Reputed to be the best river cruise operator by Berlitz and numerous travel sites, we ventured on our first river cruise on the Amawaterways Amarcerto boat from Budapest down to Bucharest via the Eastern Danube. The founders Rudi Schreiner (The father of river cruises) had come over to Manila to officially launch Amawaterways several weeks earlier to an overflowing elderly crowd in the Conservatory in Peninsula Makati and had convinced us to try it out for my father-in-law’s birthday. The cruise we selected was the “Gems of Eastern Europe”.
It seemed interest was high and other past traveler’s experiences were well rated so let’s take a look into what the cruise is really all about..
THE STATE ROOM
My cousin-in-law Caren Grey who just started a Philippine travel agency called mylocalite worked with Intas who is the official registered agent to plan our trip.
Travel Tip: The greatest part of cruises is NOT HAVING TO PACK AND UNPACK! Just put your clothes in the closets, use the rubber mat on the bed to keep things clean as you unpack your suitcase and place your luggage under the bed to save space. Voila! Stress free travel especially for the elderly or those with handicap.
Travel Tip: The best part of this river cruise is the boat as it is a shallow hull therefore quite stable so if you get motion sickness this is the option for you! Lastly if you are like my husband and constantly do risk assessments he already as asked what happens should the boat sink… the answer was take a cocktail at the roof deck as the boat is actually taller than the riverbed.
After the room, the second most important thing is the FOOD! It is all included as with most cruises but what sets this apart from the rest is that you can book the “fine dining” restaurant called “chef’s table” for one night and do not pay extra for it. There is a personal waiter for your table and your own chef. I must say we were very impressed with the food in general which did may not have lobster or Angus rib eye steaks but had very good local delicacies and fresh ingredients like tomatoes (Mostly agricultural business in this region).
Travel tip (Healthy Option): I asked the head waiter if they could make me oatmeal chocolate chip cookies as a healthier alternative. The first few tries were pretty dry but they got it eventually (with enough coaching)! I really appreciate the extra effort! A baker comes on board every morning to make the baked goods by the way so you may be able to ask for other items next time.
Lastly, the final component is entertainment. There is not much entertainment on board as our onboard musician while nice did not seem to have any songs past the closing of the Iron Curtain. Luckily my family always likes to improvise so we had a name that tune game on the first night and found similarly spirited group in the tour who took up the songs with a very talented singer of their own (Sadly our family have no singers but my aunt’s could dance I tell you!)
My husband enjoyed the massive chess board on the deck and had a thrilling match with his brother. He also swam at the roof deck pool (Ok more like waded as it is quite small).
On the last few nights we hooked up our Iphones to play some songs to start the party off with the same group who actually out partied us on a nightly basis.
Travel Tip: There is a free cocktail hour before dinner with FREE drinks. My husband liked the Whiskey Sour although it was premixed. Wine is free flowing during dinner as well so make sure to make space. The local wines are quite good although not well known.
I will end this with our tour of Vukovar which pretty much encapsulates Eastern Europe which is a land frozen in time trying to rebuild itself once step at a time after a harrowing period. I recommend this tour to those who have done most of Western Europe has to offer and are looking for something off the beaten track and a little rougher (Yes cheaper as well) than the main tourist photos of Eiffel Tower and London Bridge. It is also a great way for them to provide jobs to the locals in a very tough economy. My husband calls it “Charity tourism” every time we are faced with a somber faced waiter telling us we can’t split the bill or order a meal with something slightly different on the menu (Me: Can you remove the olives from the salad and dressing on the side……. waiter: No not possible!)
Thank you Amawaterways for the great service from the warm waiters to the hard working housekeeping. The hotel manager Pascal was great at making things run smoothly and our cruise director Florentine was always there to send us off on our tours and keep us informed of the days events.