Re-Discovering Magnificent Europe – River Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam

If my ship sails from sight, it doesn’t mean my journey ends, it simply means the river bends.  ~ Enoch Powell 

I am on a River Cruise with my husband on the Avalon Waterways Visionary for 15 days from Budapest to Amsterdam.  It is the trip of “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” of generation ago for those Americans with the resources, interest and time to explore the world.  Thankfully, this world exploration does not require me to be packing and unpacking!

The Visionary ship was built in 2012 and is a comfortable floating hotel.  She is flagged in Germany and has 128 passengers.  Our fellow passengers are a mix of Americans – interestingly mostly from Hawaii – Aussies, New Zealanders and some Canadians.

The Danube River is 2,888 kilometers and is what divided civilization of the Roman Empire from barbarity in ancient times.  We embark in Budapest.

BUDAPEST!  Budapest is a city that makes my heart throb and brings tears to my eyes.  It must be the majestic Buda Castle UNESCO heritage site that stretches for 2 miles.  Or is it the Heroes’ Square that speaks to my heart?  The Goddess of Wisdom statue stands guard in front of the Parliament building.  The Central Market’s booths have fruits, vegetables and spices like paprika which is the best in the world.  The Jewish Quarter is the largest synagogue in Europe, and St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in Hungary.  Then, it may be the Spa City’s thermal springs… yes!  I dropped luggage at the ship and went directly to the Szechenyi Baths that I had remembered fondly from my visit in 2007.  As I enjoy the thermal bath, I’m planning for my next visit for a week in Hungary to visit some of the 123 spas the country boasts.  Vacations are healthy for the body and soul!

We depart Budapest at 7:30pm and sail 240 km and through one lock to BRATISLAVA, Slovakia.

The holiday/holy day of All Saints Day meant many of the places were closed.  We visited the St. Martin’s Cathedral which has a Gothic interior and the Hrad Fortress of which only a small area remains since the city was leveled completely during WWII.  The city of Bratislava is the capital of the new state of Slovakia only since 1993.  Slovakia split from the Republic of Czech, previously known as Czechoslovakia.  Its history is one of being a battlefield for Hungary, Austria and the Turkish Empire for many centuries.  As my first visit to the country, I sadly learned from the tour guide that stability has not existed in the country for long.  They changed currencies every 10 years during the last decades.  The country joined the European Union in 2004 and now has the Euro currency since 2009.  The political corruption is rampant and “the normal way of doing things” said the guide.  It’s half the size of New Jersey.

Onto VIENNA next!  Our magnificent journey continues.

Sea Is Calling – Why Go On A Mediterranean Cruise in 2013?







Besides the obvious romantic and historical places you must see — the islands surrounded by blue waters, the Cradle of Civilization’s ruins, museums, architecture and art, scrumptious gelatos and pasta — the cruise deals to the Mediterranean are amazing now through early November 2013 when the ships reposition back to the United States.

There are offers of extra shipboard credit, airfare inclusive deals and even 2-for-1 cruise offers! There are so many choices that they boggle the mind. Fifteen cruise lines sail ships ranging from 196 to 4,000 passengers to Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. There is something for everyone.

The Mediterranean includes a large area, and there are cruises to Eastern and Western areas. Generally, the Eastern Mediterranean cruises focus on Italy, Greece, Turkey and cities along the Adriatic. These itineraries typically depart from or return to Rome or Venice, Athens or Istanbul.  The Western Mediterranean usually departs or returns to Barcelona or Rome.  Well, these port cities deserve several days either before or after your cruise on their own!

From my many years of sailing and recommending the Mediterranean Cruises and my client’s feedback, I recommend:

BEST for FAMILIES: Royal Caribbean, Celebrity,Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines

BEST for ROMANCE: Windstar, Seabourn Regent Seven Seas and Silversea Cruise Lines

BEST for FIRST TIME to Europe: Go for the itinerary with the ports and cities that you’ve always wanted to visit

BEST for LUXURY CRUISES: Seabourn, Crystal, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea Cruise Lines

BEST for TRAVELERS who have been to Europe 3 or more times and over 55 years: Holland America and Oceania Cruises

Interested?  Cruise Masters Travel is here to be your partner in planning your personally-matched Best Cruise Vacation! Guaranteed.

Sea is calling. Why not this year?