We cruised the '"Enchanting Danube” on the River Beatrice from October 13 '" 20, 2013. This was our 2nd Uniworld cruise. My husband and I are in our lower mid-50’s '" putting us at the younger end of the age demographic, however we were not the youngest on the cruise.
Arrival in Munich is well organized. The Uniworld staff are easy to find and identify. The area in the Munich airport (Terminal 2) where we waited (for maybe 30 minutes) had a counter service restaurant with coffee and pastries, an ATM in area and a grocery-type shop (to pick up snacks or beverages '" they even had fresh fruit). The Uniworld staff will take care of your luggage and direct you to the bus once all the expected arrivals are there.
The Uniworld representative mentioned there would be water (to drink) on the bus, but the one person I saw that asked about it was told it was a euro (or two?). It seems it’s fairly common for tour bus drivers to supplement their earning by selling water (or other beverages) to passengers. This is the only time we noticed it on the Uniworld part of our trip. The drivers on the regular tours/daily excursion never did this (all passengers are given water bottles to refill and bring if they’d like). In this situation, I think the Uniworld rep covered the cost. Just be aware, you could always buy water at the shop while you’re waiting for Uniworld to collect all their passengers.
After everyone from our terminal was loaded up, we drove over to Terminal 1 and picked up a few more people. Then we settled in for the long drive from the Munich airport to Passau (really Lindau) where the ship was docked. I’m sorry to say I don’t recall how long the bus ride was.
When we arrived at the ship, we were too early to check into our cabins but they had a nice lunch buffet set up in the lounge. I’m surprised we didn’t take any pictures of this, but it seems like there was soup, salads, a pasta and canapé type things. Of course there was also dessert. By the time we finished our lunch they were ready to check us into our cabins.
The cabins on the River Beatrice are larger than the one we had on the River Ambassador, but the bathroom seemed a little smaller. We had ample storage space for everything: a nice-sized section of the closet for hanging clothes (with plenty of hangers) '" it was probably about 4 feet wide. Next to this was a set of shelves, one of which had the safe (typical hotel-safe size). Next to the bed there’s a small nightstand on each side with 3 (very shallow) drawers. The top one was the smallest, but it held my nook, earplugs, etc. The next two easily held socks and underwear. I don’t think my husband used his night stand. Across from the bed is a credenza type built in piece of furniture. There was a shallow drawer, a cabinet with 2 shelves and a few drawers. There’s storage space under the beds for suitcases. In the bathroom there’s a small cabinet underneath the sink (this is where your hairdryer is hiding). There are also ample outlets and plugs. If you have a lot of devises to plug in, you may want to bring adapters. There are a 2 110V plugs, plus a designated shaving plug in the bathroom but when we added 2 iPhones plus camera batteries, we needed to use an adapter for something.
Daily schedules '" Every day before dinner, the cruise director would have a talk about the next day’s schedule or things you need to know. When you arrived in your room after dinner, the daily program for the next day was always there. It included the docking position, weather forecast, daily schedule including meal times etc. I recommend bringing these along with you when you’re in the ports so you know when you need to be back on the ship. With the docking position, you could show the location to a taxi driver if you had trouble getting back to the ship. There were also shopping, sightseeing and '"go active” tips on the back. The '"Go Active” would recommend a more strenuous walk or hike that could be done while we were docked.
I’m not going to go day-by-day. Uniworld publishes as excellent Cruise Companion which is available on their website. But I’ll comment where there may have been information I wished I’d known. I will say all the guided tours are worthwhile. The guides are very knowledgeable and you go away with an appreciation for the area and insight into its history. Most of the actual guided tours are timed so you have some free time to explore on your own. If you want to know where to shop, get a pastry or have lunch your guide is a great source of information.
Passau. Included with your guided walking tour is the 30-minute organ concert at St. Stephans. This is the largest organ in Europe, but if you don’t feel strongly about organ music, I think this could be missed. We did go, we kind of enjoyed it. I heard someone saying they went to the Glass Museum and thoroughly enjoyed it. With concert you don’t have as much time to explore the shops and pedestrian areas. Decide what your priorities are. After lunch, we did hike up to the Castle Oberhaus. There is a bus you can take, but it only runs on the ½ hour. We had to be back for all on board at 2:45, so we decided to walk up the steps and back down. It is a beautiful walk and view from the top. I’m glad we did this
Salzburg. Just realize Salzburg is not on the Danube, you need to take a bus to get there which cuts into your touring time. The bus stops for a comfort stop at a beautiful location with a lake, and a coffee shop, rest rooms and shop on the way, there is no stop on the return trip.
While in Salzburg we were on the search for Sound of Music sights not already visited in the regular tour. Prior to the trip, we watched the extras on the Blue-Ray version of the movie and it points out exactly where certain scenes were filmed and how to get there. We used this as our guide to find as many sights as we could. If you are big fans of the SOM, I would recommend doing this prior to your trip.
In Vienna, the ship does not dock in the main center of town. You must either take one of the provided shuttle busses or the subway. It is about a 15 minute walk to the nearest subway stop (it does depend where your ship is docked, I think we were docked further way than some of the other river cruise ships). On our 2nd morning in Vienna, we did not take the organized tour of Schonbrunn Palace, but opted to take the subway out to explore the gardens on our own. This was a great option for us. We did do the optional concert in Vienna. It was nice, we could have missed it, but I don’t know what else we would have done. If you feel adventurous and want to plan your own evening you might enjoy that more. I would recommend taking a cab, at least for the return to the ship. It’s not really a '"bad” part of town, but it is a 15 minute walk from the nearest subway, and some of the area is not as well populated.
Our cruise had an unexpected situation which Uniworld handled extremely well. Several days before the cruise started, Uniworld learned that a lock in Slovakia was scheduled to close for repairs through Sunday, Oct 20. Unfortunately, we were scheduled to go through this lock Friday evening/early Saturday to be able to cruise into Budapest. Several travelers received word of this before the cruise even sailed through their travel agent. As soon as Uniworld was notified, they made other arrangements for a worst-case scenario, which would have been busing from Vienna to Budapest, cutting into our time in Budapest because we wouldn’t arrive until closer to noon. They also arranged for a hotel (right on the river). There was apparently another issue about water levels, because another option was to cruise into Bratislava (which apparently was questionable due to water levels) and bus from there. This cruise officially had an optional excursion to Bratislava. The cruise director (Mirela, who was excellent) kept us updated when there was news or changes during the daily port talks prior to dinner.
Uniworld was ready to give all the passengers 20 euros for lunch Saturday in Budapest, booked a local restaurant with entertainment in Budapest, as well as organized how luggage handling would work, etc. to transfer to the hotel after our tours. In addition, Uniworld offered all passengers a credit on a future cruise.
Friday afternoon, before we cruised into Bratislava (a bonus stop and we were all given included guided walking tours), Uniworld received news the lock repairs were completed early and we could continue our cruise into Budapest and continue our regular schedule.
We did thoroughly enjoy Bratislava. I think Uniworld should consider adding it as regular stop since they cruise right by it. We only spent a couple of hours there, but I’m so glad we did.
Since we had our full day in Budapest back, we were able to go with our initial plan of taking the alternative Parliament Tour. We knew going into the cruise that we wanted to see the Great Market and go up to Castle Hill, Fisherman’s Bastion, etc. However, the Market closed at 2PM on Saturdays and I was a little upset about missing that. With the lock fixed, we were able to go with our original plan of the alternative tour and we would explore Castle Hill in the afternoon.
We only had 6 people on the entire ship who opted for the Parliament/Great Market tour. This was almost like a private tour and our guide had the bus driver drop us off at different locations to be able to see the architecture etc. She also took us on the subway and inside (at least the lobby) of the Opera House. The Parliament Building is amazing and I highly recommend it. The people we knew on the regular tour said they spent a lot of time on the bus, driving from place to place (there’s a LOT of construction going on around Budapest). I wish we would have gone back to the Great Market after lunch, but we didn’t know how much time we would need to explore the Castle Hill area. In retrospect, we would have had plenty of time to go back and also walk up to Castle Hill (a funicular is also available, but we enjoyed the walk up).
Uniworld’s dining options are fantastic. The chef on the Beatrice provided us with not only tasty, but beautifully presented meals. The serving crew was top-notch. At lunch, look on the dessert display for the cold, fruit soups. They are fantastic. My husband loved the ice cream (made on the ship). There were always soups and cheese and breads… and I’m missing it as I sit here typing.
We sat at the same table for dinner every night (with roughly the same group of people who met one the first night). I highly recommend this as the server gets to know you, he gets to know your table, and makes wonderful recommendations. We all wanted to take him home with us (well, that and a chef to prepare multi-course meals every night). Your wine glass never went empty and all was good.
Lunch and breakfast are more casual and the servers are doing different things, but I found if you sit in roughly the same area every day, the server assigned to that area will remember you need coffee and refills ïŠ. The only misstep with our meals were the eggs on the buffet were runny, but you could always get cooked to order eggs, oatmeal from the kitchen, fruit, cheeses, muesli, breads and pastries…
There are always questions on the forums about attire on the river cruises. I will say the people in the ads and on the website are dressed way better than the people on the cruise. Although Uniworld describes it as '"country club casual”, it’s also kind of '"business casual”. Men and women both generally work khakis or jeans with shirts, sweaters, etc. for touring during the day. Comfortable shoes are very important as you do a lot of walking and a lot of the walking is in hilly areas with cobblestones. Since we went in October, we wore coats and jackets daily while touring and when up on deck. There were a few hearty souls who went out in shirt-sleeves, but they were in the minority. I saw only 1 or 2 people in t-shirts.
For dinner, a change of shoes could suffice. I did change to clean shirt, but black pants are very versatile. For the dressier dinners there were a few women in dresses, but most wore separates, with maybe a little more bling. There were men in ties and or coats, but very few in both. I rarely saw jeans in the dining room for dinner.
Our other (slight) disappointment was the double docking. We'd have a view in a port, then they'd be another ship right next to us. We did not experience this at all on our last cruise. Maybe river cruising is just becoming more popular and there's more ships on the river. We did comment in our review that it would nice if they would let us know when we'd be double docked on our side. We would leave with our curtains wide open and come back and have another cabin right outside our window. Granted, sometimes you're docked and your view is the pier.
I will say, we’ve always met the nicest traveling companions we could ask for on these cruises. New friendships are made and you will exchange emails and contact information before you leave the ship. We are ready to book our next Uniworld cruise in 2 years… probably in France next.