It Was Only a Matter of Time

 

by Don McCann

With all of the growing popularity of European river cruises, it’s not too surprising that one of the major ‘ocean’ cruise lines has decided to launch their own river cruise division. Recently, Crystal Cruises announced that they will begin river cruises within Europe in 2017. At the time, they released virtually no details, but earlier this week they announced some date information and even showed us a couple of renderings!

Crystal Cruises European River CruiseCrystal Cruises will begin European river cruises in March, 2017 and reservations will open in December of this year, in 2015. That far in advance, you might ask? Yes! With the demand for river cruises and the limited number of cabins onboard, they sell much further in advance than many ocean cruises.

The river vessels from Crystal will each feature standard ‘suites’ at 250 square feet,Crystal Cruises river cruise suite as well as two 500 square feet penthouse suites. Accommodations will have walk-in closets, king-size beds and the bathrooms will have double vanities. As with their ocean ships, the river ships will include their signature Palm Court, which will have a glass roof & dance floor and there will be a fitness center and spa. The ships will carry only 140 guests.

The other lines in the luxury arena of European river cruises (Uniworld, Tauck, and Scenic) will surely be interested to see how Crystal will create their own style of luxury river cruises and we’ll all be interested to see at what price point, as well. Stay tuned for more info!

“Danube Waltz” River Cruise

by Don McCann

Viking River Cruises – Danube Waltz – onboard Viking Magni, November 19, 2013

It would have been nice to have made blog posts about our recent Danube River cruise during the cruise each day.  However, the wi-fi signal was erratic, inconsistent, and let’s just say too poor to actually work!  Therefore, I’m going to post about each day, one day at a time, to the best of my recollection.

Our cruise began in Budapest.  To fly from DFW to Budapest there are many, many options and all involve at least one connection.  Ours actually involved two connections, in Detroit and Paris, and I have to say that all flights went very well AND that our checked bag arrived with us (not always the case these days).  With an arrival time of 3:00pm in Budapest, once our cruise line representative met our flight, gathered the other couples, and directed us to the waiting minibus, it was about 5:00pm when we arrived at the ship.

The Viking Magni was docked in the very heart of Budapest, directly under the iconic Chain Bridge and across the Danube from the Royal Budapest Palace.  In other words, a very exciting setting in which to begin our Danube River cruise!  We walked onboard, gave the front desk our names, were quickly given our room keys, shown to our cabin just down the hall, and voila – we were in our cabin; so easy and relaxed, compared to traditional ocean cruises.

Viking Magni Cat D cabin 212

Viking Magni Cat D cabin 212

Having been introduced just two months ago, the Viking Magni is brand new and is the latest in Viking Cruise Line’s “long ships”, their exclusive design for modern river cruising.  She carries 190 passengers and has such attractive features as the Aquavit Lounge & Terrace overlooking the front of the ship, many cabins and suites with balconies, and an overall open & airy feeling with great views throughout.  Our cabin was a Category D French Balcony room at 135 sq ft.  What – only 135 sq ft?!  Yes, I have to admit that I was concerned about the cabin size prior to sailing, but it actually is designed very well and was quite comfortable.  There was ample storage space, including a safe and fridge, and the bathroom had a great design for the space provided AND included a heated tile floor!

 

Still having a bit of jet lag, but excited about our new surroundings, we decided to put on our jackets and venture across the Chain Bridge for a quick stroll over and back before dinner that first night.  There are those who say that Budapest is more beautiful at night, than in daylight, because of they way they masterfully light up the buildings & bridges.  As we made our way across, we could see the palace just ahead and from the other side we saw the famed Parliament Building down the river; all of which are no less than stunning the way they are lit at night.  Returning to the ship for dinner, I ordered the lamb chops and have to say it was the best I’ve ever had; a great first dinner onboard!

The next morning we took the included city tour, which began on the “Pest” side of the river.  The city was originally separated into two sections, “Buda” and “Pest”; a little fact of which many are unaware.  This perfectly sunny day began at Hero Square, then past the impressive local architecture to continue over the Danube to the more hilly “Buda” side.  Here we were treated to a tour inside Matthias church and the wonderful views from Fisherman’s Bastion.  The tour ended back at the ship, in time for lunch.  The sun had given way to clouds in the afternoon, but the weather was still quite agreeable for our long walk as we explored the surrounding neighborhoods and ended at the very impressive and sobering Shoes on the Danube Memorial site.

After dinner, the ship departed as almost everyone gathered up on the top deck to photograph and enjoy the nighttime sights of Budapest as seen from the Danube.  We found Budapest to be a wonderful city which is deserves a visit of more than the 30 hours we had; will have to plan to stay longer next time!

Budapest Chain Bridge at night

Budapest Chain Bridge at night

Budapest Royal Palace
Budapest Royal Palace as seen from our cabin

Budapest Heros Square
Budapest Heros Square

 

Budapest Parliament from Fisherman's Bastion

Budapest Parliament from Fisherman’s Bastion

Budapest Chain Bridge

Budapest Chain Bridge as we departed

 

Budapest Parliament at night
Budapest Parliament at night

 ……. check back for our next post on BRATISLAVA

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