I neglected to mention in my last post that my travel hiccups seem to be following me.
Somewhere between packing up and checking out of my hotel, dropping my luggage at the Tauck hotel, and my cabin, both my black windbreaker and my beloved blue Alaskan hoodie sweatshirt have disappeared. You might ask me "Sherita, didn't you lock your suitcase?" No. I could not, because if you recall, someone at the airlines BROKE IT OFF!! Sigh. It just wears you out.
Anyway, I can't prove it, but my gut feeling is that housekeeping stole the items from me at my first hotel. And no, I did not leave those two things behind. I distinctly recall stuffing my windbreaker into my backpack thinking to myself, "it's gonna be wrinkled", even while my lazy voice whispered to me "so what, the wrinkles will fall out".
Well. Enough of that. Let's move on to life on the river.
There is a definite schedule and rhythm to a river cruise. Each morning, for early risers, coffee and tea and some croissants are available in the little bistro at the back of the boat. There's s nice machine that will spit out espresso, Americano and Cappuccino.
If you're not an early riser or want to wait for real food, the dining room opens around 7:30. It's a buffet offering the usual suspects - yogurts, dry cereals, fruits, muffins, lox, cheese, bacon, baked beans, sausage and horrible runny scrambled eggs. Thankfully though, there's a nice cook who will make you eggs any way you desire. He makes good omelettes too. He will also flip some pancakes or cook a small waffle.
After breakfast, we normally have, by this time, arrived at our "port" for the day. Sometimes though, it's a port stop in the afternoon.
Since all tours are included in the cost of the cruise, all one needs to decide is which tour they're going on, or if they want to go off on their own. Most ports only offer one guided tour, but it's offered as leisure walkers, regular walkers, or introductory tours only.
The tour guides are local to the port we are visiting. They have all been quite good so far. One guide was a little scatter-brained but he still knew his stuff and readily answered questions.
Our visits in ports (they're not really ports, per de, they are towns located on the river. But for simplicity I call them ports) are usually only several hours long and then the boat moves on. I'm not used to this. Im used to getting off the ship first thing in the morning and being gone all day long, or overnighting. This half day thing tends to make me feel rushed. However, someone pointed out to me that if we stayed all day in a town, the itinerary of places we visit would be much smaller. The boat needs to keep moving.
And then there's the subject of the 68 locks we have to travel through. And you don't just slow down and then toddle through a lock. You need a reservation. And then if you're early you have to tie up or idle somewhere until it's your turn. And then being in the lock itself is very time consuming. You float in, maybe tie to one side, stop the engines, and then wait while the doors behind you shut, and the water either rises or falls to match the water on the other side of the forward gates. Sometimes it takes a few minutes but most of the time it takes a good half hour. The whole process can eat up a lot of "river" time. And frankly, after about 8 of them I was "locked" out. I call it ANAL. Ack, No, Another Lock.
Okay, so back to the schedule. If we're in port in the morning, we are back for lunch, but then sometimes we get to have a lunch or a snack and wine or beer tasting around the lunch hour, then go back on board.
But lunch on the boat is a buffet with hot foods. A meat, a fish, and the cook usually carved some roast or makes a pasta. There's a small salad bar. Sodas, tea, lemonade, beer and wine are also served.
In the afternoons, if we've been in town in the morning, there's some sort of lecture or local entertainment to amuse us, in the big lounge. If we're in town in the afternoon then the activity takes place in the morning. It's usually pretty good, even if the advertised subject doesn't sound interesting. I try to go.
At the end of the day, its cocktail hour in the lounge and sometime during this hour we get the daily briefing for the next day. One of our three Tauck Directors gives this. The written version of the briefing appears in our staterooms that evening. Here's a tip - take a photo of it with your phone or camera. It comes in real handy the next day when you're in town and can't find the paper copy.
Then it's time for dinner. Dinner is a sit down, order from a menu, be served, meal. It's open seating so you can sit with who ever you like (or don't like and get stuck with anyway).
After dinner there's piano music in the lounge but some nights there's also games or other social activities. You can participate or not. Totally stress-free decision making.
Along with the daily briefing, a one pager description of your upcoming port is given. It's s nice little summary of the town you will visit and why it's important or what is interesting and noteworthy about it. I will rely on these heavily when making future posts about the towns we're seeing, because honestly, they all tend to blur a bit after a few days.
Your stateroom is cleaned twice per day. Bed is made, Towels changed out, bathroom cleaned. At night, your bed is turned down, curtains are drawn closed, and a chocolate candy is sitting on your pillow. In my case, my attendant also takes Snort from the windowsill and puts him on "his" side of the bed. Sweet touch!!
You're given a card that you use to get into your stateroom as well as getting on and off the boat. They present it to you in a little brown leather case. I hope we get to keep the case. The cool thing is that you can keep the card in the case all the time because the electronic eye can read through it.
We've had just one day on the cruise that has been "cruising only". While I'm woefully behind in my posts, I know that there will only be this one day. I enjoyed it but I heard others grumble about it. But if you know me, and have read my blog over the years, you know I love sea days. I count river days as the same. Nice. And never enough.
The pictures are the final ones from Budapest when we visited Fishermans Bastion and Heroes Square.