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Our clients Gordon and Carole Meek recently returned from their very first river cruise. They embarked on a Viking Cruise through Eastern Europe; their trip started in Bucharest, Romania, and the ship traveled north to Budapest, Hungary, and along the way they sailed through Bulgaria, Serbia, and Croatia.

We caught up with Gordon to get his first impressions on river cruising and his insights into vacationing in a less-traveled part of Europe. Read on for Gordon’s fascinating thoughts on the difference between ocean and river cruising, Eastern Europe, and the Viking experience:

What were your overall impressions of your first river cruise?

It was very educational, and the excursions were wonderful and all included. River cruising, though, is not the fun and gluttony of a big ocean cruise. It’s more about meeting the people, going on excursions, trying the local food. By the time dinner on the ship was over, we’d maybe go up to the lounge for a half hour, and then we’d be ready to go back to our own room and relax.

What was your favorite part of the trip?

The biggest “wow” was being in Budapest. It’s a beautiful city, with lots of history. For all practical purposes it’s very modern and accommodating to visitors; they have lots of pedestrian-only streets. There’s a wonderful city market, with good local food, arts and crafts, and a ton to explore. The city was definitely the highlight of the trip, so much so that I didn’t convert any of my money back to U.S. dollars because I know we’ll go back!

What would you say about Viking’s service on board?

On the river cruise, I was most impressed with how well organized everything was. From the time we left our hotel in Bucharest all the way through our departure from Budapest, the Viking staff anticipated everything, and they were extremely friendly. There were only 133 passengers on board, so it was very easy for the staff to get to know us and vice versa. Some of the river cruise ads I’ve seen say, “you don’t need to worry about anything” — and that’s true, you don’t!

We also had excellent tour guides that were very knowledgeable, and they did not hesitate to talk about anything, even former communism rules. As long as you were interested they were more than willing to talk.

Who do you think an Eastern Europe river cruise is best for? 

I’d say you have to have a sense of learning and want to experience things on a river cruise through Eastern Europe. It’s learning how these people lived under communism; it’s a highly educational type of trip. You’re really going out and experiencing what life was like as told by the guide and how people have recovered. This requires a sense of adventure and a thirst for knowledge. But I think everyone needs to do something different every once in the while!

Any advice for folks thinking about a river cruise in general?

You’ll enjoy a river cruise more if you like to do small talk and meet new people, as opposed to going on board and standing by yourself. It’s too small of a ship to get lost by yourself! It’s a great way to connect with others.

Intrigued by river cruising, or ready to explore the cultural gems of Eastern Europe? Get in touch with our travel planning experts today to learn which destinations and suppliers best fit your travel style!

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