We booked the Enchanting Danube 2012 cruise as soon as it was open for booking so we would have a good selection of cabins to choose from, and get the best price. We have been on many ocean cruises, but river cruising was a new experience for us. I knew Uniworld’s impeccable reputation and top rating by Conde Nast Magazine, so our choice was easy – Uniworld! The itinerary was a bit more challenging because there were so many choices! I wanted to sail all of them. We selected the Enchanting Danube on River Beatrice because we wanted to see Budapest and the newer ship looked beautiful in the brochure and on-line – it is!! We booked Category 3, and enjoyed the views from the French balcony. Next time I will upgrade to a suite for the extra space. Our cabin was immaculate and beautiful; the bed was exceptionally comfortable with plenty of storage space underneath. The European feather duvet took a little getting used to, but added to the ambience. The bathroom was small with limited storage, but with lovely L’Occitaine toiletries. The ship was very beautiful. The crew and staff gave unbelievably wonderful service – and the gratuities were certainly earned by all of the staff and crew who were very accommodating! The captain was friendly and accessible, answering our questions. We felt very pampered. My husband needed a doctor before we left Budapest;and Martin, our concierge, called a doctor for us from their network of medical providers, and the doctor (educated in New York spoke excellent English) was at our cabin within 30 minutes! That doctor recommended that my husband be seen by a surgeon, and sent his driver to pick us up and take us to the hospital for the appointment where we were seen within minutes. Thankfully, the doctor was able to treat my husband without needing any surgical procedure. Martin kindly accompanied us to the hospital appointment, and staying by our side throughout the “adventure”. It was very comforting and deeply appreciated!! The surgeon recommended that he be seen in Vienna to follow-up. Again, Martin had a doctor at the cabin door within just a few minutes. If you are wondering: we had to pay for the doctor up front in Euros and file for reimbursement through insurance when we got home. We were so blessed by the service we received by everyone, especially Martin and Sondra at the front desk. Our cabin was kept immaculate by our cabin attendant. The service on the ship was amazing! There were always cookies and fruit for snacks throughout the day and evening. The ports of call were varied and interesting. The meals and menu were very high quality with nice presentations, cooked with local produce, that was delicious!
It was quite a relaxing cruise. There is no comparison between an ocean cruise and a river cruise. Each one is unique and has its own ambience. We will take another river cruise, and will choose Uniworld again. The ports of call were all wonderful, the included tours were very good – I tried to note my favorite, but each one was! I would not have wanted to skip any of them! The casual ambience of the cruise (one dress-y night) was nice and added to the relaxing atmosphere on the ship. Our cruise was during a heat wave with record high temps, and we needed the casual clothing. However, slacks and shirts are appropriate for dining – not shorts or ultra-casual in the evening.
I will list a few things that you might find helpful: We added the 2 night Pre-Cruise Extension in Budapest – we will do that on any cruise from now on if we are flying to the departure port. We had flight delays (one was 11 hours) that caused us to miss the flight to Budapest. With the extra time we were not stressed about it and still had 2 nights to rest and enjoy Budapest before boarding the ship. The Hilton Budapest is a gorgeous hotel in a perfect location – the Castle Hill historic area where the premier sites are located just steps away – literally! The view from our room was of Matthias Church – a stunning gothic church. Fishermans’ Bastion was around the corner. We felt safe and were able to walk around the entire Castle Hill easily – shops, restaurants, quaint sights – it was amazing!! Uniworld host, Romulus Varga, was there the entire day and even guided us on the tour of Budapest and the gorgeous Opera House (not to be missed!) and the huge indoor market (be sure to buy some paprika and some lovely lace and embroidery work there). Romulus booked a private tour for us after the optional afternoon tour was cancelled because not enough guested signed up. We had wonderful guides, Dr. Tovispalaki Ferenc (Frank) and Geszvein Nori. We went to the Szentendre Artists Village with Skanzen Outdoor Museum – well worth it – even in the oppressive heat; also went to Caprice Jewelry Center – not so worth it; a typical “cruise shopping stop”. There was beautiful jewelry at very reasonable prices – diamonds and opals were the specialty, so if you are into that sort of souvenir, definitely go there!
Don’t hail a cab off the street in Budapest – have the ship contact a taxi for you – you will get a reputable one.
The train system in Vienna was very easy to navigate. However, in the train station you put Euros in a ticket machine and a ticket comes out – no person to buy the ticket from. So take extra Euros for things like that.
Keep you money and valuables locked in the safe on the ship and if you carry anything with you, keep it ON you and hidden from sight. A money belt will be great. Divide your money and credit cards – never take it all with you in one pocket or purse. There is a safe in your cabin. Certainly don’t flash it around when paying for something. Try to bring out only as much as you need. Pickpockets are common in towns and cities in Europe.
No one wanted to take US dollars, so be sure you have plenty of the local money. All the countries on the itinerary but Hungary use Euros. A Hungarian lady we met on the way said the exchange rate for the Hungarian ferinc is better in Hungary than in the airport. We risked it and arrived with nothing but Euros and US dollars, and got money exchanged at the hotel quite easily and with a good exchange rate.
There were no children on this cruise – this is not the type of cruise for children, in my opinion. There is no pool or other amenity that children would enjoy.
We wrote a journal each day, and noted each picture at the end of each day – That has been very helpful in remembering the details and keeping the photos straight! Bring a camera and a charger or extra batteries!
Uniworld exceded our expectations and we will sail on that line again!