River cruising in Europe has doubled in popularity in the last five years. After experiencing Emerald Waterway’s Enchantment of Eastern Europe trip on the Danube, I understand why. For years, ocean vessels were the way to go — and the way I went. This was my first river cruise and I am hooked! Here are just a few of the many things I loved about the experience.
Today, there’s the possibility to glide along fabled rivers in North and South America, Europe, Egypt or Asia, with itineraries to appeal to everyone from wine lovers to arts and history buffs to nature enthusiasts. My ten-days travelling through five countries in Eastern Europe was a far richer cultural feast than I could have imagined.
The ease with which all this happened still amazes me. The bus to the dock pulled up within a few steps of the short gangway, where the staff were waiting to welcome us aboard and show us to our cabin — all very relaxed, casual and friendly. Security consisted of nothing more than submitting our passports.
I unpacked once. What a treat! Thankfully the Titanic days of having to dress to the nines are ancient history. Casual for day and dinner is de rigueur on the river. My cabin had more thoughtfully designed drawers and closets than needed, with ample room to stash a suitcase beneath the bed.
Riverboats are small by necessity, to navigate narrow passages and locks and sail under bridges. Our ship, the Emerald Sky, caters to about 160 passengers, providing a boutique hotel or clubby ambience. The public rooms were never crowded and lineups, nonexistent. This intimate atmosphere added to the overall charm.
5. EASE OF EXPLORATION
Riverboats offer you a captivating front-row seat surrounded by slowly changing scenery, while also taking you right to the heart of enchanting cities and quaint towns. In Belgrade, for example, that translated into a mere five-minute walk to museums, restaurants, shops and the historic National Theatre.
All of the shore excursions were memorable. At each port of call, we had a choice of tours. Often, deciding which one to take was the most arduous challenge of the day. There’s nothing like an exceptional tour guide (particularly a storyteller with a sense of humour) to bring a location and its culture to life.
Emerald’s mostly all-inclusive fare which covers airport transfers, gratuities, exceptionally good house wines served with lunch and dinner, shore excursions — even bicycles to take for a spin at various stops — eliminates having to settle up a shipboard account while knowing gratuities are taken care of.
These are some of the reasons I loved my Emerald Waterways cruise – this is a lovely way to travel, and all of my expectations were exceeded.
Anna Hobbs travelled as a guest of Emerald Waterways on the Emerald Sky from Bucharest, Romania to Budapest, Hungary. To learn more about Anna, visit her website: www.beyondlavenderhill.com