There are so, so, so many items on our to-do travel list; among them is this Scenic Cruises 12-day “Black Sea Explorer River Cruise.” Hey, we dream, too. And — bonus — it’s all-inclusvie.
We love that the itinerary features a dozen culturally-rich ports by combining six days exploring by land with six days following the river routes once frequented by ancient traders.
Three days each in the Hungarian capital of Budapest and Bucharest — we haven’t been to either — offers an eclectic mix of Romanian and French influence, with ports in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary. An impressive selection of optional excursions – included standard on all of the company’s cruises – offer a deeper look into the cultures and sites: a show at a Hungarian Puszta horse farm; a home-cooked Croatian lunch in a local home; a tour of both cities, Buda and Pest; or a visit to Bran Castle, known as the home of Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula.
Prices for the April 14 and May 26 departure dates – and the reverse itinerary on May 19 – range from $5,395 to $7,380 per person, double. The 18-day “Black Sea & Turkey” river cruise, which combines this itinerary with an additional four ports, is available ranging from $7,465 to $9,450.
A two-night stay in the “Paris of the East,” Romania’s French-inspired Romanian Bucharest, immerses guests in the beauty of the countryside and the history of the city. Highlights include a visit to Europe’s largest building, Ceaucescu’s Palace of Parliament; a trip through the Transylvanian Plateau to the Carpathian Mountains; and a “Scenic Free Choice” between Bram Castle, a former Teutonic Knights stronghold and the famed home of Count Dracula, or Snagov Lake, where guests can visit the supposed burial place of the legendary Dracula, Vlad Tepes. In the port of Cernavoda, guests can travel to the nearby seaside town of Constanța and Mamaia, Romania’s most popular resort. In Bulgaria, the ship visits Ruse, often called “Little Vienna” for its Neo-Baroque and Neo-Rococo architecture; Arbanasi, a center for historical monuments; Veliko Tarnovo, famous for both its unique architecture and as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire; and Svishtov, once a Roman stronghold.
The ship’s course also takes it through the Iron Gate, a breathtaking gorge nestled between the Carpathian and Balkan Mountains, and visits the Serbian city of Belgrade – one of Europe’s oldest capital cities – for a sightseeing tour that explores Tito’s memorial, Fortress Kalemegdan and The Church of Saint Sava. At the confluence of the Vuka and Danube Rivers, the ship ports in Vukovar for a taste of true Croatian culture – afforded by a home-cooked lunch in a local home – and an exclusive wine and cheese tasting in the cellars of Ilok. One day is spent in the Baroque town of Kalocsa, renowned for its production of “red gold” (paprika), a Hungarian cooking staple, and three in Budapest, whose abundant natural and historical attractions –including 80 geothermal springs and the second oldest underground railway – are rivaled only by its modern nightlife, which occupies the 1st and 3rd places on Lonely Planet’s “100 Greatest Bars of the World” 2012 list.
Scenic Cruises operates the newest fleet of river cruise ships in Europe. Its five ships will increase to seven this spring. The fleet sails river voyages throughout Europe, Russia and Egypt, ranging from seven to 21 nights.
Oversized staterooms and suites are a feature, and more than 80 percent of them feature full-size balconies. There’s also private butler service in Junior and Royal Suites, private concerts, exclusive performances, onboard entertainment, tour leaders, meals in a choice of three dining venues – served with complimentary premium wines, beers and soft drinks, escorted airport transfers, gratuities and baggage handling. All of that is included in the cruise fare.
If You’re Going: For more on Scenic Tours and Scenic Cruises, visit www.scenictoursus.com; call (866) 689-8611; or email: email@example.com. Brochures can be downloaded directly from the web site.
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National International Travel Examiners J.S. Fletcher and spouse, Kathy M. Newbern, report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the globe. They are award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers and created YourSpaReport.com and YourNovel.com, their personalized romance novel business.