The first thing to say about this ‘Enchantment of Eastern Europe’ cruise is that it is not a river cruise as we know it. Rather it is a coach tour based on an ever moving ship that sails from port to port as hours are spent being bussed to and from the excursion destinations. This is because there are few towns or cities on the Danube between Silistra (Bucharest) and Budapest so the cruise lines have to seek places to visit that are often far from the river.
The cruise started with two day stay in Bucharest at the Sheraton hotel. The hotel was adequate and our room on the 16th floor acceptable but others had small and/or noisy rooms. The Emerald Waterways welcome dinner on the first evening was a complete shambles lasting two and a half hours with long gaps between courses and ordered wines turning up with the sweet. Bucharest is a moderately interesting city and the main ‘attraction’ is the Palace of the Parliament, a vast testament to a dictator’s megalomania and on the included tour.
After two nights we were taken by coach to Giurgiu on the Danube to join Emerald Sun. En-route we stopped for lunch at a restaurant (Pescarus) by a lake where all 170 of us joined a group from a Viking cruise for another chaotic meal.
After what went before, things could only improve when we boarded Emerald Sun and so it proved. The ship is smart, modern with much use of technologies. The cabin was roomy and quiet, though my wife craved more drawers for storage. We liked the sliding panoramic window, but felt that the so-called indoor balcony with its plastic flooring did not work for us. The en-suite, accessed through a noisy sliding door was very acceptable and the comfort of the beds very good. The ship’s public areas are spacious and the front terrace is very pleasant. As with all ships, there are not enough seats in the lounge. We did not use the swimming pool at the rear, but its was popular. I did however watch a soccer match in the same area when converted to a cinema and that was great.
We did not think the food lived up to its star billing, dinner was a particular disappointment at times. We were supposed to enjoy a Serbian dinner on one occasion (when in Belgrade) but that did not materialise. We cruised on an Emerald Waterways chartered ship last year on the Rhone (MS A-Rosa Stella) and found that the food on her to be of a much better standard. A fellow diner took up the matter with the Chef who was not that interested in what he had to say.
In summary we were very impressed with the ship and much of its layout and the staff were mostly lovely. Reception personnel were really helpful which we think is very important. We enjoyed the days sailing through the Iron Gates but found the rest of the coach tour quite demanding. One thing to note: you do not really need the Premium Drinks Package (it was included for us) as the wine waiters are very generous at meal times and beyond with good quality beers and wines.