We were first-time river cruisers. We have never been interested in large ocean going cruising. We have taken sailing cruises and loved them. We enjoy the small number of passengers and camaraderie that come with the smaller ships.
The River Duchess was outstanding! The space in the cabin couldn't have been designed more efficiently. Every square foot had a purpose. Plenty of clothes closet space. Two large drawers under the end of the bed. Shower large enough for a big/tall person. Air conditioner controlled by you. We were in a category 2 cabin and would reserve this category again.
The food was excellent. Significant variety prepared extremely well. I am small so couldn't eat all of the food on my plate. Amazing desserts. 'Made to order' omelets provided every morning for breakfast including just about anything else you can imagine for breakfast. The wait staff were remarkable, remembering what guests' preferences were. Very friendly and helpful. Example: One day we were arriving in Belgrade; we have an acquaintance who lives there and we wanted to contact him for a brief visit while we were in Belgrade. I asked our favorite waiter, Neb(who is from Belgrade), what would be the best way to phone our acquaintance. We did not have a cell phone so we thought we would use a public phone. He graciously offered to use his phone and call for us. Above and beyond the call of duty! We really appreciated it.
All of the tours were very well organized and had exceptional, English speaking local guides. We learned a lot about Eastern European countries. There were several excellent lectures on board the ship. Most explaining Eastern European history with an emphasis on how the countries came to exist and why. It really helped us to understand the people of the countries we visited.
The cruise we booked started in Istanbul and ended in Amsterdam. Unfortunately for us, the rains in Europe, June, 2013 caused the rivers to flood and we were stopped in Vienna and could go no further. The captain, crew, and cruise director did everything they could to continue to make our trip superior. Fortunately we had trip interruption insurance coverage and came home from Vienna. Uniworld's plan was to continue the trip via motor coach. That was not the trip we paid for. It was not Uniworld's fault that the rivers flooded and we do not blame them for doing what they thought was best for the passengers. Unfortunately some of the little villages were flooded so those would be skipped. Again, not Uniworld's fault.
What we were disappointed with was the reimbursement amount that Uniworld gave passengers. They only reimbursed 25% of the cost of the trip. Considering the second half of the cruise virtually never started, 25% just didn't seem right. If you did not have trip interruption insurance, you were stuck...go on with the motor coach tour or lose all your cost, less 25%. Now I must comment that we have no other river cruise company to compare to, so this may be a standard in the industry, and we are trying not to judge too harshly.
Uniworld and the River Duchess were so impressive that we are already eagerly making our plans to attempt to complete the Vienna to Amsterdam portion next year.