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Danube and The Black Sea

Gems of Southeast Europe.

Embark on a stunning Danube river cruise

  • Day 1

An early start with the alarm sounding at 02:00. My flight was from Stansted with Ryanair who I have to say brightened my early start with their new rule of allowing 2 pieces of hand luggage. Checked in and ready to go, the excitement started to kick in. The Black Sea Voyage (Lower Danube) has been on my list for a while and I was really looking forward to experiencing this part of the Danube.

A three hour flight later and we arrived in Bucharest, Romania. The airport was far more modern than I had expected. We had a short wait for our transfer so decided to grab some lunch and sit out in the glorious sunshine. We were travelling to the ship on an AmaWaterways timed group transfer which is approx. £60 per person. The ship was docked in Rousse, Bulgaria which is around a 2 hour drive away. Bags loaded and off we set on a lovely air conditioned coach to make our way across the boarder where we showed our passports and crossed into Bulgaria.

Arriving to the ship around 18:00 we were greeted with a warm welcome from the crew with beaming smiles. It still astounds me how fast the check in process is, it takes less than two minutes and you are then being whisked to your cabin with your luggage carried by one of the crew. It is always exciting to open the cabin door and see the beautiful decor of the cabin, by now I know what to expect but I still can’t help but open the door and peak into the bathroom with its multi-jet shower and look in the wardrobe at the plentiful storage space for all of my luggage and shoes! The infotainment TV system is on, showing a picture of your cabin steward for anything you may need. After a very quick change it was time to attend the safety briefing and welcome cocktails in the mail lounge. It was 18:30 and we met our Cruise Manager Dragan who welcomed us to the stunning AmaPrima, who may I just add has just been voted the Best River Cruise Ship in the Berlitz Guide!

The lounge is full of guests, listening and learning more about the ship and sailing. Dragan introduces the Captain and Hotel Manager along with some other key members of the crew and then conducts the safety briefing. There is free-flowing champagne being served by the bar staff and we all start to relax and meet our fellow passengers.


At 19:30 dinner is served. Leaving the main lounge you can either walk down two small flights of stairs or take the glass elevator. We are greeted by the Maitre D and shown to our table. We offer an open dining policy and tables range from 2 – 10 so you can chose if you would prefer a smaller or larger table. It is so relaxed and a great way to meet fellow guests. Our waitress explains the menu to us and suggests the chef’s recommendations. Included with the gourmet cuisine is also free-flowing wine, beer and soft drinks – the drinks waiter keeps popping up throughout the meal to ensure you have a full glass and everything you need.

It doesn’t matter how many times I have been onboard, I am still blown away with the service and the quality of the food being served, it is only night one, I have another six evenings of this wonderful trip to enjoy and savour.


After eating far too much and indulging myself, we headed to the bar for a nightcap. All of a sudden there was a bolt of light through the sky that lit up the whole lounge, there was a storm heading our way. Now, I am a sucker for a storm so went up to top deck to sit and watch….Simply amazing. Bolt after bolt of lightning lit up the skyline as I was tempted to take a dip in the heated pool on the sundeck but after a long day travelling I was looking forward to getting into the plush white-on-white bedding and having a good sleep.

Tomorrow we have a city tour of Bucharest and some excursion options to choose from so a good sleep is needed, so on that note it’s good night from me…


  • Day 2

I don’t know what it is about the first full day of being away on holiday but you can never sleep in because your body clock wakes you up with pure excitement and adrenalin to see what is in store for you… Well today we were off to Bucharest, the capital of Romania. We were docked in Giurgiu which is in Romania.

After a hearty breakfast in the main restaurant, although you do not have to choose this option, you can start from 06:00 in the main lounge for an Early Risers breakfast or wait until 07:00 when the main full breakfast service is available in the restaurant and runs from 07:00 – 09:00 today.

Our tour was departing at 09:00. You go to reception and collect your boarding passes along with a colour pass which indicated which group tour you join for the day. We would take approx. an hour and a half to arrive in the city centre. Bucharest is the centre of government and commerce for the country. The heart of the city is Piata Revolutiei, where the Old Royal Palace is located.

There was a choice of tours today, it all started with a visit to the Romanian Village Open Air Museum and lunch in a local restaurant. I have never been to an open air museum like this before, it really was staggering… There were mock homes dating back to the 1800’s! We spent around an hour here and had some free time to venture in and out of the different homes situated around a huge lake that was very picturesque. We then joined the coach to head towards the local restaurant for lunch.


I have experienced some of our trips before where we were lucky enough to take guests to unique locations and this was certainly one of those. We arrived at a large wooden double door and were greeted into the restaurant. It was laid out in long tables which gave all of us the opportunity to meet new people from our ship.

The restaurant itself was grand with chandeliers, a grand piano and lots of antiques scattered around. To start we had a traditional vegetable soup followed by chicken and roast potatoes and finished off with an apple tart. On a table towards the back of the restaurant there were two very well dressed ladies who were not part of the group. It transpired that this was in fact the owner, to whom each and every waiter first guests’ food to be approved before placing it down to all of the guests, it was just astonishing to watch…I never saw one plate get turned back.


During the main meal we were entertained by a wonderful opera singer and also a violinist who serenaded us while we enjoyed our local Romanian delights. Before too long it was time to move onto the next part of the tour, there were three options:

1: Travel back to the ship

2: Visit Parliament (you need your passports with you for this tour)

3: Visit the historical part of Lipcsani


It had been a long exciting day so I went back to the ship but not without a stop at Parliament, which is the second largest and most expensive administrative building in the world after the Pentagon, in Washington.

It was time for a talk in the lounge to learn more about what was coming up on our trip, I won’t spill the beans just yet but all I can say is the next few days are going to be very interesting and exciting.


After the talk from Dragan (Cruise Manager) it was time for dinner. We sat on a larger table today, the service is just so smooth, while you are busy chatting with fellow guests the restaurant team are working tirelessly to give you the ultimate service and cuisine. Tonight I went for the Caesar salad, a delicious strawberry cocktail followed by spinach ravioli in a sage butter… As some of you may know I am the carb queen so was in my absolute element tonight with the main course! The wines tonight were from Romania and were utterly divine.

After another filling meal, we went to the lounge for a night cap in hope that there may be another lightning storm. Just as we were heading to bed, there was a flash of light and we were in luck. Off we went to the bow of the ship to take in the skyline that was lit up with each crackle of lightening. I have done quite a few river and ocean cruises and have never experienced anything like this before… Truly amazing.

Arriving back to the cabin and the beds have been turned down, with a chocolate on each pillow and our daily programme for the next day.


Tomorrow I will take you on a tour of the ship voted the number one river cruise ship in Europe! But for now I will leave you with some useful Romanian phrases:

Hello – Buna ziua

Bye – La revedere

Yes – Da

No – Nu

Please – Va rog

Thank you – Multumesc

You’re welcome – Cu placer

Good night for now…

  • Day 3

Farewell Romania, welcome back to Bulgaria! Today we were sailing all morning travelling back to Bulgaria, in total 188 miles of Danube cruising. Lucky for us the sun was shining high in the sky which meant that it was pool time, but before I get to that…

Starting in reception, we have a large glass elevator which goes to deck 2, 3 & to the restaurant, it doesn’t serve the cabins on deck 1. It is one of the beautiful focal points with a swooping staircase on each side. Walking towards the front of the ship, passing reception you come into the main lounge where you have complimentary tea, coffee, water & ice tea available all day.


The bar is in the lounge, a dance floor and the most gorgeous soft, plush sofas and cushions perfectly placed to frame the lounge with panoramic views. Right at the very front of the ship there is an al fresco seating area. Heading up the stairs to the sun deck, there is plenty of seating available, this is one of my favourite areas on the ship. As you walk past the wheelhouse and up the stairs to see the pool with glass screens to protect from the wind, walking towards the aft, passing a giant chess board, sun loungers and a huge canopy area if you wanted some shade.


Back down to the decks and we have 3 passenger cabin decks (1, 2 &3), the highest deck is deck 3 where you will find 4 suites, twin balcony cabins and French balcony cabins, the lowest deck is deck 1 where all cabins are picture windows. At the aft we have a speciality restaurant with a glass show kitchen where you watch the chef prepare your evening meal. (I’m booked in here for Sunday so will let you know how I get on). A gym, massage room and hairdressers are onboard too!


Early risers breakfast was available in the main lounge from 06:30 – 07:30, the main breakfast was available in the restaurant 07:30 – 09:30 and there was also late risers in the main lounge from 09:30 – 10:30, so I could take my pick on the alarm time this morning knowing that we had a leisurely morning onboard the ship. This was the first long stretch of sailing we were going to experience in the trip, so far we had travelled from Rousse to Giurgiu which was only 1.25 miles! So I was looking forward to the day ahead.

Dragan hosted a morning talk in the main lounge at 10:30 that explained about the afternoon ahead and the next few days. After this it really was pool time. I headed up to the sun deck and it was lovely to see lots of guests enjoying the sailing in the sunshine. Some guests were using the walking track, a little fact for you – if you walk around the track 16 times you would have covered a mile – so in my mind this means an extra piece of cake during afternoon tea! There were guests making use of the giant chess board and others just relaxing taking in the beautiful scenery as we meandered along the Danube.


Lunch was served at 12:30 and you could go to the restaurant or the main lounge for a lighter option. At 14:00 we docked in the town of Vidin, based in northern Bulgaria. When it came under the Turkish rule in the 16th century, Vidin became the largest town in Bulgaria and one of the biggest ports along the Danube. It was only in the 19th century that Vidin was returned to Bulgaria by the Romanian army. Our tour today took us on an hour’s drive to Belogradchik, it’s a small white town nestled in the picturesque Stara Planina Mountains. Gigantic rock formations were shaped by nature over a period of 230 million years… We hiked up to the very top point to reveal the most stunning views! This was just my perfect excursion, adventure, burning off some calories from lunch and amazing views!


After making my way back down to join the coach we went to Baba Vida, it is regarded as the best preserved medieval stone fortress in Bulgaria. We were treated to a local play in the fortress where they acted out the history of the fortress… this only happens for AmaWaterways guests! It was then time to go back to the ship and dress for dinner.


Dinner of course brought another wonderful evening of delicious cuisine. We were then given an extra treat to a very special evening. The Children of Vidin came onboard with their enchanting Folk performance in the main lounge. It was superb, they did dancing and singing, even got guests up to dance a traditional dance. It really brought all of the guests together and we all thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

So in 2 days, I have already travelled to Romania and now Bulgaria (again)…… tomorrow is a very exciting day and one of the highlights (so I am told) of the whole trip – sailing through the Iron Gates!

Night from me…


  • Day 4

The time has come!!! I have been looking forward to this moment…The Iron Gates!

We left Vidin and were en-route to Belgrade which is 238 miles away but before we get to Belgrade, we sail through one of the most spectacular sections of the Danube. The name ‘Iron Gates’ has several different meanings. It refers to both the beautiful set of gorges through which the Danube flows between Serbia and Romania, as well as the huge locks and the dam system used to control the waters flow.


It was 09:30 and we had a whole day of cruising ahead of us. This is one of the only itineraries where we sail for the full day. The sundeck was filled with excited guests all with cameras at the ready to enjoy the sailing as we started to approach the dam. The construction of the Dam commenced in 1964 and was officially opened in 1972, along with two hydro-electric power stations and two locks. It was incredible to see the size of the dam.

We watched the gates open as we slowly started to move into the lock. It still amazes me how the captain navigates the ship into the lock, there really is no margin for error. We were being joined in the lock by another ship – this lock is large enough to fit 3 ships. The mechanics of the lock start to move and open for us to go through to the second chamber, then once through this we begin to rise up to the river level before we start to sail again. It took almost 2 hours to go through the lock and is such a great experience.

At 11:30 it was time for ‘Balkan Delights’ on the sundeck, a delicious selection of local cuisine being served by the chefs.


The weather was very kind to us again, the sun was shining and there was such a good atmosphere amongst the guests. With the ever-changing scenery, we started to sail through the Carpathian Mountains which was simply breath-taking.


Dragan was doing some occasional commentary as we sailed through some key parts. As we all relaxed on the sundeck, the captain navigated us through the narrow gorge where there was a huge carved face cut out of a cliff. Lunch was served at 13:00 but after such delicious cuisine from the Balkan Delights I had no room left!

We were lucky enough at 16:00 to have a tour and visit of the Wheelhouse. The captain talked us through all of the gadgets, screens and radars and explained how the ship is sailed. At full speed the ship can travel at 16 knots, today we were doing 8 on our leisurely sailing towards Belgrade. At 18:00 we passed Babaqui Rocks and the Golubac Fortress as the Danube suddenly opened as we sailed out of the narrow gorge.

We had our briefing in the main lounge before dinner where Dragan explained about our next port of call, Belgrade, followed by yes another wonderful evening meal. After dinner we went to the lounge for a nightcap and were serenaded by Miklos, the in house pianist. After a truly relaxing and wonderful day it was time for bed. Farewell to Bulgaria and welcome Serbia tomorrow!

Night from me…


  • Day 5

The clocks changed during the evening and went back an hour… An extra hour sleep to prepare for today. Up until today we had been 2 hours ahead of the UK. We arrived in Belgrade at 06:00. Belgrade is the capital of Serbia, located at the junction of the Danube and Sava Rivers. Belgrade has 2,300 years of history and has been destroyed no less than 40 times! There was a choice of tours available for the morning:

1 – Belgrade city tour

2 – Tito’s Memorial tour

3 – Culinary Delights tour to the Quburich distillery and Avala tower


I opted for the city tour. After clearing customs we boarded coaches for our designated tours. We drove around the city centre outskirts learning about the different districts. We passed the local zoo, Tito’s memorial garden, an area where to buy land is 4000 euros a square metre! We stopped at a large church which was completed on the outside but was still under construction inside, currently there is no estimation as to when this would be finished.


After learning the history of Belgrade, we were dropped into the centre to have some free time, I was surprised with how commercial the centre was, lots of high street stores we have in the UK lined the streets as we wandered around enjoying the scenery. We then went to the Kalemegdan Fortress which is situated high above the city on the ridge overlooking the confluence of the Danube and Sava River.

The original structure dates back to the end of the first century and has continually been expanded, destroyed, rebuilt and modified. We spent some time looking around at the large stone walls where there are mock military tanks and weapons dotted around the grounds before walking up to the viewpoint across the city. We wandered through the stunning park grounds before heading back to the ship for lunch.


We were staying in Belgrade until 23:30 tonight and there were shuttles organised to take guests in and out of the city centre for more free time and exploring. There was also an option to do a 14 mile bicycle tour starting at 14:30! Now you know I love the bike rides, usually in my flip flops but today I passed up the opportunity ready for the next 2 bike tours coming up during the week.


At 17:00 there was a treat for us, we had a guest speaker onboard, George Bozic. The lecture was on ‘The Yugoslav Puzzle’. The lounge was busy with guests listening and taking in the history.

We had our briefing with Dragan on what is coming up the next day on our onward journey to Novi Sad, 53 miles away. The great thing about being in port until late in the evening is that it gives you the opportunity to experience dinner off the ship or even try a local bar and see the city by night.


Dinner was at 19:00, it was a super menu, with so many choices I love I just couldn’t decide! We had mozzarella to start, white tomato soup and risotto as a main!


We are being completely spoilt and after dinner were blown away by a Serbian folk group – ‘Talija’ who danced, sang and captivated the audience in the main lounge. The entertainment we have had so far this week really has been superb, it completely enriches your destination experience. At 23:30 all guests were back onboard and we started our journey towards Novi Sad.

With another day almost over the time seems to be flying by now, only 2 more sleeps on the best river cruise ship in Europe!

Night from me…


  • Day 6

We woke and opened the curtains to see the sunshine beaming high in the sky. We had sailed through the night from Belgrade to Novi Sad, 53 miles along the Danube and arrived at 07:00. I indulged myself at breakfast this morning as I was venturing out on the bike ride. There were 3 options to choose from for the excursions today:

  1. Culinary Delight Tour – ‘Serbian Specialities’
  2. Novi Sad Bicycle Tour
  3. Novi Sad City Tour


After signing the waiver form at reception for the bike tour I was given a bike that was adjusted to suit my height and a helmet. The guide introduced himself and explained about the route we would be taking and off we set. There were approx. 12 of us on the tour and we followed one by one on the bike path along the Danube to our first stop which was a viewpoint of the castle and church across the way.

We continued to cycle for an hour and a half and stopped at the key areas of Novi Sad. It is such a beautiful town, I really like it here. Very clean, colourful and vibrant. Novi Sad is the second largest city after Belgrade, there are only a few buildings dating from before the 19th century because the city was almost totally destroyed during the 1848 revolution.


All aboard at 10:45 and we began sailing to our next port for the day, Ilok, Croatia. At 12:30 the time had come to meet in the main lounge to hear about the disembarkation briefing. Dragan explained how the last morning would work, transfers and ongoing journeys. The time has just flown by!

Still, it was not over yet and we arrived in Ilok ready for the afternoon tours. There were 2 options:

  1. Ilok Wine Tasting tour
  2. Vukovar Yugoslav Civil War tour


Now I know that you are expecting me to have chosen the wine tour, but I chose option 2!

We set off on a coach for an hour’s drive until we came to our first stop, a memorial centre for the people who lost their lives in the civil war in 1991. We continued our journey to the centre of Vukovar.

In 1991, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, the army was sent to Vukovar in the summer of 1991. By November that year, Vukovar fell to the Yugoslav army and thereafter followed years of turmoil. In the 1998 after a temporary UN administration, Vukovar officially became part of Croatia.

We had some free time to wander around the town as the ship was not arriving until 19:00. Like clockwork the ship arrived and we dressed for dinner.

Now tonight is exciting as we were dining in Erlebnis, the speciality restaurant at the aft of the ship. The way Erlebnis works is that all guests get to dine in here once throughout the cruise. You confirm the day you wish at reception when you embark, completely complimentary, there is no surcharge for this.

We were greeted by the head waiter and shown to our table. The chef was busy in the glass show kitchen preparing our evening meal. There was a clink of a glass and the head waiter explained the menu to us, you only have to order the main course in this restaurant, the rest of the courses come automatically. Course by course it just got better and better, I chose the lamb main course option.

The presentation of the dishes were exquisite. During dinner we set sail for our next destination, Mohac’s, Hungary.


After such a wonderful meal I practically rolled myself to the main lounge for a nightcap before retiring in preparation of tomorrow tours. It had been an eventful day.

In only 6 days we have travelled to Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and are now sailing to Hungary – WOW!

Good night from me……..


  • Day 7

So today is the last day 🙁


However, we were wasting no time today as we had to rise early. The police and customs for Hungary wanted to check everyone’s passports. The crew did such a wonderful job in setting up the process, collect your passport from reception, walk through the lounge, have passport checked and straight back to the cabin, all by 7am!

Today there were 2 tour options, a bike ride along the Danube or a Pecs city tour. I opted for the bike ride as I needed to work off a few calories from last night’s amazing dinner in Erlebnis.


The bike ride set off from the ship in Mohacs at 08:45. There were 22 of us today, the sun wasn’t shining, in fact it just started to rain as we left the ship however that didn’t deter any of us! We cycled along the river on a bike path that led us up onto a long winding pathway with views that went for miles across flat farm land and was framed by the river and tall trees. As we were cycling along, we spotted 2 storks standing not too far from the river! I just love storks, so was of course rather excited by this.


We cycled for approx. 30 minutes and arrived at a very small village where there were more and more storks! This was the best tour ever! I’m sure you would never discover this village without doing our tour. We were greeted into a small building that had been converted from a school and was now a stork museum. We learned all about the stork and their way of life. There were 17 storks in this village and they will migrate to Africa, but come back every year. The oldest stork they have had was 17 years old! We spent around 30 minutes here before setting off back to the ship. The ride in total was 8km.


We arrived back to the ship and I was slightly peckish so I ordered some tapas from the bar menu in the main lounge, this is the first time I have tried it and it was delicious. You can order tapas from 10:00 – 22:00 excluding during meal times, again complimentary…I know what you are thinking, hardly worth the bike ride!


All aboard at 13:30 as we set sail for our final journey from Mohacs to Budapest. The journey is 124 miles and we were due to arrive around 04:00. We had a very relaxing afternoon of sailing, sitting with fellow guests talking about the week we have had, our favourite trips and food we have all enjoyed so very much.


At 18:30, we were welcomed into the main lounge for the Captain’s farewell cocktails. Dragan and Stephen the Hotel Manager presented us with all of the crew. They work tirelessly through the whole week and it is wonderful to be able to thank them!


We went to the restaurant for our last evening meal onboard, as it was the Captain’s night all of the waiters were dressed in black tie. We had a superb menu tonight with so many options to choose from. The atmosphere was very special tonight we all just wanted to stay for another week!

After dinner, it was time to pack and say goodbye to all of the friends we had made along the way. Some of the transfers were leaving at 05:00 in the morning!


From start to finish this has been a truly wonderful week. We have travelled from Romania, to Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and finally Hungary… A final few notes:


Romania – Leu

Bulgaria – Lev

Serbia – Dinar

Croatia – Kuna

Hungary – Forint

Key Highlights:

The Iron Gates

Climbing the giant rocks in Belogradchik

Gourmet 5* cuisine

The service and crew onboard

I hope you have enjoyed reading and I will of course keep you posted on my next adventure! Signing off from a superb week onboard AmaPrima, THE BEST RIVER CRUISE SHIP IN EUROPE.

We went to the restaurant for our last evening meal onboard, as it was the Captain’s night all of the waiters were dressed in black tie. We had a superb menu tonight with so many options to choose from. The atmosphere was very special tonight we all just wanted to stay for another week!