Embarking Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Star in Budapest
After flying overnight form North America, this afternoon I boarded Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Star at her berth in Budapest for a weeklong voyage along the Danube. She is docked opposite the spectacular Hungarian Parliament building on the Buda side of the Danube.
My journey to Budapest even started off on the right foot: when connecting through Frankfurt on Lufthansa, I zapped my boarding pass at the gate and, to my surprise, the machine spit out a little ticket stub. Coach must have been overbooked, because I’d been given a new seat assignment in Business Class – which, on Lufthansa, is pretty spectacular, even flying within Europe.
Once the Boeing 737 touched down in Budapest and I’d collected my luggage, I met the Emerald Waterways representative in the Arrivals area of Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport, which is still popularly known as Ferihegy Airport, its name prior to 2011. Every Emerald Waterways river cruise includes complimentary transfers to and from the airport; a nice touch that really takes the stress out of arranging transportation into town – particularly here in Budapest, where dock spaces are numerous and taxi drivers aren’t always aware of the exact location of a particular ship.
I remember coming here for the first time nearly three years ago. For whatever reason, I thought this would be the city I enjoyed least – and I quickly discovered it was one of the cities along the Danube that I enjoyed most.
The capital of Hungary, Budapest originally started out as two neighbouring cities separated by the Danube River, which serpentines across the landscape. In fact, it wasn’t until November 17, 1873, that the two sides – Buda and Pest – were united as one city: Budapest. To this day however, locals will still refer to themselves as being from one side of the city or the other, and a friendly competitive rivalry exists between those on opposing sides of the Danube.
For the next week, my home aboard Emerald Star is a Panorama Balcony Suite located on Deck 3. At 180 square feet, calling it a suite is a bit of a misnomer, but the first thing you notice when you walk in is the spectacular floor-to-ceiling window that stretches for nearly the entire width of the stateroom. It is flanked by two chairs and a small table, and features faux teak decking instead of carpeting.
Of course, the first thing I did was to head straight over to the window and push the switch located on the side of the frame. The upper half of the window dropped down (simply let go of the button to stop it at your desired position), and the fresh breeze of the Danube wafted into the room. Cleverly, if you have your window open, it disables the room’s air conditioning system so as to not unduly burden it.
When I was admiring the view of the Hungarian Parliament across the river, my luggage arrived in my room, and I set about unpacking. There’s just one problem: I couldn’t find the closet. These rooms have been cleverly and unobtrusively designed. You won’t see any handles, levers, or ledges on any of the drawers or doors.
It turns out I’d been staring at the closet without realising it: it’s next to the Panorama Balcony. Inside, there’s space for anything that needs to be hung up, but some of the available space is taken up by the mini-fridge and safe. Fortunately, for any clothes that don’t have to be hung up, plenty of storage space is available in the drawers opposite the bed. Just push in on the drawer, and it pops out. Super-easy.
The room is attractively designed, and feels very European. It has a large queen-sized bed that, interestingly, cannot separate into two twins – perhaps something to be aware of for friends travelling together. On the other hand, the bed does boast twin European-style duvets – one for each person – which I absolutely love. It’s a trend that is common in many European hotels, and one I wish would catch on in North America.
For the power-conscious, there is a single North American outlet and two European outlets available at the end of the ‘desk’ that the flat-panel television resides on. Next to this is the stateroom telephone, and your QuietVox-esque radio devices for use when on tour ashore.
Even after I had unpacked, the allure of the balcony pulled me in, and I sat down and enjoyed a glass of water while watching the other ships zip back and forth along the Danube. Bottles of still and sparking water are provided complimentary in each stateroom, though items from the mini-bar carry a small surcharge.
Our Live Voyage Report onboard Emerald Waterways Emerald Star continues tomorrow as we explore Budapest and set sail along the “Blue Danube”! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.