FROM BLUE DANUBE TO BLACK SEA
World Travellers sent two of its travel experts on an extensive educational experience to compile information on an adventure that combines sun, relaxation, culture and river cruising. Kate Evans and Robyn Davies each experienced part of a travel package making up an exciting return trip to Europe with a Singapore stopover.
Robyn's journey took her from Singapore to Paris where she enjoyed a couple of days before taking a train to Strasbourg to connect with her river cruise group.
"Our cruise was operated by Croisi Europe, a French company," says Robyn. "Croisi Europe operates tours on several European rivers. I and my husband chose the Danube tour, for a very good reason. This cruise takes you through seven different countries in 12 days - most in the Eastern Bloc - some of which you can not easily drive through. The Danube cruise was an excellent way to see them.
"I can't speak highly enough of Croisi Europe. The staff and crew are super-efficient, warm and friendly. Service was excellent. Lots of people ask me what the difference between river cruising and ocean cruising is, and I think it's important to explain. The vessels are smaller and the whole experience is more intimate. Our vessel carried a maximum of 160 passengers - some have 180.
"The emphasis is more on education than entertainment, which I liked. I used to be a teacher! Evening events on board included lectures going into quite a bit of detail on the economies of the Eastern Bloc, the Orthodox Christian churches and culture of the areas we passed through. There were quiz and Trivial Pursuit nights as well as displays of local folk dancing. No spa, swimming pool or casino of course!
"I do think the all-inclusive costs aspect of this tour is an advantage over ocean cruising: the cost of all local wines and beer, meals and day trips was included. I also loved the food. The menu reflects cuisine from whichever country the vessel is passing through and it was wonderfully varied and authentic.
"Most nights, we docked right in the middle of cities like Bratislava and Budapest so you could simply stroll off the vessel and wander downtown. You could cycle if you wanted; larger vessels carry bicycles on board for passengers to borrow and you can also hire them onshore in many places. We had plenty of chances to explore small villages and enjoy day trips to local farms, churches and monasteries.
"You can experience the Danube cruise from West to East, or vice versa. Travelling downstream, you start in Linz (Austria) and finish up in Constanta (Romania) with a short flight back to Strasbourg.