Highlights of Eastern Europe Aboard the S.S. Beatrice with a Winery Group
by Carol Farnworth
This was the fifth riverboat cruise Dimensions in Travel has done with Oregon's Broadley Vineyard owners and cruise hosts, Claudia and Craig Broadley. We had a total of 23 people on this Uniworld Boutique River Cruises lower Danube itinerary from Budapest to Bucharest. My husband John and I were so pleased to be the escorts and it was such a pleasure to connect with dear travel friends again.
Starting in Budapest
We spent one night in Budapest, which we had visited in the past. We stayed at a Marriott Autograph hotel called the New York Palace. It is a gorgeous property with a restaurant called the New York Café which is quite famous in the city. The décor rivals the Ritz in London. Very ornate, lots of people taking photos. The hotel reserves a section of the café exclusively for its guests because of the popularity. The hotel itself was originally built as an office building and was lovely, quiet, and had good service. But it is definitely NOT good for anyone with a mobility issue. No wheelchair ramps.
Aboard Uniworld's S.S. Beatrice
The service was excellent in all areas. The crew was friendly and warm. The S.S. Beatrice was renovated in 2018 and we thought it was a beautiful riverboat. Though our group has staterooms spread around the small ship, we would connect up over meals, during included shore experiences, at our private wine tastings and in the evenings in the lounge where there was always music or local entertainment.
The dining room was nicely configured. I found the dinner menu was expanded from our winery cruise aboard Uniworld's River Queen in 2017. Salmon, chicken and fish were always available. Tables were set up for 4 or 6, but if 7 or more of us wanted to eat together we could make reservations and they would set up a special table. Breakfast was buffet and always had a special morning dish that could be served at the table and there was always a meat carvery item at lunch. It was also possible to eat in an area off the cocktail lounge, with tables for two that were fairly close together when we wanted a more private chat during dinner. The lounge offered the same menu as the dining room and was very popular. There was also Max’s, where a special Chef’s Table and steak dinners are offered for an additional cost. We used Max's for our group's private wine tastings where we compared local wines bought ashore to Broadley Vineyard wine brought from home.
One of our group members also made a point of saying this cruise offered wonderful food, and the friends they'd brought as well were vegan. The S.S. Beatrice chef made special dishes just for them which were not just tasty but had beautiful presentation. She was impressed also with the service of all staff. Wines poured were mostly local and were very good. During the cocktail hour the shore excursion manager talked about the next day’s touring options and the wine sommelier spoke about the wine selections offered at dinner. The captain was quite visible on this trip which we enjoyed.
This itinerary visits Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Bucharest. Some magazine articles give the impression that we would experience uncrowded river conditions, with few if any riverboats doing this lower Danube cruise. However, that was not the case. We saw many other boats doing this cruise. Unlike many river trips we have taken, there are not numerous locks that you pass through, in fact there was only one the entire length of our cruise. Because of distances between ports, much of our travel was by night.
For Those With Mobility Issues
Uniworld offers wonderful curated included shore experiences at a variety of levels for active travelers, the culturally curious and gentle walkers. However, they state very clearly in their brochures and on their website that their itineraries are not ideal for anyone with mobility issues, wheelchair user, etc. And this is certainly the case. So do consider your European river cruise vacation decision carefully if you are someone who has difficulty getting around. I had two long time clients with me, on their first riverboat trip, and the wife who suffers from a very bad back, said they would probably not do another one. It was just too hard trying to keep up with guides, even on tours for gentle walkers.
Post-Cruise in Bucharest
Our cruise ended in Bucharest with an included two-night stay at the Radisson Blu. It was a lovely place to say farewell to old and new friends. This city center hotel stands near Bucharest Old Town, a short walk from the famed Revolution Square. Also nearby, you can admire the architecture of the National Museum of Art or Biblioteca Centrala Universitara, walk along the Calea Victoriei or attend a performance at the Romanian Athenaeum Concert Hall. Those with a passion for the outdoors enjoy strolling through the beautiful gardens of Cismigiu Park, adjacent to Radisson Blu. You can also enjoy shopping in Piata Unirii, one of the largest squares in central Bucharest, and the old town area of Lipscani.