Beautiful Budapest

The Beautiful Blue Danube: Passing the Hungarian Parliament buildings from onboard the equally beautiful MS AmaLyra. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

You may have noticed that today’s Live Voyage Report was posted a little late.  There’s a good reason for that.  Quite simply put, this last evening onboard AmaWaterways’ AmaLyra was one of the best.  But I keep saying that, and it’s true – each evening has been better than the last.  That’s one of the major benefits of a river cruise, and in particular a river cruise with AmaWaterways.  With just 148 passengers onboard, the AmaLyra feels like a cozy boutique hotel; one that is populated with newfound friends.

Sailing under the Chain Bridge in Budapest. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

This morning we sailed in to the capital of Hungary, Budapest. Comprised of two cities separated by the Danube River (Buda and Pest), Budapest has one of the richest histories in this part of Europe.  Though, as our tour guide alluded to, “sometimes it’s best to not have such a rich history.”

"In Good Old Communist Times": our tour guide explains the spotty history of this Cold War-era car. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

For those who haven’t been, the sail-in to Budapest is spectacular; for me, it’s up there with cities like Venice or a sunset sail-away from Mykonos, Greece.  The first thing we saw as we rounded the last bend was the endlessly amazing Hungarian Parliament Buildings.  On every side of the ship, some of the grandest buildings in Europe were beckoning for our attention.  It was simply amazing.

AmaLyra docked in Budapest. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

If our sail-in was spectacular, the best was yet to come. After a leisurely morning of free time, everyone set out on our complimentary city tour at 2pm, calling at the Fisherman’s Bastion, driving us around the city, and concluding at the spectacular Christmas Market located in the square just behind the Marriott.

Parliament as seen from Fisherman's Bastion. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Perched high atop a hill, Fisherman's Bastion offers some of the best views of Budapest. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

While Budapest’s Christmas Market isn’t one of the largest I’ve experienced this week, it was without a doubt the most beautiful. Lights are strung from lamp posts and buildings, shops are set up in the square and along the surrounding streets, and the entire thing is adorned with a massive Christmas Tree.

Entering Budapest's spectacular Christmas Market at dusk. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

But it’s the culture here that impresses me most. The market, like everyone that came before it, is a very social event.  The market in Budapest was packed with people young and old, drinking cider and mulled wine and eating every conceivable variety of smoked meats you could possibly imagine.  Just the smell alone was intoxicating!

Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Let it snow! The real stuff may be missing, but the Budapest Christmas Market was wonderfully festive. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Back onboard, we had yet another spectacular dinner featuring a variety of food including local specialties and wines.  At 9pm, though, we left our berth to the tune of the Blue Danube playing over the loudspeaker and began our spectacular night time cruise past the sights of Budapest, including the stunning Parliament buildings.

It was truly the highlight of the voyage, and it occured to me: AmaWaterways didn’t have to do this for the passengers.  They could have saved the money spent on fuel and berthing charges and coordinating with the local authorities, but instead, they did it anyway.  In this age where every company seems to be looking to save a buck, it’s so refreshing to see AmaWaterways really go the extra mile for their guests.  I did notice that a competing river cruise ship across the Danube didn’t set sail at night.

A Voyage to Remember: Sailing past the Parliament at night aboard AmaLyra. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

How do you describe to someone who hasn’t been to Budapest how astonishing it is to sail past all these beautiful buildings at night?  For me, it almost defies explanation.  But when you go, you will understand this feeling completely. Despite the cold and the wind, the words will come to your lips and fall off abruptly. Speaking seems so oddly inadequate.

Remember. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Up on deck, the “ooohs” and “aaahs” of the passengers intermingled with the last strains of the Blue Danube.  Everyone was transfixed on the sides of Buda and Pest.  You could see them taking it all in. Even people like me who run around with cameras at all times eventually dropped them and just watched.

And remembered.

Sailing under the Chain Bridge once again, this time at night. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

For me, there are many things I will always remember about this voyage, from the amazingly historic ports to the different cultural specialties to the AmaLyra and her crew. But as this week draws to a close, there is one question I keep asking myself over and over:

Why did it take me so long to do a river cruise?  And more importantly, When do I come back?

Enjoying a last evening drink aboard AmaWaterways' beautiful AmaLyra. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Trip Report from aboard AmaWaterways AmaLyra wraps up tomorrow with a look back at our astonishing week onboard this beautiful vessel.  Looking to book your very own river cruise with AmaWaterways? Get all the details from our friends at Cruise Experts Travel!


7 Responses to AmaLyra Live Voyage Report – Day 7

  1. Been there – done that – loved it – won’t ever forget it. Thanks for reminding me of what a wonderful cruise we had on the Amalyra while in Budapest. It is a magical city.

  2. Ann G. says:

    Looks and sounds like a beautiful cruise. Thanks for the great pix.

  3. […] afternoon, I arrived in Budapest, Hungary, ready and willing to pick up where I left off in December and to let Tauck act as my guide on this remarkable, 12-day river cruise tour voyage. But my […]

  4. […] be picked up. Because I’ve done the tour of Buda and Pest before (you can have a peek here and here), I decided to enjoy a relaxing morning onboard Viking Freya as she left Budapest. As much as I […]

  5. Gerri says:

    My husband and I just returned from doing the Budapest to Nuremburg cruise on the new AMACERTO. What a wonderful cruise it was! Thanks for bringing it all back to us in this series. We are veteran ocean cruisers and this was our first river cruise. After our experience on the Amacerto, it will not be our last! We loved the Christmas Markets and spent 2 days in Budapest before our cruise. Loved Budapest, friendliest people in the world. Thanks again!

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      So glad you enjoyed your time aboard AMACERTO! Few things are as beautiful as the Budapest to Nuremberg run along the Danube; and in the run-up to the holidays, it is even better. Thanks for the great comment!

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