer & stocked mini fridge. The bathroom was just as, if not a bit larger than those on the ocean vessels. The glass shower definitely is larger, sans shower curtain, but with a good sealed door. There are 2 European type outlets to charge your devices in the room, along with a 115 - 240 V outlet for your shaver in the bathroom. I'd used that outlet to charge my batteries with no problems. There is complimentary wifi & bottles of water in the room. Unlike ocean vessels, the wifi & TV signals were always very strong during our time on the river & in port. Our room was very comfortable & quiet.
All the breakfasts, lunches & 1/7 dinners (because of a late excursion) were buffet style meals. The other 6 dinners were sit down/order your meal affair. Understandably, the selection of food was not as varied as ocean going vessels, but they were just as good, if not better. The wait staff were very attentive, courteous & helpful. No shorts or tees during dinner sessions.
Again & understandably so, the entertainment was not as elaborate, but just as good, with a more intimate atmosphere. We had a wine tasting session, a beer tasting session, a lecture on canals, 2 musical comics, a funny Barvarian musician & of course a show put on by the crew.
On our cruise, we had 77/138 guests, as such, you basically had free run of the ship. No rush for anything, very friendly & relaxing atmosphere.
All the crew/staff were friendly, helpful and had time to speak & interact with the passengers. Our cruise director was 2nd to none, very experienced, has a wealth of knowledge, well prepared & a pretty good singer.
The inclusive & paid excursions are subjective, but in general were good, giving your the flavor & bit of history of the area you're visiting.
The disembarkation, like the embarkation was simple, fast & smooth, unlike the ones you experienced on the ocean vessels, but hey, we only had 77 passengers. In any event I don't think another 61 passengers would have made any difference.
Upon arrival & disembarkation, we had a 4 hour ride in a comfortable air conditioned bus from Nuremberg to Prague, with a 20 minute pit stop half way.
We stayed in Prague for 4 nights at the Hilton Old Town. An Avalon rep was also staying there should we required any info or assistance. Like in Budapest most of the locals we encountered spoke English. We also did not encounter any problems with the food & water in Prague. Food here a little bit more than in Budapest, but still very reasonable compared to North America.
The Hilton Old Town was relatively close & within walking distance to most of the attractions, like the iconic Astronomical clock. Prague is also very safe, but again be aware of pickpocketing. Again, fortunately, no one in our group encountered any problems. We had an inclusive city bus/walking tour which was good & informative. Lots of cobblestones, so be careful when walking around.
Our room at the Hilton was very large, quiet, comfortable & fully furnished. Their breakfast buffet was good. Hotel staff was very friendly, helpful & courteous. Free wifi for Hilton Honors members. Sign up to become a member is free & get free wifi.
ATMs are all over the place & easy to use. If you need a cab, have the hotel order one for you. We had the Avalon rep make arrangements for our private cab from the hotel to the airport. The cost was 550 CZK, better than the ones being advertised.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable trip. Read Less