Going on a big trip is an emotional experience for me. The looking-forward-to part is always great. And in the case of a river cruise, there is the sharp excitement of boarding the boat for the first time. The welcoming crew, the perfect stateroom, the prospect of sights and tours and fine foods and fine wines. I felt that when we stepped onto the Uniworld SS Beatrice. Everyone was so nice as we checked in at the desk next to the glittery cases of the gift shop. We had some sparkling water in the lounge and used the wifi, and then headed out for some tourism in Budapest as our room was not yet ready.
We caught up with some friends on the ship, who we hadn’t seen in a while. And we met some new folks, many of them interesting and fun. Each night, we’d gather for cocktails in the lounge — sparkling wine, Aperol or Campari spritzes. We’d listen to our cruise manager, Gabriel, give the briefing the next day and perhaps to a short talk by the captain (who was hilarious). Laura, the eloquent and professional sommelier, would describe the evening’s wine for us and then we’d head to dinner where delights awaited us.
As a non meat-eater, I was particularly happy with the menus on Uniworld. There were always several things I could eat — green tomato salad with fried cheese, fried tofu, asparagus soup, rolled zucchini slices stuffed with veggies and cheese, tuna rillettes, tiny whole calamari, something delicious with quinoa. Every night, I passed on the tarts and cakes and ice cream and I had the cheese plate for dessert.
Mornings, we grazed the breakfast buffet, which had warming trays filled with scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes, beans, meats (not for me!), pancakes, French toast. The cold bar had yogurts with many toppings, juices, chia puddings, parfaits, cheeses, croissants, breads, salads. A friendly cook was on hand to whip up omelets and waffles. We had Brazilian coffee and proper English Breakfast tea served in a teapot.
After, the adventures would begin — walking tours (in the rain!) or bus trips to archaeological sites or monasteries or fortresses or palaces. Each day was more fun and interesting than the last, often with some scenic cruising in addition to the tours. We sent our laundry out. We had massages. We talked to people. We dined. We attended wine tastings. We danced. We watched folk dancers and listened to musicians and lectures.
The last day of the cruise, I started to feel empty and sad. No more four-course dinners with fun people and unlimited wine. No more gorgeous scenery going by outside the window. No more pampering. No more camaraderie. We boarded buses for Bucharest where our cruise included two nights at a hotel and some tours. There, it seemed, we were unceremoniously dumped and the cruise let-down set in. Alas, we were on our own, no one to cater to our needs, no group of friendly faces to share (included and unlimited!) drinks or meals. Instead we had an impersonal hotel with indifferent service, and we rolled the dice at restaurants. I felt a bit down.
The emotional ups and downs of the river cruise…
Of course we rallied and enjoyed our stay in Bucharest….. more on that to come….