We enjoyed a one week Christmas Market cruise on the River Beatrice, going from Passau to Budapest December 2, 2012
Ship: The ship is well designed and very nicely appointed. The public areas are beautifully decorated and comfortable. The dinning room could use more small tables, as most are tables for 8 and you almost have to shout to talk to someone across the table. The overall noise in the dinning room is louder than the River Countess or River Duchess.
Staterooms: This is where the ship really excels. We had a suite and it was superb. The room was large, and well designed. There was an abundance of closet space. The decorating was top notch. The bed and chairs were both very comfortable. The bathroom was of a nice size and well designed. Shower was larger than any river cruise boat, though the water pressure was terrible (more latter).
Staff: We experience inconsistent service. The Captain (Tom Buining) and the Hotel Manager (Mario Mirao) were outstanding. They were both always present and very approachable. The Cruise Manager (Markus Schindelegger) was one of the best we have experienced. He was very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.
The service in the dinning room was somewhat disappointing. Once the main course is served, the waiter rarely checked back to see if everything was satisfactory. On the nights the Captain dined in the room, we never would see our waiter between the main course and ordering desert. Our waiter (and others) would spend all their time at the Captains table. The overall service in the dinning room was not as good as on the River Duchess or River Countess. The worst overall service was on the last night and several guests commented that that was not a way to leave a good impression. The consensus at our table is that they need more wait staff.
The other disappointment in the staff was the "Butler" service for the suites. I put the term in quotes, as I would not use that term to describe was service (or lack thereof) we received. When we first arrived on the boat, the "butler" took us to our room. His information about the room amenities was very limited and he only brought in one of our suitcases, leaving the other in the hall for me to retrieve. Except for when we first arrived on the boat, we only saw out butler in passing in the hallway, in the specialty dinning room (were he serves dinner) or serving the Captain's table in the main dinning room. We have had butlers on other ships and have found them very responsive and they seamed to anticipate our needs; but this was not the case here. We were never asked by our butler how things were going or if we needed anything. I don't feel we should have to run him down to obtain assistance (and even when we did, he did not do anything). Our assistant butler was very personable and always gave outstanding service in the dinning area, but we rarely saw him otherwise. When we experienced an issue with the lack of water pressure in our shower, I first contacted the front desk to report it. After a day of no action, I contacted our butler and asked him to have it addressed. After yet another day of no resolution, and no communication from either the front desk or our butler, I contacted the Hotel Manager directly. The situation was rectified in about an hour. He also checked back with us the next day to ensure it was working properly. The response from the front desk and the butler is not the service I would expect on a Uniworld ship, especially in a suite.
Food: This is where the ship slipped a bit from our other River Cruises. The main issue was the menu choices. In general the food quality was good to very good. Unfortunately, the steaks were never cooked correctly (we asked for medium well and the steaks were medium rare at best), and we could not get our waiter's attention to exchange them until everyone at the table had finished dinner and he returned to see what we wanted for desert. The chef is trying to be too fancy and needs to have a menu that appeals to a wider number of persons. On one night, the choices were duck or fish. Half of the table did not like either choice. (I heard this complaint from several others on the cruise) Lunch was usually the best food. The soups were excellent, as were the vegetables. There was always a nice selection of main courses to choose from. There is a specialty restaurant at the rear of the ship that seats about 24 persons. They served 3 specialty dinners (fixed menu) in the room that you could sign up for and one for suite guests. The food and service in the special dinning room was excellent both nights we tried it. All lunches and dinners included a limited choice of free beer and wine which were usually very good.
Raves: Wonderful ship design with great furnishings, outstanding cabin, Captain, Hotel Manager and Cruise Director, Lunches, Itinerary, Daily Laundry service in suites
Disappointments: Dinner Menu selections, "Butler" Service, Overall dinner food service in main dining room, allowing children to run in the hallways