An Emerald Danube Experience March 2022

After the 2022 River Cruise conference in Budapest, I joined my ship and home for the next five days on a journey along the lower Danube towards Belgrade. The Emerald Sun is like a small, floating, boutique hotel. There is a beautiful swimming pool that converts into a cinema at night, a spa treatment room and a gym, as well as bikes to use in port. On deck there is even a putting area. Dining is an important feature with an emphasis on exceptional food, often with a local theme. I can personally confirm that the food was delicious.

Emerald Cruises are sister brand to the five-star, luxury Scenic. They offer equally luxurious and beautifully designed, contemporary Star-Ships with a more flexible approach to what is included.

One of the things I love about river cruising is the changing views from the cabin or the deck as the ship travels through the heart of a destination. It was very exciting to approach Budapest on the river and dock so close to the centre.

From our river ship, we were able to walk into the centre of Budapest to explore. There is a lovely mix of architecture and a lively coffee culture. A stop at the Gerbeaud Confectionary with exceptional cakes is a must. We also spent a relaxing time at an open-air spa, also a favourite local pastime.

At the furthest point of our river journey was Belgrade, capital city of Serbia. Taking in the view from the ancient fortress and experiencing the local shops and cafes was a pleasure.

Another highlight for me was the Croatian town of Vukovar with it’s tall water tower. I climbed the 198 steps to enjoy a panoramic view from the top. During the siege of 1991, the water tower became a symbol of resistance with the Croatian flag flying proudly. Although it was hit by 640 enemy missiles, amazingly, it remained standing.

From our final stop, Kalocsa, we embarked on a coach tour that included the impressive Bakod Puszta Horse farm with an engaging show and some local delicacies to sample. One of the performers rode a donkey alongside the highly trained, majestic horses. He played the class clown much to the amusement of the audience. There were some incredible stunts including the breath-taking moment when a rider stood on his horse and controlled all twelve animals on his own – at full speed.

One of my highlights was sipping a cocktail on deck at sunset as the ship glided through the water. For me, river cruise is about the experiences, from admiring the ever-changing landscape to sampling the local coffee shops. You are immersed in the local culture, often docking right in the heart of a town or city, perfect for exploring.