Embarking Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Star in Budapest

Emerald Waterways' Emerald Star at her berth in Budapest on Saturday, July 12, 2014. Both the line and the ship are brand-new to European river cruising. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Star at her berth in Budapest on Saturday, July 12, 2014. Both the line and the ship are brand-new to European river cruising. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

After flying overnight form North America, this afternoon I boarded Emerald WaterwaysEmerald Starat her berth in Budapest for a weeklong voyage along the Danube. She is docked opposite the spectacular Hungarian Parliament building on the Buda side of the Danube.

My journey to Budapest even started off on the right foot: when connecting through Frankfurt on Lufthansa, I zapped my boarding pass at the gate and, to my surprise, the machine spit out a little ticket stub. Coach must have been overbooked, because I’d been given a new seat assignment in Business Class – which, on Lufthansa, is pretty spectacular, even flying within Europe.

Welcome Aboard! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Welcome Aboard! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Once the Boeing 737 touched down in Budapest and I’d collected my luggage, I met the Emerald Waterways representative in the Arrivals area of Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport, which is still popularly known as Ferihegy Airport, its name prior to 2011. Every Emerald Waterways river cruise includes complimentary transfers to and from the airport; a nice touch that really takes the stress out of arranging transportation into town – particularly here in Budapest, where dock spaces are numerous and taxi drivers aren’t always aware of the exact location of a particular ship.

I remember coming here for the first time nearly three years ago. For whatever reason, I thought this would be the city I enjoyed least – and I quickly discovered it was one of the cities along the Danube that I enjoyed most.

The gorgeous Hungarian Parliament building, as seen from Emerald Star. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The gorgeous Hungarian Parliament building, as seen from Emerald Star. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The capital of Hungary, Budapest originally started out as two neighbouring cities separated by the Danube River, which serpentines across the landscape. In fact, it wasn’t until November 17, 1873, that the two sides – Buda and Pest – were united as one city: Budapest. To this day however, locals will still refer to themselves as being from one side of the city or the other, and a friendly competitive rivalry exists between those on opposing sides of the Danube.

A Panorama Balcony Suite aboard Emerald Waterways' Emerald Star. Note the neat number plates on the outside of the door. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

A Panorama Balcony Suite aboard Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Star. Note the neat number plates on the outside of the door. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

For the next week, my home aboard Emerald Staris a Panorama Balcony Suite located on Deck 3. At 180 square feet, calling it a suite is a bit of a misnomer, but the first thing you notice when you walk in is the spectacular floor-to-ceiling window that stretches for nearly the entire width of the stateroom. It is flanked by two chairs and a small table, and features faux teak decking instead of carpeting.

Of course, the first thing I did was to head straight over to the window and push the switch located on the side of the frame. The upper half of the window dropped down (simply let go of the button to stop it at your desired position), and the fresh breeze of the Danube wafted into the room. Cleverly, if you have your window open, it disables the room’s air conditioning system so as to not unduly burden it.

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