rock formation from our river cruise with Avalon Waterways

Highlights of My “Lower Danube” River Cruise in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia & Hungary

Go BIG or go home! And when it comes to traveling- you know us, we like to go big 🙂 so at the end of this summer we flew to Europe and did THREE cruises back to back to back.

Two of which we reviewed already but if you didn’t get a chance to see them, here they are: our Greek Isles & Turkey Cruise with Silversea & our Portugal & Spain River Cruise with Uniworld and the third, which we are going to tell you all about now, was a “Lower Danube” River Cruise in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia & Hungary onboard the “Avalon Passion”.

With this itinerary you have a few choices. You can make this itinerary a 6 night Cruise only or make it as long as 16 nights by adding on a 2nd sailing to Nuremberg and then a hotel stay in Prague, plus of course you can do what we did and add the extension to Bucharest at the beginning which is either 1 or 3 additional nights.

If this sounds a little confusing and you are wondering what to do, then talk to Shawn and he will thoroughly explain the options and answer any questions you have about this trip to see what’s best for you.

But for now read on because these highlights of our time onboard this River Cruise will give you a good feel for what to expect and we’ve added some tips in here too to help make your trip a touch more special then ours- and also be sure to read the captions under our “Lower Danube” River Cruise Pictures & Videos.


First, we started in…

Bucharest, Romania

…which is the Capital and largest city of Romania. Anyone who does this itinerary spends at least one day here prior to the cruise and up to 3 days depending on your interests in the excursions available to you, including this one…

You’ve heard of Dracula right?

Well, from Bucharest, we got to visit Dracula’s or “Bran Castle” (where they believed vampires lived) and learned that Dracula’s story came about because an Irish writer (Bram Stoker) heard about Prince Dracula of Transylvania, it’s castle, the dark forest and how ruthless a leader Dracula was, so he decided to write a story which still to this day is one of the most well known fiction stories of all time.

Bran Castle was built back in 1377 and is well preserved. The line to get tickets was super long BUT because we were guests with Avalon (and youll have this same perk with Tauck, Uniworld, AMA, etc.) we skipped it entirely. 🙂 Check out our pictures below:

Dracula's castle avalon river cruise

avalon river cruise excursion to Dracula's castle

TIPS: Tip #1: If you have trouble walking up steep walkways and climbing many stairs then we would suggest skipping the Dracula Castle visit as it is not at all “Accessible” and does require you to be active. Instead, get over the jet-lag by getting a little extra sleep and walk about Bucharest on your own or fly in one day earlier to take in the Bucharest tour that we will tell you about next.

Tip#2: This Excursion to Transylvania is a LONG 12hr day including almost 7hrs on a bus so it may not be the best fit for everyone to do first thing the next morning after a long flight. You know you best, so you decide if this excursion is doable for you or not! 🙂

Next, the river cruiseline took us on a city tour of Bucharest and we’re so glad they did!

Not quite like the Romans for grandeur but for sure a place that will stop you in your tracks to marvel at the stunning buildings in this city including the second biggest building on earth- the Parliament building… wait till you see it in person!!

Here are a few pictures from our tour…


Pictures of the city of Bucharest



From Bucharest we got onboard the River Cruise ship where we enjoyed luxurious accommodations and great service & yummy food plus we, as always, loved the unpacking just once yet getting to sail from place to place immersing ourselves in the culture. Here are some stops we made along the way:


Rousse, Bulgaria

Rousse or Ruse is the biggest Bulgarian port town on the bank of the Danube River and luckily for us, most of the sights are located city center including this picture with Shawn next to the Monument of Liberty and Nancy alongside one of the many beautiful fountains.

Monument of Liberty

Rousse visit on a river cruse


Baba Vida Fortress & Belogradchik Rocks

Still in Bulgaria, this port town is not to be missed in our opinion!

We visited “Baba Vida” a Medieval Fortress where our guide took us inside and showed us where prisoners were kept and where executions took place. We also got some great pictures of the surrounding grounds.

Baba Vida on a avalon river cruise

River cruise tour


Then we went to Belogradchik where we hiked up and walked about the “Belogradchik Rock Formations!” It was so unique and you can see we had a great time climbing to the top and the views from above were incredible!


River cruse tour



We said goodbye to Romania & Bulgaria and entered Serbia by passing through this large Lock called “The Iron Gate” on the Danube River. It’s always a great experience going through a lock and trying to figure out how it all works. LOL

River cruse going through the Iron gate

Not long after going through the lock we got to see a spectacular Neolithic era rock carving in the side of the cliff. WOW! Get your camera ready for this one…

rock formation from our river cruise with Avalon Waterways


Belgrade, Serbia

This particular morning we woke in Serbia’s capital city called Belgrade, a place we certainly didn’t have on our bucket list, but it was definitely interesting to visit.

We did the city tour that included some walking so we could work off our delicious breakfast and had a chance to take pictures of some great buildings including the mighty “Kalamegdan Fortress” and the St. Sava Cathedral that was built in 1174 and ranks among the largest church buildings in the world. The people were warm and friendly and we got a great taste of Serbian life.

Here are some snapshots we took…

Serbia tour with avalon river cruises

Serbia tour with avalon river cruises

Serbia tour with avalon river cruises


Pecs, Hungary

When the ship entered Hungary we took a fantastic city tour of Pecs (Pronounced Pesh) which is the fifth largest city in Hungary and was established by the Romans in the 2nd Century. Have a look at a couple of pictures we took.

Pecs tour with avalon river cruses

Pecs tour with avalon river cruses

Pictures speak a thousand words but let us tell you we enjoyed wandering around this historic city and especially enjoying the Organ concert inside this stunning cathedral…

Organ Concert in their Cathedral


Budapest, Hungary

Even though we were a little sad since our Cruise ended this morning, we were super excited to explore the enchanting city of Budapest, Hungary for two days. Most guests continued on to Nuremberg and Prague afterwards as these are extensions that should be on every ones bucket list but we just happened to be coming back here in 8 months time to do an Upper Danube River Cruise with Tauck so we are saving it for then so we stopped at Budapest on this one. 🙂

On our city tour of Budapest we must have taken HUNDREDS of pictures!!

Budapest building

This Beautiful city features one magnificent architectural building after another! Making it even better is the Danube River dividing the city into Buda and Pest on either side; making for a fantastic river walk with stunning bridges that easily connect foot passengers to both sides.

The many river cruise ships that line this river tell us that this city is admired worldwide. We stood in amazement as cameras flashed in the background while people tried to capture the memories of being in this lovely city.

As you’ll see from the pictures below, you will want to go see the Parliament building in the daytime and night-time.

Budapest Parliment building nighttime

Budapest Parliment building daytime


So there you go, that was a taste of what we experienced while sailing the “Lower Danube” River on Avalon’s “Balkan Discovery” Cruise.

Want to see what our ship, the “Avalon Passion”, was like and what the room choices were? If so, check out our pictures & videos of the “Passion here.

Want to learn more about this itinerary? Then you can check out Our Pictures and Videos of this cruise and read all the captions under each picture.

And as always, any questions about this sailing or to book it or to book any other River or Ocean Cruise or Tauck Land Tour Contact Shawn and he’ll help make your next Dream Vacation a Reality! 🙂

We appreciate you! 

Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!

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