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This is an eye-opening trip through some much misunderstood parts of south eastern Europe.

Visit places that the US bombed barely 17 years ago, and visit towns not just neighbors on opposite sides of the Danube but also on opposite sites of the civil war conflicts of that time.

Discover what the former Yugoslavians truly think about Tito, and what the Romanians truly think about Ceausescu.  One country honors its former leader, the other definitely doesn't.

There's a lot more to see, do, experience and learn about the Balkans, and this cruise, with included guiding touring off the ship everywhere we stop, is the best way to do so.

Alternatively, simply come on the cruise to enjoy the beautiful scenery, history, and culture, to say nothing of the bonhomie, friendship, fine food and entertainment on board the ship!

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Cruise the Balkans from Bucharest to Budapest -  Aug/Sep 2016

The most comfortable and convenient way to experience five countries in the Balkans (Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary - and optionally Austria too)

Serbia's capital of Belgrade, as seen from the Danube.

Much of the Balkans is still struggling to recover from decades of communist rule and more recent civil war.  It is difficult to travel in these countries safely and comfortably.

But on our river cruise, we bring comfort, convenience and safety along with us.

This truly is the very best way to see underdeveloped but fascinating parts of Europe such as these.

Maybe you've cruised on a gigantic cruise ship before.  Our "Balkans from Bucharest to Budapest" river cruise is very different.  The nearly new deluxe river cruiser, Amaserena, has only 82 cabins, making for a much more personal and less institutional experience.  For example, the crew remember you by name, and your drinks and food preferences.

The river cruise itinerary is also very different to a traditional ocean cruise.  You never have rough seas, and you're always treated to beautiful views out your cabin window, never just empty ocean.  Plus almost all the shore touring is included, as are most drinks and all food on board too.


Our river cruise ship, the Amaserena, is long, low, and sleek in appearance with spacious cabins, balconies, and lovely public areas indoors and out.

Note :  We can offer you an across the board 5% discount on all cruises operated by Amawaterways.  So if this special tour doesn't suit, have us arrange whichever other cruise you'd prefer.

Tour Dates

Start Date and Options

The cruise itself starts in Rousse (also spelled Ruse), on the afternoon of Sunday 28 August 2016.

We are offering a pre-cruise option in Bucharest and then transfer to Rousse - details below.

Generally, most flights from the US depart the day before they arrive in Europe.  So to get to Rousse on Sunday 28th, you'd probably fly from the US on Saturday 27th, to Bucharest (and we can arrange a transfer from Bucharest Airport to the ship for you).

End Date and Options

The cruise itself travels along the Danube to Budapest and ends on the morning of Sunday 4 September 2016.

We are offering a two night post-cruise option to Vienna in Austria that would end on the morning of Tuesday 6 September.

Another option is to stay on the ship for a second week of cruising, continuing west along the Danube through Austria and Germany, ending in Vilshofen, near Regensburg.  Let us know if you'd like details of this wonderful extension.

You are of course welcome to stay on in Europe any way and any where you wish!

Pre and Post Cruise Optional Extensions

You can fly into Europe at any time prior to the cruise starting, of course, and return home at any time, too, and you don't need to limit yourself to simply flying in to Bucharest and out of Budapest or Vienna.

We offer extensions both before and after the cruise to enhance your overall tour experience, and would be pleased to work with you to fine-tune and customize exactly what you wish to see and do.

Pre-Cruise Option - Bucharest, Transylvania and Dracula - $500pp

We strongly recommend you should arrive in Europe at least one day before the cruise starts, for two reasons.  Firstly, this gives you an 'emergency day' in case you - or your bags - miss flights or have any other types of problems en route.

Secondly, it gives you a day to adjust to the new time zone and to relax after your flight(s).

So, why not make best use of the day or two you arrive early, by taking advantage of our Bucharest, Transylvania and Dracula option.

This option includes two nights in Bucharest, breakfasts each morning, a lunch, a tour around Bucharest, and a day tour into the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, full of vampire legends, including visits to beautiful Peles Castle and to the infamous Bran Castle, otherwise known as Dracula's Castle.  We transfer to the ship on Sunday afternoon.

Arrive into Bucharest on or prior to Friday 26 August for this option.

Post-Cruise Option 1 - The Glory of Imperial Vienna - $500pp

During the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Budapest and Vienna were the twin capitals of this vast empire across the middle and eastern parts of Europe.  You've already experienced Budapest and traveled through many of the former empire's territories on your cruise; here's a chance to match that with two nights in Vienna too.

The tour includes a transfer from the ship to Vienna, two nights in Vienna, breakfasts each morning, and two tours in Vienna.  It concludes on the morning of Tuesday 6 September.

Post-Cruise Option 2 - Continue Cruising the Danube to Vilshofen

People so often say to us, towards the end of a cruise, that they wish it wouldn't end, and that they didn't have to leave.

Well, guess what - you don't have to leave!  Stay on board the ship, and cruise on along the Danube through Austria and Germany for another full week, ending in Vilshofen (near Regensburg) in Germany.

This takes you along the best known stretch of the Danube, and gives you an extraordinary contrast between the former communist countries we toured on our first week in the Balkans and the best of Austria and Germany in the second week.

Ask us for full details if you have sufficient time to consider another full week of cruising.

Special Savings

This cruise is offered to you for $750 less than the regular rate published on the official Amawaterways site.  And that is a $750 discount per person - two of you traveling together will save $1500!  This is a short term special offer.

If you've traveled with Amawaterways before, you'll get another $100 per person discount.

Plus you'll get some special Travel Insider exclusive extras - an on-board cocktail function, and an extra surprise bonus, too.

A $400 per person non-refundable deposit is required to confirm your place on this tour.

The tour does not include the costs of travel between your home and the tour start and end points.

Super Single Savings Too!

If you are traveling by yourself, we have a very limited number of D and E cabins available at no extra cost for singles.

Although the $750 discount doesn't also apply, this is $1750 or more below the regular single price.

About the Cruise/Tour

Like a traditional cruise, this is a fully meal inclusive cruise, and - better than a traditional cruise - it includes a generous amount of shore touring as well.  You won't have to pay extra for your shore touring when visiting the lovely towns and wineries and castles/chateaus as you cruise through the Bordeaux region.

The cruise of course includes three great meals a day, plus various other snacks, on-board entertainment, as well as generous opportunities to sightsee, both from the boat as it cruises the river, and while ashore during the many stops.  You typically have time to both participate in a provided tour and also to sightsee and shop on your own, each day.

A nice extra feature is free wine, beer or soda with all lunches and dinners (and for breakfasts there's sparkling white wine if you so wish).  And if you wish to drink more wine, you'll be delighted at the sometimes bargain prices that wine sells for ashore.

While all meals are available on the vessel, you'll also be able to experience other dining opportunities ashore if you wish, and we'll sometimes have a chance to stay late into the evening in ports so as to sample the local night life, too.

Because the ship carries a maximum of 164 passengers, everything is more personal.  The crew will remember you by name, and you have a chance to meet other people on board and to create new friendships.  Most people on these cruises seem to be variously middle aged and older.

I've been on many Amawaterways cruises in the past, most recently in December 2015 and soon in July/Aug 2016, and I've enjoyed this same cruise before too.  I continue to consider them the best river cruise operator, and the many Travel Insiders traveling with me seem to echo that high opinion.

More general information about river cruising in Europe can be found here.

A day by day, town by town photo journal of a Christmas Cruise can be found here.

Why River Cruising

River cruising is simply and absolutely the most comfortable and convenient way to travel around this region.  You can unpack your bags and get comfortable in your lovely cabin and not need to repack or transfer until the end of the cruise - this in itself is probably all the convincing you'll need!

In addition, European towns have historically tended to be centered around the major rivers, and so river cruising is a great way to get to the lovely historic parts of Europe, at a sedate speed, and in luxurious comfort.

How else could you travel around the Balkans?  We know people who have attempted to do it on their own with a rental car or by train and had serious safety issues. On a bus tour?  Yuck!

I've experienced every possible type of travel, and I'm a 100% convert.  River cruising is the best way to see any and every part of Europe.  Try it, and you'll be sure to agree.

About the Amaserena

Our cruise ship for this cruise, the Amaserena, is barely a year old (it was built in 2015), and has been been custom designed to meet the special needs of the Danube, enabling it to operate in less favorable conditions than many of the other boats (ie when the water levels are 'too high' or 'too low').

The boat is what we call a 'super cruiser'.  For a long time, construction techniques and limitations restricted river cruisers to a maximum of about 350' in length, but now, new state of the art design has enabled longer ships, and this ship is 443' long.

This extra space has been used not just to add more cabins, but also to increase the size and spaciousness of the cabins, and to add extra public areas too (like a second premium dining room, for example).

The boat is definitely long, and also relatively narrow (to fit in the locks).  It is 38' wide, and cruises at 15.6 mph.  This might seem like a slow speed, but it is faster than many of the other cruise boats, enabling the boat to get between towns faster and giving you more time sightseeing.

Dining is single-seating and with no pre-assigned tables, so you can move about as you wish from meal to meal.  Amawaterways even provides a generous amount of complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with your mid-day and evening meals each day, and there's no extra charge to go to their premium dining room.

Smoking is restricted to the outside Sun Deck only.

Our cruise has been marketed primarily to English speaking people and the language on board is exclusively English.  This means you won't have the inconvenience of having to listen to every announcement being repeated in four or five different languages, and you can conveniently talk to your fellow guests (and likely soon to be new friends) on board.

Cabin Types

BA category cabin on AmacertoCabins on the Amaserena are some of the largest of any Danube river cruise boat.

Cabins are typically either 235 sq ft or 210 sq ft, with some 170 sq ft cabins and a few 160 sq ft cabins.  Suites are a huge 350 sq ft in size.

This cabin picture is of a BA category 210 sq ft cabin with both internal and external sun deck/balconies.

There are a great variety of different cabin types to choose from.  We've written a special article to help you decide which is best for you, which you can see here.

And here is a deck plan of the Amaserena so you understand exactly where the cabins are located.  Click the link then choose the Deck Plan tab.

Needless to say, feel free to ask if you'd like further help choosing the best cabin option to suit your needs and budget/value point.

Detailed Day by Day Itinerary

Click this image to have a larger map open in a new window

Starting in Romania and Bulgaria, we also visit Serbia and Croatia before ending in Hungary and optionally extending on to Austria.  Wow!

Click for a detailed day by day itinerary of this lovely cruise vacation.



Tour Cost and Special Savings

We have a short term special deal negotiated with Amawaterways, so we can offer you a $750 per person discount off the regular published cruise prices.

If you've traveled with Amawaterways before, you'll get another $100 per person discount.

Plus you'll get some special Travel Insider exclusive extras - an on-board cocktail function, and an extra surprise bonus, too.

A $400 per person non-refundable deposit is required to confirm your place on this tour.

The tour does not include the costs of travel between your home and the tour start and end points.

Stateroom Type

Cruise Per Person

(Before Discount)

Cruise Net

After $750 Discount

E   160 sq ft

lower deck
fixed windows


Before discount


D   160 sq ft

lower deck
fixed windows


Before discount


C   170 sq ft

mid or top decks
inside balcony


Before discount


BB   210 sq ft

mid deck
in and out balconies


Before discount


BA   210 sq ft

top deck
in and out balconies


Before discount


AB   235 sq ft

mid deck
in and out balconies


Before discount


AA   235 sq ft

top deck
in and out balconies


Before discount


top deck



Before discount


top deck



Before discount



Extras and Inclusions

  • Port Taxes are $168 per person.

  • Single rates are the per person rate plus 50% and then less the $750 discount.  Single rates for the pre and post tours are $820 per tour.  A limited number of special discounted single cabins in D and E categories remain.

  • Air can be arranged for you by us through Amawaterways or you can make your own arrangements as you wish.  Air fares can be quoted from most cities in the US.

  • Rates include an exclusive Travel Insider cocktail party on board Amaserena

  • Rates can be reduced by an extra $100 if you are a past Amawaterways customer

You can pay for your cruise using a credit card with no credit card surcharge.

A $400 deposit is required to confirm your reservation, the balance is due three months prior to departure.

Single Share Program

If you are planning to travel by yourself, but would prefer to avoid the slightly greater cost, we can make a best effort to connect you with another single Travel Insider group member, but can't guarantee to find someone compatible.

What about the Air Fare?

If you buy the Amawaterways airfare and the pre and post tour packages, they include transfers between the airport and your Bucharest hotel on arrival and between the ship and airport in Budapest on departure.  These transfers are convenient, but require you to arrive on the exact day the options start and finish, and/or can easily be arranged by yourself when you arrive at the airport as well, so should not unduly influence your airfare planning.

Some cruise lines 'play games' - they increase their cruise price so they can then give you a 'discount' on the airfare.  Amawaterways doesn't do this, and so we generally find their airfares are much the same as you can buy directly.

We suggest you check to see if you can use any frequent flier miles you might have for this travel, and/or check to see what the best fare you can get on your favorite airline is, then compare it to the Amawaterways rate and make your decision then.

You are of course free to make your own arrangements, any way you wish, to travel to and from the tour, and you can of course make extra stops and arrive earlier or stay longer.  You can choose whichever carrier has the best fare and the best schedules for you, and you can also choose a carrier that you wish to earn miles with.

We'll be pleased to answer any questions you might have about arranging your air transportation, of course.

How Should I Travel to and from the Cruise?

If you are just taking the cruise and not adding either the pre or post tour options, then you should fly to Bucharest - the closest major airport to where the ship is docked in Rousse.  Most flights seem to travel to the Otopeni (also known as Henri Coanda) airport, code OTP.  You can also search for flights to BUH, the code for all Bucharest airports.

You can arrange or we can arrange transfers from the airport to the ship, or, if you are prudently arriving a day or more early, from a Bucharest city hotel to the ship.

If you're departing from Budapest, the airport code is BUD.  And if you're flying out of Vienna at the end of the tour extension, the airport code is VIE.

If you're traveling on for a second week on the ship to Vilshofen, you have several airports nearby.  Munich (MUC) is probably the largest, and we can help you choose your best option for flying home.

Travel Insurance

We recommend you should consider travel insurance as prudent protection.  Rather than attempt to sell you some policy ourselves that may or may not suit your needs, we recommend you go to this insurance shopping site, which offers comparisons between something like 100 different policies offered by 18 different insurers, giving you all the options you need.

Alternatively, you can take advantage of the Amawaterways insurance.  They offer a policy that covers you for trip cancellation and interruption costs, medical costs, trip delay, and baggage delay or loss.  The cost of this varies depending on the total cost of your cruise.  The premium is payable with your deposit.


Total Amawaterways Cost
(per person)
$2500 - $4000 $321
$4001 - $5500 $441
$5501 - $7000 $562


To add an extra trip cancellation premium that will allow you to cancel for any reason at all, add another $60.  With this add-on premium, if you cancel for a reason not covered by the main policy, Amawaterways will refund you as much of your payment as is covered by their usual policy, and give you a voucher to be redeemed against future travel any time in the next two years for the balance.

For more information about travel insurance than you probably ever thought you'd want to know, please click the link to read our three part series on the subject.

Need More Information?

If you've a question or need more clarification, go ahead and ask.  You're welcome to send us an email, or feel free to call us at (206)337-2317.

Request to Join the Tour

Your Name as on your passport, Age & Citizenship


Name of Companion as on their passport, Age, Citizenship


If traveling as a single, would you like to share with a fellow tour member?

  No share
  Share requested (not g'teed)


Your Street Address

City, State, Zip

Phone (Day)

Phone (Night)



Stateroom Preference


Would you prefer twin beds or one queen size bed

   One Queen Bed     Two Twin Beds

Would you like the pre and or post cruise options

Please check those you wish

Pre Cruise Bucharest ($500)              

Post Cruise Vienna ($500)                 

Second week of cruising ($varies)      

Have you been on a previous Amawaterways cruise?  If so, please advise what year.

Any other special needs

Would you like Amawaterways to arrange the air for you?

  Yes, Please

Would you like to purchase the trip insurance

Yes please, Amawaterways' cancel for any reason

 Yes please, Amawaterways' standard cover

 No thanks, I'll arrange my own

Any other comments

Cruise/Tour Terms and Conditions

Our standard terms and conditions apply to this tour.

In addition, please note these extra terms :

1.   Deposit is required within seven days of your participation being confirmed.  Full payment is due on or before Friday 27 May, 2016.

2.   US citizens require a current passport that will not expire for at least six months after the date of their planned return back to the US in order to be admitted to Europe.  They do not require any visas for the countries we will be visiting.  Citizens of other countries should check with the airline that will transport them to Europe to determine what passport and visa requirements may apply.

3.   Tour price is subject to change prior to full payment being received.

4.   Terms and conditions of the cruise line (AmaWaterways) also apply.  In particular, please note that the itinerary can occasionally (rarely) change if water levels are too high or too low to allow the boat to travel.

Originally published 27 Apr 2016, last update 26 Jun 2019

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