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Avalon Waterways offer fantastic deluxe river cruises throughout Europe. Make sure you read this daily blog as Mary and her husband indulge in the “Blue Danube to the Black Sea” cruise and share their travel secrets along the way.
Mark and I are so excited to be once again setting off on an Avalon Waterways cruise in Europe tomorrow, so wanted to share a few thoughts as to why we enjoy travelling with Avalon Waterways so much. We have previously done the ‘Blue Danube Discovery’ and ‘Magnificent Europe’ cruises so are thrilled to be now heading off again. You know, I must confess, all of Avalon’s cruises have been exceptional, so we are really excited to now discover a different part of Europe on the "Blue Danube to the Black Sea" cruise.
This picture was taken in the ships dining room while we were travelling on the “Magnificent Europe” cruise in 2010.
From left: Mark and myself, Peter, Andy, Maxine and Grace.
After a good night’s sleep in our comfortable beds, we made our way to the dining room to enjoy the first of many superb breakfast buffets, which included everything from traditional European meats and cheeses, to cereals, and hot meals and even a ‘made to order’ egg station! Afterwards we all gathered on the sky deck for the magnificent views cruising into this superb city. I mean where else can you sleep in and then open your curtains to see a view like this!
While we wait for the ship to be docked we have a buffet lunch and then are off into the city of Budapest with our local guide, with the first stop at the Fisherman’s Bastion.
Budapest was more than we ever imagined, with so much history and the fact you can just hop off the ship and be right in the town centre!
After dinner, we were entertained by the amazing Press Burger Duo. These two Hungarian men were so talented; singing, playing the pan flute, violin, piano and piano accordion. A really entertaining duo… actually I must confess, they were so good we bought the CD.
Today we have a free day to enjoy Budapest and decide to spend it wandering around the markets and soaking up the atmosphere. Hendrik gave us plenty of suggestions on where to visit, so with a handy map we set off to explore. Late afternoon, with the stunning scenery surrounding the ship, we could truly soak it all in as we opted to dine on the sky deck this evening enjoying the sumptuous cuisine while admiring the amazing lights of Budapest.
Everything was all illuminated and it was great fun drinking cocktails with our fellow travellers and watching the world go by as we glided out of lovely Budapest at 9.00pm.
Arriving in the small town Mohacs was like stepping back in time by about 50 years!
Today’s highlight was an excursion to Pecs, a large university city in Hungary with huge steel pipes bringing steam into every home (wanted or not), as heating during the cold months comes from the power station just outside town. However it is a fabulous city which was originally founded by the Romans at the start of the 2nd century, so the architecture is very Romanesque.
Today we make a morning trip to Osijek by coach; this is a great way to see the sights as you sit back and relax till you reach your destination. Mark and I found it a very interesting town; with so much shrapnel and bombing damage from the civil war from over 20 years ago. Osijek …. XYZ
We also went to a family winery for tasting of plum brandy, cherry brandy (yum) and local produce- meats, cheese and homemade bread.
We head back to the ship with all our yummy treats, arriving in time for lunch!
As we have lunch we set sail for Vukovar where we go on a late afternoon tour of the town and are amazed at the buildings still standing even after heavy damage during the civil war. We also travel to a local winery with a large underground wine storage facility, and to our liking a special wine tasting!
WOW, 42 degrees Celsius today! It was hot but we were happy to have finally found the summer we never had in New Zealand this year!
We started the day with our guided tour of the city and a chance for a little shopping! I just loved roaming the shops and finding things you never see at home. The brave ones hiked up to Kelemegdren fortress, and the rest of us chose to sit in the shade and sip on a cold drink to watch the local scene.
To make the most of the sunny weather, we tucked into a BBQ grill lunch on board up on the sky deck. We branched out trying local specialties such as grilled rabbit hamburgers and all washed down with an ice cold beer.
Dinner in Skadarlja tonight; one of the things we were really looking forward to on the cruise. It is an exciting event with authentic Serbian fare of soup, grilled meats, delicious potatoes and sauces.
Today was definitely a scenic highlight on the cruise, passing through the Iron Gates! This is a 36 hour sailing stretch through the Iron Gates Gorge, sailing past fortresses and many other historic sites as we made our way into Bulgaria. Mark and I just love sailing leisurely along the river, enjoying the scenery and mixing with other passengers (who are by now becoming great friends).
While we were cruising, we were also lucky enough to get a galley tour in the ship; it is amazing to see what the chefs can produce from the tiny spaces they work in. We are also given a tour of the wheelhouse, where the Captain gave us an insight into how the ship is navigated through the narrow rivers complete with the fascinating lock systems and low bridges which the ships have been specifically designed to pass through.
A day onboard the ship provided us some time to sit back and relax watching all that was passing by from the sky deck with a book in hand, passing through the huge locks of Derdap and large hydroelectric power station.
Today we had an all day excursion visiting Svistov, Bulgaria, VelikoTarnovo, Arbanassi and Rousse! We got to discover the real Eastern Europe, and loved the 17th century preserved house in Arbanasi, giving insight into life back then. We rejoined the ship at Rousse around 5pm.
After dinner, we headed to the main lounge for the evening entertainment - a group of young talented Bulgarian men called the Tambura Croatia Band.
Today we woke up, opened our curtains and looked out over Romania. Straight after breakfast we are on the coaches to Constanta and the Black Sea. We also did a city tour as it is a charming place.
We couldn’t get over the stunning Casino on the waterfront - it was completed in 1910 and then sadly went broke after three years. It is such a pity to see this magnificent building in complete ruin. I put my feet in the Black Sea at 9.30am, and already it was almost standing room only on the beach!
Mark and I returned back to the ship for lunch, another incredible BBQ on the skydeck. I really could get used to this type of life. Afterwards we set sail for Oltenita in Romania. As this is our last night on the ship we sit back have a wine and reflect on the good times we have had over the past week and a half.
The evening is also made more special by the superb Captains farewell cocktail party and dinner.
Yesterday we disembarked the ship, with coaches ready to take everyone into Bucharest. The coaches took us on a city tour of Bucharest, another highlight, and then dropped us off at the Hilton Bucharest for the last night of our holiday. In the evening we had dinner at a local restaurant where we were wined and dined with Romanian folk dancers and a singer. It was a truly memorable evening.
Today is the last day of our holiday and I am already thinking about our next cruise. After breakfast we all say our goodbyes and Hendrik the cruise director oversees everyone’s departures to various places and at different times. We are all so relaxed now, so it helps having someone else making sure you get your flight!
Now we are homeward bound with lots of lovely memories of another fantastic Avalon Waterways cruise.
Until next time...