This is a continuation of a series featuring my favorite cruises of 2016 to be compiled in an ebook that will be published on January 31, 2017.
I felt like a true adventurer on Emerald Sky’s Enchantment of Eastern Europe cruise in early April of 2016. That’s in part because Emerald Sky took me to developing countries I had not been to before, namely Romania and Bulgaria.
The 10-night voyage started in Bucharest and ended in Budapest, perfect bookends for exploring this beautiful and fascinating region of the world.
The start of the journey was not unlike journeys undertaken by a younger me. During my twenties, I bicycled and backpacked around the world. What I saw during my first few days on the Emerald Sky itinerary, particularly in Romania and Bulgaria, resonated with what I saw when I traveled around the world back then. On both trips, I visited villages where I saw people living traditional lifestyles and maintaining many of their old customs.
The experiences felt authentic and genuine, and though this region is beginning to see its share of tourists, I felt as though I was exploring a frontier of sorts, places far removed from the busiest parts of the Danube and the major tourist attractions.
While Eastern Europe may appear familiar to those who have traveled Western Europe (you’ll find H&M and Starbucks in the big cities, for example) it can also be as exotic as the East. The fruit brandy rakia, for example, originated from raki, the unsweetened, anise-flavored Turkish alcoholic drink introduced to Bulgaria and elsewhere during the Ottoman rule. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to try rakia in Romania and Bulgaria should you wish. Just be careful: It can be deceptively strong. A sip will do.
The familiarity of this region combined with the foreign is, in part, what made Emerald Waterways’ Enchantment of Eastern Europe itinerary so appealing to me.
My 10-night voyage started with two nights in Bucharest, followed by a one-week cruise that ended in Budapest. I’ve detailed each day of our journey in the links below, from our start in Bucharest before sailing away to Bulgaria and then through the Iron Gates all the way up to Budapest.
There were two big differences in my travel during in my twenties and my travel on Emerald Sky. For starters, I am now three decades older. And Emerald Sky was a far cry above any hotel that I stayed in during my travels back then.
Built in 2014, Emerald Sky is bright, contemporary and inviting. The 182-guest river cruiser featured roomy staterooms with lots of storage, large flat-panel televisions, and in some categories, “indoor” balconies that with the touch of a button opened stateroom floor-to-ceiling windows to the outside air.
Emerald Sky also featured something I’d never seen on a river boat – an indoor pool that doubled as an evening cinema (I’ve seen indoor pools on both Crystal Mozart and on some Uniworld ships, but not a pool that converted to an evening cinema).
Emerald Sky provided the perfect platform for seeing this enchanting region of Europe, with its war-ravaged history and cultural intrigue. And it ended with a bang: the “Illumination Cruise” in Budapest. We sailed for close to an hour past the well-lit buildings of beautiful Budapest, making our last night a night to remember.
A river cruise through Eastern Europe is a good pick for those who have cruised the major rivers of Europe and are looking for something new or for anyone who seeks to explore this developing region of Europe and all of the cultural intrigue that it is has to offer.
Want To Experience The Enchantment Of Eastern Europe?
In 2017, Emerald Waterways offers 10-night Enchantment of Eastern Europe cruises from US$2,995 per person. From April 20 through September 14, five departures are offered on Emerald Dawn, Emerald Sky and Emerald Sun. Many of the sailings are already sold out. If you can’t find space for 2017, look to book for 2018 – and act early to assure your place.
Links to my voyage recap:
- Enchantment Of Eastern Europe, Bucharest To Budapest On Emerald Sky Part I
- Enchantment Of Eastern Europe, Bucharest To Budapest On Emerald Sky Part 2
- Enchantment Of Eastern Europe, Bucharest To Budapest On Emerald Sky Part 3
- Enchantment Of Eastern Europe, Bucharest To Budapest On Emerald Sky Part 4
- An Incredible Journey: Enchantment Of Eastern Europe On Emerald Sky
- My Take On Emerald Sky: Five Favorite Things