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


Peregrina651
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Peregrina, how wonderful! I thought you might be going with Viking because I first became interested in going on a midnight sun cruise from looking at Viking literature. But then I got so excited about the trip, I decided that I couldn't wait until 2016 to take it! That's when I decided to go next summer on Princess. The Viking midnight sun cruise is going to be ideal, though, because you will have the benefit of being on a smaller cruise ship while being pampered with Viking hospitality. What a wonderful choice!

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Peregrina, how wonderful! I thought you might be going with Viking because I first became interested in going on a midnight sun cruise from looking at Viking literature. But then I got so excited about the trip, I decided that I couldn't wait until 2016 to take it! That's when I decided to go next summer on Princess. The Viking midnight sun cruise is going to be ideal, though, because you will have the benefit of being on a smaller cruise ship while being pampered with Viking hospitality. What a wonderful choice!

 

Mac, time will tell. Fjords and Arctic Circle have been on my radar for quite awhile, long before the Viking brochures started arriving in the mail.

 

And with that, we should probably drop the topic before we completely hijack this thread.:D

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  • 1 month later...

Peregrina,

 

Started my review, and have lots of info about your questions, hotels, money issues and independent tours...hope its helpful!

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=44159362

 

I'm glad this thread exists, it seems other than reviews (and I did locate several that were so helpful!) there is very little about this itinerary! Enjoy!:D

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Does anyone know how far (how many miles) the Port in Nurenberg is from the Frankfurt Airport? TIA

DONNA

 

 

This itinerary does not cover Nuremberg. Try a thread covering "Romantic Danube," which sails between Nuremberg and Budapest. You will be more apt to find people who can answer your question.

 

You can also get an idea how long it takes to get from Nuremberg to Frankfurt Airport using Google Maps. Viking lists where ships dock on its website: http://www.vikingrivercruises.com/my-trip/about-my-ship/docking-locations-ports.html.

Edited by Peregrina651
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Peregrina,

 

Started my review, and have lots of info about your questions, hotels, money issues and independent tours...hope its helpful!

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=44159362

 

I'm glad this thread exists, it seems other than reviews (and I did locate several that were so helpful!) there is very little about this itinerary! Enjoy!:D

 

EXCELLENT!!! Thank you so much. It is going to take me days to get through it because I want to take notes as I go along--and that is just the CC thread.

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Any unattended kiosk or sales outlet, other than ATMs will not accept c&s, it must be Chip and Pin. One example is gas stations. If the machine allows you to fill up, then there has to be an attendant. In some stations, one has to go through the line that is attended. They had self serve pumps and attended pumps. After hours, it is typically unattended and you can't get gas with a c&s. Toll booths on the highway demand c&p or cash. In France they don't give back cash, so if you only have a large bill, you just made a donation to France. We ate in an upscale restaurant in Nice last month that would not accept c&s. I had to leave the wife at the restaurant and find an ATM to get enough cash to pay the bill. We tried several times to force the system to accept a pin with our C&S, but the system demands a signature. This requirement is being transmitted by the issuing authority of the card, not the whim of the merchant.

 

We had hotels and merchants that accepted our c&s cards tell us that they were converting over to c&p only within the coming year. We were told that any security breach of information, which happens regularly here in the US, the merchant is liable for in Europe. C&P is far more secure than C&S and it is rapidly not becoming worth the risk for the merchants to accept swipe or c&s cards. Australia is already C&P only, period.

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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!

 

Hi, we just got back from our Avalon cruise last weekend we toured in the opposiite direction. I think it was the last cruise of the season for Avalon as far east as Bucharest. I will answer your questions that I can.

 

We stayed in the Athenee Palace Hilton in Bucharest (we stayed there because it is the hotel for Avalon in Bucharest). It was very nice, with one of the best included breakfasts we had on the entire trip. Not a giant hotel. It is a neo classical building that is not like so many of the soviet "inspired" hotels like the InterContinental. That said, stay at the hotel that Viking uses because it will save you hassle of getting to the ship and off the ship. Regardless if you book your pre and post things on your own or with Viking. Can save a lot of money on your own.

 

In Budapest we stayed at the Marriott which is on the Pest side of the river. It is a nice hotel, that looks completely out of place in the beautiful Budapest riverfront. It is a gigantic concrete building with glass front. Ugly. On the upside for you it is the hotel that Viking uses. It is not nearly as critical you stay in the Viking hotel in Budapest because the ships are all along the river between the 3 main bridges. So, stay close to the river and you will have a short cab ride to any pier or meeting point Viking has. There were always a bunch of Viking boats in Budapest. As many as 6 or 7 along the shore.

 

We ate wherever it looked good on our own. I am doing a review that will include some of the food choices we made, although I am bad at remembering names of restaurants. We spent four nights in Budapest after the cruise, and the food is mostly good. There is a nice Kempinsky hotel a block or so behind the Marriott with a Nobu and a steak restaurant called ES. I had a spectacular meal there one night. They served me a ribeye steak that was aged in a casing of lard filled with herbs, they break the lard off and grill the steak.... yum!!! I know it sounds awful, but it was a top 10 steak in my life, and I eat a lot of steak. Of course it is in a Kempinsky hotel so dinner for two was the most expensive on the cruise with wine at $111. (just paid bills today online:D).

 

The only thing I did with a tour was in Budapest where we had booked a young man named Andras who is well recommended on tripadvisor we paid him about 110 euro (actually we paid him in Hungarian currency) and we walked all over Budapest where he recommended restaurants, showed us the sites, took us thru exhibits made recommendations for things to do the rest of our stay in Budapest, helped my get our train tickets to Vienna, and after the 10 mile walk we felt extremely comfortable doing our own thing in Vienna. In Bucharest, I would not worry about it there is just not as much to see and do. All that is good to do is easily done on your own.

 

Money, we used credit cards, I had trouble using cards without a chip most everywhere except big hotels. I have a Hyatt card with a chip and it worked every single time I used it. We were warned by Andras to never let a waiter take our card from the table. They bring a machine to the table and process the transaction. You should keep some local currency to pay tips. I got all local currency from ATM machines, they were mostly readily available everywhere. I didn't get any Bulgarian money, but probably should have. Some street vendors would take dollars or euros and some would only take their currency. When we hit the first port, my wife bought a Bulgarian flag for 6 USD so, I got lulled into thinking we wouldn't need to exchange money there. Don't get too much when you do the ATM if you have a chip the credit card will work. Make sure you use a card that doesn't charge foreign exchange charges. Capital One usually doesn't, but mine doesn't have a chip. Fortunately, my Hyatt card does and doesn't charge foreign exchange fees. (Saves you 3% on every charge).

 

Best souvineer was my wife's purchase of Italian Boots in Belgrade Serbia. We bought lots of paprika, but probably wasted money on that.

 

The must do's ... that is really hard, and since haven't seen everything in any of those places I will make a few simple choices. In Bucharest the old city quarter is a great place to eat and take in the atmosphere. The Parliament building is mind blowing.

 

In Budapest there is a lot. The Buda Castle looks great but it looks best from the Pest side of the river at night. The Chain Bridge ditto. St Mathias cathedral and the seven fisherman too. They are nice up close, but just more of stuff you see all of the time. The Parliament building is super beautiful, probably prettiest from the Buda side at night, (didn't see that though). There is an island past the bridge past the chain bridge that is a huge park. We enjoyed the fountains timed to music and walking around there. There is a huge market where every possible tourist item is sold including meals and food that is entertaining and the place to go for cheap souvineers.

 

The quiet boxes have a single ear piece but you could wear them in either ear on our cruise.

 

Hope this helps, my email is in my signature if you want more information.

 

jc

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EXCELLENT!!! Thank you so much. It is going to take me days to get through it because I want to take notes as I go along--and that is just the CC thread.

 

Go ahead and cut and paste...that's what I do! I make a doc with sections "restaurants" "Money issues" etc and when I read reviews I cut and paste sections into my doc to look over when I'm planning!

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Go ahead and cut and paste...that's what I do! I make a doc with sections "restaurants" "Money issues" etc and when I read reviews I cut and paste sections into my doc to look over when I'm planning!

 

The doc is open. I just have to get on with cutting and pasting! So much information to take in! :D

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Peregrina - We did the Passage to Eastern Europe with Viking last year... and posted as we went along.

 

You have been given lots of great advice so far - so not sure if I have anything that is really of use, but will add a few tidbits anyway.

 

In Bucharest, keep your eyes open for gypsies. They are very visible - and often travel in groups. There were large numbers of them outside the hotel. Also - keep your eyes on the ground. We found that sidewalks and stair cases were *not* well maintained, so there was an increased tripping hazard. One women fell and broke her hip on the 1st day. Also, if anyone has issues with stairs - the Peoples Palace would be difficult to maneuver.

 

Currency - we took small amounts of the "easy" currencies to get. Otherwise we used ATMs. We didn't honestly spend a lot of money on this trip.

 

Paprika we buy in the Central Market in Budapest. There is a stall on the outside wall (far aisle on your right if you enter through the front doors) that takes credit cards - and their prices are comparable. They have the "tourist" type (as seen in the pictures posted) as well as some that they identify as a "better" grade. It isn't in fancy bags, and is only sold individually, but I brought some back for people who take their meal prep quite seriously, and they were very happy. Besides hot and sweet, you can also buy smoked paprika at the market (I had 2 people who asked me to bring some back...).

 

In Budapest, our favourite place to eat is Cafe Kor. It only takes cash, and is not open on Sundays. AND it is quite popular, so we usually get the concierge at the hotel to make a reservation for us. We also ate the the Pilvax the last time we were there, and quite enjoyed it.

 

Besides the usual sites mentioned by others, we also visited the Cave Church, and the Hospital in the Rock. If you plan to visit the hospital, they have a list of people that get reduced entrance (nurse, MDs, military) as well as seniors. BUT you need ID. I am a nurse, but do not travel with anything that says I am, so paid full price. Still not that expensive, however.

 

We also went out to Statue/Memento Park on our last visit. I arranged for a guide to pick us up at our hotel (we were at Le Meridien) in a Trabant. My DH was thrilled. The guide drove us out to the park and then walked around with us and explained some of the history of the statues. He then let my husband drive the car as we headed back towards our hotel. We stopped at Gellert Hill on the way back --> Amazing views from the top.

 

Think that is is for now... if I think of anything else, I will post.

 

Fran

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Fran --

 

Thanks for all the great tips. I'm adding them to my list. This will be our first trip to Budapest and we will only have a day and a half or so to see what we can see. We will bus from Prague to Budapest on a Friday and then embark on the Atla on Sunday.

 

Would you post a link to the thread where you did your "live posts"? I love live posts because they capture the first impressions and on the spot reactions.

 

Also, can you give more information about the guide you just mentioned? Name and contact info especially.

 

Thanks in advance. :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
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

 

Since posting this note in September, Ukalady has added a couple of more posts about her adventure, including this detailed review of the dining options and The Restaurant. She was on the Atla, which is the same ship that we are scheduled to sail on in April. It's a good read for Viking first-timers who want to know more about the dining routine.

 

Thank you, Ukalady. I love reading your blog.

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  • 1 month later...

The comments I'm seeing on the Eastern European Viking River Cruise were very much like our recent cruise with them last month. We traveled from Bucharest to Budapest. We stayed in Bucharest at Hotel Unique for 5 nights prior to moving to the Viking hotel, about half the price of the Viking Hotel and even more convenient to Bucharest sites. It took vary little research to find it at TripAdvisor. Here are our comments on this cruise.

 

Pre-cruise: Since we have extensive experience in cruising we felt Viking was very over hyped to us and made all pre-cruise experiences as unaccommodating as possible. This includes giving me a hard time in making our regular travel agent our agent of record, requiring we not contact them about anything and only get information from our agent, not working with us to obtain satisfactory air transport via their resources we were using.

 

 

Our Viking hotel representative at our 1st hotel was also not properly trained in customer relations. The person in front of my wife in line for information from this person had a substantial complaint and was not picked up at the airport. Instead of just apologizing and trying to make up for this, the Viking hotel person arrogantly and loudly made it this woman's fault totally and worse she carried her bad attitude into my wife's questions.

 

Our 1st night hotel of the cruise was quite nice, available at 1:00 PM and service was extremely good.

 

We were not so concerned about the ships exterior as others have commented but found the interior design poor. We have done a lot of 'luxury' level cruising and weren't expecting that but found the 'sliding' door to the bathroom very noisy. The closet door was very difficult for my wife to use and not having an electrical outlet near the cabin's mirror was very inconvenient.

 

Dining is such a personal matter and saying what is good really reflects one's own tastes and cultural background. We did not expect 'luxury' level dining but what we received was satisfactory. Just not much special to talk about other than the waiter, Jorge, who I surfaced early on with a little interviewing. Jorge, made sure our wine glasses were always kept full during lunch and dinner. I should note that this cruise was the last of the season for the ship and crew and was only half full.

 

Some comments on inappropriate timing by Viking hit home with me. During the cruise we were awoken at 3:30 AM to be ready for a mandatory face to face passport check going into Hungary. Why couldn't we have waited a couple of hours so this could have been done during breakfast? Also, most all of our scheduled excursions were also inappropriately scheduled, often so that during the last hour or two of our excursion we were in total darkness. Yes, really!

 

Our departure times were much like many have commented on, extremely inconvenient, but this sometimes is just because scheduled airline departure times seem to run early going to the USA.

 

In conclusion, I can say that Viking does an excellent job on the destination part of cruising. Their concept of sort of putting all the excursions together that you would find on an ocean cruise into a 1 day longer excursion is really a great way to immerse yourself into a new adventure. We particularly liked the excursion we had with a 'local' family. Their tour guides were excellent. However, we have found that the more we travel the more we savor the "journey" to the "destination" as much as seeing more new destinations. Since Viking did not help us do this, in fact, made it difficult for us, we also do not think we will travel with them again.

Edited by GlobalMethod
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.

 

Some comments on inappropriate timing by Viking hit home with me. During the cruise we were awoken at 3:30 AM to be ready for a mandatory face to face passport check going into Hungary. Why couldn't we have waited a couple of hours so this could have been done during breakfast? Also, most all of our scheduled excursions were also inappropriately scheduled, often so that during the last hour or two of our excursion we were in total darkness. Yes, really!

 

I have never cruised with Viking and have no intention of doing so. BUT in their defense, I will say that we were on Gateway to the Black Sea with Vantage this past summer and were warned that Hungarian Border authorities were notorious for requesting a passport "face" check in the middle of the night. We were very fortunate. They did the "face" check about 9 a.m. Most of us were enjoying a leisurely breakfast since we had a day without shore excursions, and had to leave our tables to claim our passports and line up at the reception desk to be screened. This is not Viking's fault...they have no control over the border police and apparently Hungary is the only country to do this regularly. Interestingly, we were LEAVING Hungary, not entering.

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I have never cruised with Viking and have no intention of doing so. BUT in their defense, I will say that we were on Gateway to the Black Sea with Vantage this past summer and were warned that Hungarian Border authorities were notorious for requesting a passport "face" check in the middle of the night. We were very fortunate. They did the "face" check about 9 a.m. Most of us were enjoying a leisurely breakfast since we had a day without shore excursions, and had to leave our tables to claim our passports and line up at the reception desk to be screened. This is not Viking's fault...they have no control over the border police and apparently Hungary is the only country to do this regularly. Interestingly, we were LEAVING Hungary, not entering.

 

Old habits die hard. ;)

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Thanks for your response to my comments. I did not mention this in my written comments ... but ... it is something that really 'bothered' us ... we received a written 'survey' at the end of the cruise as is normally done ... however ... it had to be handed to a crew member instead of being placed in a locked box. We felt it was, probably just tossed in the trash since it wasn't 5 stars.

 

I am used to a locked box type of system or an emailed cruise evaluation form. We felt our comments, just as I wrote at Cruise Critic ,weren't all bad but probably will never be seen by corporate.

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Thanks for your comment on entering Hungary. I'm glad it was a timely event for you. However, on our cruise we could have easily 'parked' the boat for two hours prior to entering Hungary (we had no reason to rush into Budapest) and would not then have been inconvenienced. This was strictly a planned inconvenience for Viking's benefit and not its guests.

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My wife and I did the last tour on the lower Danube in 2013. In my review I had also commented on tours that finished in the dark. Part of the problem is that the sun starts to set around 4:00. If passengers want every thing it is hard to shorten the tours. The only option I could see would be shortening lunch hours or shortening the tours

 

We were lucky on our trip north, the border patrol's computers were not working and we skipped the face to face. We were scheduled to be woken up if necessary

 

The staff on our trip was excellent

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Thanks for your comment on entering Hungary. I'm glad it was a timely event for you. However, on our cruise we could have easily 'parked' the boat for two hours prior to entering Hungary (we had no reason to rush into Budapest) and would not then have been inconvenienced. This was strictly a planned inconvenience for Viking's benefit and not its guests.

 

I can understand your frustration, and I'm not trying to insult you, but a boat isn't a car, you can't just "park" it any old place on the river. As a boat person, I can tell you that these boats are at the mercy of the Coast Guard, River Control, or whatever the controlling authority is. These cruises are strictly regulated and must arrive and depart on schedule and Viking has input into the schedule but not final say. When a docking site is reserved where it will be is determined by the dock master, not the ship captain...so if Viking was due in Budapest at 7 a.m. that's when their dock site is ready and if they show up two hours late they could lose it or pay fines. This doesn't mean it isn't frustrating and annoying and sometimes downright idiotic, it's just the way it is.:)

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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.

 

I bought paprika in a gift shop, little sacks of powder, some come with a tiny wooden scoop. Great for sharing with my girlfriends. I think the triple pack was equivalent to $4 or5, I used a credit card so didn't heve to have local currency, 50grams per sack in the tripl , double and solo sacks can be hot or sweet and are larger. Haven't used it yet. Enjoy, m--

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For what it's worth, we arrived in Budapest Hungry from Slovakia at midnight. We did not have a passport check face to face upon crossing the border. This was on viking embla, out of Amsterdam Nov 3 - Nov 17.

 

Your experience fits in with ours....our TM told us that sometimes they do and sometimes they don't require passport face checks and it has nothing to do with the cruise line or who they think might be on board...it's random and you got very lucky, while we got pretty lucky....9 a.m. is much better than 3 a.m.!!

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I bought paprika in a gift shop, little sacks of powder, some come with a tiny wooden scoop. Great for sharing with my girlfriends. I think the triple pack was equivalent to $4 or5, I used a credit card so didn't heve to have local currency, 50grams per sack in the tripl , double and solo sacks can be hot or sweet and are larger. Haven't used it yet. Enjoy, m--

 

I bought the little sacks of paprika which came 2 or 3 varieties with a decorated mini-wooden spoon to a sack for myself and as gifts. Wait till you try it....it's delicious and much better than what we usually find in the supermarket. I put it on chicken, fish, pork chops, egg salad and macaroni and cheese!

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