APT Travelmarvel River Cruise Review – Part 1 | Joining Travelmarvel Polaris in Budapest

We were very fortunate to be invited onboard the beautiful APT Travelmarvel Polaris for a three-night sailing, which was a wonderful opportunity to get a feel for what APT Travelmarvel has to offer. Read along with our APT Travelmarvel River Cruise Review.

Day 1 – Embarkation onboard APT Travelmarvel Polaris in Budapest

Our taster cruise was part of the APT Travelmarvel 14-night European Gems itinerary, which would see the guests onboard travel from Budapest and visit some of Europe’s best capitals, and many smaller towns along the River Danube.

We flew to Budapest from London Gatwick, and it was great to hear that APT Travelmarvel River Cruises can include flights from the majority of UK airports, as well as transfers from the Airport to their River Ships, so it was nice to have an end to end seamless, and relaxing journey to join our ship.

This route is available in both directions, so you can start in Amsterdam or Budapest, you can also take the first or last half of this trip, Amsterdam to Nuremburg, which is called Reflections of the Rhine & Main, or the Delightful Danube which is Nuremburg to Budapest.

So, there are plenty of options for those who want a longer time exploring the rivers of Europe, or those who want to just focus on the Rhine, or focus on the Danube.

Meeting APT Travelmarvel Polaris

We had a brief tour of APT Travelmarvel Vega a few days before her launch, and Polaris is her sistership, with an identical layout and design. The Travelmarvel ships are Premium four-star contemporary river ships with the APT branded ships offering 5-star luxuary.

After leaving our cases with the reception team, we were invited into the True North Lounge, a space that is very much the heart of the ship. Offering a space to relax and watch the rivers of Europe unwind during the daytime, with tea and coffee stations included in your fare.

This is also where afternoon tea/lunch is served, which is the perfect pick me up after you have been out exploring all day and need to recharge ready for your evenings onboard, which is when the True North Lounge also becomes an entertainment space, with live music from local artists, and resident singers. There is also a full bar for you to order premium drinks like cocktails, spirits and wine.

We sat in the conservatory area towards the very front of the ship, sipping some sparking wine whilst we got to know each other, and met our hosts from APT Travelmarvel. If you have ever watched any of our videos on APT, you would have met Becky, who is our Sales Manager from APT Travelmarvel, and was very kind to invite us on this trip.

Be sure to check out our YouTube videos if you would like to know more about sailing with APT and APT Travelmarvel

Hungarian Bite to Eat at For Sale Pub

As we were arriving onto the ship early, meal service wouldn’t be ready for some time, so our hosts took us to a local pub that served traditional Hungarian comfort food called For Sale Pub. Serving large portions of food that are the perfect ailment to an early start and a wet windy November day.

I optioned for the first of many portions of Gulash I would have this trip, not sure if it was the winter weather or the “When in Budapest” of it all, but it was delicious and certainly hit the spot.

The decor and ambience were certainly interesting. Peanuts are served to the table, and you are invited to leave the shells on the floor amidst the sawdust, then handwritten notes are pinned to pretty much every surface you can find.

Its a wonderful spot for a bite to eat, always very busy, and near the river, so depending on where the ship is berthed, should be a short 5-minute walk away.

First Impressions of APT Travelmarvel Polaris

We then headed back to Travelmarvel Polaris where afternoon tea was served. If you have an early flight to the ship or a late flight home, your cabin may not be available to you, but you would be welcome to stay on the ship and enjoy the True North lounge as you wait for your flights.

So afternoon tea could be your first, or last meal onboard whilst you wait for your cabin/flights. All meals are included, as are coffee, tea and juices from the self-serve station. For afternoon tea a selection of cake and sandwiches were available, which made the perfect post-lunch treat whilst we enjoyed the backdrop of the Danube river traffic from the lounge as we got to know each other.

The atmosphere onboard is relaxed luxury, which is always our personal preference. APT Travelmarvel River ships are all less than 5 years old, and feature wonderful contemporary decor and design, looking around the ship, you would be shocked to learn that it is positioned as a four-star offering, as the tasteful decor and inclusions feel more suited to a five-star experience, so its certainly the top end of four-star river cruising.

Who is a good fit for APT Travelmarvel

APT is an Australian company, and currently, they only sell directly to the UK, New Zealand and Australian markets, meaning the mix onboard will be mainly made up of those demographics. Australian and New Zealand guests tend to prefer the 14-night sailings, whereas Brits prefer the short 7-night sailings, mainly due to the fact it’s closer for us to reach the rivers of Europe than those travelling from Australia and New Zealand.

Being relaxed luxury means the service standard is high, as is the food quality and range of included tours, but it also means you won’t find stuffy or fussy meal service, formal dress wear, or particularly high-brow entertainment in the lounge each evening. It’s certainly elevated, but in a relaxed luxurious way.

Whilst river cruising certainly appeals to an older demographic, Travelmarvel is appealing to a younger demographic than most river companies, due to its relaxed nature, and the freedom that comes with its choice of included tours and free time to explore.

Video Tour of my APT Travelmarvel Polaris Cabin

For my time on Travelmarvel Polaris, I would be staying in a Category A+ French Balcony, this cabin is located in the middle of the upper deck and is the highest-grade balcony cabin on the ship. At 167 sq ft, this cabin offers plenty of space for your European adventures, with a vanity mirror, ample storage, and seating areas in front of the windows, perfect for enjoying the scenery as you sail with a coffee, or glass of bubbles.

That said, the only difference between the other grades is how high you are on the ship, and how central. There is a leading category, the Window Stateroom, which offers 153 Sq Ft of space, so still sizable, but is located at the water level, so have a small window that looks out at the waterline.

There are also four Owner’s suites available, which offer 258 sq ft of space, but sadly (for us), they were occupied on this sailing, so we were unable to view them.

You can view my video tour of our cabin below.

Dining onboard APT Travelmarvel Polaris

Main meals are included with all Travelmarvel voyages and are served in the Constellations Restaurant, located at the front of the ship on the lower deck.

Wine and beer are included with all meals, and the crew are certainly generous with their pourings, and you are always welcome to ask for one for the road. Soft drinks are Juices are also included for those who choose not to drink alcohol.

Dining is done freestyle, so you can choose to dine whenever you like whilst the dining room is open, no fixed seating, so you can sit with your travel party or any of the friends you make on your voyage.

Menus will always take inspiration from your journey, so you can expect to find something new each day, and is perfect for those who like to sample local cuisine while travelling.

Everything I ate whilst onboard was truly delicious, and fed my need to try something new and local whilst travelling.

As we were dining a Hungarian Romani performer walked around the dining room to entertain us, it certainly helped with the immersion into Budapest, and it was fantastic that we were dining and entertaining with local culture whilst in the comfort of our beautiful rivership.

It’s so important to highlight this for those who want to ensure they are getting an authentic experience when visiting these destinations, you can be sure when travelling with Travelmarvel that any opportunity to bring on local cuisine or entertainment will be taken advantage of, you are getting an authentic experience, and not just spectating from afar.

Enjoying the Budapest Illuminations

Polaris then set sail up the river Danube for the nightlight Budapest Illuminations. Sadly, the weather wasn’t on our side as it was hammering it down, but Roland our fantastic cruise director was still determined to make this a fantastic event for us.

He set up his PA and music decks on the open decks of the ship and was playing classical music as the ship sailed back down the Danube with all the buildings and bridges lit up for the evening.

We were able to get warm Gluhwien to keep us warm as we were travelling along the Danube enjoying the sights lit up so beautifully.

You can see a snippet in the video below.

After we enjoyed the illuminations, it was time to warm back up in the main lounge for a few drinks and chat with the new friends I met on this sailing. It wasn’t long before late-night snacks were available, a mix of light bites and canapes that were available for self-service, as well as brought around on trays.

Then a hot chocolate before heading to bed, where I watched about 10 minutes of the on-demand movie I picked at random before falling asleep.

Tomorrow we will be enjoying a tour of Budapest, before setting sail for our next destination Vienna. So check back soon as we will add the second day of our time onboard APT Travelmarvel Polaris to the website.

If you would like to learn more about sailing with APT and APT Travelmarvel, then be sure to check out our dedicated page, where you can also find details of all the sailings available via our cruise search tool.