Budapest to the Black Sea


Budapest to the Black Sea

Discover extraordinary scenery, and explore the architectural and cultural heritage of towns and cities that are steeped in history and tradition, once beyond the Iron Curtain. On this incredible river cruise through the Balkans, we start by exploring the stunning sights of Kalocsa, Pecs and Belgrade with its magnificent Kalemegdan Fortress. Then it’s off to Pleven passing through the Iron Gates Gorge and the Djerdap locks before visiting Bucharest. Known as ‘little Paris’ this gem of a capital city will capture your heart with its romantic buildings and tree-lined boulevards.

Then we explore the very best of The Danube Delta and enjoy a cruise through Europe’s largest area of wetlands and marshlands – a UNESCO-listed site. From here we see Constanta where you can explore it’s charming Old Town and museums, Veliko Tarnovo and the village of Arbanassi.

After taking a scenic drive to the spectacular rock formations at Belogradchik we visit Lepenski Vir – one of the most important Mesolithic archaeological sites in Serbia before travelling to Novi Sad, Osijek and Vukovar. Finally, on the final leg of this stunning river cruise we discover the imperial city of two halves – Budapest.


  • See Kalocsa cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace and Paprika Museum
  • Enjoy a guided tour of the historic Pecs
  • Take a scenic drive into the ‘Puszta’ and watch a performance by some of the regions most skilled horsemen
  • Full board
  • Tour the historic city of Belgrade seeing the magnificent Kalemegdan Fortress
  • Cruise through the Iron Gates Gorge and pass through the Djerdap locks
  • Visit Pleven, the scene of a major battle during the Russo-Turkish War and the Pleven Panorama depicting these historic events
  • Guided tour of Bucharest, seeing the main sights of this beautiful city
  • Experience the vast nature of the Danube Delta
  • Visit the ancient Romanian port of Contsanta on the Black Sea
  • Visit the fascinating Veliko Tarnovo, the village of Arbanassi and its ancient Church of the Nativity, plus the magnificent Churches of Ivanono
  • Take a scenic drive to the spectacular rock formations at Belogradchik
  • Visit Lepenski Vir, one of the most important Mesolithic archaeological sites in Serbia
  • Enjoy a guided tour of cosmopolitan Novi Sad, with its historic Old Town
  • Visit Budapest and enjoy a guided tour
  • All meals on board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your day of departure (except one lunch), including welcome cocktails and dinner, plus the Captain’s Dinner
  • Return flights from a selection of regional airports with transfers to and from the ship included
  • All port charges, airport takes and overseas transfers included

Hand Picked By

Katharine Harrison

We have been working with Riviera Travel for many years and I personally have been lucky enough to experience one of their amazing river cruises. Their holidays offer outstanding value for money; you miss nothing of importance and their fully comprehensive itineraries include the ‘must see’ sights and experiences. Because of this, their river cruises always book very well in advance so early booking is strongly recommended."

Katharine Harrison

Additional Information

  • Departure Date: Various departure dates
  • Duration: 14 nights
  • Highlights: Discover extraordinary scenery, and explore the architectural and cultural heritage of towns and cities that are steeped in history and tradition, once beyond the Iron Curtain.

Ship Overview

MS Geoffrey Chaucer

After years of painstaking research to create the most perfect vessels afloat, a new era in river cruising dawns as we introduce our brand new, state of the art, ‘all suite’ ships. Swiss operated and truly world-class, we are absolutely delighted to present the five-star MS Geoffrey Chaucer.

It is extremely difficult to convey just how extraordinary this outstanding ship really is and exactly what distinguishes it from similar vessels. It would be very easy to just say ‘luxurious’ but it’s much more than that; we have deliberately avoided the current trend for a minimalist style where you could be anywhere in the world, creating instead a unique yet exquisite blend of understated taste, style and elegance at the highest level. Immediately striking is just how exceptionally spacious this new vessel is as you enter a gleaming, richly coloured marble-floored lobby flooded with natural light from a stunning atrium above. Moving inside, exceptional creativity from Europe’s finest design studio has produced a superbly balanced masterpiece of onboard style, utilising sustainable rich hardwoods, gleaming brass and polished copper, sparkling glass and intricate wrought iron. The ship is beautifully illuminated throughout – including the exterior and imaginatively furnished with harmonious colour schemes, all designed to create the serene atmosphere reflective of the golden age of cruising which time after time you tell us you adore.

The restaurant rivals the finest on shore establishments taking fine dining to another level complemented by delicate European porcelain, gleaming glassware and the intuitive service in which the Swiss excel. This superb vessel carries 44 in-house trained crew members serving just 169 guests (similar size vessels may carry well over 190 passengers) giving the ratio which our experience proves is concurrent with our first class service levels. Furthermore your suite will easily exceed your expectations for not only will you enjoy the most discerning décor, so too the ship’s dimensions afford the ultimate in space and comfort - a minimum 17 square metres (183 square feet), with upgrades available to ‘Superior’ and ‘Deluxe’ accommodation.

MS Geoffrey Chaucer Profile

  • Year built: 2020
  • Passenger capacity: 169
  • Crew: 44
MS Geoffrey Chaucer Deck Plan

Full Itinerary

Day 1: Budapest

You will arrive in Budapest today, where you will be transfered to your five star cruise ship. You will be welcomed on board by the crew who will help you settle in to your cabin. The ship remains here overnight, so watch dusk descend over Hungary’s capital as you enjoy your first dinner on board.

Day 2: Kalocsa - Pecs

One of the most thrilling aspects of a cruise is waking up somewhere new, and there’s a real sense of excitement as we explore lands unknown to many until the Iron Curtain lifted. Hungary itself has so much to offer; situated at a crossroads in central Europe, it’s a mesmerising blend of European and Ottoman influences, rich in culture and history. Our adventure begins this morning when we arrive in Kalocsa, a city whose 1,000-year-old lore swirls with tales of warlike bishops, saintly kings, rampaging Ottomans and Magyar heroes. Among its fine buildings you’ll discover an impressive Baroque cathedral and the grand Archbishop’s Palace, with its Ceremonial Hall displaying a replica of the Hungarian holy crown. You can choose to enjoy a walking tour of the town seeing the sights plus the fascinating Paprika Museum; the region is one of the biggest producers of the seasoning that’s an essential part of Hungarian cuisine – goulash being a famous example.

We return to the ship for lunch as our elegant vessel seamlessly glides away from her mooring. Later we’ll drive to the delightful city of Pécs, one of the many gems waiting to be discovered on this cruise, and it’s all the more engaging because so few have heard of it. It’s a wonderful cultural and artistic mélange reflecting the many peoples who, over time, have held sway in this region. Nestling against the verdant slopes of the Mecsek mountains, its almost Mediterranean climate yields a fertile harvest of fruits and almonds. This afternoon as we tour the rambling streets, discover a 4th-century Christian mausoleum – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – as well as a former mosque turned into a Catholic church, the ruins of Turkish baths, the magnificent cathedral and the Zsolnay Porcelain Museum. Later we return to our ship for a welcome drink with the Captain in the lounge before descending the elegant staircase to the restaurant for a special Welcome Dinner.

Day 3: Belgrade

This morning you will arrive in historic Belgrade, the only European capital to be sited at the confluence of two rivers. You can enjoy a guided tour, seeing all the main sights including the cathedral, Republic Square and the famous Prince Michael Street with its wealth of fine 19th-century buildings, some still brandishing the scars of more recent conflicts.

After lunch, the rest of the day is free for you to explore this fascinating capital, still one of the least visited in Europe. Wander the old town’s lattice of winding streets or the interesting bohemian quarter, pausing to take stock over a welcome drink in one of the grand coffee houses.

Day 4: Iron Gates Gorge

For many, today will be one of the highlights of the cruise, as you leave the pancake plains behind and your passage through the magnificent Iron Gates Gorge commences. The ‘true’ Iron Gates is a single, narrow gorge but the name is given to an entire 83-mile stretch of spectacular gorges, where sheer limestone cliff faces plunge into the depths below. You will pass through the Great Kazan, meaning ‘cauldron’, where the river narrows to just 150 metres. As the captain skilfully steers us through, you will see the enormous sculpture of the face of Decebalus carved into the rock. Created in the 1990s, at over forty metres high, it is the largest rock relief in Europe.

Day 5: Pleven

You awake in the Roman town of Nikopol and after breakfast you can take a scenic drive across the Danubian Plain to Pleven. You will have some free time here to explore. You could visit one of the town’s museums or the St George Chapel Mausoleum, a memorial to the soldiers who were killed during the famous siege. Or simply wander the Old Town and enjoy the tranquillity of its pedestrian-only streets.

Day 6: Bucharest

Today you will visit Bucharest with its wide, tree-lined boulevards and elegant belle-époque buildings. On your guided tour, you can see the palace and the city’s other main sights, such as the former royal palace and now the national art museum, the athenaeum, some superb Orthodox churches and squares, including Revolution Square, named after the Romanian Revolution of 1989.

You will have time to explore this vibrant city on your own. Lunch is not included today, so seek out a cosy restaurant in the Old Town for a fortifying plate of traditional meatballs, generously spiced with garlic, dill and parsley; freshly stuffed bell peppers; or hearty soup soured with borscht.

Day 7: Danube Delta

Overnight you have cruised towards the city of Tulcea, clinging to seven hills overlooking the river, and regarded as the gateway to the vast Danube Delta on the edge of the Black Sea.

After lunch, you depart the ship to take an excursion on smaller boats into the very heart of this inspirational and tranquil place. Your guide helps to point out some of the fascinating flora and fauna, a colourful kingfisher or a darting catfish beneath the water’s glassy surface.

Day 8: Constanta

Today you will begin your return passage but there is still so much to discover. You depart for the ancient city of Constanta, described by the Roman poet Ovid as ‘the end of the world’. The city’s landmark is Constanta’s Art Nouveau casino, at the very edge of the Black Sea.

There is free time to explore so perhaps visit one of the museums or simply enjoy the sea air with a portside walk.

Day 9: Rouse

Crossing the border into Bulgaria, you arrive in the attractive city of Rousse, known as ‘Little Vienna’ with its wealth of fine 19th-century buildings. A scenic drive brings you to Veliko Tarnovo, the ‘City of the Tsars’, spectacularly sited on the Yantra River, its Old Town clustered on three hills. You will then head to the little village of Arbanassi, set high on a plateau.

You end the day with a visit to the rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo, a fascinating complex of churches, chapels and monasteries dating back to the 12th century with their remarkable 14th century frescoes.

Day 10: Belogradchik

After lunch you moor in Vidin, home to the Baba Vidin, the only entirely preserved medieval fortress in the country. From here, you drive into this rugged wilderness and suddenly the horizon is dotted with huge sandstone cliffs, in a spectrum of orange-reds and yellows, eroded into huge, bizarre shapes. These are the Belogradchik Rocks; unique and dramatic, they cover an area of 90 square kilometres, some reaching as high as 200 metres. Many of these gigantic natural sculptures are named after people or objects they are thought to resemble, whilst others are associated with colourful legends.

You return to the ship for another excellent dinner.

Day 11: Iron Gates – Lepenski Vir

This morning’s cruising brings you once again to the natural dramatic splendour of the Iron Gates Gorge, at the heart of Serbia’s Djerdap National Park. Enjoy the splendour of this magnificent stretch of the river from a sun lounger on deck, or watch the seamless scene changes of this river spectacle unfold through the panoramic windows in the ship’s elegant lounge.

This afternoon we moor in Donji Milanovac and take the short drive to visit Lepenski Vir, one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe, dating as far back as 9500 BC. Your guided tour will reveal more about this fascinating place and how these ancient people lived.

Day 12: Novi Sad

This morning, we pass one of the most impressive fortresses along the banks of the Danube – the medieval Smederevo Fortress, spectacularly located at the water’s edge.

After a relaxing day the ship will moor in Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city. Enjoy a guided tour of this vibrant city, which flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries, becoming known as the ‘Athens of Serbia’. See its Old Town hall on the impressive main square, flanked by lovely 19th-century architecture, its ancient castle and synagogue. Towering over it all is the mighty Petrovaradin Fortress with its complex system of underground tunnels.

Day 13: Osijek - Vukovar

Today, you have crossed into Croatia and during breakfast we moor in Vukovar, the country’s largest river port, located at the confluence of the Danube and Vuka rivers. Here, you will enjoy a guided tour, seeing all the main sights and learning about its tumultuous past.

Later you will drive to the historic city of Osijek, with its three centres hugging the banks of the River Drava. You have a guided tour of the Old Town – behind its thick stone walls lie a magnificent market square, lined by elegant public buildings with pastel-coloured facades.

This evening you cross the border into Hungary once again.

Day 14: Budapest

As the gentle pastoral landscapes slip by, Budapest’s brooding skyline comes into view once more. You can enjoy a guided tour exploring both sides of this lovely city, seeing all the main sights including the iconic Parliament Building, the National Gallery with its huge collection of Hungarian masterpieces, and the Matthias Church with its intricate rose windows. The rest of the day is at leisure. Perhaps head back to the Castle District to wander and take in the panoramic views, or explore one of the city’s many museums and galleries.

This evening the Captain’s Dinner will take place, with a superb menu reflecting the countries and regions we have visited.

Day 15: Return Home

Today you will travel to the airport for your flight back to the UK.

Additional Information

  • Departure Date: Various departure dates
  • Duration: 14 nights
  • Highlights: Discover extraordinary scenery, and explore the architectural and cultural heritage of towns and cities that are steeped in history and tradition, once beyond the Iron Curtain.

Cabin and Fares

Cabin TypeGuide PriceAdditional InfoCabinEnquire
Standard Cabin River ViewFrom £2,339ppIncludes return flights and airport transfersView Cabin

Standard Cabin River View


Suites on the Emerald Deck are slightly smaller, measuring approximately 16 square metres (172 square feet) and have smaller fixed windows. Some are available for sole occupancy with no supplement and are subject to availability.

Enquire Now
View Cabin

Standard Cabin River View


Suites on the Emerald Deck are slightly smaller, measuring approximately 16 square metres (172 square feet) and have smaller fixed windows. Some are available for sole occupancy with no supplement and are subject to availability.

Enquire Now