A Danube River cruise

I recently returned from an interesting 880-mile Danube River voyage. The trip, which took me south and east from Budapest to the Port of Constanta on the Black Sea, included shore visits in Hungary, Vojvodina, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania. We also made some overland side trips to the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The vessel, River Rhapsody , is part of Grand Circle Travel’s fleet of river ships that were launched between 1998 and 2003. All have been built or refurbished within the last five years. The River Rhapsody is 361′ × 37′ and has a draft 4’3″. Its main propulsion is provided by a pair of six-cylinder 1,060-hp diesel engines with hydraulic drives on two Z-drive screws. It also has a bowthruster powered by a 600-hp diesel engine. For service power, the boat has one 240-kw and two 340-kw generators. There’s also an emergency generator.

For passenger accommodations, the boat has 70 two-person staterooms located on three decks. All cabins are outside so passengers always have a view of passing scenery. Each cabin is at least 150 square feet. The boat also features a large split-level dining room, and a large forward lounge with a bar. The boat is roomy, with plenty of space for the 77 passengers and two program directors. The resident program directors provide insight and knowledge of the areas being visited.

The theme of the “small-ship” trip was educational and was loaded with recent history of the fragmentation of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The port and inland coach tours were also very informative, especially when we visited the homes of local residents for lunches.

A special highlight on our trip was the tour of Prague where we learned about the patron saint of the waterways, Jan Nepomucky.

Grand Circle’s trips are targeted at Americans over age 50. Some of their other itineraries include Eastern Europe, the Black Sea, and the Rhine and Main rivers.

In the U.S., the small-ship cruises are marketed by Grand Circle Travel in Boston. For more information on the company and its cruises, visit http://www.gct.com/gcc/general.

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