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Day 26: Bucharest to Vienna to Newark to Hellertown

Yes, they'll all come to meet me, arms reaching, smiling sweetly, it's good to touch the green, green grass of home...lyrics from the song "Green, Green Grass of Home" by Tom Jones

sunny 20 °C

Up at 2:00 am, bags out at 3:00 am and then on the bus shortly afterwards, we headed to the Bucharest airport well before the sun shone its face. Airport check-in went surprising smoothly as both bags were somewhat overweight as well as a carry-on that they loaded for free (thank goodness!) We passed through security and Immigration relatively quickly and boarded the plane a short time later for our flight to Vienna.

After landing and getting off the plane, we traveled a number of corridors until we arrived at our gate. We took a seat but were shortly asked to leave the waiting area as they were going through a number of security checks on all of the passengers. As a result, a long line of 150+ people formed a single line to the gate. One-by-one, security personnel checked documents and then stamped approvals on the passenger's tickets (some got pulled away if they didn't answer the questions correctly). However, only those folks who were first, business, or disabled were allowed in the waiting area. There was a mass of people from our flight and a flight to Chicago milling around a very small area outside of the gates. What was even more astounding was when the gate opened up, you had a mosh pit pushing towards a single opening where a person had to recheck all of the documents. We have traveled all over the world but have never experienced such a chaotic and inefficient system for boarding in our lives than in Austria. It was bizarre! I must also say that the service on our flight was not much better, as all of the flight attendants seemed to have a scowl on their face the whole time (and they didn't wait in the same line that we did).

Nevertheless, we arrived on time and passed through Immigration and Customs without a hitch. We were picked up by our daughter Jessica, who scoped us up and took us home to Hellertown, PA. As is customary, we have included a picture of our dog Boo who waited for our arrival as well as the changing leaves in our backyard. We had our usual pizza and wings for our dinner.


We had made plans for this trip several years ago. We have taken a number of ocean cruises and expedition cruises but have never tackled a river cruise. We were told by many travelers that the Viking brand was the way to go for river cruises in Europe. That certainly seemed to be the case as they have an amazing infrastructure in place. What seemed to tarnish the brand a little was the idea that, in my opinion, they knew the water levels on the river were low in several key places beforehand and didn't notify travelers in advance so as to give them the option to reschedule. Apparently, low river levels are a common occurrence in many places along these rivers and their way of tackling the issue is to bus people to the next ship down (or up) river. This creates quite an inconvenience to passengers who have to pack and unpack their belongings as well as spend wasteful time on a long bus ride. For us, it was not once but twice for a total of three ships. Although they followed up with a form letter and Customer Service call option (to complain), and gave each of us credit towards another cruise, it seemed like a standard process of appeasing the customer when river water levels were low.

Notwithstanding the issue with ship changing and low river levels, the trip was fantastic. Having the ability to visit so many countries, capitals, cities, towns and countryside's was well worth the journey, and it appears a river cruise is a great option to do so. We learned the integrated and fractured European and Russian history, saw romantic castles and impregnatable forts, delved deep into religion and culture heritages, took hikes and bike rides and boy did we see churches (inside and out). We even tracked down Dracula. The local guides were attentive and knowledgeable, and the food along the way was amazing. We met a lot of interesting people on the trip ranging from a 3-star general from Texas to the party all night Aussie's from down under. So, when all is said and done, the trip was a great experience and we would do it again in a heartbeat!

Posted by Argenti Travel 15:24 Archived in USA

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