We recently returned from Uniworld's European Serenade, 12 night, Vienna to Amsterdam. We had high hopes for a grand vacation. The itinerary was excellent, as was the "cruise manager" who was the equivalent of the cruise director on ocean ships. The shore excursions were very good, but did tend to provide an excess of "free-time" for shopping. The pricing of the voyage was very high, but we thought that it may well be worth it.
The trip was, in a word, disappointing. Despite the initial pricey cost of the cruise, each passenger is expected to provide tips, not just for the cabin attendants and wait staff, but for the entire crew. Additionally, the "cruise manager" is to be tipped by everyone on a per diem basis which basically pays his whole salary. This amounted to $436 per cabin, a bit much on top of the cruise fare.
The food was clearly second rate. When posting roast leg of lamb, we were fed lamb shanks, a cheap greasy substitute. The same happened when veal was offered, more shanks. The Angus beef steaks were embarissingly bad. There were few choices at dinner time, among them fish that no one had ever heard of, "emperor fish", "butter fish", etc. This month's Consumer Reports has an article on "mystery fish". That was our dinner menu.
The lunch and breakfast buffets were chaotic. There was no order of approach to the serving areas, consequently everyone was going in different direction at the same time.
A significant issue that was inadequately addressed was infection control. There were two hand sanitizer dispensers on the ship, but that's where infection control ended. At no time were any of the staff wiping down bannisters, handrails, etc. Consequently virtually everyone on board cought a nasty cold. Passengers were allowed to handle food items such as bread picked-up for slicing, and then return it to the serving area for someone else to pick-up. Hygiene 101!
The Dutchess is getting tired, and fortunately will go in for a needed drydock. We found the ship to be rather noisy. Passengers in the bow area were subjected to the roar of the diesel engine powering the bow thrusters. This often went on all night as the ship manuvered into various locks.
The service crew onboard is from eastern Europe and lacks the polish expected in a first rate resort or ship.
I know that there are many river cruise lovers out there, but this is how we saw Uniworld's River Duchess. i wish it were a prettier picture.