A Review of a Blue Danube Cruise on the MS Novelist Thomas Hardy

When I last took a river cruise, I relished the tranquility and ease with which we glided across the placid waters. This time I was on a relaxing ride down the Danube River from Budapest on the MS Thomas Hardy.

I arrived in Budapest, Hungary, the next day to join the Danube River cruise and found the late afternoon to be comfortably warm. Because of its convenient waterfront location, I decided to stay at the Plaza Hotel. From my window, I could see the Gothic Hungarian Parliament that towers above the Danube, and farther down the river, I could see the five-star, sparkling white, MS Thomas Hardy, our intended river cruise ship.

The night before our voyage, we dined at Leo, a restaurant with a rooftop terrace and a 360-degree panorama of the city. Long windows allow you to take in the metropolis, which is now bathed in golden light and casting romantic ribbons of shimmering light into the waterways below.

What’s it like aboard MS Thomas Hardy

The MS Thomas Hardy is undeniably a luxurious vessel. Guests enter the foyer, which is marble floors and plenty of natural light thanks to a dazzling chandelier. The bronze banisters and ornate ironwork that line the staircase complement the stateliness of the dark wood accents.The 2017-built MS Thomas Hardy has a length of 135 meters, four decks, a spa, and a wellness center, and can accommodate 169 passengers and 44 crew members.
The 88 staterooms are roomy and equipped with modern conveniences including flat-screen TVs, coffee makers, and minibars. The luxurious Elemis toiletries in the bathroom are a nice touch.

Also included are numerous storage options and a soothing color palette. Even in the few smaller rooms with less window space, the passing countryside is stunning thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. There are some rooms with balconies. Even if mine didn’t, I didn’t miss it because I spent most of the day exploring the port or tanning on the upper deck.

Some others enjoyed the whirlpool and pitch-and-putt on the upper deck, but I much preferred to lounge around with a drink, chat with the other passengers, and occasionally read a book. It’s a great place to unwind, and I did just that with a massage at the spa, skipping the tiny gym in favor of the cozy treatment room.

Food & Drink

The main deck restaurant served me breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. This is a lovely, airy space with a bar, a piano player, and plenty of seating. Both the wine and cocktail selections were excellent. Every cabin comes with its own daily drinks voucher, the bar is always supplied, and there is complimentary champagne at every get-together to discuss the next day’s port of call.

Bistro-style dining is available towards the ship’s aft, where a small bistro may be found with an open kitchen, big panoramic windows, and outdoor seating. Make a reservation if you plan on eating here.
Free tea and cake are available between meals until 4:30 pm, and you can assist yourself to free tea, coffee, and cookies at the 24-hour self-service station.


The majority of each day is devoted to the guided excursions that are offered everyday. A pianist plays light, relaxing music to provide a touch of live entertainment to the experience. There is only a small gift shop, but you may also use the spa, play a round of pitch and putt, work out at the gym, or relax with a massage.There’s a lot to be said for taking it easy for a while, whether that means reading a good book, hanging out with good friends, or playing a classic board game like Monopoly or Backgammon.

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