If you are considering a river cruise with Saga you may be wondering what it is like onboard day by day.
I took a saga river cruise onboard the Filia Rheni, we cruised from Budapest to Bucharest along the Danube River and had the most amazing time.
This post will take you through from embarkation to disembarkation and discuss everything in between. This post will give you an insight into Saga river cruises on all rivers, not just the ones we visited.
In this post, we also review the ship, food, entertainment and more…
During our river cruise, we visited the following ports:
- – Budapest,
- – Novi Sad – Serbia,
- – Ruse – Bulgaria,
- – Danube Delta,
- – Bucharest
Day 1 – Embarking in Budapest
What an incredibly busy day we had! The day started at 4 am with a transfer to the airport. I was flying to Budapest to join Saga’s Filia Rheni on a Danube cruise.
- Saga cruise fares include transfers within 250 miles of the port/airport which is really cool.
- Speaking to guests onboard it seems as though most people love Saga because of everything the fare includes (and the food).
- Things went downhill a little when I got off the flight and met the Saga representative. I wasn’t on her list as being on the flight (or the transfer) but she eventually decided we could fit on the coach so we didn’t end up stranded!
- This probably was to do with me being on a “Media trip” and not being a ‘normal’ passenger – but even still it wasn’t ideal, and we were a little worried that we weren’t expected at all!
Mini Excursion of Budapest
We got on the coach around 12 pm and weren’t able to board the ship until 4 pm.
We had a transfer/excursion which gave us an hour in Budapest – and then drove us around until 4 pm (it felt as though we were just killing time, to be honest!)
This wasn’t a problem for me and Mum since we were quite able to walk around and explore on our own. I did feel sorry for the other guests who were much older and not very mobile.
It was 34c and there wasn’t anywhere air-conditioned for them to go to sit, and no water was given out.
I was surprised how much standing around in the sun/walking was actually required considering the average age of Saga cruisers…
I’m not sure if the other guests knew that this would be the case. Some seemed as clueless as me and had no idea what was going on – but others had sandwiches and snacks ready!
Clearly, they had done it before or had some insider info!
I spoke to many other guests throughout the cruise and they all agreed that they were disappointed with embarkation day. Luckily things improved a LOT once we got on board!
To find out more about our embarkation day, watch this video:
Boarding The Filia Rheni
Boarding the ship was so exciting! We were given a balcony cabin and we headed straight to afternoon tea in the main lounge.
Afternoon tea happened every day, so I were partaking daily!
They had lots of cakes, cookies, and sandwiches of which I ate a lot. Tea/Coffee is available 24 hours a day too, which is great. I do love my tea!
After afternoon tea we decided to explore a little and found a lovely little library/games room at the back of the ship. I also found a gym – but we never used it!
We had a safety briefing and a welcome talk from the cruise director which was really useful.
I bought a Coke Zero for €2.40 -which I thought was a pretty reasonable price for a Coke Zero on a cruise.
Our First Dinner
Dinner was SO GOOD.
I’ve heard loads about Saga’s food in the past and it certainly lived up to my expectations. Everything was cooked extremely well and the free wine with dinner went down well too!
There was set-time dining, and we were assigned a table for dinner with 4 other ladies. They were all lovely, friendly and chatty – what a relief it was to have nice tablemates!
Hungarian Folklore Dancers
We finished off the night with some local entertainment in the lounge. The Hungarian Folklore Dancers were incredibly good and they were accompanied by three excellent musicians.
The dancing was so energetic, it genuinely made me tired just watching it! One thing that I like about river cruising is that because the ships are much smaller you get much closer to the action.
The Hungarian Folklore Dancers were so close we definitely could have reached out and touched them!
Day 2 – Budapest
Our First Breakfast
I started the day by discovering the bread section of the breakfast buffet! The bread onboard is SO good and there was plenty.
There was also hot food and fruits/cold options but I was definitely more interested in the doughnuts!
I don’t know whose idea it is to have doughnuts with breakfast, but it seems to be available on a lot of cruise ships. Who am I to question it?!
Guests can sit wherever they’d like for breakfast which makes it very easy. The waiters were very attentive and offered tea/coffee regularly.
An Included Excursion
We had an included excursion today. Our 7-night cruise included 2 excursions, one in Budapest and one at the end in Bucharest.
The tour was mostly coach based but we did have an hour or so to walk around and take photos. It was 33 degrees, but it still managed to rain!
I love Budapest and would 100% recommend a visit if you ever get the chance. There are loads of things to see, and it’s very easy to travel around.
I came to Budapest for the weekend to celebrate my 21st birthday – which was brilliant.
You can buy a 3-day transport card In Budapest for less than £13. You can use this on all buses, trains, and trams!
I wish transport was so cheap in the UK. It usually costs me that amount to make a 20-minute journey!
Main Dining Room Lunch
We were back on board for lunch and decided to eat in the main dining room. We sat with another group of passengers for lunch, I decided to have a few Coke Zeros.
I really do worry that I’m addicted to Coke Zero, but that is a problem for another day! Beer, wine, and soft drinks are included with meals on Saga cruises so I decided to make the most of it!
Sail Away From Budapest
We sailed away during lunch and went up to the top deck to watch the world go by.
I’d only been on one river cruise before but on that cruise, we didn’t have the opportunity to sit on the top deck while sailing, we usually sailed at night or the top deck was shut to go under bridges.
Being able to sit and watch the scenery go by is just amazing and definitely my favourite thing about river cruising. It is just so relaxing!
A River Cruise Muster Drill
After this we had a very brief muster drill, it’s amazing how much faster things can be when you’re only dealing with 110 guests instead of 5000+.
The muster drill took place on the top deck and we took the opportunity to take life jacket selfies, of course!
Welcome Onboard Talk
The muster drill was followed by a Welcome Talk. We had a little Welcome Talk on the first day, so I was wondering what information they could give us that they haven’t given us already. The answer was LOADS!
Saga really does explain everything about the cruise process and look after their guests.
They took the time to explain things like how our phones would work in the countries that we are visiting, which I thought was really nice.
I’m sure you could go to the staff with any problem or question and they would help. Nothing seems like too much trouble.
Day 3 – Novi Sad, Serbia
We visited Serbia, the largest exporter of Raspberries in the world (apparently)! We also went to the included Zumba class, did some exploring and ate an awful lot!
That evening, the ship had to have a passport check as we left the “Schengen Region” (26 European countries that allow free travel).
All guests were required to be present and we all had our faces checked against our passports. I was a bit worried that my 25-year-old face might look out of place on a 50+ cruise – but they didn’t seem to care!
I started the day with breakfast and a chat with fellow guests. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to how friendly river cruise passengers were!
I know guests can be friendly on ocean cruises too but you get to know your fellow cruisers so much better on the river, probably because there are only 100ish passengers.
I had then another doughnut… of course!
Gentle Stretching and Zumba
At 10 am there was a “gentle stretch” and “gentle Zumba” on the top deck.
Gentle anything when it was so hot was exhausting – but it was really good to do!
Loads of guests took part and everybody had fun.
I didn’t bring any Zumba clothes on this cruise – because who’d have thought that Saga would do Zumba?!
I didn’t! I improvised with a pair of shorts and a T-shirt – which worked well.
Light Lunch Options
When we docked in Novi Sad, we were planning on going ashore but got distracted by the smell of spare ribs and potatoes wafting by…!
As well as the usual sit-down three-course lunch. Saga also put on a light lunch in the lounge for those of us who didn’t want to have a proper sit-down lunch.
The food was once again AMAZING.
I honestly thought the food on this ship may have been the best I’ve ever had on a cruise! It was so consistently good, and it was the type of food that I like to eat.
Exploring Novi Sad
Mum and I decided to explore Novi Sad by ourselves.
There was an excursion, but there wasn’t anything I particularly wanted to see to make it worth my while going. Saga cruises do include some excursions – but not every day.
As an alternative, the Cruise Director Charlie was doing an escorted walk into the centre of town for those who want a bit of help working out where to go and what to see! I thought that this was a lovely touch, especially for those who are a bit nervous about being in a new country such as Serbia. I had never heard of anything like this before!
The number of Charlie and the ship was always on our daily schedule and if we ever got lost we can phone and they’d come and rescue us! You don’t get that on an ocean cruise!
We returned in time for afternoon tea again, it’ll then it was time for dinner and before we knew it, another day was over. Our entertainment host Debbie sang 60s songs in the lounge, which was great.
I was actually quite impressed with the variety of music on the ship, I would have expected it all to be the 60s era of music – but we even had things like George Ezra!
Saga are a 50+ cruise line so older music definitely is to be expected. Not that that is a bad thing, I sometimes listen to the 60s rewind Spotify playlist when I’m at work.
Day 4 – River Day
Am I the only person that didn’t realise you could have a ‘River Day’ on a River Cruise? I thought they stopped somewhere every day – but no!
Decebalus Rock Carving
Our day started with us getting dressed VERY quickly and heading up to the top deck to view a rock face carved into the side of the gorge.
His name is Decebalus and he’s the last king of Dacia apparently!
The clocks had gone forward the previous night, so it felt even earlier – but I didn’t want to miss it.
Sailing through the gorge was absolutely beautiful. It really reminded me of Norway or Alaska.
We made friends with some more lovely ladies at breakfast. It’s amazing the people you meet on a small river ship like this. We met a man who was planning on doing a skydive on his 90th birthday, amazing!
The breakfast food was absolutely perfect, as you guys know I am a MASSIVE fan of a good slice of bread – and Saga do not disappoint!
Locks Are SO Cool
We went through a couple of locks which I REALLY enjoy. We were sitting in our cabin when we went into the first one.
I was filming and editing a couple of river cruising videos – and as I edited the video it started to get really dark in the room. My normal view started to become a concrete wall!
You can literally touch the wall outside of our cabin. I know you’re probably not supposed to do that but I did it anyway…
I’ve been through locks before on my previous river cruise, but on the Rhone River the top deck was never open and we went through all locks at night.
Everybody rushed up to the top deck, and we took photos and looked at everything.
I still find it amazing how these huge locks work, they’re engineering masterpieces! We shared the lock with two other little boats.
Next, it was time for Zumba again! Zumba took place in the lounge and I was sweating so much by the time it was done!
It was meant to be “gentle Zumba” but everything feels more difficult when it’s so warm!
Most of the other passengers were in their 60s or 70s, so I felt as though I had to give it my best shot! I didn’t want to be “out Zumba-d” by somebody 50 years my senior!
We decided on the light lunch option. I much prefer being able to see what the options are before I decide what I’d like! I really wish that all menus had pictures – but that’s an idea for another time!
Mum discovered a Blue Cheese and Pear Sandwich – an odd combination but it seems to work!
Mum says it was ‘delicious’ and she went back for a second...
A Swimming Pool and Ten Sunbeds! All For Me…
We spent some time in the afternoon swimming in the pool and sunbathing.
It’s been a long long time since I’ve had an internet-less afternoon – and I have to say I’ve loved it.
I loved having the swimming pool on the top because it meant that you can just bob around the pool. It definitely was a pool for floating around rather than swimming – although I did do a whopping 3 lengths!
The swimming pool was really pretty shallow, as you’d expect! I could sit on the floor in the middle and still be able to keep my head above water and breathe.
Main Dining Room Dinner
At dinner time I had the following:
- Summer Salad with Fresh Fruits, Turkey Stripes and Barbecue Dressing. Mum had Tomato-Mozzarella Caprese.
- I skipped the soup but the options were a Clear Beef Consomme with Ham Biscuit of a Sweet Pea Cream Soup with Roaster Pistachio
- Marinated Duck Breast, served with Champagne red cabbage, Orange sauce and croquet.
- I had fruits for dessert – but the other options included Cheese Dumplings with Vanilla Sauce or Nuts Ice Creams with Strawberry Sauce and Whipped Cream.
Day 5 – Ruse, Bulgaria
On day 5 we were in Bulgaria! The land of stray cats that I cannot touch (according to my travel insurance!) and builders who wear overalls like Mario from the Super Mario video games!
We spent the day sightseeing in Ruse!
Ruse is a Bulgarian city with some lovely buildings like an Opera house and Courthouse. It’s got a big square in the middle which is very well looked after with lots of flowers and monuments.
The paths around most of Ruse were a little bit hazardous – so I wouldn’t recommend wandering around by yourself if you’re not very stable on your feet! Even I tripped a few times!
Bulgaria had SO many stray cats which I wished I could stroke.
Sadly my travel insurance said it would be invalid if I stroked any stray animals – and I didn’t much fancy going to a Bulgarian hospital with Rabies!
Main Dining Room Lunch
We were back onboard for lunch. We were seated at a table for 6 with 4 other people – all of whom were lovely.
I decided to have a few glasses of Coke Zero instead of wine because Id been having a lot of wine on this cruise! (beer, wine, and soft drinks are included with meals.)
My Cokes Zeros came in a wine glass – I’ve never felt so fancy!
I had chicken for the main course and a plum cake for dessert. Both were brilliant and very filling. I actually decided to skip “afternoon tea” that afternoon so I’d have room for dinner!
Tea, Sunshine – and Games!
It’s very easy to pass the time on a river cruise. We sat around drinking tea and watching the world go by. River Cruises don’t have as much entertainment as Ocean Cruises – but there was a ‘golf ladder’ game this afternoon and a general knowledge quiz.
There were plenty of books to read and games to play in the lounge at the back of the ship too.
If you’re somebody who needs constant entertainment you may find yourself missing the Ocean cruise entertainment on a river cruise. But as my mum always says “Only boring people are bored!”
I’m not sure how I could be bored with the beautiful constantly going by.
I knew I should be writing more blog posts, and filming more videos – but I just wanted to lay down and watch the world go by!
Next on the agenda was a port talk about the next day’s port. We headed to dinner for another amazing meal. Our entertainer Debbie sang ABBA songs in the main lounge. What’s not to like?
Day 6 – Danube Delta
Did you know that a Pelican can hold 20 litres of water in its mouth at once?!
It’s quite difficult to imagine that much liquid – but imagine 10 x 2-litre bottles of Coke… wow!
Danube Delta Excursion
We went on a ‘Delta Safari’ boat trip which I really enjoyed.
Almost all people on the ship decided to take the excursion as there is very little else to do in the port of ‘St George’.
We didn’t actually get a chance to look around St George because we arrived later than planned.
Due to low water levels, the ship has been going pretty slowly and it meant we had been getting into places a bit behind schedule. River cruises can be affected a lot by low river levels.
The excursion itself was fun, we all boarded little boats in our life jackets and went off around the lagoon to try and spot Pelicans and Herons.
Some guests were disappointed that they didn’t see what they wanted to see.
I was just having a good looking at the birds – whilst time trying to avoid being hit in the face by hanging leaves from trees and long reeds! I really enjoyed ourselves!
Fish and Chips For Lunch
As soon as we got back on board we went to lunch. I chose Fish and Chips – the first Chips I’ve had all week!
I had a couple of glasses of Coke Zero too – but nothing compared to the 20 litres that a pelican can get in his Bill!
Below is a photo of my pasta starter.
I decided not to have dessert at lunch because I wanted to keep some room for afternoon tea!
It’s amazing how you can get used to eating so often and so much. Usually, I walk quite a bit and take the stairs to counteract all of the eating!
This ship only had three decks, so I don’t think it will have the same effect as taking the stairs on an Ocean cruise! I did enjoy my cookies at afternoon tea though!
Amazingly it was already time to talk about disembarkation!
I couldn’t believe how fast the week has gone! We had the most amazing time! Some lucky guests stayed onboard for another week but sadly it was back to home and work for me!
I had the most amazing time onboard the Filia Rheni.
Embarkation day was less than ideal but the experience improved 100% when we actually boarded the ship.
All members of staff on board were brilliant, and the food and service were everything that I’d hoped that they’d be.
I spoke to a lot of guests during the cruise and most were loyal Saga customers who were very happy with the trip and were looking forward to booking another!
Almost everybody that I spoke to said that they booked with Saga for the friendly service and the fact that things like transfers were included in the cruise fare.
I am 26 so the Saga product obviously isn’t for me but I can see why people love them!
To find out more about this wonderful river cruise, watch the video below:
Before You Go!
If you are considering a River Cruise, you may be wondering why they are so expensive compared to Ocean Cruises. Find out why here:
You might think you’d be bored on a river cruise. I certainly don’t find that to be the case! To find out why, click here:
If you are too young to consider a Saga River Cruise, you may want to consider cruising with the Budget River Cruiseline Tui! They cost less than half of similar cruises with companies such as Viking – but do you get value for money? Watch this video next to find out: