This was our third river cruise with Avalon Waterways. We wanted to see the lower part of the Danube and explore countries that we had not visited before. Thankfully we were not disappointed with our choice of company or destinations. We arrived in Bucharest 2 days before the cruise and had booked a private guide for an all day tour the day before the cruise began. Our choice of hotel was the Royal Europa Hotel in the Old Town which allowed for us to do some exploring on our own and to be near wonderful restaurants.
On the first day of the cruise we were bused about 1 hour to a very small docking area on the Danube and boarded the Passion, which was a brand new ship. It was beautiful, tastefully decorated, cabin was spacious and bathroom very comfortable. We had no problem storing all of our belongings. Throught the cruise the staff was very efficient,pleasant and helpful. We enjoyed the food and wine and especially liked the fact we did not have to dress up for dinner. Our shipmates were mostly over 60 and seemed very well traveled. As for entertainment, there was of course the nightly piano music and staff variety show. During one shore stop we had a very interesting presentation about the Orthodox Church given by a priest who came on board. In that we toured several such churches this was a very nice added touch to help us understand what we were seeing.
This cruise was on the lower Danube and the highlight was going through the Iron Gate Locks. Very interesting and the scenery was beautiful. We visted areas of Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary that not many tourists see. At most towns or sites we were the only tour buses there. English was widely spoken and the people were very friendly.
Avalon offered lots of options for shore excusions in that you could opt to stay on the ship and cruise to the point where the sight seeing buses would end their tour. You could chose to do half day or whole day sight seeing on one particular day. Many of the sites were churches, but there was also a stop at a winery and of course beautiful scenery.
One aspect of this cruise was to learn about communism in Eastern Europe and how those countries are transitioning to democracy and capitalism.
We have been on the Rhine and the upper Danube, but this may very well be our favorite cruise.