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Maybe you've cruised on a gigantic ocean cruise ship before. Our Black Sea Discovery river cruise is very different. The custom built and brand new river cruiser, Amalegro, (launched in March 2007) has only 73 cabins, making for a much more personal and less institutional experience.
The river cruise experience is very different in many positive ways to a traditional ocean cruise. You never have rough seas, and you're always treated to beautiful views out your cabin window, never just empty ocean.
Note : This cruise is not being offered by ourselves in 2008 (our next one will be 2009), but we can help you choose one of these cruises and save you 5% - contact us for more information.
About the Cruise/Tour
Like a traditional cruise, this is a fully inclusive cruise, and - better than a traditional cruise - it includes a generous amount of shore touring as well. You won't have to pay extra for your shore touring as we visit the lovely towns and cities as we cruise around the waterways.
The cruise of course includes three great meals a day, plus various other snacks, on-board entertainment, as well as generous opportunities to sightsee, both from the boat as it cruises the river, and while ashore during the many stops. You typically have time to participate in a provided tour and also to sightsee and shop on your own.
A nice extra feature is free wine provided with every dinner.
While all meals are available on the vessel, you'll also be able to experience other dining opportunities ashore if you wish. Similarly, the on-board entertainment can be supplemented with visits to clubs and bars and shows ashore - the vessel will sometimes stay in port until late at night, allowing you a chance to experience towns by day and by night.
The complete cruise/tour from Budapest to Istanbul starts off with two nights at the Sofitel Hotel in Budapest before we board the Amalegro, and then at the end of the cruise we continue on by coach, spending one night at the Iberostar Sunny Beach resort on the Black Sea, then three nights at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Istanbul.
River Cruising - the only practical way for this itinerary
How else would you expect to travel through the countryside in places such as Romania and Croatia? There really is no other convenient or reliable way of seeing these countries.
In addition, river cruising is simply and absolutely the most comfortable and convenient way to travel around Europe. Unpack your bags and get comfortable in your lovely large cabin and you not need to repack or transfer until the end of the cruise - this in itself is probably all the convincing you'll need!
I've experienced every possible type of travel, and I'm a 100% convert. River cruising is the best way to see Europe. Try it, and you'll be sure to agree.
Why Cruise in October
Experienced travelers know the best time to travel is always either side of the peak periods.
October sees lower airfares and less crowding in the places we'll be visiting. The days are cooler than mid summer, but that can sometimes be a bonus - there's less chance of being uncomfortably hot in places that are unlikely to offer air conditioning (although of course Amalegro is fully climate controlled).
In Istanbul daytime temperatures average around 70° (but can occasionally go as high as 90°) and at night it averages around 50°, with 2.1" of rain for the entire month - perfect for our travels. It will probably be 5 or more degrees cooler on the European side of the Black Sea.
The tour starts in Budapest on Friday 12 October. This means you should leave the US on Thursday 11 October (or sooner) so as to arrive in Budapest on Friday 12th (or sooner).
The tour ends in Istanbul on Thursday 25 October. You can plan to fly home from Istanbul on that day, or you can extend on beyond then as you might wish.
Usually if you start your return home from Istanbul on a given day, you'll get home to the US on the same day, so if you return on Thursday 25th, you'll get home the same day, also Thursday 25th.
Information about Amadeus Waterways
Our first Travel Insider river cruise, in 2004, was with Viking River Cruises, and the experience was excellent in almost all respects. In 2006, we used Amadeus Waterways, both for our Russian River Cruise in July and for our Christmas Markets cruise in December. This was not because we dislike Viking, but simply because we believe Amadeus offers a better itinerary, and better value product.
This perception isn't just a coincidence. The founder and head of Amadeus, Rudi Schreiner, first worked for Uniworld (another fine cruise company) and then was President of Viking River Cruises from 2000 until the end of 2002, when he left to found Amadeus, with Amadeus first appearing on the market in 2003, and growing steadily every year since then. Rudi was largely responsible for the excellent operations at both Uniworld and Viking, and now he is taking everything he has learned and applying it in his own company, with outstanding results.
His ships are as good or better than any others you'll find on the rivers and canals of Europe, and are (of course) also very new. As the newest company in the market, he is having to work harder to win business, and is doing so by offering great itineraries, lots of inclusions, and great values. I've spoken with Rudi and he impresses as a sensible and perceptive gentleman.
Our expectations have been borne out in reality. Amadeus provided an excellent quality product, with wonderful ships and friendly helpful crew on both our 2006 featured cruises. They are an quality company and we're pleased to confidently continue our partnership with them again for this cruise, our Russian River cruise, and our Christmas Markets cruise in 2007.
In 2004, Amadeus was still new and largely unproven, so we chose the safer option of Viking. Now, in 2007, Amadeus is a proven quality operator, both in the marketplace as a whole, and with us in particular. We are confident you'll agree that Amadeus Waterways is an excellent operation.
Because Amadeus is still relatively new, there are few independent reviews of their cruises. Here are three :
Waverly writes on this site (scroll down a bit to get to the review)
Tom Ogg writes about his experience with Amadeus on a different itinerary and says in his conclusion (I agree with everything but wonder how they managed to get 11 hours sleep a night!)
Connie and Darwin write of their cruise (link now broken) on the same itinerary with Amadeus
About the Amalegro
Our cruise ship for this cruise, the Amalegro, is brand new (launched in March 2007), having been custom designed to meet the special needs of the Danube, enabling it to operate in less favorable conditions than many of the other boats (ie when the water levels are 'too high' or 'too low').
The boat is long but narrow. It is 360' long and 37.4' wide, and cruises at 15.6 mph. This might seem like a slow speed, but it is faster than most of the other cruise boats, enabling the boat to get between towns faster and giving you more time sightseeing.
Dining is single-seating and with no pre-assigned tables, so you can move about as you wish from meal to meal. Amadeus even provides a generous amount of complimentary wine with your evening meal each night.
Smoking is restricted to the outside Sun Deck only.
Our cruise has been marketed to English speaking people and the official language on board is English. This means you won't have the inconvenience of having to listen to every announcement being repeated in four or five different languages, and you can conveniently talk to your fellow guests (and likely soon to be new friends) on board.
Cabins on the Amalegro are the largest of any cruise boat - a massive 170 sq ft each. The 154 sq ft cabins on the earlier Viking cruise seemed spacious, and the 170 sq ft cabins on Amalegro are even more marvelously roomy and comfortable.
The cruise is offered in five cabin grades plus there are four suites as well.
There are 69 cabins and four suites on three decks, and all are well equipped with a/c, bathroom and shower, phone, flat screen television, internet access, hairdryer and safe. The television has both local and satellite channels, a bridge-cam channel, and an evening movie channel.
All five grades of cabin are very similar in terms of size and amenities. The main difference is the deck the cabins are situated on.
This picture (of the identical sister ship Amadagio) clearly shows the three accommodation decks. The top deck and the middle deck have floor to ceiling sliding doors and 'French balconies' (a very small space outside the sliding door), but the lower deck just has windows.
The most important difference though is not the style of window, but rather the height above the waterline. There is a big difference in perspective and view between the top deck (suites and A category cabins) and the middle deck (B and C category cabins), while on the lowest deck (D and E category cabins) the floor is actually below the waterline and your windows and eye level is only a foot or so above the waterline. On this deck, with even the slightest amount of bank on the sides of the river, you'll not see anything other than the water and bank from the bottom deck, and there may be a bit more water and machinery noise on that level too.
When moored, if your cabin is on the dockside rather than the outboard side, the lowest deck cabins will have a view blocked by the dock, the middle deck cabins may have a limited view, and the top deck cabins will usually have a view above the dock level.
These differences are much more profound than in a massive cruise ship where even the lowest deck is still a long way above the waterline. Of course, if you do choose a D or E category cabin, you can spend the days in the public areas and enjoy the views from there, but if you can justify the extra cost to go up a deck or two, the chances are you'll be very pleased you did.
Suites are 255 sq ft, cabins are 170 sq ft.
Tip : Choose the least expensive cabin type on the deck you'd rather be on. There is no added value in choosing a D cabin in favor of an E cabin, or a B cabin in favor of a C cabin.
Note that the cruise is almost full - there is one only B cabin remaining.
Per person pricing for the cruise is as follows :
You can pay for your tour using a credit card with no credit card surcharge.
A $200 per person non-refundable deposit is required to confirm your participation and to hold your preferred grade of cabin on this cruise, and the balance is due 90 days prior to departure.
Single Guaranteed Share Program
If you are planning to travel by yourself, but would prefer to avoid the single surcharge, Amadeus offer a guaranteed twin share program with another person of the same gender, in their category B cabins.
Alternatively we will make a best effort to connect you with another single Travel Insider group member, but can't guarantee to find someone compatible.
What about the Air Fare?
If you buy the Amadeus airfare, they include transfers from the airport to the cruise ship when you arrive into Budapest and then from the hotel to the airport when you depart from Istanbul. These transfers are convenient, but require you to arrive on the exact day the tour starts and leave the exact day the tour ends. They can easily be arranged by yourself when you arrive at the airport as well (ie taxi), so should not unduly influence your airfare planning.
We suggest you check to see if you can use any frequent flier miles you might have for this travel, and/or check to see what the best fare you can get on your favorite airline is, then compare it to the Amadeus rate and make your decision then.
You are therefore free to make your own arrangements, any way you wish, to travel to Budapest and then home again from Istanbul, and you can of course make extra stops and arrive earlier or stay longer. You can choose whichever carrier has the best fare and the best schedules for you, and you can also choose a carrier that you wish to earn miles with.
We'll be pleased to answer any questions you might have about arranging your air transportation, of course.
Tip : Ask for an air included quote when you know your itinerary. Then with that space held, see if you can get a better deal or more convenient flights, or perhaps frequent flier tickets. As long as you cancel your Amadeus arranged flights before you send in final payment, you can do this without penalty.
Which cities to fly in and out of
This might seem like an obvious issue, but remember that Europe is very small and so if you can't get convenient flights (or fares) on your preferred airlines to and from the obvious cities at the start and end of your tour, consider flying in or out of nearby airports and then using a train to get between that airport and the city you need to be in.
For example, consider flying in to Vienna and taking a short 2¾ hour train ride from Vienna to Budapest.
On your return, however, you'll probably need to fly out of Istanbul - there are no obvious other major airports nearby.
Need More Information?
If you've a question or need more clarification, go ahead and ask. You can send us an email, or feel free to call us at (206)337-2317.
We generally recommend you should protect against the various types of losses that may occur while traveling.
Amadeus Waterways offer a policy that covers you for trip cancellation and interruption costs, medical costs, trip delay, and baggage delay or loss. This is $199 per person. The premium is payable with your deposit.
To add an extra trip cancellation premium that will allow you to cancel for any reason at all, add another $30. With this add-on premium, if you cancel for a reason not covered by the main policy, Amadeus will refund you as much of your payment as is covered by their usual policy, and give you a voucher to be redeemed against future travel any time in the next year for the balance.
Click here for a new page with more information on the Amadeus travel insurance.
How to Extend or Vary this Tour
There are many ways you can extend or vary this tour. You're of course free to add anything you like, before or after the cruise.
We recommend you consider arriving into Europe at least a day before the cruise starts, so as to give yourself a day to resolve any problems that may occur such as missing/delayed flights or losing luggage.
If you are planning to arrive early, you might want to consider flying in to Vienna and spending extra time in Austria, then taking a train to Budapest to join the tour on Friday 12 October.
One other option is to take the cruise immediately prior to this cruise, which starts in Prague on 4 October (leave the US on 3 October). That way you cruise from Prague to Budapest and then immediately join the cruise on from Budapest to Istanbul.
If you have more questions, please don't hesitate to ask. We're here to help ensure your experience is as good as possible.
Tour Terms and Conditions
Our standard terms and conditions apply to this tour.
In addition, please note these extra terms :
1. The 90 day payment due date is considered to be Thursday 12 July.
2. US citizens require a current passport that will not expire for at least six months after the date of their planned return back to the US in order to be admitted to Europe. They do not require any European visas. Citizens of other countries should check with the airline that will transport them to Europe to determine what passport and visa requirements may apply.
3. Tour price is subject to change prior to full payment being received.
4. Terms and
conditions of the cruise line (Amadeus
Waterways) also apply.