Lou and I just returned from a 12 day Black Seas Discovery cruise with Avalon River Cruises. We embarked in Budapest, Hungry and disembarked near Bucharest, Romania. This was my fifth river cruise, but my first with Avalon. We were very pleased with our modern and up-to-the-minute ship, the Tranquility. The crew went out of their way to make the cruise memorable for its 150 passengers. We were extremely impressed with the efficient way the cruise director re-accommodated a large group of passengers whose flight was canceled. The dining was notable for both the quality of the food and the friendly and gracious service. At dinner, complimentary wines of the region were offered to the diners.
Our two favorite cities are Budapest and Bucharest. This was our second visit to Budapest, and there is so much to see and experience that we still haven’t managed to “do” the whole city. You must do a river cruise after dark because Budapest is probably the most beautifully illuminated city I have experienced. The Intercontinental Hotel where Avalon had us stay for our two-day pre-stay was perfectly located on the Danube for sightseeing. We ended our cruise in Bucharest, Romania the site of our included post-stay. Between the two World Wars, Bucharest was known as the “Paris of the East” and you can still see why. The economy is in rough shape and you can still see the disfigurement of the communist era, but the city has “good bones” and is preparing itself to welcome tourists. We had a delightful stay in Bucharest and wished we had more time there. We also especially enjoyed Pace, Hungary and Belgrade, Serbia. All-in-all, the itinerary was eye-opening; it was interesting to see how these former communist nations are faring.
We can highly recommend Avalon River Cruises to our clients. The ships are well appointed and the service is personalized and gracious. River cruising is my new favorite way to travel. As interesting as this itinerary was, we would probably not suggest it for most first-time river cruisers. This cruise is perfect for clients interested in post-WWII countries behind the Iron Curtain and those running out of the river to cruise. You would most likely wish to begin river cruising along the Rhine, Main and Danube from Amsterdam to Budapest, the Rhine between Amsterdam and Basal, or rivers of France. Remember that the Christmas Markets offered between Thanksgiving and Christmas are great fun. Lou and I have done two-holiday sailings and loved them.
Lou Lint, CTC and Ann Kurek
PS After the cruise, I visited my son in Germany for a week, and we toured the Romantic Road in the Franken region. If you are looking for “fairy tale”Europe, I found it. One charming village or small city after another with a castle or schloss, an old church or two, part of a medieval city wall, and a town square with outdoor cafes. All set in the beautiful valley of the Tauber River. If you are bikers, there is a bike trail that runs the distance.