I am back from my first experience of a river cruise and I have to say I am truly impressed! This first blog (one of 4) is about the ship and its facilities and I will cover food & service plus Budapest & Vienna separately.
This was a small, but perfectly formed group of 9 travel agents plus our host, Nichola, all ready to sample the delights of the Danube on the beautiful Lord Byron which belongs to Riviera Travel.
We flew to Budapest and were met by the ships’ Tour Manager, Tim. We drove in to Budapest at dusk and it only took around 20 minutes to drive to the ship. Checking in took only seconds and the bell boys had our cases at our cabin within 5 minutes. This kind of service & efficiency was a great indicator as to how the rest of the cruise would continue.
The cabin I stayed in was on deck 2 (there are 3 cabin decks in total) and had a French balcony. It was beautifully decorated with dark wood, shiny fixtures & fittings and a plush carpet. I have to say that my photography skills don’t do the decor justice. There was plenty of space and everything you needed was supplied. As Riviera cater mainly for the British market there were tea & coffee making facilities, a good hairdryer (which all ladies will know can be a nightmare if you get one of those that does nothing more than give a weak breeze). The TV was a modern flat screen TV and my only niggle was the fact that the only English channels were news channels. I don’t know why the rest of the world think that us Brits are news addicts. When I go on holiday I would rather forget what’s going on in the rest of the world. Blankets were provided which could also be taken on deck if you wanted to sit out on a chilly evening and a sturdy umbrella to use if you weren’t as lucky as us with the weather. There was plenty of wardrobe space with plenty of wooden coat-hangers.
The size of the bathroom surprised me – much larger than I expected, and the showers were powerful with plenty of hot water and lovely fluffy towels. In fact the cabin was so pleasant that one of my favourite parts of my trip was having a couple of hours in my cabin watching the scenery go past from the comfort of my bed.
We took a look at one of the top suites on deck 3 which was larger and had a bigger bathroom, but as nice as it was, if I’m honest I would be just as happy in any of the others. The cabins on deck 1 were no different in size to ours. The main difference was that they don’t have the French balconies, but they do have windows so they are not dark and dingy.
The ship offered a small spa area with a sauna and a hair salon with incredibly reasonable prices. There was a gift shop, plus a small stall where you could buy gifts local to the places you were docked – again not inflated prices as on some ships.
There was a 24 hour coffee lounge where you could help yourself to lattes. mochas. cappucinos and a selection of teas along with freshly baked biscuits. This is complimentary & the lounge is at the rear of the ship with both an indoor and an outdoor seating area with lovely views. During the evening this lounge turns in to an intimate dining area where you can dine in different surroundings if you want a change for the main dining room – again free of charge.
Up on the top deck there was a heated plunge pool – the water was the same kind of temperature as a hot tub. There was also a putting green and an over-sized chess board. there were plenty of sun loungers as well as chairs & tables for you to relax and watch the stunning scenery go by. We noticed that some of the ships (ones that are markedly more expensive) didn’t have these facilities.
One of the great things about a river cruise is the fact that when the ships are moored overnight you can just wander off and have a night out or a wander around in the morning at your leisure. You rarely get this on an ocean cruise, so it gives you a great opportunity to do your own thing.
This gives you an idea of what the ship has to offer and although a river cruise tends to be very much about the destinations it helps to have a little luxury when you are being transported from one port to the next and I would say that the cabins are more luxurious than all of the ones I have stayed in on a traditional cruise ship.
My next blog will be about the fantastic service plus (my favourite thing) FOOD!