Danube cruise with GCT

This item appears on page 29 of the August 2011 issue.

My friend Eileen Mine and I took the 13-day “Eastern Europe & the Black Sea” river cruise with Grand Circle Travel (Boston, MA; 800/959-0405), May 1-13, 2010. Including round-trip air from Raleigh-Durham airport, it cost $3,564 apiece.

Aboard the River Concerto, we sailed over 1,100 miles on the Danube, with visits in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and, finally, Romania.

There were three Program Directors on board the ship: the leader, Miklos Maleczki, a native of Hungary; Sonya Bakalova from Bulgaria, and Cristian Pirv from Croatia. All three were multilingual, spoke excellent English and were super-special in every way as they dealt with the 121 passengers.

Their knowledge of the history, culture, customs and problems of all of the countries we visited was evident every day, both on and off the ship. One example was the lesson and explanation we received from Sonya about the Cyrillic language; in the end, we could, at least, write our names in Cyrillic.

By the way, the Black Sea wasn’t black at all but the clearest, cleanest water we had ever seen. At a luxurious seaside resort in Varna, Bulgaria, we had a beautiful lunch and then took off our shoes to dip our toes in the sea.

Grand Circle, as always, provided a perfectly planned and perfectly operated program, and we arrived back in the States feeling we had gotten our money’s worth and much more.

Chapel Hill, NC