Cruise line: Sea Cloud River Cruises,
When we arrived in Budapest the Danube was in flood. This was to impact upon the trip to a certain extent. Arriving initially, being greeted and checked on board was seamless, very courteous and totally without fuss. In the space of but a few moments this was achieved and our luggage, taken off us up on the embankment, was in the cabin.
The ship is furnished to the highest quality, all teak, brass and drawing room type furnishings. It is as good as the pictures on their web site and in their brochure.
The attentiveness of the staff/crew was superb. Very well trained obviously, nothing was too much trouble, all done with a friendly smile but none of this overdone in any way.
The food was excellent. A nice touch was that unlike in most ships where announcements are made seemingly interminably about heaven knows what there were none made on this boat. Simply a staff member wandered around the boat at commencement of mealtimes ringing a hand bell! The appearance and taste of the menus for dinner, always accompanied by very good wines included free of charge served impeccably with care, was like a Michelin star restaurant – delightful creations, lovely soups, nothing to rich or silly, just right. Excellent breakfast tables also with all you would ever want and more. Importantly, on the couple of occasions where we were on board for lunch with most of the guests off on a tour, there was no let up in standards even though lunch was being served to maybe 10 guests only.
The itinerary was good, really it was dawdling on the Danube when we day sailed, exactly what one hoped for. The flooding meant we were tied up for two days at Kolsca, first stop after leaving Budapest, eventually losing two days of travel. This meant that an extra tour had to be organised to keep us all busy on the Monday but it had to be organised from cold on Sunday afternoon! A tour of Pesc resulted including lunch and it was so interesting I believe they may include it formally next time. Again seamlessly done without fuss or panic.
The boat was not full, only 51 guests maximum rather than the full complement of 88. This meant that when we went on tours, usually the same 40 guests, we all fitted into one coach, all being those who did speak English and those who spoke German. I expect if the boat had been full we would have had two coaches, one for each language. It was slightly irritating therefore to hear your guide tell you about whatever in English and then have it repeated in German – except each guide had their own things to say so both commentaries were different. Clearly just being guided in one’s own language would have been calmer.
On these trips we were always accompanied by the boat Doctor and the Hotel Director Barbara. Although a German national she spoke excellent colloquial English, was unflappable, very definitely in charge and gave us all confidence here. She kept the local tour guides on their toes making sure guests were not kept out in the sun or alongside a busy fume filled street whilst they talked etc.
When they had to tell us that we had lost two days and that the decision had been made that resulted in us not reaching the Black Sea delta this was done clearly, calmly and with a full explanation. As a consequence of this they decided upon two things namely that firstly all passengers would receive a 100 euro credit on their accounts (200 euros per couple) and that they had arranged a tour of Bucharest on the last morning on the way to the airport free of charge. This happened and was most interesting indeed.
Nothing is without criticism of course.
Every meal time guests were welcomed into the restaurant but it was free seating so up to the guests to sort themselves out. There were some large groups travelling together and a number of couples. Often the couples were left stranded just sitting by themselves. Some may have wished for this but we felt that some assistance at the beginning may have helped these couples meet others by being guided to these tables perhaps.
It would have been helpful for guests to be given some information on the local currency position in each country. Euros was not accepted everywhere by any means. Perhaps for those guests doing their own sightseeing in town some idea of the best areas to visit, shops etc. would have been useful.
On the last day Noble Caledonia organised a coach trip for its guests from Russe where we ended the journey to Bucharest as Sea Cloud did for its guests. NC also took their guests to a hotel for lunch given that the BA flight was now much later in the day but Sea Cloud left their guests at the airport at around noon for the 5.0pm flight. Airport cafes etc did not take euros!
But those minor points aside it was an excellent holiday, Sea Cloud are clearly a class company, nothing could be faulted in terms of the boat, the cruise, the whole experience really. Some wonderful memories as a result. I read a book called “Dawdling on the Danube” before going on the trip and left a message in the Boat Guest book saying I could best describe the trip as “Travelling peacefully with certainty”
Thank you again Janet for all your excellent organisation and attention to our requirements also. This made a major contribution to the trip and holiday.