Embarkation/Disembarkation-We opted for the Uniworld air package, so transfers were included. When we arrived we were greeted at the arrival hall and after a short wait to pick up other passengers, were bussed to the ship, arriving about 11:00 am. Rooms were not ready so our luggage was stored. A light lunch of soup, sandwiches, and desert was served. Since our ship was docked at Central Station, we walked into town for a few hours. We returned around 3:30 and our room was ready. Since the ship was not full, we were upgraded from our original cabin on the lower deck. The day before disembarkation, our flight numbers and transfer times were posted. The next day it was an easy transfer to the Basel airport.
Ship- The River Queen is a modern ship built in the fashion of a 1930's river boat. It is very warm and elegant. Lots of dark wood with moldings, highly embossed wall coverings, etched glass, granite countertops, decorative floorings, and alabaster lighting fixtures. There is a glass elevator serving all but the bottom deck and the sun deck. The Main Lounge has heavy leather and upholstered chairs and couches, the bar, and a fireplace. It was the most comfortable lounge we have found on a cruise ship. The Club Lounge, which serves as the library, also has heavy leather seating. The Patio lounge is airy and bright with wicker seating and glass top tables. It had 24 hour coffee, teas and ice water. There was a laundry room, beauty salon, shop, workout area, ice machine, and limited spa services. The dining room has two levels and elegant furnishings. The rooms are all the same size except for the suites. The only difference is the window size. There is lots of closet and drawer space. The beds are hotel style, slightly bigger than queen size, with premium bedding. The bathroom is adequate, with a shelf for your toiletries. The shower is quite large considering the size of the bathroom. Provided toiletries are bars of soap, shower caps, sewing kit, swabs, manicure kit, and dispensers of shampoo/conditioner, and hand/body lotions. Bathrobes, umbrellas and other amenities are provided as well.
Crew-The crew was excellent. Very accommodating, efficient, accessible, and friendly. All spoke English very well. From the deck hands to the captain, there was always a greeting, a wish for a nice day, or an inquiry on how things were, etc. Service was excellent. In the middle of the cruise, evaluation forms were distributed and responded to the next day. Requests made to staff were always accepted cheerfully and provided quickly. The tour manager was terrific.
Food-The food was outstanding. The best we have ever had on a river cruise. Breakfast was a buffet, with 20-30 items to choose from, with a daily special from the kitchen. Eggs could also be ordered. Lunch was also a buffet. There was always a carving station with meat or fish, another main course, and several hot side dishes. There was also a pasta dish, a hot soup, and a cold soup, and some kind of sandwiches. Then there were five to eight salads, garnishes, cold cuts and a bread assortment. The desert buffet was incredible! Always a hot item, two kinds of cakes or pastries, a mousse of some kind, a large cheese assortment, and three kinds of ice cream or sorbet with all the toppings, including a brick chocolate topping. Dinner was by menu with a choice of two appetizers, two soups, three main courses (meat, fish, and vegetarian), and several desert selections. You could always get a steak or chicken breast instead of the main courses offered. All the food was very, very good. Very delicious and presentation was outstanding, even on the buffet items, with every dish decorated with some sort of garnish. I would not hesitate to call it gourmet most of the time, especially at dinner.
Entertainment-A talented ship musician played an electric piano, guitar, and saxophone during the cocktail hour and in the evenings after dinner. On several nights there was on-board entertainment by local groups such as a Shanty Choir, Bavarian dancers, a jazz band, and a French accordion/singer duo. There were several lectures, a wine tasting, and a cuckoo clock demonstration on-board as well.
Passengers-Most were of retirement age, and a good mix from several countries. Everyone mingled and rotated at seating for meals, etc, so you were always meeting someone new. Dress during the day was casual, but almost everyone dressed up more for dinner. For the Captains dinners 90% of the men wore suits/sport coats with ties.
Excursions-City tours were provided at every port, and were very comprehensive, hitting all the important sights. Pacing was easy. Vox boxes were used so that you could always hear the guide. This was great as you could wander around and still hear the guide and know where they were. Local guides varied, but most were good. Free time was usually provided. Almost always we were docked in the city center, but if not, shuttle buses were provided in the afternoon. In one city, with easy tram service, we were given transportation day passes. Several optional excursions were offered at a reasonable cost.
In summary of our six river cruises, 1 on Victoria, 2 on Avalon, and 3 on Uniworld, this was by far the best in every respect. I would rate it 5 star in just about every category. Uniworld was fantastic from start to finish.