Christmas Markets - Amsterdam to Budapest

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Review Details

Overall Rating:
Cruise Line:
Emerald Waterways
Cruise Ship:
Emerald Sky

Review Profile

Times cruised before:
November 2015

Cruise Elements:

Quality of Food:
Shore Excursions:
Onboard Activities:
Simply the best holiday ever! Having arrived in Amsterdam after a short flight from Manchester, we were greeted at the airport by a friendly Emerald rep and guided to a coach. On arrival at the ship, we were greeted by smiling faces, hot towels to freshen up after the flight and a mug of hot chocolate as we waited less than 5 minutes to check in and taken to our cabin. The cabin was superb! An excellent shower room with easily regulated shower, lots of drawer space, limited wardrobe space (this could easily be be increased by moving the safe and mini bar), large very comfortable bed and pillows, flat screen modern tv (with free free movies aimed at a wide audience), mini bar, safe, hair dryer, 2 comfortable easy chairs and the unique electrically controlled drop down window that effectively turned the room into a balcony. Surprising for a November/December cruise , the weather was so mild that we did use the balcony feature. Although there was limited floor space due to the restricted width of all river boats having to travel through locks,this was perfectly adequate. The whole boat had free wifi although sometimes this was intermittent. Unusually for river boats there was a small swimming pool with a roof that could retract. This area turned into a bar or cinema at night but we found the smell of chlorine too great to enjoy an evening relaxing. There was also a small gym, deck games in good weather, and walking/jogging around the deck (although jogging was sensibly restricted at night so that sleeping passengers in cabins below weren't disturbed). Entertainment was significantly less than you'd get with ocean cruising every effort was made to make an enjoyable programme. This included an evening talk abut the next days excursions/ports, a visit to the kitchens and bridge, glass blowing, towel folding (making a dog,swan and elephant), a crew show (perhaps not the best, but everyone ave their best and joined in the fun), a superb group performing seasonal music with a modern influence and on the final night a stunning night of traditional/classical music and dance by local Hungarians - being a musician I can be a little critical of poor quality entertainment but the quality given was top drawer. Having said their was limited entertainment most passengers enjoyed getting to know each other and socialising over a drink - passengers were almost totally from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA and the UK. Therefore language was not a barrier and we enjoyed getting to know a little about people from other backgrounds. I should add that the ship is designed for 184 passengers and we had a little over 80 on board so there was public space to spare. Food was another highlight of this cruise. A fabulous buffet breakfast - personally I enjoy fruit and cold continental but there was and egg chef cooking fresh eggs in a variety of styles to order. There was a great choice of hot and cold food available at lunch and a 5 course evening dinner with 3 choices at each course. If at lunch or dinner the choice didn't suit you, salmon, chicken or steak could be cooked to order - I have to admit that the quality of steak was excellent and cooked to perfection. Beer, soft drinks and wine was included at lunch and dinner - not just one glass but take a few sips out of a glass and it was immediately topped up. A variety of drinks packages was available that proved good value ut for many passengers who bought this at the start of the cruise possible had ample drinks with meals and only needed top ups from the bar at other times. Tea, a choice of coffees, hot chocolate and limited soft drinks and biscuits was available throughout and some passengers even managed afternoon tea with home made treats and late evening snacks. The itinerary did not include lunch on arrival but a limited buffet lunch was available until 3 pm (including drinks) was a welcome extra as the sandwich provided by KLM was not great! From time to time Gluhwein was also served in public areas of the ship. Tours were generally free, enjoyable and informative. Each room had rechargeable radio head sets for the guides so you could listen and hear every word. With only one exception the tours were led by entertaining guides to really interesting venues. Although these were advertised as walking tours most were a mixture of coach and walking tours giving us interesting visits to more out of town venues and each day there was an easy walkers tour for those passengers with limited mobility. Unfortunately our ship was stranded in Wurzburg for 53 hours as the water level was too high to get under a bridge. Did this detract from our enjoyment - not at all. Every planned visit was made available by travelling by coach whilst in Wurzburg and until we made up time as the boat traveled throughout the day, dropping off passengers at one place and picking them up further down stream at the end of their excursion. As some tours involved up to 6 hors coach travel we chose not to go on every excursion and had a great time on the ship. In fact one highlight was the Main/Danube canal with aqueducts, and locks (3 with an amazing 82 foot rise). For us the option of excursions to more local places of interest, involving less time on a coach than just organising long distance excursions to maintain the planned itinerary but this is a personal view and a minor point. Unusually if you were on an excursion at lunch time and therefore missed a fee lunch on board, a free lunch was provided in a local restaurant or money was given to you to buy lunch. On returning to the ship after a long excursion hot towels and a hot drink were provided. Highlights for us was an excursion to a village in the hills outside Bratislava where we were split into small groups and went to a home fo tea. We chatted a length through our guide to our host and found out about real life in Slovakia. The final night also saw us cruising Budaest to see the city lit up at night. Overall the ship was kept spotlessly clean and modern, the staff were smart and friendly. We can't wait to board another Emerald cruise. Thanks to the captain and crew for an unforgettable holiday.
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