The spectacular Danube to the Black Sea with Shearings – Part 3

Back in the EU again!

Pecs Carnival, Hungary 104 passengers and a multi-national crew of 35 breathed a collective sigh of relief as we rejoined the EU after a relatively easy ride (or should I say sail) through the border controls between Serbia and Hungary. It was the eleventh day of our 14-day river cruise with Shearings aboard the MS Serenade 2 and the Hungarian city of Pecs beckoned. We set off with our tour guide in the direction of some very loud music. I was thrilled to learn it was Pecs Carnival and, for once, we arrived on time for an unscheduled event. Crazily dressed groups and smart marching bands were amassing in the city square as organizers attempted to impose some order. I had plenty of time to visit the gloriously clean loos in the modern Tourist Office and nab pole position to photograph the entire parade. Whilst it wasn’t exactly up to Notting Hill standards, the youthful enthusiasm of the colourfully-dressed participants was utterly infectious. Amazingly, we even had time to visit some of the historic sites before piling back onto the coach for our return to the ship.

Budapest Sailing on into Budapest we were greeted by the magnificent sight of the Parliament Buildings as we moored near the poignant Jewish shoes memorial. 60 pairs of iron shoes line the riverbank commemorating the Jews ordered to remove their shoes before being shot and their bodies thrown into the Danube. As we set off for our coach tour of the city we soon discovered that most of Budapest was shut – that is the streets were cordoned off for a massive festival celebrating 60 years since the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. A hastily revised itinerary took us up into the hills on the Buda side of the city (the Pest side is flat) to the Fisherman’s Bastion where we enjoyed free time to explore and take in the far-reaching views.

An open-air exhibition in Budapest After lunch on board the ship, we had free time to explore the city. I set off to enjoy the open-air exhibition that included a section of the Berlin Wall and hundreds of stall displaying local produce. A lively local rock band was belting out music from one end of the famous Andrassy Avenue, a world heritage site over 2 km long lined with mansions, embassies, shops, museums. At the other end of the Avenue, Heroes Park was completely closed off in preparation for a ticket-only horse race. After 8 miles of exploration I decided this city was definitely worthy of a second visit. The ship beckoned and there was an opportunity for an evening tour of ‘Illuminated Budapest’, taking in an organ concert and a glass of champagne.

A statue of Cumil the sewer worker in Bratislava Our penultimate cruise stop was Bratislava, a small capital city with a quirky sense of humour, After a bone-shaking tour in the toy train to visit the castle, some of us continued on a walking tour of the old town with our guide, spotting some of the amusing statues and shop fronts. The weather had turned with temperatures dropping from the 30s to the chilly teens with a biting cold wind that took some of our group, still sporting shorts and tee-shirts, somewhat unawares.

As our tour had been delayed by an hour while passing through locks, we did not have much free time to explore before returning to the ship to sail the final stretch to Passau. We passed through the picturesque Wachau Valley, stopping off at the fabulous Melk Abbey on the way. After some stretches of uninspiring scenery on the lower Danube it was lovely to see hills covered in vineyards and dotted with fairytale castles. The Abbey, towering above the Danube on its rocky outcrop was a stunning sight. A coach took us up a winding road to the entrance and after the guided tour we had free time with the option to make our own way back down through the pretty village. Melk Abbey, Melk, Austria One disappointment was the ban on photography inside the Abbey, strictly enforced by our guide. Fortunately, books and post cards on sale in the gift shop provided lasting mementos of the spectacular interior.

As we approached our last night on board, most of us were ready for home. Prior to the Captain’s dinner we got to meet all the ship’s crew and Gill, the cruise manager, explained the tipping system.  We had already tipped crew who had looked after us so well, but this was a chance to ensure the services of all the staff were rewarded. Coordinating the pickup of the various groups the following morning was managed well. The strong current had slowed down the ship but everyone met their allocated coaches in good time. All-in-all this river cruise had been a memorable experience and a great, relatively stress-free way to visit so many fascinating European towns and cities.

We are sorry to advise that the Specialist Leisure Group, which includes Shearings, entered administration on 22 May 2020. If you have booked a holiday with Shearings, or you have any questions please visit the Shearings website.

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

You may also find interesting:

310 people found this helpful

Share Article:


Social media manager, freelance writer, photographer

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Geoff Moore joined events across the island to celebrate Liberation Day, one of the most important dates in Guernsey’s calendar…
The Royal Shakespeare Company offers far more than just live theatre as Gillian Thornton found out on a visit to…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.