Avalon Imagery will sail the Blue Danube to the Black Sea itinerary in 2011. // © 2010 Avalon Waterways
In 2011, the Avalon Imagery will sail the 10-day Blue Danube to the Black Sea itinerary, from Vienna to Bucharest, on March 29, June 7 and Aug. 16. The 13-day return sailings depart on April 8, June 17 and Aug. 26.
I found common ground with my fellow passengers onboard a recent Avalon Artistry cruise through Eastern Europe. Most of us were avid world travelers from North America who were more concerned with the culture and history of our ports of call than with shipboard entertainment. We also shared something else: we were on one of the ship’s final sailings. The Artistry, Avalon Waterways’ first and oldest vessel, will soon be replaced by the 170-pasenger Avalon Imagery next year.
Fortunately, cruisers will still get to experience Avalon’s 13-day Blue Danube to the Black Sea itinerary, which the Imagery will take over beginning on April 8, 2011.
The ship departs from Bucharest, Romania, after an informative day tour. The highlight, for me, was seeing the Palace of the Parliament, built during the darkest days of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist regime. In terms of surface area, the Palace of Parliament is the second-largest building in the world after the Pentagon. Some passengers also enjoyed a concert by the Romanian Philharmonic George Enescu Orchestra in an auditorium renowned for its outstanding acoustics.
During the first three days onboard, there were daylong bus excursions to the resort of Varna, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea as well as to the ancient Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo, where stone houses cling to steep slopes and a Greek Orthodox church features some of the most richly decorated frescoes in the Balkans.
Following a dramatic passage through the narrow gorge of the Iron Gates, which forms a natural border between Romania and Serbia, we arrived at Belgrade. We found the evening to be the best time to experience the steep cobbled streets of Belgrade’s Skadarlija District, where traditional Serbian music spills out from nearly every tavern’s doors.
In Budapest, the views were magical, and I would have liked to wander the streets for many more days but, in the end, the imperial splendor and music of Vienna, Austria, beckoned before it was time for the return flight home.