Cruising the Danube from the Black Sea to the North Sea
April-May 2023

The capitals of Eastern Europe held a fascination but seemed to us to be remote and still tainted by their time under Communism. They were a long way east and appeared only accessible from a coach tour (that we did not fancy at all...). So when advertisements kept popping up for "river cruises" we decided to investigate further. There are plenty of companies in this business, from cheap and cheerful (with extra chages for everything) to 5-star gold-plated butler service. Onlilne reviews were variable but it was clear that 2 companies stand out in the river cruise business - Uniworld and Scenic. The former is heavily marketed in North America and the latter is Australian-owned with passengers dominantly from Australia, Canada, UK and New Zealand. Prices are all-inclusive, eat and drink as much as you like and all excursions are included in the cost. Perfect. We decided to book.

But along came COVID and the world retreated into its shell. Cruising died. We had to wait it out.

In 2022 we decided there was light ahead, Scenic was offering discounts for early bookings so we jumped in. Bucharest to Amsterdam covered 11 countries and 9 capital cities. Arrive on board, unpack once then settle in for 21 days of entertainment and wonder. Then came two important decision: (i) which time of year (noting the Spring cruises were cheaper) and (ii) how to get to Bucharest and home from Amsterdam, And should we add something on before and after? We had unfinished business in London so maybe the Eurostar from Amsterdam to London arriving 6 May would suit. Bucharest is close to Istanbul and we liked the idea of another visit there. BUT... getting from Istanbul to Bucharest in early April was problematic (especially by train). And then it was announced that 6 May would be Coronation Day (not the ideal time to arrive in London unless you were a mad, keen royalist). So we settled on London before and northern UK after the tour.

Scenic Cruises and the Scenic Jade

Scenic Cruises, although not the cheapest company offering Danube cruises, met all our requirements. We did not specifically choose the "Scenic Jade" - it chose us by date and itenerary. But we were very happy we were on this cruise as we found all of the staff excellent and the passengers pleasant to be with. We had high expectations of this cruise based on price, itinerary and online reviews. We were aware that this was their first full cruise since all the closures from COVID in 2021 and 2022 so there might be some "shake-down" of ship and crew required. We had 21 days on the Scenic Jade; around 20 breakfasts, lunches and dinners; countless glasses of wine, beer and cups of tea (every morning at 7am at our cabin door); daily itineraries on and off the ship and carefully selected entertainment. In all this time, activity and events not once did we detect any issue, error or concern. The cruise exceeded all of our expectations. All the crew were unfailingly cheerful and helpful. The cruise director - Silvia - was a gem. She had many years of experience on the Danube waterways, knew all of the towns and cities along the route and knew all of the local guides. She had a wonderful sense of humour, compounded by her wrestling with English that led to wonderfully frank statements. Would we recommend Scenic and the Scenic Jade - absolutely! (Scroll down this page for a few photos.)

Paul and Colma, May 2023

Our Itinerary

Day Date Event
Day 1 Wednesday 5 April 2023 Shuttle to Auckland Airport for flight to Singapore, departing 2355.
Day 2 Thursday 6 April 2023 Lost in flight.
Day 3 Friday 7 April 2023 A Visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, then Hammersmith
Day 4 Saturday 8 April 2023 St James's Park and Hyde Park.
Day 5 Sunday 9 April 2023 A day at Kew Gardens
Day 6 Monday 10 April 2023 A day with family then a night at the Royal Albert Hall
Day 7 Tuesday 11 April 2023 Flight to Bucharest. We are now in Romania. Arrived 1730 to heavy rain, Traffic was awful; took 90 minutes from airport to hotel, so late for dinner and cruise introduction.
Day 8 Wednesday 12 April 2023 Romania: Explore Bucharest, visit Ceasceau's Summer House, then long coach trip to Giurgiu to join our cruse ship the "Scenic Jade".
Day 9 Thursday 13 April 2023 Bulgaria: Down river to Silistra then a long coach trip to Varna on the Black Sea
Day 10 Friday 14 April 2023 Bulgaria: Moored at Rousse. Guided tour to the old cities of Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi.
Day 11 Saturday 15 April 2023 Romania to Serbia: Cruising up the Danube, through the Iron Gates to Belgrade.
Day 12 Sunday 16 April 2023 Serbia: Tours of Belgrade. This being Sunday it was Easter in the Orthodox Church calender.
Day 13 Monday 17 April 2023 Croatia: Tour through Vucovar and Osijek to nature reserve. Lunch with local family.
Day 14 Tuesday 18 April 2023 Hungary: Kalocsa horse show.
Day 15 Wednesday 19 April 2023 Hungary: Arrival in Budapest. Free day to explore Budapest.
Day 16 Thursday 20 April 2023 Hungary: Guided tours of Budapest. Hospital in the Hill.
Day 17 Friday 21 April 2023 Austria: Cruising the Danube to Vienna, passing Bratislava on the way.
Day 18 Saturday 22 April 2023 Slovakia: Bus trip to Bratislava. Afternoon in Vienna, then private concert at Leichtenstein Palace.
Day 19 Sunday 23 April 2023 Austria: Morning stroll around Durnstein and climb to Castle on hill. Cruise on to Melk for visit to Abbey and Aggstein Castle.
Day 20 Monday 24 April 2023 Austria: A day in Salzburg. Coach from ship at Brandstedt into Salzburg, then walking tour of Sound of Music sights and shops. Coach to hilltop venue for lunch and a Sound of Music Concert. Long coach trip back to ship at Passau. Now in Germany.
Day 21 Tuesday 25 April 2023 Germany: ANZAC DAY. Cruise to Regensburg, then city tours including tour of the Thurn-Taxis Palace..
Day 22 Wednesday 26 April 2023 Germany: Overnight cruising from Regensburg to Nuremburg. Left the Danube for the Main-Danube Canal. Afternoon tours in Nuremburg.
Day 23 Thursday 27 April 2023 Germany: Arrived at Bamberg, a Medieval city largely untouched by war. Walking tour of city.
Day 24 Friday 28 April 2023 Germany: Arrived in Wurzburg. Visited central city and toured Palace.
Day 25 Saturday 29 April 2023 Germany: Wertheim to Miltenberg. Visited local farm with butchery, then coach to Miltenberg for walk around old town.
Day 26 Sunday 30 April 2023 Germany: In Rudesheim. Visited Siegfried’s Music Box Musuem, then cable car to hilltop for views over Rhine. Later cruised through Rhine Gorge and the Loreley Statue.
Day 27 Monday 1 May 2023 Germany: Arrived in Cologne early in the morning. Walking tours of the city around the Cathedral, then continued down the Rhine.
Day 28 Tuesday 2 May 2023 Netherlands: Arrival in Amsterdam. Now in Netherlands, our final country on this trip. Visited working windmill near Alkmaar. Final night on the "Scenic Jade"
Day 29 Wednesday 3 May 2023 Netherlands: Disembarked from Scenic Jade and walked to our hotel in Amsterdam, then down Damrak to Dam Square and around to Ann Frank House.
Day 30 Thursday 4 May 2023 Netherlands: Visited a tulip farm and then the famous Keukenhoff Tulip Gardens.
Day 31 Friday 5 May 2023 Netherlands: The Rijksmuseum in the morning, then the overnight ferry to Newcastle upon Tyne.
Day 32 Saturday 6 May 2023 England: Coronation Day: Arrived in Newcastle and watched the coronation on the TV in our hotel room.
Day 33 Sunday 7 May 2023 England: Spent the day with my cousin.
Day 34 Monday 8 May 2023 England: Early trip to Newcastle Airport to pick up the rental car. Rain set in so Whitley Bay was not up to much, then south for the night.
Day 35 Tuesday 9 May 2023 England: Visited the church at Low Dinsdale for headstones of relatives. On to Rievaulx Abbey but it is now shut on Mondays and Tuesdays, so on to York and visited York Minster instead.
Day 36 Wednesday 10 May 2023 England: Visited the National Railway Museum (but the Flying Scotsman was away celebrating its 100th birthday). Visited the Viking Museum in the afternoon.
Day 37 Thursday 11 May 2023 England: North to the Lakes District: Threlkeld and Keswick in the rain.
Day 38 Friday 12 May 2023 England: Threlkeld Church, Surprise View and Honister Pass.
Day 39 Saturday 13 May 2023 England: South to Glossop Church, Eyam Church and then the Chequers Inn at Froggatt Edge.
Day 40 Sunday 14 May 2023 England: Peak District - Drive over Winnats Pass.
Day 41 Monday 15 May 2023 England: Family history day: Ashbourne, Norbury and Nottingham Cemeteries.
Day 42 Tuesday 16 May 2023 England: South to Minehead in Somerset.
Day 43 Wednesday 17 May 2023 England: Our last day. Somerset to Heathrow (and on to Singapore and Auckland).

The Scenic Jade
Our cabin was 4th from rear, lower deck of large windows
Looking rear, sun deck
Every cruise ship has their dimensions displayed.
The main lounge
Entrance foyer and front desk with Sylvia the tour director at her desk
Steps up to the main lounge (and down to the restaurant
Sylvia the cruise director
The Chef - today's specials
Damir - wine expert
Deck 2 corridor
Our cabin
Floor to ceiling window
The top half drops down.
Double wardrobe for storage
Small work desk and door to bathroom

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Last updated: 30 June 2023