1. Binoculars. For castles on the hill, interesting dams and locks (there are 11 between Budapest and Passau, Germany), swans, deer, and stars. Many tours now bypass Bratislava in Slovakia (because of sky-high docking fees), but you can view city monuments, factory yards, and street scenes with binoculars.
2. A reliable alarm clock. So you can wake up in time to see deer and Bratislava.
3. Guidebooks. Tours are provided (for an additional fee), but you may want to make up your own or pack more into scheduled free time. The "Time Out" guide to Budapest is a good read. Also, take a look at the new Blue Guide to Budapest, due out this month.
4. A "boom box" or Walkman. Cruise ships, like elevators and shopping malls, are not immune to the general belief that Muzak is good for you. To escape, try Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsodies" or "The Moldau" (never mind that it was written about the wrong river), Lyle Lovett - anything.
5. Pre-booked concert tickets. You're in a region that loves music - even the street musicians are interesting. If you don't care for bingo, arrange for tickets to the opera. A travel agent can help you find out what's playing. Note also: The Lipizzaner horses at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna give 7 p.m. performances on Wednesdays.
6. A Hungarian phrase book. While many people in Hungary speak some English, such people never seem to be around when you're lost. Some useful phrases:
*Good morning: Joreggelt (yo RE-gelt).
*Please: Kerem (KAY-rem).
*Thank you: Koszonom szepen (KOZ-o-nem ZE-pen).
*Excuse me: Bocsanat (bo-CHA-not).
*No whipped cream, thank you: Tejszin nelkul, koszonom szepen (TAY-zin NAI-kul, KOZ-o-nem ZE-pen).
*I am lost. Where is the river? El vagyok veszve. Hol van a folyo? (El VO-yok VEZ-ve. HOL von a FOY-oo?)
*What do you mean, 'Forints aren't convertible'?! Mit jelent az - 'A forint nem bevalthalto'?! (Mit JE-lent oz - 'A FO-rint nem be-VAL-tha-to'?!)
7. A canvas bag. For the folk art you'll buy at the last stop in Hungary, when you realize that your remaining forints can't be converted into another currency.