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AMAPrima Black Sea Voyage Live Blog/Review Sept 2014

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We leave today for our Black Sea Voyage on AMAPrima. (always leaving house sitters behind with our animals;)) We are traveling from Budapest to Bucharest, with a post stay in Istanbul.

 

Much thanks to all who have responded here with super advice to all of our questions! We've learned where to go, with which guides, what camera gear to take, what to wear, where to stay and how to handle our money/tipping from folks who have been before! Thanks especially to caviargirl, bobalink, h2Ostar, Alexandra, Sippican, KLRDucks, (Greg off line) and more of you I'm sure I should have remembered!!!!

 

In order to pay it forward we will be doing some live blogging from the road, with DH's photos and some thoughts from me on our own website (which is independent- no sales/advertising of anything) it's easier to load photos and access than CC from the road with hotel and ship internet. I won't do a comprehensive review and may not able to respond to comments and questions on the road- after all, it's a vacation first and I want to enjoy as much time experiencing it as I can...but we welcome you to leave them for when we return and then I promise to do a more comprehensive review both on our blog and here on Cruise Critic and answer any questions I can!

 

Please bookmark the blog if you are interested in the "live" portion...and check back here in October when we return for the CC review.

 

 

http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-beyond/

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Hope you have a great trip. I am so envious, this is something on my list of things to do, and will look forward to reading your reviews.

 

I'd like to visit "places less travelled" as this itinerary seems to do, so maybe next year. We haven't yet taken a river cruise, we're only quite new to cruising with 2 on the Paul Gauguin.

 

I know you have a real flair for communicating and that makes for great enjoyment for those that "travel with you"......:)

 

All the best, and safe and happy travels to you and your husband.

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Have a fabulous trip and I look forward to experiencing it with you, virtually!
Thanks I love reading reviews and live blogs so Im happy to do one!

 

Hope you have a great trip. I am so envious, this is something on my list of things to do, and will look forward to reading your reviews.

 

I'd like to visit "places less travelled" as this itinerary seems to do, so maybe next year. We haven't yet taken a river cruise, we're only quite new to cruising with 2 on the Paul Gauguin.

 

I know you have a real flair for communicating and that makes for great enjoyment for those that "travel with you"......:)

 

All the best, and safe and happy travels to you and your husband.

 

We loved PG, and so far this trip is shaping up to be a similar level of service!

I hope you get a chance to try a river cruise, Im looking forward to our first!

 

 

Right now we are working out how to "shift" our biorhythms so we will be ready for dinner and bed when we arrive in Budapest...Im thinking that means not sleeping too long on the flight, waking up and having "lunch" rather than breakfast and then getting dinner once arrive in Budapest. If I can prop my eyes with toothpicks to stay up till 10 PM Hungarian time, Im hopeful we will be bright eyed and bushy tailed for our first tour with Magdi Pelech on Sunday morning!:D

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Kathy, have a wonderful trip. Looking forward to following along and viewing your photos.

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Oh, what fun you will have! Safe travels and enjoy every new experience. I will look forward to "traveling along" with you!

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Thanks I love reading reviews and live blogs so Im happy to do one!

We loved PG, and so far this trip is shaping up to be a similar level of service!

I hope you get a chance to try a river cruise, Im looking forward to our first!

 

Right now we are working out how to "shift" our biorhythms so we will be ready for dinner and bed when we arrive in Budapest...Im thinking that means not sleeping too long on the flight, waking up and having "lunch" rather than breakfast and then getting dinner once arrive in Budapest. If I can prop my eyes with toothpicks to stay up till 10 PM Hungarian time, Im hopeful we will be bright eyed and bushy tailed for our first tour with Magdi Pelech on Sunday morning!:D

 

PG is on our bucket list - hoping for 2016.

 

I can never sleep much on a plane. We are generally in Europe 2x a year and have learned that what works for us is to keep moving once we arrive. If we are lucky enough to be able to check into our room on arrival, we take a hot shower and put on fresh clothes and then hit the streets. We have dinner about 7pm and are in bed by 10.

 

It takes me a few days to adapt as I am always up without an alarm by 5am at home. On the boat, myself and other early risers are have a coffee and watching the scenery at 5 or so. If it is light enough and we are docked, I use that time to get out and do a few early morning miles to kick start my day.

 

If I have not mentioned it previously, we loved our dinner at Cafe Bouchon in Budapest. It was one of the best meals on our trip.

 

Travel safe!

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I've got a similar itinerary booked for next year on Grand Circle so am looking forward to all your reports...have read all you've posted so far and am enjoying it a lot! Thanks for taking the time....

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Thanks for all your kind words! We've added a couple more blog posts of our first day! Budapest looked beautiful from the Marriott last night and we are heading out today to explore!

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We will be in Budapest in December. Giving us a wonderful preview of what is in store. Thank you!

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We boarded about hour and 1/2 ago- very easy and friendly! Well, maybe we took the wrong way to drop off our luggage, but that will haut make for a funny story! ;) AMA Prima is rafted with the AMA Sonata and another AMA sister ship. Seeing three together is funny, since they are exactly alike, it feels like one giant ship docked!

 

After passing through the Sonata, we dropped our luggage at 11 and went right back out to explore Budapest some more. We've been here 3 days so we had some things in mind to do; we walked one block from the ship to the Vaci Utca, where there are lots of souvenir shops and cafes designed for tourists. At the end of the the road, we came to the large Central Market, where we had planned to meet our In Laws again at noon. We shopped, noshed and took photos at the market- a nice mix of tourists (and not a few tour groups from the River Ships) and locals doing their shopping. My husband stalked one lady who was driving hard bargains at her favorite shops; though the shop keeper greeted her, they looked grim and did lots of head shaking before she finally made her purchase!

 

After the Market - we took the tram to St Stephens Basilica to ascend to the dome. After taking on a birds eye view of the city we had just spent 2 days hoofing around, we descended (we cheated and bought the lift ticket!) and stopped for gelato right on the square. We made our way back to the tram and at exactly 3 we arrived at the reception desk. We were given our key, gave them our passports and a staff member showed us to our room. We filled out some paper work and returned it to the desk for our first 3 days of tours.

 

I can't wait to share all the photos and details with you...after unpacking, we took lots of photos around the ship while it was utterly empty, and when I get back I will be sure to post them all:D I am putting a few up on my blog, hoping to put up a few as a farewell to the Goulash City today before muster drill!

 

So far everyone is friendly and the ship is beautiful!

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Wonderful cruise! We just arrived in Istanbul yesterday (we took the fly option with 4 other travelers, the other 122 will arrive by bus at 5 tonight after a stay in Bulgaria last night. I'm recommending flying because we had a wonderful afternoon exploring the Istiklal Street within easy walking distance from the IC.

 

The cruise was so well organized. Our tour manager Matias was too notch! I'm astounded that he could manage logistics so smoothly in such a still developing place when it comes to tourism. He's a master!

Our tour guides were all excellent - each one shared very personal stories of their own experiences in their countries as well as important historic and cultural information.

There are a lot bus trips, but it would be difficult on his itinerary to do it any other way, and nearly impossible (short of back packing) to do it on your own again, logistics are all handled! But nearly every afternoon there were bike tours for those of us who needed to stretch and get active after a long bus ride. If you plan to use bikes I would let AMA know your interest before you leave. We had more takers than bikes for the first tours until Matias arranged for the guides to bring rentals to cover the overflow. Because the biking was a big part of this trip for us; we were first to his desk! But I think if they hear from more people ahead they would know to have more bikes for the very first tour. The bike tours were also excellent.

Food well- so good the bikes did nothing to prevent the expansion of my waistline !!!

 

Not much reporting while on the cruise; Internet was effective most places but slow for photos- I used my time to stay connected to family and didn't get on CC. I have been updating my periodically Witt photos and commentary- linked in my signature!

 

We've taken loads of photos and I will have a full photo review when we return!

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One of the BEST trip blogs EVER!!! Loved the photos and the narrative and learned a few things I didn't learn on MY Budapest to Black Sea in June! I did post one comment on one of your pictures, which are gorgeous, I understand DH's dilemma since I'm the photographer in our house! Budapest is one of my favorite world cities, although the list keeps growing, and the food is amazing. I think our ship was docked on the same cracked up piece of pavement and in our defense, I think most of us who advised the ships were docked within walking distance of the sights were thinking of walking to places AFTER boarding and not toting your luggage TO the ship! :D:D That was a fun story and I'm glad you both made it safely with all your lugggage....honestly, I don't think I would have made it! Safe home and I can't wait to read more.

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Hi, Kathy,

I am really enjoying your Blog and truly appreciate all the time and energy it takes to write this and kudos to your DH for his great photographs. I am having a hard time finding the website Travel Beyond. Can you please post a Link on your blog website since it is not allowed on this forum. Thanks for all your help. ;)

Donna

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One of the BEST trip blogs EVER!!! Loved the photos and the narrative and learned a few things I didn't learn on MY Budapest to Black Sea in June! I did post one comment on one of your pictures, which are gorgeous, I understand DH's dilemma since I'm the photographer in our house! Budapest is one of my favorite world cities, although the list keeps growing, and the food is amazing. I think our ship was docked on the same cracked up piece of pavement and in our defense, I think most of us who advised the ships were docked within walking distance of the sights were thinking of walking to places AFTER boarding and not toting your luggage TO the ship! :D:D That was a fun story and I'm glad you both made it safely with all your lugggage....honestly, I don't think I would have made it! Safe home and I can't wait to read more.

Much thanks! I just added a new post tonight, all about the markets! I'm sure you enjoyed them too,

Hi, Kathy,

I am really enjoying your Blog and truly appreciate all the time and energy it takes to write this and kudos to your DH for his great photographs. I am having a hard time finding the website Travel Beyond. Can you please post a Link on your blog website since it is not allowed on this forum. Thanks for all your help. ;)

Donna

Thanks Donna! Will do!

 

I will be home tomorrow, it will take a week for Jeff to process all his pictures, then I'll post more details and photos here of the whole trip! Thanks to everyone who followed along on the live portion. It's tough to give a lot of photos and details and enjoy a vacation at the same time...but I've enjoyed sharing some of the stories in real time! I have so many more, and Jeffs photos tell them better than I can! Here's to a continued conversation!

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Well, after a long cramped flight in Turkish Air, we arrived home last evening. We forced ourselves to stay up till 9, but of course I'm up at 5! At least I'll be ready for Monday morning with no problem!

My husband has been downloading the photos and it will take a while to get through them all! I promise to have more details and photos soon!

 

We had a sad event at the end of our AMA trip; about 128 of us went on to Istanbul, (8 flew and 120 on the bus via Plovdiv) and on our second to last night a lady passed away in her hotel room over night. She and her friend were traveling together from Canada; her husband and children still in Canada. There were two large tour groups from Canada, but they were in their own. Her friend said she was only in her early 70s. Both ladies had joined in all the tours, but several of us had noticed that she was struggling a bit at the end of the trip. It's a terrible sad thng and I feel so badly for her family and her friend who was with her. It's so difficult to know on these busy itineraries if one is just tired, or truly ill. Of course we all felt awful; with so few passengers, you really do feel like a community by the end of the trip.

 

I must say though that our tour manager and AMA were wonderful. Matayas spent all day managing the situation and her travel companion, who was of course shocked, was being very well supported. If something awful happens it's good to know that the people running the tour stand ready and able to help. Also, Matatyas had two helpers in Turkey, so the rest of the days program went off without a hitch to the other guests, although understandably, we were all a bit saddened.

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We had a similar experience on our first Christmas market trip with Vantage. A gentleman had been complaining of not feeling well and would not see a doctor--even tho he was begged by his wife and friends. As we were going in to dinner he collapsed and died at the hospital. The staff was so supportive. We had flow over on the same flight as this group of 3 couples. His wife never returned to the boat and their friends packed for her and one of them stayed with her overnite. It amazed us how well the staff reacted to the situation. They gathered us in the lounge, explained the situation and asked to remember the family in our own way. You really don't expect things like this to happen on a "vacation trip".

 

Your blog is sooooo good. Thanks and thanks for the one on the Galapagos--took many notes for our trip two years ago. Pat

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We had a similar experience on our first Christmas market trip with Vantage. A gentleman had been complaining of not feeling well and would not see a doctor--even tho he was begged by his wife and friends. As we were going in to dinner he collapsed and died at the hospital. The staff was so supportive. We had flow over on the same flight as this group of 3 couples. His wife never returned to the boat and their friends packed for her and one of them stayed with her overnite. It amazed us how well the staff reacted to the situation. They gathered us in the lounge, explained the situation and asked to remember the family in our own way. You really don't expect things like this to happen on a "vacation trip".

 

Your blog is sooooo good. Thanks and thanks for the one on the Galapagos--took many notes for our trip two years ago. Pat

Thanks Pat! This was my very first time blogging live...and I need all the encouragement I can get! I did enjoy the live blogging even though it's a little different the a trip report, I wanted to capture the emotion and essence of the topic and of course the best part are my husbands photos, without them, it would be nothing! I'm glad my Galapagos review was helpful. I know I save the details of others reports for the same reasons, many many travel logistics have been made easier thanks to others reports (except maybe for us GETTING to the ship on this trip;))

 

I have heard on large cruises someone dies or become gravely on almost every trip, and it think the numbers would bear that out with 2-6 k people in the 50-90 age range over any given week, even if they all stayed home! I'm sure it's a logistical challenge for the travel providers, but they do seem prepared for the event.

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I have heard on large cruises someone dies or become gravely on almost every trip, and it think the numbers would bear that out with 2-6 k people in the 50-90 age range over any given week, even if they all stayed home! I'm sure it's a logistical challenge for the travel providers, but they do seem prepared for the event.

 

It happened to us twice in our travels. Once in Greece at the Parthenon the first day....it's a tough climb from the parking lot to the top and one of the men didn't make it, although fortunately he was still in the parking lot, which made rescue response faster and easier. Since most of us had already reached the top, we didn't know about it until we returned to the bus and then our TM explained that the gentlemen had a heart attack and was in the hospital in Athens and would be returning home as soon as they deemed him safe for travel. The other time was on Celebrity when we were doing Panama Canal. We have no idea what happened, only know because we were sitting on our balcony when a helicopter appeared and someone was taken off the ship. We heard later through the grapevine that someone had fallen and broken a leg, but we don't know whether it was passenger or crew. In direct contrast, if anyone noticed that I steer people away from American Cruise Lines, here's an example of what a poorly managed company does when there's an emergency: we were on the ACL Queen of the West (Lewis & Clark cruise). One of the women we hung out with fell going to her room (she was 90, but looked and acted 65) while we were in port. She was very lucky and only had a large but serious cut on her arm. Her friend went to the purser's office and asked for a band-aid and was told "we don't have any", so she asked for the first-aid kit and was told "we don't have any" so she asked for a taxi to take her friend to an emergency room because by this time several of us had told her you need stitches, and they said it would take over an hour for a taxi, you're better off walking to the hospital, it's up the hill and turn right! So she and her friend walked up the hill and turned right and went into the first drug store they saw to get band-aids and directions to a walk in clinic. The pharmacist took one look at her arm, drove her to the hospital where she had 8 stitches and then drove her back to the ship with a filled Rx and box of band-aids, none of which he charged her for.

Edited by Hydrokitty

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I have heard on large cruises someone dies or become gravely on almost every trip, and it think the numbers would bear that out with 2-6 k people in the 50-90 age range over any given week, even if they all stayed home! I'm sure it's a logistical challenge for the travel providers, but they do seem prepared for the event.

 

It happened to us twice in our travels. Once in Greece at the Parthenon the first day....it's a tough climb from the parking lot to the top and one of the men didn't make it, although fortunately he was still in the parking lot, which made rescue response faster and easier. Since most of us had already reached the top, we didn't know about it until we returned to the bus and then our TM explained that the gentlemen had a heart attack and was in the hospital in Athens and would be returning home as soon as they deemed him safe for travel. The other time was on Celebrity when we were doing Panama Canal. We have no idea what happened, only know because we were sitting on our balcony when a helicopter appeared and someone was taken off the ship. We heard later through the grapevine that someone had fallen and broken a leg, but we don't know whether it was passenger or crew. In direct contrast, if anyone noticed that I steer people away from American Cruise Lines, here's an example of what a poorly managed company does when there's an emergency: we were on the ACL Queen of the West (Lewis & Clark cruise). One of the women we hung out with fell going to her room (she was 90, but looked and acted 65) while we were in port. She was very lucky and only had a large but serious cut on her arm. Her friend went to the purser's office and asked for a band-aid and was told "we don't have any", so she asked for the first-aid kit and was told "we don't have any" so she asked for a taxi to take her friend to an emergency room because by this time several of us had told her you need stitches, and they said it would take over an hour for a taxi, you're better off walking to the hospital, it's up the hill and turn right! So she and her friend walked up the hill and turned right and went into the first drug store they saw to get band-aids and directions to a walk in clinic. The pharmacist took one look at her arm, drove her to the hospital where she had 8 stitches and then drove her back to the ship with a filled Rx and box of band-aids, none of which he charged her for.

Well that would explain your reluctance about ACL! I think how companies respond to problems really shows you the character of the company. It's always worth it to me to have good service and know that the company you are working with can be counted on.

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Well, Hubby has finished the photos and I have scanned all the paperwork, and I completed a long weekend college tour in Minnesota with our 17 yo, managed to get hubby's car towed to the Mini dealership, get him home and back out in my car, wrangled 5 two yo's through sand table and apple printing in my preschool class all morning, and I still have the energy to get started on my trip report and review...FINALLY!!

 

To start...I'll remind everyone that I did do some live blogging during the trip on my website...linked here:

 

http://http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/

 

If you are looking for more background, I included some info about why we chose this itinerary, packing, my DH's photo kit, and the blogging we were able to do on the road with the internet that was available (in the hotels it was excellent, on the river ship, on this itinerary, it was hit or miss) I will include some of the same photos from the live blog in the travelogue here, but I do also plan to post many more photos and some narrative there as well as here.

I love writing travelogue review...I like to share stories and have conversations with those who have been and those who are planning to go (or just hoping!) Cruise Critic is a great place for that exchange, as these are discussion forums, so I'm delighted to start this conversation with anyone who would like to jump in!! If you are the type of person looking for info and less back and forth...my website will be more photo heavy with more "just the facts", although I'd be delighted to have anyone comment there too and keep the conversation rolling!!

 

Here are some teaser photos!!

 

Budapest Danube dock #2: AMA Waterways river ships, including the AMAPrima (in the middle)

 

157755968.jpg

 

 

 

 

None of this would be possible without my photographer, best friend, hubby of 27 years and all around great travel companion, Jeff. He's generally camera shy...you will see him in photos looking concerned when he's handed off his camera that he's set it up incorrectly or you'll see him in photos I've taken surreptitiously of him taking photos:p

This one is Jeff 'chimping" the "take" at the Opera House in Budapest:

 

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A note about photos...I think Jeff takes some pretty terrific photos, but if you notice some that are, shall we say, less than terrific, you should assume that they are photos that I took with my iphone (such as all the panoramas) or photos I insisted on using despite the fact that they may not have otherwise made Jeff's quality control cut. In other words, blame the editor, not the photographer!!

 

 

 

 

Yours Truly, Kathy, in Budapest...with a statue of "Anonymous" near the Vajdahunyad castle in the City Park (Varosliget). This statue, completed in 1903 by Miklos Ligeti, was meant to memorialize an anonymous historian who wrote Hungary's early Magyar history. Legend tells that people who touch his pen (see, that's why the pen is so shiny!!) will gather some abilities to be a good writer and teller of history...it's my hope that this works, and that you will enjoy the telling of my trip over the next weeks (this is going to take a while!!)

 

157755930.jpg

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Why this itinerary (Black Sea Voyage) and why AMA?

 

Here is the map of the itinerary we sailed

 

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As you can see from the map, our trip embarked in Budapest, Hungary and traveled down the lower Danube River through Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Once in Romania, we flew to Istanbul Turkey for 4 nights. Although the river cruise lines offer packages to include pre and post hotel stays, we decided to make our own way to Budapest and spend 3 nights there on our own and join the AMA river ship on Sept 23rd.

 

My husbands sister and her husband (K&N) decided to join us in Budapest from their home in Great Britain. After our stay in Budapest, they traveled on west via train to Vienna and Prague (countries that are often included in the river cruise itineraries as pre or post stays, but we chose to save them for another trip) while we will embarked the river ship to sail East!

 

I go into our travel list and our justification of it in more detail on our website, but generally we decided we wanted to see this area of the world, the part of Europe that is just a little harder to get around on your own than Western Europe. We knew that river or ocean cruising is a good way to see places where tourist infra structure isn't as developed, since you've got your hotel floating with you. The convenience of not packing and unpacking every day leaves more time for enjoying your destination. While cruising usually isn't a great way to explore in depth, it's a great way to "sample" places and firm plans to return to favorites.

 

After our TA sent us a pile of brochures for various a River Cruises (based again on their knowledge of our wants and needs) we selected AMA cruise lines because of their focus on meeting the needs of more active, independent travelers. With on board bicycles, biking, active walker and gentle walker touring groups, and on board gyms, they seemed geared to meet the needs of active travelers like ourselves. All of the river cruise companies offered similar itineraries, and prices are similar with small differences in food quality levels or alcohol inclusions at meals or not.

 

We were delighted with our choice of AMA. The service and food on our river ship was absolutely top notch. the whole trip was incredibly well organized by Matyas, our tour manager, and for traveling to an area with developing tourist infrastructure was incredibly seamless! We did find there was an active group on board, though this doesn't always correlate with "young" (I want to be one of those people in 30 years ;)) Some of the younger folks had not had their "repairs" yet (knees etc) and were actually more limited mobility that some of our 70-80 yo biking pals! I'll have plenty more about AMA and our thoughts throughout the review and travelogue, but generally, we were very happy with AMA for this itinerary!

 

We had heard from several reviewers that this itinerary is a little different from other river cruise itineraries. This is our first so we have no comparison, but generally, folks reported that this itinerary was less "scenic", that the areas visited required bus rides of 45 mins - 1 hour, and that the docking town/city was very industrial looking (often without actually being operational) and often didn't offer much in the way of "things to do"(such as shopping, cafes etc found in Western Europe within walking distance of the river ships) with afternoon free time.

 

We went in expecting that, and really, some of those "developing area" concerns and recent history were exactly what we wanted to see, and we did! There were times when this was emotionally hard to see, such as seeing Vukovar, Croatia the same day as visiting Novi Sad, Serbia (combatants on opposite sides of the more recent Balkan conflicts) or the many sobering memorials to the Jews murdered in Hungary. This was very illustrative, but not what you'd call a rollicking good time. Seeing the challenges these areas still face and hearing about them directly from the excellent local guides, I felt was moving and often sobering, but very, very interesting! We did also see some lovely and quaint sights too, and all of the people in the countries we traveled to expressed a real desire to have tourist come to their countries, they really see it as one way out of very difficult economic times.

 

As I post day to day, I will be sharing what each port had to offer and readers can decide if they would find that interesting or not. A perfect example would be my two dear aunts...they have Danube cruise planned this spring that includes a pre tour in Poland at one of the concentration camps. One aunt is very interested to be reminded of that history, so as to not allow it to ever be repeated, while another aunt is skipping the pre tour because she feels she understands this history and cannot bear to face this on her vacation. I don't think either one has the wrong approach, but rather that they both have a clear idea of what is right for them! Hopefully, this review will help people decide for themselves!!

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157755816.jpg

 

We planned to travel to Budapest on our own. We used a flight specialist associated with our TA, and paid 50 dollars each for him to find us the same flight I had already researched...Turkish Air, which had recently started service to Istanbul direct from Boston. The flight we chose had a quick connection to Budapest (a 2 hour flight) I guess I will console myself with the fact that what I was really paying for was his expertise...he knew we would be able to find our way to the connection directly without needing to pass through customs or collect our bags, and since the connection was only 1 hour and 50 minutes, that was critical information to know. So in the end, we paid $100 for expertise and piece of mind!

 

If traveling to Turkey, US travelers (and I believe Canadians too) have to have an electronic visa. These are easily obtained before travel online at:

 

https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

 

After you've signed up you can print your visa, though it should be linked to your passport. I did carry a copy and was glad I did because mine was NOT linked and I needed to show my paper copy.

 

We arrived in Turkey with no troubles...Turkish Air was not terribly comfortable. We flew economy and were lucky to have 2 seats by ourselves on the side of the plane rather than 2 in the middle of the plane in a set of 4, but the seats are so incredibly close to each other from front to back, it is nearly impossible to get comfortable! For us, we decided this was our last "long haul" in coach...from now on we upgrade to business. Jeff is 6 foot 6 inches tall and we've saved a ton over the years flying coach...now that we are in the second half of our century of traveling, it's time to upgrade!

 

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As we arrived in Istanbul, it was exciting to see the city from the plane, and know that while our connection was short, we would have 4 days to explore the city at the end of our trip!

 

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If you'd like to read a humorous take on our flight and a photo of poor Jeff literally crammed in his seat, see our post "Thirteen words you don't want to hear immediately after take off" on our blog

 

http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2014/9/20/13-words-you-do-not-want-to-hear-immediately-after-takeoff

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We arrived in Budapest at about 7 PM. We had arranged a transfer driver through our guide, Magdi Pelech (more on her in a future post!) He was waiting for us with a sign with our name on it. This cost us 35 euro for the transfer to the Marriott, which took about 20-25 minutes. We had read that one should be careful about cabs in Budapest, arranging them through the hotel or going to the official cab stand at the airport to avoid an unscrupulous driver. Since we were arriving later, we just wanted the piece of mind of having a driver waiting for us. Our relatives K and N arranged a specific cab at the airport based on the suggestion of the folks who rented them their flat, and that worked out just fine too!

 

We decided to stay at the Marriott, after much back and forth over where to stay. The Sofitel is the "pre cruise" hotel for AMA and they had a courtesy desk set up there. Viking had a courtesy desk set up at our Marriott. Jeff had recently been made "gold" status with Marriott, which allowed us to book a lesser room and be automatically upgraded to a better room, with a Danube View, free in room wifi, and access to the executive lounge. The lounge serves breakfast, snacks all day and "hors d oevres" and drinks in the evening hearty enough that I would call it a light dinner.

 

Also, the Marriott executive lounge offers a gorgeous deck overlooking the bridges and castle hill at night. Given that the non refundable "pre pay" in advance price for our room (154 euro wknd and 164 euro weekday) was less than the prices offered by AMA at the Sofitel, with the executive lounge amenities included, it was far cheaper for us to use our Marriott gold to upgrade the view and lounge amenities and pay for a basic room. For folks paying for lounge access, free wifi is included in the lounge, so you might not need to pay for wifi in your room.

 

(Amenities associated with the lounge at the Marriott)

 

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Additionally, after sussing out the options to get to the river ship for embarkation, we learned that the AMA ships are generally docked closer to the Marriott that the Sofitel, and we planned to roll our bags directly to the pier which was between the Elizabeth Bridge (pictured) and the Liberty bridge on the Pest side. If you haven't read our blog yet, I will share how this turned out for us later...let's just say, some people can follow directions and others, well, we just forge our own path, or non path!

 

(view of the AMA ships docked just beyond the Elizabeth bridge from the Concierge lounge roof deck at the Marriott)

 

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For our first Budapest trip, Jeff really wanted access to this lounge deck. I think he really wanted it for photo ops but he sold me on it as a very romantic location to start our anniversary trip! I'd like to think his real motivation was romance, but as you can see from the photos we took the evening we arrived...it is a pretty spectacular view!!

 

(Castle Hill and the Royal Palace on the Buda side)

 

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(The Chain Bridge and Matyas Church and Fisherman's Bastion on the Buda side)

 

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For those interested...our room on the executive level, with a view of the Elizabeth Bridge and Gellert Hill in Buda

 

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After a long day and 1/2 flying we headed for bed, and anticipated meeting our family members in the AM and the 4 of us enjoying a full day touring with Magdi Pelech and our driver.

 

That's it for tonight! I'll pick up the thread tomorrow with lots of photos of our first full day in Budapest!!

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