Cruising the Danube with Shearings River Cruises
The MS Serenade 2
Cutlery was strewn akimbo, the wine glasses were rolling
around on the table and the menu had been screwed up into a ball. We entered
the ship’s restaurant gingerly, and were immediately accosted by a
cutlass-bearing pirate grinning maniacally as he poured our drinks.
Fortunately, this was all part of the evening entertainment on our fabulous
cruise ship, the MS Serenade 2.
We had boarded the ship seven days previously, having flown
with Lufthansa from Manchester to Munich and travelled by coach to the Serenade
2’s mooring at Linz. Around 30% of our fellow ‘captives’ had chosen the flight
option while the rest had made the journey from the UK entirely by rail or
coach from various regional pick-up points. The beauty of this type of Shearings holiday is that
people can travel abroad without flying.
The MS Serenade 2 is the latest addition to the Shearings
cruise ship fleet on the river Danube. Built in 2007, the ship holds up to 137
passengers and a friendly international crew of 35. The hotel room-style cabins
are well equipped with comfortable beds, table, chairs and desk, plenty of
storage space adds hangers (tip: stow suitcases beneath the beds), coffee and
tea-making facilities, hair dryer, large safe and a mini-bar. The modern
bathroom features a shower cubicle as well as a bath with shower and a useful
clothesline for drying undies. Hot water is plentiful and air conditioning is
Cabins on the top two decks feature floor length sliding
windows and Juliet balconies so guests can sit back and enjoy the passing
scenery, leaping up to take photos of fairytale castles, bridges and wildlife.
The flat-screen TV also displays the camera views from the front and rear of
the ship. Our cruise ‘The spectacular Danube to the Black Sea’ entailed a busy
14-day itinerary from Austria to the Black Sea and back, passing through seven
different countries and visiting 11 towns or cities including Belgrade,
Bratislava, Bucharest and Budapest.
Nevertheless, we still had time to enjoy the sun deck where
we could sit and sunbathe on the plentiful chairs and sunbeds, play giant chess
or practice putting. On the occasional chillier days the ship’s lounge offered
a welcome haven with coffee, tea, chocolate and biscuits available 24/7, a
games corner and library. Shearings cruise manager, Gill, also provided a daily
quiz/Sudoku, and knitting/crochet materials for guests to produce 6” squares to
make into blankets for the seamen’s mission. For the more energetic, a small gym
offers a couple of bikes and a treadmill, while a walking group established
that 16 turns of the top deck equated to one mile and sunbathers were treated
to the regular sight of ladies circulating serenely.
Food on board was fabulous. Following a buffet breakfast
where a chef offered freshly cooked fluffy omelettes and scrambled eggs, we
enjoyed delicious and healthy four-course lunches and dinners served to the
table by the charming, hard-working waiting team. Sensibly-sized portions meant
we could dash off to our city tours without suffering indigestion, while second
servings were available for any who required larger portions. A typical menu
would include crisp, fresh salad starter; soup; a main course with meat, fish
or vegetarian options, and a light dessert or cheese and biscuits. The menu
often reflected the country we were sailing through: goulash in Hungary and
apple strudel in Austria. We opted for the drinks package that allowed us
unlimited draft beer, house wine, soft drinks and bottled water.
While sailing, Gill organized some interesting morning
activities including a towel art demonstration revealing the mystery behind the
elephants, penguins and swans that adorned our beds; cocktail making; craft
mornings and a cookery demonstration. In the evening, notwithstanding the
Pirate ‘attack’, entertainment was generally low key as many people were tired
after their city tours. However, Rumen, the ship’s talented resident musician,
coaxed a few of us up onto the dance floor with his repertoire of English pop
music from the past 50 years, and the final night saw us throwing some shapes
to ‘YMCA’ and marching around the lounge to “Is this the way to Amarillo”!
Visiting so many fabulous cities accompanied by
knowledgeable tour guides was a real treat and the ‘icing on the cake’ was
service provided by the ship’s crew. Without exception, they were good-natured,
cheerful characters from countries including the Netherlands, Romania and the
Philippines. When the ship was unable to travel further along the river because
of low water levels, Shearings promptly arranged coach travel to Bucharest and
beyond to the Black Sea with an overnight stop in a four-star hotel. A small
group of passengers chose to remain on board where the crew continued to
provide excellent customer service. The Reception staff also dealt admirably
with customs officials at the Hungarian/Serbian border, ensuring they did not
summon us from our beds in the middle of the night for physical face-checking
against our passports.
Our fellow passengers were adventurous characters eager to learn about the countries we were visiting and firm friendships were made. Many were seasoned travellers who had been on numerous sea and river cruises since retiring and spoke highly of their previous experiences with Shearings. River cruises are a great way to experience different cultures and cities without the stress of road trips and the luxury afforded by the MS Serenade 2 provides a welcome base.
The spectacular Danube to the Black Sea by coach – 17 days from only £2,494ppThis inspiring cruise traverses the path of the beautiful Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, exploring its incredible surroundings. The 14-day tour begins in Austria and travels through magnificent scenery to explore six different countries including Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria.
The ship: The stunning MS Serenade 2 has been designed to create a luxurious, modern and spacious
Departs: 4 September 2018.
Highlights: Kolocsa in Hungary, Constanta in Romania on the Black Sea Coast, Pecs in Hungary and a Budapest City tour and a visit to the Serbian cities of Belgrade and Novi Sad as well as romantic Bratislava.
Price includes: Fourteen-night full-board cruise, overnight stays on outbound and return journeys, a Captain’s dinner, four included excursions and luxury return coach travel.
Booking information: To book call Shearings Holidays on 0844 209 7143. More details.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Shearings River Cruises.
You may also find interesting:
- Tips for the first time river cruising
- The spectacular Danube to the Black Sea with Shearings - Part 1