If the lousy exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Euro has you thinking twice about traveling to Europe, you may want to think again. And this time, think river cruising.
On a river cruise, you’re isolated from much of the expense of Europe, as your accommodations, meals (typically with wine included) and some shore excursions included in the price you pay for the cruise in U.S. dollars before you leave home.
I am currently cruising along the Danube on Uniworld’s River Empress. I found prices in Budapest, where the cruise began, and Bratislava, our first port of call, to be exceptionally reasonable.
In fact, after pedaling 20 miles with two others on bicycles Uniworld makes available free of charge, we stopped for a round of beer: only 1 Euro each (about US$1.50 at press time). The bikes, by the way, are in good shape, and we found dedicated bike paths running along the river.
Back in Bratislava city center, I had cappuccino, a large piece of cake (remember, I had cycled 40 miles roundtrip!) and 15 minutes internet access for about US$4.50.
In both Budapest and Bratislava, I found it difficult to spend the pocketfuls of cash and coins I was getting in exchange for dollars.
At Budapest’s city market, where the charge to use the bathroom facilities’ was 150 forints, I handed over the only currency I had in my pocket: a five Euro note. The clerk took it, put some Hungarian change on the table, which I swept in my hand and walked away. “No,” she said, indicating she had more for me. She began handing me bills. I was impressed not only by her honesty but by the fact that I left with two pocketfuls of Hungarian currency.
In the accompanying video interview, I talked with Mirela Varga, cruise manager on Uniworld’s River Empress about the value of river cruising in Europe.