I know I should review the ship and the ports, but looking back on the trip, the service is what I remember most and what makes me want to travel with Uniworld again. The trip was great, despite the rainiest spring Europe has had in over 30 years (or so said EVERY single tour guide). We did make it through the trip prior to the horrible flooding. We were extremely lucky.
I was lucky enough to have my mother plan and pay for this cruise. We took the River Empress from Amsterdam to Budapest in late May 2013. 5 of us cruised together for the first time. 2 mother and daughters (first set: 60 and 40 2nd set: 50 and 14) and one husband. The entire ship had no idea who was whose mother, but that's another story.
I cannot say enough good things about Uniworld. Our great service started from a room mix up in Amsterdam. Muriel, our Uniworld hotel lady (not sure of her technical term) was able to sort it out quickly and calm my crazy mother. She also sorted out a planned toured booked with another company. Without her help, we would have never sorted that mess out. The tours booked through Uniworld had no issues, it was the cheap ones my mother found on line that caused grief.
Great welcome on board the beautiful River Empress. Lovely lounge and quiet Captain lounge. The bar service was great. Violetta, the bar manager, made sure the 14 year old traveling with us felt special, not like some little kid. Alex, the server, impressed us on the first night. Even though there were no assigned tables, we made sure we got to the 6 top in his section every night. He had patience and a great sense of humor.
Again, service was amazing. The crew would bend over backwards to make us happy. Not my mother, the other mother, had pureed sweet potato with a dish. It was not prepared her normal way, it was savory, not sweet. She told Alex it would taste better with butter, sugar and cinnamon. He laughed and nodded and walked away. He shortly returned with 3 pats of butter, 6 sugar packets and a small prep bowl of cinnamon. He would also try to find diary free desserts for my husband, who didn't think he should mark the special dietary needs on his cruise profile. (TIP: mark lactose free on any cruise profile in the future)
Our trip's only drawback was the weather. It was the rainiest and coolest in 30 years. It didn't rain 24/7, and we did have 2 sunny days and some partly cloudy days between the rain drops. This is not normal. I have been told by some Travel agents May and June are the perfect times to do this trip.
Between our cruise director, Rik and our 1st captain, we were well informed of our progress and if the rising river waters would impede our trip.
One more shoutout, to Daniella, the deck attendant. She along with Violetta and Alex made this trip of a life even more amazing.
I may have mention a few memorable people by name, but the entire crew of the River Empress made this a great cruise. They all have spoiled me for any cruises in the future.