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Everything Viking "Passage to Eastern Europe" - Budapest to Bucharest


Peregrina651
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I'm just starting to research this cruise and already I have a ton of questions, the kind that are asked over and over again. How nice it would be to have all these questions asked and answered in one easy to find thread rather than splashed all over the River Cruise forum.

 

Here are just some of my questions:

 

  • Which hotels did you stay in Budapest and Bucharest? What did you think of them?
  • Where did you eat for meals on your own? Did you like your choices?
  • Did you do a pre- or post- cruise stay, with or without Viking? Where did you stay? What did you see? Where did you eat?
  • What about money issues? Credit cards? Five different currencies? Acceptance of dollars or euros? Were ATMs easy to find, especially on the cruise portion?
  • What was the best souvenir you came home with?
  • What are some of the absolute must-sees or must-do's in Budapest, Prague and Bucharest?
  • Were there portavox listening devices for the tours? Do they still have the left ear only earpieces?

Thanks in advance for all your help!

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If you are active, no need to do pre and post cruise through Viking. We stayed on our own in Bucharest at Viking's hoel. Did the same in Budapest. In Budapest we got a good deal using points. Transfers on your own are easy in both places.

 

As to money, easy to find ATMs

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We are flying to Budapest on the 24th to join Viking for a Budapest to Amsterdam cruise. I have spent lots of time researching for our DIY Budapest stay pre-cruise. We will stay 2 nights at the Intercontinental Budapest Hotel. Location is perfect and tripadvisor reviews are very good! The boat will stay overnight the first night in Budapest as well.

 

Viking will (probably) take you on a walking tour to include on the Pest Side - National Opera House, Hero's Square and on the Buda Side - Castle Hill, Fishermen's Bastion and Matthias Church.

 

We will take a full day tour and a 1/2 day tour with a private tour guide. Have not used her yet so not sure how it will turn out. We were referred to her by another guide who has good reviews but was not available. For the full day we will do the Danube Bend Tour (Esztergom, Visegrád, Szentendre). On the 1/2 day we hope to visit The Great Synagogue, Jewish Cemetary, Holocaust Memorial & Weeping Willow Tree, City Park & Szechenyi Spa & Vajdahunyad Castle, and if there is time the House of Terror.

 

If there is not time to do the House of Terror on our 1/2 day guided tour, we will go there on our own. Also on our own, withing walking distance of the hotel and the boat, we will see St. Stephen Basilica, Central Market Hall, and Shoes on the Danube.

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Julie,

We leave Tuesday and will be doing much of the same in Budapest. Our day in the country will be to Eger. We will also tour inside the Parliament building (purchased tickets on-line) on the 1/2 tour.

 

We plan to eat dinner at the "castle" Halászbástya Restaurant.

Staying at the hotel Zara...will let you know after the 3 nights how it is.

 

My biggest question.....When and how long will the sail away be from Budapest? Documents say "during dinner" so I am afraid we will miss the spectacular lights on the Danube so we are considering taking the Legend evening cruise on night.

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My biggest question.....When and how long will the sail away be from Budapest? Documents say "during dinner" so I am afraid we will miss the spectacular lights on the Danube so we are considering taking the Legend evening cruise on night.

 

We have not gotten our documents yet from Viking but online it just says evening departure. I have read several times that Viking sailaway is after dark and we will get to see the river lights. First stop is Bratislava, with an afternoon arrival so hopefully they do not have to leave too early. Maybe dinner is after dark - but I'm not sure I want to be eating dinner instead of looking out the windows or standing on the top deck to see the sights as we leave Budapest.

 

Thank you for the restaurant tip!

 

Bon Voyage!

Julie

Edited by SeaTheWorldBySea
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We took the Viking Passages to Eastern Europe last year and had an extraordinary time. It's a an excellent itinerary. Here are some answers to your questions:

 

  • Which hotels did you stay in Budapest and Bucharest? What did you think of them?

We stayed at the Le Meridien in Budapest and the Radisson Blu in Bucharest. We've been to Budapest twice with Viking, and the other time we stayed at the Budapest Hilton on the Pest side. All of the hotels are comfortable, modern, and appealing. Viking also uses the Intercontinental in Budapest. Because Viking has so many sailings from Budapest, however, there is really no way to know which hotel you will be staying.

 

 

  • Where did you eat for meals on your own? Did you like your choices?

When we stayed at the Budapest Hilton, we enjoyed the Pestbuda, which is a restaurant next door to the Hilton. We also ate at small ethnic restaurants close to the hotels. Goulash is the main course in Budapest, and it is very filling. It's also fun to find small restaurants in Budapest that have string quartets playing Hungarian music. Ask the Viking tour director or the hotel concierge for suggestions. In Bucharest, there is a little outdoor restaurant a few blocks from the Radission Blu that we enjoyed.

 

 

  • Did you do a pre- or post- cruise stay, with or without Viking? Where did you stay? What did you see? Where did you eat?

We always do the Viking pre-cruise and post-cruise extensions. I like booking the extensions through Viking so that I can have access to the Viking tours. Others are willing to handle their own reservations and tours, but booking through Viking helps to keep the administrative burden of traveling to a minimum, even if it costs a little more. I would especially recommend doing the Bucharest extension through Viking because of the unusual tours Viking offers in Bucharest. One tour is to Brasov, Romania to see Dracula's castle and an elaborate 18th century castle, and the other is to spend a day at the Black Sea. I don't know if you would be able to arrange tours like that on your own.

 

 

  • What about money issues? Credit cards? Five different currencies? Acceptance of dollars or euros? Were ATMs easy to find, especially on the cruise portion?

U.S. credit cards can be used at ATM's in all of the countries you will be visiting. In Hungary and Romania, you will get a good exchange rate at the ATM's, but be careful in Serbia and Croatia. These are less established countries that do not have good exchange rates at their ATMs. Since you will only be in those countries for one day each, you may want to rely on credit cards while visiting to avoid currency exchange issues and to avoid ending up with left over currency that you may never use again. We found that we could use Euros or even U.S. dollars in most of the countries, too. The merchants are eager for business, and because of the many different nationalities that visit, they find it easy to offer their goods and services in other currencies. One time in Buglaria, the merchant had an apron with three pockets in it--one for Bulgarian money, a second for Euros and a third for U.S. If you do the pre-cruise and post-cruise extenstions, however, it's useful to have some of the local currency since you will be in the countries for a few days.

 

 

  • What was the best souvenir you came home with?

Hand made embroidered items from Bulgaria. Bulgaria has beautiful embroidery.

 

 

  • What are some of the absolute must-sees or must-do's in Budapest, Prague and Bucharest?

In Budapest, I enjoyed the Pest side of town with the St. Mathias cathedral and the rows of shops. There is a little open air mall two blocks down the street from the Budapest HIlton that sells hand blown and decorated glasses and other wonderful handmade items. In Prague, the Lobkowicz castle is a must see. The owner of the castle grew up in the U.S. as a descendent of Check royalty. The castle was confiscated from his family in WWII, but repatriated afterwards. The family has turned the castle into a museum with many fine exhibits, including the original manuscripts of Beethoven's 4th and 5th Symphonies, and Handel's Messiah. You can see hand written changes to the manuscripts that Beethoven and Handel made, which left me in awe. We were lucky enough to have the owner, who is a friend of the family that owns Viking, give us a lecture during lunch at the castle. We also enjoyed a wonderful chamber music concert:

 

 

http://www.lobkowicz.cz/en/

 

 

 

In Bucharest, I really enjoyed the tour to Brasov, Romania, where we saw Dracula's castle and a very elaborate 18th century castle. The drive to Brasov is beautiful. It reminded me of the scenery in Colorado.

 

 

  • Were there portavox listening devices for the tours? Do they still have the left ear only earpieces?

Viking uses the Quietvox, which is a portable listening device with two ear buds. They are assigned to you the first day of the cruise and you keep them on the charger overnight between tours, until you turn them in after your last tour.

 

 

 

You will find this trip to be extraordinary. One thing to remember, though, is that Croatia still has a lot of bombed out buildings from the time when Serbia attacked them. Some expressed disappointment at having to see that, but the history of the Croatian people is the destination. It's important not to think that you will be seeing Paris-style cities at each port.

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If you are active, no need to do pre and post cruise through Viking. We stayed on our own in Bucharest at Viking's hoel. Did the same in Budapest. In Budapest we got a good deal using points. Transfers on your own are easy in both places.

 

As to money, easy to find ATMs

 

I'd love to hear more about your stays in Budapest and Bucharest. Where did you stay? What did you see? Where did you eat? I'm interested in the good stuff as well as the stuff that didn't work out as you had wished. There is so much to be learned just from listening to people tell of their experiences.

 

Were ATMs easy to find during the cruise, on the excursions? I'd really rather not pay the high fees of trying to get a small amount of the various currencies before I leave but I would still like to buy postcards and the like along the way. Would vendors accept euros or dollars? (Sometimes street vendors will but I wouldn't expect the retailers to do so, so it is nice to know where to expect it and where not--to avoid insulting anyone).

 

Thanks.

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We have stayed in 2 hotels while in Budapest. One the Best Western Parliament--lovely botique hotel with a marvelous breakfast. The other the Marriott Mellinium Apts.--shared a 2 bedroom with friends--great location--used bakery across the street for breakfast. Can highly recommend the restaurant we had dinner in--can't remember name, but go out front door of hotel turn left and restaurant is just down the street before you get to Vaci Utca--snitzel was wonderful. If not included be sure to tour Parliament. We used Via Tours with pick up at hotel. Will try to check journals for other thoughts. Pat

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Peregrina,

We did the same itinerary you are doing this past June, on the Viking Rinda. I did a live post, and here is the link, if you want to read thru it,(it is quite long, as I was fairly detailed, and people were responding as I went along. Plus, we had a postcruise stay in Prague). http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2056015

If you have any questions for me, I'd be happy to answer them. We had lots of euros left from a cruise in France earlier in the year, and between credit cards and euros, got along in most places. Some places would take dollars. But, there were a few who would only take their own currency, in cash, and it is important to ask up front before making a purchase or ordering a meal or drink, if you don't want to get the different currencies from an ATM.

 

Becki

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QUOTE:

 

You will find this trip to be extraordinary. One thing to remember, though, is that Croatia still has a lot of bombed out buildings from the time when Serbia attacked them. Some expressed disappointment at having to see that, but the history of the Croatian people is the destination. It's important not to think that you will be seeing Paris-style cities at each port.

 

I did this trip this past June and what you say is so important.the damage from NATO bombing is very evident in both Croatia and Serbia and feelings are still very raw. We had a home hosted lunch and our hostess was a Croat married to a Serb. She told us they "escaped to Germany to keep safe during war but families and friends still do not speak to each other because of the conflict." In fact schools are still segregated. This is not to say it's unpleasant or depressing...it's just eye-opening and I'm so glad you brought it up.

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We do this itinerary next week, but on AMA, I plan to try to live blog (we will see how that goes) but will most certainly do a detailed review when I return! I can't speak to Viking, but certainly will have plenty of details about Budapest and the other locations along the Danube. I'm pleased to hear about the up close encounters with local history- I feel it's what makes this itinerary fascinating, even while it might not be the most "scenic" part of the Danube.

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"Were ATMs easy to find during the cruise, on the excursions? I'd really rather not pay the high fees of trying to get a small amount of the various currencies before I leave but I would still like to buy postcards and the like along the way. Would vendors accept euros or dollars? (Sometimes street vendors will but I wouldn't expect the retailers to do so, so it is nice to know where to expect it and where not--to avoid insulting anyone)."

 

ATMs are in the lobbies of the hotels in Budapest and Bucharest, or very close by. I never had a problem finding an ATM in any city, including Belgrade, except I don't remember seeing one in Croatia. Even in Croatia, though, we were able to use Euros where we stopped. I used U.S. in Bulgaria in one place, but usually Euros or credit cards.

 

The Parliament building is a wonderful tour, and it offers the opportunity to learn a lot about the history of Hungary. The Hungarian crown is on display in the building, which has an interesting history of its own. For several years, the U.S. kept the crown under its care as Hungary was going through a lot of conflict. After the U.S. returned the crown, it's been on display at the Parliament. We went on the tour of the Parliament with Viking the first time we were in Budapest, but for some reason, it was not offered the second time we were in Budapest. If you have any free time, visiting the Parliament would be very worthwhile.

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I spent so little cash in each of the cities (except Budapest) that I just exchanges $10 or $20 at the local currency exchange booths. I, too, wanted to purchase post cards and a drink or snack. I also wanted to bring home some local currency for my scrapbook.

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Oh, my goodness!! Thank you all for all these wonderful and helpful posts. Keep them coming!

 

Becki, I'm still working my way through your live blog. It's open in a tab in my browser and I'm slowly absorbing all that you have written. I'm so glad that you posted a link to it. I'm working on a list of links to share but you got it posted sooner, which is much better than waiting for me to get it done.

 

Mackenzie1, Becki, H2O, Pat, Lolotte, Hydrokitty, roberts2005, THANK YOU for your posts. I do hope that you will all continue to follow this thread and continue to share your knowledge and wisdom with those who are still counting down to departure. If they are public, please share links to your blogs and photos; I would love to read/see them.

 

FamilygoBoston, SeaTheWorld, if your upcoming itinerary is "Passage to Eastern" I hope that you come back and tell us all about it. Or even better, don't wait to get home, post live to this thread while you are traveling.

 

Now I have to go read all of your posts in detail; I have had time to get to them all this weekend. :D

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I spent so little cash in each of the cities (except Budapest) that I just exchanges $10 or $20 at the local currency exchange booths. I, too, wanted to purchase post cards and a drink or snack. I also wanted to bring home some local currency for my scrapbook.

 

One thing we found with several ATM's in some of the cities (Prague was one)..they only dispense large bills ($50+).. the problem we had in places like Croatia and Serbia was that we only there for a short time and they would not take US$ or Euros, although they always took my Capital One card. We tried not to have too much "worthless" money when we leave! Things I learned on this trip:

 

1. When in Bulgaria, especially Veliko Tarnovo, if you want to buy rose oil for cooking do NOT depend on the shopkeeper to tell you if you can or cannot ingest it....look for something on the label that says "cooking grade".

 

2. If you see a street vendor selling something that looks like a modern light bulb wrapped in cinnamon on a stick and/or something that looks like Pringles on a stick....BUY THEM! The light bulb is dough wrapped around a cylinder, coated with cinnamon and nuts and grilled....the Pringles are fresh potatoes, thinly sliced and roasted on a stick.....both are absolutely delicious!!!

 

3. Tour of Parliament in Budapest is wonderful but you MUST purchase your tickets on line in advance. They usually have two english tours per day, but will add more if needed, and the tour lasts about 45 minutes. Your ticket will be time stamped and they follow the times almost to the minute. Also if you have trouble with stairs they have an elevator but you have to ask your n guide before the tour if you can use it. 99% of the time, he'll say yes.

 

4. Make sure you buy paprika! They sell it everywhere. Don't buy it in a supermarket, it will cost more! Try the fresh food market in Budapest,. or one of the tourist shops. It comes in 3 types: mild, medium and hot and they sell it in individual, double or triple packs.

 

5. If offered slivovits....drink it in one gulp, gasp and say thank you (if you can)! Don't take another one unless you like the burning sensation in your throat! Really, try it.

 

6. When cruising the Gates of the Danube make sure you're on deck and camera ready as soon as you approach the bend after the beautiful white monastery....the carving of the face on the mountain (both on the port side) will be just around the bend and you WILL want pictures.

 

Can't wait to read your review. :D

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Can't wait to read your review. :D

 

Patience, patience. We don't leave till the spring, 7 months from now. ;)

 

In the meantime, great post. Lot's of great tidbits that I better write down before I forget them. Thank you.

 

Cousins did Prague and Budapest this past spring and they told of buying paprika in 6oz jars--and then having the jars confiscated at the airport security check because the containers were more than 3oz in size. Has anyone had a similar experience?

 

SLIVOVITS! I've had that stuff. Like any spirits, the good stuff is smooth and the other is reminiscent of turpentine. I can sip it but there is no way I could down it in one gulp. I guess I will have to politely refuse it; that might be better than sipping insultingly.

 

Most of all, thanks for the Iron Gates photo tip.

 

I just downloaded Google Translator and it handles all the languages I will be encountering but I can't imagine learning yes, no, please, thank you in 6 different languages and then keeping them straight--and I certainly can imagine learning how to say them just by reading them on a page. That's what is good about GT, it not only writes out the words but pronounces them for me as well.

 

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Patience, patience. We don't leave till the spring, 7 months from now. ;)

 

In the meantime, great post. Lot's of great tidbits that I better write down before I forget them. Thank you.

 

Cousins did Prague and Budapest this past spring and they told of buying paprika in 6oz jars--and then having the jars confiscated at the airport security check because the containers were more than 3oz in size. Has anyone had a similar experience?

 

SLIVOVITS! I've had that stuff. Like any spirits, the good stuff is smooth and the other is reminiscent of turpentine. I can sip it but there is no way I could down it in one gulp. I guess I will have to politely refuse it; that might be better than sipping insultingly.

 

Most of all, thanks for the Iron Gates photo tip.

 

I just downloaded Google Translator and it handles all the languages I will be encountering but I can't imagine learning yes, no, please, thank you in 6 different languages and then keeping them straight--and I certainly can imagine learning how to say them just by reading them on a page. That's what is good about GT, it not only writes out the words but pronounces them for me as well.

 

 

Was the paprika in paste form? If so then yes it would be limited to 3oz or less. Powdered paprika should not be a problem.

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If it helps, I just finished posting a specific essay on what was covered on Viking's "up close" (free) excursion in Budapest on my blog. I'll be adding the next post describing what we did on our own on our two-day extension (purchased through Viking).

 

http://rivercruisenewbie.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/budapest-with-viking/

 

I've also tackled a number of other topics pertinent to Viking as well as river cruising in general.

 

http://rivercruisenewbie.wordpress.com

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Patience, patience. We don't leave till the spring, 7 months from now. ;)

 

In the meantime, great post. Lot's of great tidbits that I better write down before I forget them. Thank you.

 

Cousins did Prague and Budapest this past spring and they told of buying paprika in 6oz jars--and then having the jars confiscated at the airport security check because the containers were more than 3oz in size. Has anyone had a similar experience?

 

SLIVOVITS! I've had that stuff. Like any spirits, the good stuff is smooth and the other is reminiscent of turpentine. I can sip it but there is no way I could down it in one gulp. I guess I will have to politely refuse it; that might be better than sipping insultingly.

 

Most of all, thanks for the Iron Gates photo tip.

 

I just downloaded Google Translator and it handles all the languages I will be encountering but I can't imagine learning yes, no, please, thank you in 6 different languages and then keeping them straight--and I certainly can imagine learning how to say them just by reading them on a page. That's what is good about GT, it not only writes out the words but pronounces them for me as well.

 

 

In all probability you won't encounter anyone who doesn't speak at least some English....children start learning English in grammar school and continue until graduation.....that being said, your attempts at simple words/phrases like hello, good-bye, please and thank you, no matter how feeble they may be, will be welcome......and corrected gently. I do the same as you, I try to learn enough of the language to get to a police station, hospital or back to the hotel or boat.....the Slavic languages are very difficult. I majored in languages and I still sound like a sick puppy when I attempt anything in the cyrillic languages. :D But it's always good to try and when they laugh (and they will) it won't be at you, it will be with you!!

 

As for the slivovits I don't understand how you could NOT chug it down! When in Russia they gave us vodka shots and told us to chug it, which I did, but it tasted like hot velvet going down! Coming back was a little less like velvet, more like turpetine. Slivovits was the same, only not as smooth.

Edited by Hydrokitty
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I just downloaded Google Translator and it handles all the languages I will be encountering but I can't imagine learning yes, no, please, thank you in 6 different languages and then keeping them straight--and I certainly can imagine learning how to say them just by reading them on a page. That's what is good about GT, it not only writes out the words but pronounces them for me as well.

 

 

Wait till you get to Bulgaria. Nodding to mean "yes" and shaking your head when you mean "no" in Bulgaria......Bulgarians do it the opposite way :eek:.

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Was the paprika in paste form? If so then yes it would be limited to 3oz or less. Powdered paprika should not be a problem.

 

Yes, that is what I thought as well but apparently at this particular airport, they didn't care about the contents but about the size of the container.

 

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If it helps, I just finished posting a specific essay on what was covered on Viking's "up close" (free) excursion in Budapest on my blog. I'll be adding the next post describing what we did on our own on our two-day extension (purchased through Viking).

 

http://rivercruisenewbie.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/budapest-with-viking/

 

I've also tackled a number of other topics pertinent to Viking as well as river cruising in general.

 

http://rivercruisenewbie.wordpress.com

 

I just read Ukalady's blog entry on Budapest. GREAT READ. Loved the pictures. I wanna meet your mom; she sounds like the world's best travel buddy. Thank you for the blow by blow of the "Up Close" walking tour. I hope that it one that is offered on "Passage to Eastern Europe." It's going to be a long 7 months!

 

Who else has links like this to share with us?

 

 

......................

 

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