We are home from a very enjoyable first river cruise. Thank you to all of the Cruise Critic Board members whose posts gave us the information we needed to plan our first river cruise. We have cruised ocean going vessels with passenger sizes of 920 to several thousand. I was concerned that a very small ship with limited on board and evening activity options would not suit us. I was wrong. River cruising is an entirely different kind of cruising than ocean cruising. Obviously, there are no "sea days" (which we love), there are limited dining and entertainment options, but none of these things are disadvantages. To me, comparing the two types of cruising is truely an apples to oranges excercise. We now know that we love both.
Ship: The River Princess was very nicely appointed. The cabins were well appointed. Comfortable bedding, wonderful linens, towels, bath amenities. The cabins were big enough to not feel crowded. One of the reasons I chose Uniworld was because of their advertised "hotel style" beds. In the past, we have resorted to bringing foam "egg crate" matress pads on a couple of ocean cruises (Celebrity and Princess) because of past experience with very uncomfortable bed. Comfortable beds have been a plus on Holland America and Crystal and I understand that more cruise lines are upgrading their matresses. As usual, a "queen" is actually the two twins arranged so they are together. Uniworld had an interesting European touch: Each "side" had its own wonderfully comfortable duvet covered comforter (no top sheet). No tugging of the blanket
You can read many descriptions about the ship on Uniworld's site. Due to its size, everything was convenient. Stairs were mostly "half flights" arranged like a split level house. The cabin had a 110v outlet next to the bed - perfect for recharging the camera, cell phone, ipod, etc. The chocolates were WONDERFUL. The water carafe and water bottles (for use on shore) were very convenient. Water pressure was excellent. Our cabin had an easy to set alarm clock, but I was glad I had mine so I could set two alarms. Each cabin had a safe. We had two side chairs and a small table. There was good sound proofing between the cabins, something that has been a problem on some ocean cruises.
The dining room was beautifully appointed with comfortable chairs (an important aspect of enjoying a leisurely meal). The lounge was a great place to relax, watch the scenery, listen to port talks, visit, etc.
The upper deck was well enjoyed. It was a spectacular place to be. On our particular cruise, however, there were times that only a portion of it (in front of the wheelhouse) could be used because of low bridges. It is pretty cool to watch them lower the wheelhouse.
The food: Very well done. We really enjoyed our leisurely dinners, which included unlimited wine (or beer). There was also a very nice, reasonably priced wine list, but the included wine was well selected and we never had the need to purchase a different bottle. Sometimes I would start with the white wine and switch to the red if that better suited my appetizer and entree choice.
Breakfast and lunch were buffet style. As has been mentioned previously on this board, the dessert selections at lunch were fantastic. On several days, it made sense to eat lunch on shore (at our expense). I do wish we had chosen a to eat dinner on shore in Rudesheim, we found a lot of tempting menus when we disembarked, but we had just finished dinner on board. Instead, we had a wonderful Rudesheimer coffee at a beergarden and enjoyed ourselves greatly.
The itinerary: WOW. I can't imagine a better itinerary, but I am looking forward to testing this in future years on future river cruises. We cruised the Mosel, Rhine, and Main rivers (and canal). Beautiful scenery, beautiful towns. We took all of the included walking and bus tours. I cannot give enough praise to Uniworld's organization, coordination and adaptablility. What a premium experience. The group sizes were small. We were usually divided into 5 groups, with one group specified for those who desired or needed a slower pace. One of our guides was average, all of the rest were fabulous; interesting, informative and engaging and exceeded our experience with non Uniworld guides. The Vox system for hearing our guides made the tours easier and more enjoyable (and allowed us to pay attention to what we wanted to linger over without missing any information from our guide or having the stress of "keeping up"). It was wonderful to just walk of the ship and get started. No lines, no waiting for tenders. Our cruise director, Wouter, was the best cruise director we have ever had. He looked after our very varied group with great skill, friendliness and even handedness. He made sure that everyone had and understood all of the information we needed to optimize our vacation experience. He treated us as a group of individuals, not as a "group". He is truly an accomplished travel professional.
We enjoyed our two nights in Paris, explored a lot. We were not in the main hotel with most of the group (the Pullman). There were about 25-30 of us at Le Meridien Montparnasse. Both locations have their own advantages.
The River Princess staff arranged for taxis (of course, at our expense, but what a convenience) on our disembarkation morning for those of us not taking the included transfer to the Nuremberg airport. We went to the train station and took the train to Munich and stayed there for 2 nights. That way we got to see another city and were able to get a direct flight to Atlanta, changing just once to get home. We had been completely spoiled by Uniworld though! We had a great time in Munich but we were "on our own" after having become quite accustomed to the Uniworld way
We took the optional Bamberg Beer experience afternoon tour. Well worth it and what a fun time, particularly if you, like us, are beer and wurst lovers.
Crew: One word: Wonderful!
We enjoyed our first river cruise. Loved the casual atmosphere, the "port intensive" nature of the cruise. Sometimes, when we take an ocean cruise, we do it just to relax....the ship itself is our destination. Our river cruise on the River Princess was a great way to actually travel, to see and experience new things.