River cruising: Budapest to Amsterdam
Welcome to my very first travel blog. This one is a kind of extended blog really because there’s so much to tell you! In this introduction I’ll explain the experience of river cruising and give you the nuts and bolts of what to expect as well as a few tips to make your experience even more enjoyable. Check out my other posts coming up which will cover my personal highlights from the destinations of this remarkable trip.
The two week cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam takes in some of the most romantic cities in Europe as well as some of its most picturesque medieval villages. It travels from Hungary through Slovakia, Austria and Germany to The Netherlands and includes a brief foray into the Czech Republic overland. This trip has something for everyone.
You’ll wander through vineyards, taste the wine, explore the most jaw droppingly extravagant palaces, meander through the character filled, cobbled lanes of towns settled by the Romans. You will learn about history, about the power struggles that formed Europe and its characters who loom large. You’ll visit monasteries and breweries, and take in a concert in Vienna. You can indulge in a bit of retail therapy should the mood take you and you can hike to ancient ruins and breathtaking views. You can cycle through the countryside or just take a stroll off the boat along the river bank. If you’re interested in things mechanical there’s the fascinating experience of negotiating the 68 locks along the way. Miraculous pieces of engineering, they had us all up on deck with cameras!
You can tailor a river cruise to suit yourself. You can peel off and do your own thing if you want to. There is no obligation to join a tour although the tours on offer do add immeasurably to your experience with knowledgeable and entertaining local guides.
It’s so quiet, river cruising. Imagine lying in bed at night with your cabin doors wide open, listening to the sound of the nightingales and waking to the dawn chorus, the sounds of the riverbank soothing the soul.
The Avalon Waterways ships are roomy, you can always find a quiet spot on board for that first espresso of the day. In all there are just 84 staterooms and forty seven crew, all dedicated to making your cruise extra special.
We were pleasantly surprised by the standard of food on board. Full buffet breakfasts were available, complete with seemingly endless smoked salmon ( my personal favourite!) and champagne, not to mention delicious smoothies. The chef was always happy to cook individual egg dishes on request. There was also an early risers breakfast there for insomniacs! So good, if you wake starving at 5am as we kiwis were prone to do! Lunch was again a buffet of salads and hot dishes always preceded by spectacular soups (there was an outstanding soup chef on board) Some of my favourite lunches though, were the simple barbques we had on the sky deck, sipping on a chilled beer in the sun, watching life go by on the river. Unpretentious, delicious, just like home! And always plenty of healthy options.
Our evening meals were something else. Five courses, beautifully cooked and presented accompanied by local wines. Wherever possible our menu reflected the local cuisine. The meal was served with quiet efficiency, no long waits but we were having such great conversations with new found friends that we were often last out of the restaurant.
The thing that sets river cruising apart from other tourist experiences is the fact that it is so very relaxing. From the moment you unpack in your superbly appointed cabin, stow your suitcases under the bed and lie back to watch the view drift past, the stress levels just seem to drop away. I’ve never been big on group travel but I have to say this river cruising suits me just fine!
Tips for your cruise:
- I reckon its best to book your optional tours once you’re on board rather than before you leave home. There’s always plenty of space and you’ll have a better idea of what you feel like doing.
- We went early May the beginning of the European summer. The weather was settled and it was quieter. The full tourist noise had yet to begin.
- Take a warm jacket for the odd chilly day …I found my sleeveless puffer perfect.
- A multi board and power adaptor are always handy. You can plug in all your devices at once.
- You won’t need to take your own shampoo, conditioner and body lotion …. The L’Occtaine products on board are great quality saving on weight in the suitcase.
- Euros are best to travel with….. they will accept them in Hungary.
- Carry a photocopy of your passport at all times ….. just in case!
My personal highlights of the trip from Budapest to Amsterdam follow in separate blogs.
Interested in a river cruise adventure of your own? Check out the full itinerary and experience it for yourself.