The River Duchess was renovated at the beginning of the 2012 cruise season. It is now resplendent with "old world charm." Although not the most striking of the river vessels from the outside, the new elegant interior, done in soft beiges, browns and whites, is a show-stopper. The redesign continues into the cabins, which, except for suites, are all the same size. The primary difference between cabins is due to their location and window size. Cabins are small, at 151 sq. ft., but there is ample storage, with 3 closets and an under-bed drawer. Suitcases (even large ones) can be stored under the bed. The marble bathroom is well laid out, with a large shower, lighted makeup mirror, and quality bath products. Additional amenities include bottled water, robes, several 110 volt outlets, and a safe.
The public spaces include a relatively large gym, sauna, a bar/lounge at the bow and a restaurant at the stern. The redesign continues in these spaces, with an elegant, high-end feel. Except for the restaurant, however, the seats themselves are rather uncomfortable. I kept wishing there were pillows on the straight-backed sofas to support my lower back. The top deck has additional seating running the full length of the ship, with various areas set aside for lounge chairs, tables, and awnings. The seating here was uncomfortable as well. The lounges were among the biggest offenders and were never used. On several cruises on the Danube/Main, be advised that much of this area is closed down for a portion of the cruise due to very low bridges. This will be true for any vessel on these waterways.
The restaurant experience is outstanding. Never crowded, the layout consists of tables for 4 or 6 that can be put together. Service and food are both first-rate and, in my opinion, a step above usual cruise ship fare. Buffets are offered for breakfast and lunch. The variety of dishes is exceptional and includes an omelet station for breakfast and a salad bar for lunch. Beverage choices for lunch and dinner include unlimited wine and beer. The restaurant offers open seating, with tables for 4 or 6 that can be put together when necessary. Dinner consist of several choices of appetizers, soups, entrees, and desserts, with steak and salmon offered every night in addition.
Staff and crew are wonderful and the staff-passenger ratio is excellent. They never fail to offer a greeting when you pass by. Suffice it to say any reasonable request will be dealt with in a polite and professional manner.
Keep in mind that river cruising is not the same as ocean cruising. Don't expect show-stopping entertainment at night, glitzy ships, or a pool. The emphasis is on sightseeing and it offers a more personal experience that is tied to the local culture. For example, dishes chosen at dinner often reflect the regional cuisine and use local ingredients. The experience onboard the River Duchess is close to perfect and I believe it is truly one of the top river vessels in its class.