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A Bon Voyage from Bucharest to Budapest: Uniworld's Danube River Cruise

Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River cruise

Photo Credit: Uniworld

When most of us think of exotic travel, the first thought that comes to mind is a trip to a destination in South East Asia such as Cambodia, or perhaps a safari in Africa. Seldom do we think of Europe. However a visit to Eastern Europe is equally as exotic, with a rich culture and landmarks as well as vestiges of communism and the influences of the Soviet Union. A fascinating way to experience this region is on Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River cruise from Bucharest in Romania to Budapest, Hungary.

Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River
Photo Credit: Uniworld

The voyage is eight days chock full of fabulous memories with an optimal mix of cultural tours, sightseeing, and immersive activities on and off the ship. The cruise visits Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary, and explores the rich history from the thousands of years of conquerors and changing empires. Over the tumultuous 1,500-year-past, the Romans and the Mongols, Slavs, Ottomans, and Habsburgs, who conquered and defended these lands, all left their mark. More recently, the remnants of the World Wars and the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Balkan Wars are visible to see first-hand.

Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River
Photo Credit: Glenn Harris

From the top deck of the River Duchess, guests marvel at the scenery along the Danube and the passing farms, towns and big cities. In between are wonderful stretches of untouched natural beauty with towering mountains, dramatic coastlines and the beautiful river itself. One of the highlights is the Iron Gates, an 83-mile-long stretch of gorges created by the Danube between the Balkan and Carpathian Mountains that separate Serbia and Romania.

Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River
Photo Credit: Uniworld

The Uniworld’s River Duchess is essentially a floating five-star hotel decked out with an elegant décor of fine-crafted furnishings and artwork. The staterooms have all the necessary amenities with a light and beautiful décor, comfortable bedding, high-tech television, wide bay windows, and en-suite bathroom and shower with L’Occitane en Provence bath products. Higher category rooms on the upper floors have a sliding door and there are four suites with additional amenities, minibar and butler services. Along the journey, the staff provides truly personal service on the ship which can accommodate up to 130 guests.

Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River
Photo Credit: Uniworld

The elegant ship has several common areas including the lounge area with a long bar and dance floor. On the sundeck terrace, guests congregate to take in the panoramic views and sights, incredible sunsets, or fresh air with their morning tea. There is always something to do on the ship, from afternoon high tea to lectures about the local people as well as ports of call. Uniworld also brings in the best of talent from the area to entertain guests with dance and musical performances. It’s really a great way to see about these rich and beautiful traditions up close.

Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River
Photo Credit: Uniworld

The ship provides gourmet dining with an à la carte menu of popular Eastern European dishes. The cuisine embraces a farm-to-ship approach with fresh ingredients sourced from local bakeries and farmers markets along the route. The wine pairing is exceptional, with local wines selected by their talented sommelier. The restaurant is a member of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and the only Zagat-rated restaurant you’ll find on a river cruise. Guests can also enjoy the private dining restaurant, Leopold’s Bar, which has an exclusive, reservation-only service for 20 guests. In the main dining area, guests are free to dine where and when they wish during dining hours. Some may choose to dine with new friends while others choose a private table for two.

Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River
Photo Credit: Glenn Harris

Guest will get to experience Eastern European culture, the historical aspects of the region and the region’s natural sites via the excursions at the ports of call. One unusual natural site is Bulgaria’s Belogradchik rock formations. It’s an exotic rock formation like the Grand Canyon where guests can hike the 200 steps to the top for breathtaking views of the countryside and surrounding natural vistas.

Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River
Photo Credit: Glenn Harris

The villages are wonderful to explore, such as Arbanassi, a small mountain village in northern Bulgaria. The 17th century stone churches are adorned with well-preserved frescos depicting biblical scenes. On our voyage, we received a special treat and experienced an angelic Orthodox choir performance. Guests can also visit the Romanian countryside and picturesque Snagov Lake. Nearby is a quaint, 12th century church, the resting place of King Vlad the Impaler, better known as the inspiration for the blood thirsty Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River
Photo Credit: I Bike Belgrade

Major cities along the Danube are also visited. In Romania, the trip begins with a tour of Bucharest’s major landmarks including the gargantuan and controversial People’s Palace, which is the second largest building in the world, second only to the U.S. Pentagon. Many see it as an architectural marvel, while others as a symbol of communist waste, as it almost bankrupted Yugoslavia and helped trigger its downfall. In Belgrade, Serbia, the city’s major landmarks are seen via a bike tour with a break for local beer at a traditional fisherman’s bar.

Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River
Photo Credit: Glenn Harris

In Croatia, we stopped in Vukovar, which was heavily impacted by the Croatian War of Independence. Many buildings have scared facades riddled with bullet holes from this war which was just 20 years ago. The group also visited Tvrda, a beautiful 18th-century Habsburg fortress with stone walls and cobblestone streets. The highlight was lunch at the home of one the locals who shared her experiences living in communism, the breakup of Yugoslavia, as well as life today in Croatia.

The journey terminated in what’s been called the Paris of the east, Budapest. The city’s major landmarks such as St. Stephen’s Basilica and the UNESCO-designated Castle Hill district were some of the city's highlights.

Uniworld’s Highlights of Eastern Europe Danube River
Photo Credit: Uniworld

Interacting with the other passengers on board and on the excursions is a much as part of the experience as the excursion themselves. They are an interesting group of well-traveled passengers, mainly from the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. Long-term friendships are formed over dinner conversations and shared adventures, many of which will last long after the final port of call.

Uniworld provides a hassle free, refined and unforgettable travel experience through Eastern Europe. There’s a reason why they were voted the top luxury river cruise by Travel + Leisure and receive perennial accolades from Cruise Critic and other purveyors of luxury river cruising.  For those looking for something special, Uniworld’s River Cruise is an excellent way to see and experience these exotic lands along the Danube.

Glenn Harris

Glenn Harris is an accomplished journalist focusing on international travel, fine dining, and luxury lifestyle events. His wanderlust has taken him to over 85 countries where he is constantly straying off the beaten path uncovering new and often exotic finds. He particularly enjoys seeking out lesser known travel gems and places to stay, dine, or experiences to capture. ...(Read More)

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