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Riviera Travel – River Cruise
MS Emily Bronte – Blue Danube
We flew from Heathrow with BA to Budapest in late September to join Riviera Travel onboard the Emily Bronte for a 7 night Blue Danube river cruise.
After a late arrival we joined the ship before dinner and we shown to our cabins, my cabin was on Ruby deck and located mid ship. The cabins are fantastic, it seems every amenity is provided and the cabin is well thought out, plug sockets are both UK and European with plenty of sockets, there is a coffee maker, fridge and safe. You will also find a docking station with your headset which will be needed for shore excursions. The sliding full length doors enable you to have lots of fresh air and watch the world go by. The bathroom is again very nicely decorated with a hairdryer and walk in shower.
We did note that cabins located at the rear of the ship did suffer from engine noise, so I would recommend mid ship unless you are a heavy sleeper.
The ship has a lovely restaurant downstairs where all meals are served, there is the usual buffet breakfast but you can also order from the menu. Lunch is also a buffet with a good variety of both hot and cold dishes available. Evenings are different – menus are provided for a choice from approx. three dishes. All meals are free seating which gives you the opportunity to dine alone or join your fellow passengers.
After dinner everyone moves to the bar/lounge where there is often some entertainment, very low key, either a singer, quiz night or maybe a folklore show. My choice would be to take a cocktail up on deck and find a comfy chair.
On board drinks prices are very reasonable, a small beer costs less than 3€ and a gin and tonic 6.50€, there is always a cocktail of the day too for 7€. There is no cash onboard, everything is charged to your cabin and you then settle your account at the end of the cruise, please note – they do not accept Debit cards for payment.
The main difference with a river cruise against an ocean cruise is the informality, it is all about the destinations you are visiting rather than top end entertainment with shows and casinos. Ships also are much smaller in size which appeals to many people and being able to dock in the majority of the cities right in the centre makes excursions or doing your own thing very easy.
The Danube is maybe not as scenic as its other rivers such as the Rhine, however what it does offer is show stopping cities and on this particular cruise the chance to visit three countries in one week.
Highlights for me were Bratislava, Durnstein, Vienna and of course Budapest.
At most ports you have the option to take one of the organised trips which are included in the cost or go off and explore on your own. Each evening you there is a brief in the bar of the coming days’ trips and also maps are given out for those who want to do their own thing. I took the organised trips on each occasion and found them really good, our guides were informative, easy to understand and follow and in one or two cases really funny making the whole experience really enjoyable.
Bratislava – formerly part of Czechoslovakia, now the capital of Slovakia, a great city, low in cost easy to get around with a great atmosphere. Lots of large attractive squares with outside cafes/bars where you can have a coffee or a beer and watch the world go by.
Durnstein – a pretty little village, an easy stroll from the boat with some quaint shops and cafes. Speciality here is anything made with apricots, I bought some abricot liqueur which was amazing.
Vienna – a fantastic city, very attractive and a chance to visit the Spanish Riding School, we stopped for lunch in one of the main squares.
Budapest – we had such a short time here I only had a very small taste and need to go back for a city break, the older part of the city Buda with its cobbled streets was really lovely. The parliament building is enormous and I would have like to have a look around there and also to see the shoe memorial at the side of the Danube located close by. Budapest has loads to offer and a trip to a Ruin Bar is also highly recommended. My only regret is that we didn’t have the post cruise stay in Budapest – I would highly urge anyone to consider this as the city has so much to offer and you just cant see it all in the short time provided on the cruise only option.