Posted November 10th, 2013, 02:56 AM
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.