Natasha is back. After many months of domestic travel, Boris and I are off again to several international destinations. This time we are trying a river cruise leaving from Budapest, Hungary and ending in Passau, Germany. We will visit four countries-Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany. In addition to morning touring, we will get to eat and shop our way through the Christmas markets along the Danube.
In route to Budapest, we have a layover in Frankfurt. We landed in the Z terminal, now a year old. We were here when it opened last year; last time, we navigated through with Boris in a wheelchair on our way to Tuscany. Z is now familiar and broken-in. Still very nice, but to go to the end of Z to the opposite end of A (which are next to each other) is really a long hike even with frequent moving sidewalks. Got to enjoy the Lufthansa lounges in both Houston and Frankfurt. Since they serve complimentary sparkling wine in their lounges and on-board, Natasha was feeling good.
Budapest has a relatively small airport. It took a while for our luggage to show up; we were pretty worried. The Uniworld representative was there waiting. We were slightly delayed by waiting for some passengers who had not shown up, but were eventually transported by bus to the shore of the Danube River. We passed by lovely historic buildings and also some Soviet-era housing. Some had long advertising banners along the side; others had light-up advertising on their roof. In the case of the Soviet housing, this was an improvement.
Our boat, the River Beatrice is docked on the Pest side of the River and we had lovely daytime views of some of the ruins of Buda on the opposite side of the River (once separate cities). During the war all the bridges connecting Buda and Pest were destroyed. Today there are 10 lovely connecting bridges, each a little different and lovingly lit at night. We are docked between the Liberty and the Elizabeth bridges, right in the heart of it all.
For Boris and I, this is our first river cruise. While we knew the boat would be smaller, we were shocked by the diminutive size. There are 142 passengers on board, mostly Americans. The staff is all European and had just come off a break. This is the company’s first Christmas Market cruise this season. Our room is quite lovely, decorated in a soft blue and cream. The beds are extremely comfortable. The bathroom is extremely small, just the basics. But is it a beautiful white marble and has L’Occitane bath products. There is plenty of storage for a week’s worth of clothes.
The highlight of the room is the Juliet balcony. It is too cold to leave open for long periods, although one passenger claims she left hers open all night. You can’t go out on the balcony, but the door opens floor to ceiling and it is wonderful for viewing or photographs.
At the front end of the ship is the comfortable Lounge in its deep reds. Below it is the dining room decorated in neutrals with white and silver Christmas decorations-lovely. Gingerbread Houses are found throughout the ship. On the opposite end of the ship is the Captain’s Lounge and Library, open 24 hours a day with a fancy coffee machine. There is outdoor sitting which would be perfect in warmer weather. On the lower floor there is a very small gym and a self-serve laundry facility. The top level is the sun deck, nicknamed the freeze deck by the program manager in his presentation.
The ship focuses on regional dishes in the dining room. Everyone eats at the same time, but service was very efficient. Beer, wine, and soft drinks are complimentary in the dining room during meal times. All the tables are for groups. Intimate couple dining is not available. If you don’t like visiting with your fellow passengers during mealtimes, you are going to be disappointed.
We enjoyed our first evening aboard the River Beatrice, but it is now time for some much-needed sleep. Good night from the blue Danube.