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Live from AMABella Budapest to vilshofen, November 9-16
George and I are sitting in the admirals club at DFW awaiting our flight to LHR then on to Budapest. We will be joining our good friends Tom and Teresa on this cruise up the Danube. George and I did Prague to Budapest 2 years ago on one of the older AMA ships, so it will be interesting to compare and contrast. As usual, we will have a great time. Tom is George's law partner and was in Germany in the army. He actually speaks passable German and has been brushing up, so that will be helpful, especially reading menus. Teresa is my best girlfriend and shopping buddy.
For those who don't know me, we mostly cruise regent and silversea. But obviously, we liked AMA enough to return. A big draw was the larger suites available on the newer ships, with real balconies. Not that we will probably use the balcony much in November, but it is a psychological thing. I like to check the weather.
Afraid I'm not going to be much help, I did the Yangtze in 2005. The 3 Gorges Dam was only just starting to fill and had just one lock (maybe 2, senior moment) working. So the dam might have only been 1/3 full.
I traveled with a girl friend who was born on China (Russian Jewish family who escaped Russia in 1905). Since A & K made all the arrangements I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember what ship we were on. I only know that Bill Gates had just left our boat and that Vladimir Putin took over our hotel near the Terracotta Warriors. Western tourists had to vacate for 12 hrs and all others had to leave the hotel completely.
While Putin was upstairs on the floor above me, George Bush was having dinner and staying in our little town in Oregon, population 1900.
What an exciting time, this was truly a trip of a lifetime. We were in China for 21 days but only on the river for 4 days.
Saw amazing things and heard horrors about the building of the dam and the million plus people displaced by it.
You are going to love your visit, we were there the 1st three weeks of October, hot hot hot!
I'm afraid my experience is just too long ago. Very few ships on the river back then. Just not very many tourists and I'm sure that has changed now.
Have a great trip, it is our next, if I can just get DH to cooperate!
PS might have actually been 2004 :-)
Prior sailings on: Sitmar, Princess, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Regent Seven Seas, almost forgot A & K Yangtze River!
Last edited by nana541; November 8th, 2013 at 12:34 AM.
Thanks, Nana. We will be on the Yangtze river 4 days too, as it is part of a larger tour.
Now back to topic. We made it to LHR a whole hour early due to very strong tailwinds. What had had me worried as a potentially tight connection is now leisurely, especially since we did not have to change terminals and there was absolutely no one in the security line. A great way to start the trip. The galleries lounge is really very nice (hardly anyone in here either--I have never seen LHR so quiet).
We arrived in Budapest last evening. at the very easy to navigate airport, got a taxi with no problems (just go directly out the entrance of the airport to the taxi booth), and were whisked off to the hilton on castle hill.
This has to be one of my favorite hotels in the world. It is built into the ruins of an old church and incorporates many features of the old building. Rooms are comfortable, large and up to date. Views are outstanding with the fisherman's bastion and Danube on one side and the square on the other.
Weather this am is perfect with temps around 60 and hazy light. I had a nice walk around before anyone else got up, walking up to the fisherman's bastion and alongside the church, well before the tourists arrived. Very peaceful early in the morning.
Teresa and I went to check out the St. Mathias church, one of my favorites anywhere due to the unique stenciled walls and ceilings. Instead of paintings, literally every surface is covered with stenciled designs in a beautiful color scheme of blue, red, brown and green. It is a feast for the eyes both inside and out.
By this time, the crowds had started arriving, so while Teresa went back to pack up, George and I walked down to the castle and took in the marvelous views. It was steadily getting more overcast and cooler as morning progressed.
We met up with Tom and Teresa for lunch at a tiny hole in the wall pizzeria, then took a taxi to the ship where we were invited to wait in the lounge until our rooms were ready. The lounge is very nicely decorated with a faux fireplace, muted colors, lots of comfortable seating and a bar. We had a chance to look in the gift shop, and they have some very nice and reasonably priced stuff. I will be shopping later for sure.
Check was totally pain free as they call by cabin number. Cabins are definitely larger than on the older ships with actual room to walk around with bumping into each other. Queen size bed, 2 chairs and a small table inside, 2 chairs and table on the balcony. There is ample storage space. One cabinet holds the safe which is large enough to hold by entire purse plus 2 iPads and still have space left over. Mini fridge is stocked with water. Interactive tv/computer system has lots of movies loaded. Bathroom is long and narrow with tons of counter space. I like the configuration as there is enough room for me to put on my makeup while George shaves or brushes his teeth. Makeup mirror, blow dryer, alarm clock are all present.
Wifi is very fast both in our cabin and in the lounge. And you only have to sign in once. After that initial sign in, you are connected for the trip.
6:00 brought the captain's cocktail reception/safety briefing. Champagne and little munchies while everyone was introduced and procedures explained. The captain gave a pretty stern no smoking talk, the gist of which was fire is the biggest potential hazard on this ship so no smoking in you rooms or on the balconies. There is a small smoking area at the stern of the ship on the top deck.
Being as we are repeat customers, we were invited to dine with the captain and John, the cruise director, in Erlebnis, the small chef's tasting restaurant at the rear of the ship. It was quite delicious with the chef explaining each dish prior to it being served. Very elegant space too with a lovely swan mosaic on the wall and high backed white leather chairs, and an open kitchen. Courses are set with the only changeable options being either prime rib sea bass as the main. Same menu every night unless it is a 2 week cruise. The restaurant holds 20 people. While we dined, a Hungarian violinist entertained. Very impressive.
The captain is Hungarian and quite young, a very nice friendly fellow. John is from Leeds in the UK but married to a Hungarian lady.
After dinner, the ship was taken on a night time lights tour up and down the Danube. Probably one of the prettiest lights tours I have been on with good views from both inside the ship and up on the top deck. A bit breezy and cool, but great end to the day.
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, with temps in the 50s. A mallard was quacking outside by our window. I don't know what he was so worked up about, but he was really raising a racket.
One of my major dislikes about our previous river cruise was breakfast, so I was anxious to see how it would be on this ship. MUCH better. Not nearly as chaotic or noisy. I could actually drink my tea in peace. It is entirely a buffet with a omelet station. Wide selection of the usual breakfast fare with a separate elaborate presentation of smoked salmon and appropriate garnishes. Champagne was available for those who desired. I did not partake, but it is there.
The included city tour by bus was one we have previously done, so we elected to do our own walk around. We walked up to vaci uca which is the main pedestrian shopping street. Some shops were closed as it was Sunday, but most of the tourist shops were open. The market is closed on Sunday, but the tourist shops seem to have much of the same stuff.
Then took a quick taxi ride up to the old opera house so that I could show it to Teresa then have a walk up andrassy street which is the super expensive shopping street. Gucci, Burberry, etc, etc. None of these shops were open so our wallets were safe, but it was great fun window shopping.
I had been here previously and remembered how to walk back to the ship taking a short cut by St. Stephen's cathedral on the way.
A Hungarian lunch was the menu today with stuffed peppers, sausage, cabbage soup, goulash. Quite delicious though I could not eat the potato dumplings served with the goulash, just too heavy. While we were eating the ship pulled away from the dock and we headed up the Danube.
Since it was such a great day, many of us took advantage of the sun deck.m the hot tub was well used. I walked/ran on the jogging track which has the nicest ever AstroTurf. It was nice and cushioned and completely non slip.
At 5:30 there was a wine tasting of Hungarian wines. The expert they brought on board is a very entertaining guy, and one could listen to him talk and enjoy it even if they didn't like wine.
Dinner at 7. One thing I like is that they have a salad main course option. Dinner was good but not as good as last night, and service was a bit too slow for me. I think we need to set in a different area next time as our server at lunch was much more efficient.*
We had a chance to look in the gift shop, and they have some very nice and reasonably priced stuff. I will be shopping later for sure.
If there is something specific you have your eye on, shop early. We wanted to purchase the heated bread bag and later in the week when we went back to purchase it they were all sold out.
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Last edited by beechfor; November 10th, 2013 at 04:31 PM.
What a difference a day makes, at least in regards to weather. This am is cold, overcast, windy, with a bit of rain. Thankfully, it is supposed to start clearing by this afternoon, and we don't arrive in Vienna until 1:00 pm. It will not be getting warmer however, and the forecast for the rest of the week calls for highs in the 40s.
We went through our first lock during the night. I did not wake up. Passed Bratislava at about 6 am. Again*I did not wake up to look even though, remembering from last time, Bratislava is very beautiful going under the bridges and with the castle on the hill.
The area of Austria between the Slovakian border and Vienna is quite undeveloped as it was under Russian control from WWII until 1955. So not much here, just woods on each shore with an occasional rustic cabin. Very flat as well. Not what our usual idea of Austria is at all.*
Our lecturer gave a very informative talk regarding wine collecting as a hobby. Lots of information regarding the proper storage, etc. Someone asked how cruise ships protect wine from vibration as vibration is apparently very harmful. Apparently at least some ships have a suspended wine storage system hat moves independently from the ship's movement and protects against vibration.
We went through another lock during lunch and soon docked in Vienna. A walking tour was on tap for the afternoon with 4 regular walker groups and one gentle walker group. As far as I could tell, we all went on the same route which was totally flat, without cobblestones, and very easy. The gentle walker group just did it more slowly so had less free time.
We started with a bus ride around the ringstrauuse with our guide pointing out the sights. We started the walking tour at St. Stephens cathedral (yes, there is on in both Budapest and Vienna), walked through the main shopping area to the Spanish riding school and the Hapsburg palace. Our guide was perfect, giving good interesting information but not talking constantly.
We then had an hour free. Given the blustery cold, George, our friends, and I found a cafe for coffee and sachertorte. Adequately warmed, we next had a good window shopping session.
Tonight there were two options. You could do an early dinner then go to a concert of Mozart and Strauss. Or you could do dinner at 7 then go to a traditional Viennese heuriger. We chose the later.
But first dinner. Tonight was Viennese night with Wiener schnitzel as the main course. Apple strudel for dessert. But the highlight was an amazing pumpkin soup with pumpkin seeds on top.
Then on to the heuriger which is a traditional Viennese wine pub in the hills outside Vienna. Each of these is only licensed to sell what they produce. The one we went to had supposedly been in operation since 1609 according to their sign. We were entertained by a violinist and accordion player who played lots of familiar songs. The chicken dance was performed with my husband really getting into it as he has had lots of practice at octoberfest in Tulsa. Lots of fun had by everyone.
Rachel - Enjoying your live posts! We did a AmaWaterways Christmas Market cruise from Prague to Budapest 3 years ago. We had perfect weather for it - cold and snow but no rain. Since we don't get hardly any snow here in TX, it was a nice change.
Thanks, Karen and jhp. Fortunately weather has improved.
Bright and sunny morning, so I was up early as we pulled out of Vienna headed for Krems. This are of the Danube is definitely more populated with lots of houses alongside the banks. Vineyards all over the low hills.
Before our arrival in Krems, we had to go through a couple of locks. No matter how many times I go through one of these, they continue to fascinate me. The engineering is remarkable. An interesting fact-- there is no charge for going through any of the locks on the Danube (very unlike the Panama Canal). They generate electricity and pay for themselves.
We had a nice curry lunch, your choice of shrimp or chicken with all the usual accompaniments. I had shrimp, and it was delicious. You could of course have both if you wished.
We did a energizing bike tour in and around Krems in the afternoon. The other option was a walking tour. The bike tour was quite nice, through the countryside and back. Then George and I did our own walking tour which was probably twice as long as the ship tour and in half the time. But very enjoyable. We were able to see lots of stuff.
We were invited to the repeat cruisers cocktail party before dinner. There are twelve of us onboard, all very experienced cruisers. Had an enlightening chat with the captain regarding his experiences during the spring flooding this year, how he was told to go to one place by the home office in Basel, only to get there and be told by the local authorities that he could stay there but he could not tie up as all the moorings were underwater and he could not let passengers off. And this is just one ship. Similar things were happening all up and down the river. I think those people who have been so critical of the handling of the situation last spring should have a chance to talk to him.
After dinner, we were taken by bus to a very high tech local winery for a presentation. Very different kind of tour but quite enjoyable.
I am enjoying your report tremendously, looking forward to our own trip next July on AMAPrima.
Regarding your walking tour of Krem, did you generate it yourself, or find a self-guided tour somewhere? I would also appreciate any resources you have found such as maps, travel books, etc.
Thank you for taking the time to post during your trip.
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Thank you so much for sharing. We will be on AMA Lyra 10/24/14. This is the first time my husband and I will be traveling by ourselves and I've been concerned about whether or not we should be booking private tours. We have 2 nights post cruise in Budapest & 2 nights post cruise in Prague. When you travel with another couple the cost of private tours is reduced because you are sharing the cost. Have you booked any private tours?
In Krems, we did our own self guided walking tour. They have maps of the town at the front desk, and you are close enough that you can walk everywhere.
Definitely check out the apricot products sold there, as this is a local specialty. You will find them sold all over.
We did not book any private tours either this visit or last. I used Rick Steve's guidebook and Fodors last time when we were in Prague. They have several walking tours mapped out. We did a self guided tour of the Jewish district in Prague. This takes an entire 1/2 day. We walked all over in Prague and did not use any public transport or taxis except from the airport.
In Budapest, I used Fodors and the Internet to plan this trip. We had been before, so had an idea of what we wanted to see. We used taxis for longer distances. If you have 4 people, that is probably as cheap as public transport. The HOHO bus people really try to get you to buy their service, but this would only make financial sense if you were traveling alone. Otherwise taxis are cheaper, and they are easy to find.