14 Day River Cruise: Hungary-Holland
After many a sea cruise, we finally did our first major River Cruise. We are two very seasoned travelers, both work paid and "on our own dime". In our late mid 60's, we have ... Read More
14 Day River Cruise: Hungary-Holland
After many a sea cruise, we finally did our first major River Cruise. We are two very seasoned travelers, both work paid and "on our own dime". In our late mid 60's, we have been retired for over a decade (on average). Leslie does the photo work and I do the write-ups. We try to provide great detail of our trips and lots of pictures of the places we go. You will not find many pictures of us in the lot. This write-up is meant to share with our friends and family, help others who may consider a similar trip, to "payback" in some way the help we get from Flyertalk members to plan our trips and in some lesser way to entertain and inform those that for any number of reasons will not take such a trip.
We have changed our format at bit this Report. Rather than do the trip chronologically, sneaking in various details of sideline issues, this Trip Report is in 5 sections. The content and extent of the coverage will vary based on my notes, time and both my interest and my perceived interest of the various readers. The sections will be clearly marked, so feel free to skip those that might not interest you. The pictures can be found by the link at the end of Report. The pictures were taken from buses (seat, window, wires, wrong side, weather, and etc. being factors). Others were taken as we walked in groups on tour, or from the boat as we cruised down the 3 rivers and one canal. The Sections include: 1) Ground Transport; 2) Flights; 3) Avalon Panorama River Boat; 4) Our Trip, from boarding to disembarkation; and 5) Pictures. We have tried to minimize the overlap and repetition.
A note to those afraid of sea cruises or the "water", the river cruise described had no waves, feeling of boat movement nor should anyone feel "sea" sick. Further, the depth of much of the river was such that you could stand on the top deck and have water no higher than your waist IF the boat sank!!! Great alternative to sea cruises for those with such problems.
We live in Escondido and flew out of San Diego Airport (SAN). Our flight departure was scheduled just past 6AM, so we were concerned about taking a regular shuttle to SAN. For a bit more ($200 total, RT with tip) we took ExecuCar. This assured us of a non-stop drive to the airport in comfort, with perhaps an upgraded driver (it was!). The driver had our schedule, was on time and did not break the speed limit (much). He handled the luggage and offered us water. We were questioned as to our temperature comfort a couple times along the route.
Our pickup on the return was a worry for us. We do not carry a cell phone, so we could only hope the driver made the adjustments for picking us up on July 4. Our plane out of Washington, DC was late about an hour. We should have been back before the fireworks started, but because San Diego had the 18 second embarrassment show, we arrived as people were leaving and traffic was a mess. We were grateful our driver was well versed in the street options and we did not have to make stops for other riders! We usually do not pay the extra for this service.
We booked our cruise with air included. During the 9 months between booking and the actual flight, the airline group (DL) we were originally booked with and the final flights (UA/LH) were changed. The time also changed from a comfortable departure from SAN of almost 9AM to just after 6AM. Our seat assignments on UA, I had made online, had been changed. The three hour "rule" for arrival would put us there before the door to the AP would even open? Even 2 hours was well before the UA counter was open.
A couple of days before the flight, UA sent us an e-mail inviting us to check-in on line. I tried this several times, but to no avail. The system said there was a problem. We called UA with that information. They assured us that there was no problem, but we would have to check in with an agent and show our passports.
Upon arrival (3:45AM) at the airport we went to the roped line and became first in line. Others joined us for the wait, as employees arrived and went into the back room. There was a separate area labeled for those who were going to check-in on the machines. At 4:20AM, someone came out and told us that we should move to the other line if we wanted to check in by machine, that the agents would not be out for a while. We did not move, all the others in line did. The employee asked us why, and we told him our story. He told us that the agents would not be out in time for our flight, and therefore we should now move to the other line as guest number 80 or so!!! From first!!! We stayed. The people in the other line started to go to the machines to check in. There was a lady helping those people, so I talked to her. She took our paperwork and handled everything. One bag each was free, as this was part of an international flight. TSA went easy. Got machine scanned and never touched.
Our first leg was to Chicago (ORD). We had modest advanced boarding with my UA Explorer Card. The flight was 100% full and therefore left a little late. Those in the boarding area with "BIG" carry-ons were offered free checking at the gate! (that saved a lot of people $50 per bag). Many standbys were denied boarding. There was no food serviced on this leg, except for what you wanted to pay for. We brought sweet rolls to eat and used our 1-k drink tickets (from the past) to have some wine.
Our layover in ORD was long. We took the time to handle our eye drops (glaucoma), and I switched from my contacts to my glasses. We also took the time to have some lunch," just in case". Our next leg was from ORD to Frankford (FRA), Germany. We were in aisle 41 (no recline). The woman in row 40, with three kids managed to make our space even smaller by reclining all their seats. We had two aisle seats in the center section assigned for us by Lufthansa. The two girls between us were part of a larger group and were up and down like yoyos, but pleasant otherwise. Two babies in our area took turns screaming thru most of the 10 hour flight. It was a miserable 10+ hours (oh, for the days of first class and business class seats!). Our FF points have been whittled down and the Read Less