"We were given the option to travel through part of Serbia by road - we thought that'd be a good way to see the countryside.
"We left the ship in Novi Sad and there was some sort of singing contest on that day; all the children were dressed up in national costume and were happy to pose for [our pictures], which was great.
"On our way to Belgrade we visited the Krusedol Monastery, which is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farmland.
"I'm a keen photographer, so I was looking forward to capturing images of some of Serbia's famed iconography, but on the day we visited the priest had decided men could not enter the church unless their knees were covered.
"This had apparently not happened in this monastery before and as I was wearing shorts, it left me with a bit of a problem.
"My wife Helen was carrying a head scarf in case she needed to cover her head but I ended up using it to wrap around my knees instead, much to the amusement of other passengers!
"The monastery was a very quiet and peaceful place, and I found it very interesting trying to work out what the iconography meant.
"With most cruises in Europe you visit too many churches but that wasn't the case on this cruise, so we appreciated the ones we did visit.
"We stopped at various other places on the way to Belgrade and then we had a tour of Belgrade itself, including the royal palace and the Cathedral of St Sava, which is yet to be completed.
"Another highlight of the day was watching fighter jets take off and land at the Batajnica Air Base, just outside Belgrade.
"You can still see remnants of war and hangovers of the old communist era in Belgrade, but it's quite a nice city to visit."
Value for money
While Howard and Helen did a full-day tour from Novi Sad to Belgrade, River Cloud passengers are currently offered the options of a half-day tour that takes in Novi Sad and the Krusedol Monastery, and a separate half-day tour of Belgrade.
The four-hour Novi Sad and monastery tour is priced at €28 ($35) a person, while the four-hour Belgrade tour costs €43 a person. Howard believes the shore excursions are excellent value and give passengers the chance to see many things that they would otherwise miss.
"The monastery was particularly interesting, and it was great to be able to get off the ship and spend a day in the countryside without having to pack and unpack," he says.
WHO Dr Howard McCormick of Phillip Island, Victoria, on his seventh cruise; all of them have been on small ships.
WHAT A day tour in Serbia.
WHERE The excursion left from the port city of Novi Sad, on the Danube River, and passengers rejoined the cruise in the capital Belgrade.
THE SHIP Howard cruised with his wife Helen on Sea Cloud Cruises' River Cloud II. They did a nine-night cruise from Budapest in Hungary to the Romanian town of Cernavoda, near the Black Sea.
As told to Jane E. Fraser
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