River Beatrice Entertainment
As on most European riverboats, the real entertainment is largely found ashore rather than onboard -- and River Beatrice's shore tour program was exceptional. In every port, at least one complimentary excursion was available. These by and large offered a broad view of a place (city tour of Vienna, for instance, or walking tour of tiny Passau with a visit to its cathedral for a concert). In most cases, these were designed for all passengers at all levels of mobility and primarily involved motorcoaches or short walks in small villages. Most were a half day in length. The tours were consistently thorough and interesting, and the Quietvox portable lightweight audio headset system, through which the tour guide communicates via microphone to individual headphones, means you can hear what's going on even if you're at the back of the group.
More intriguing were the ship's extra-fee options (called "Irresistible Optional Tours") that included, on our afternoon in Passau, a visit to a Bavarian village, or in Durnstein, the heart of Austria's wine country, a fantastic group bike ride with a wine tasting. Easily the most popular of these supplementary tours was the chance to attend a classical concert focusing on Mozart and Strauss one evening in Vienna.
Cost ranged from 46 euros for the Wachau Valley cycling tour to 49 euros for the concert in Vienna.
One of the highlights each evening was a pre-dinner "what to expect tomorrow" talk hosted by the Cruise Manager (basically the shore excursions manager). On River Beatrice, three staffers, all who live in the region, revolve in and out as cruise managers, and ours, Hildegarde, was marvelous. Both entertaining and informative, she was especially helpful with tips and advice to travelers wanting to strike out on their own. A highlight was the occasional impromptu evening walkabout she'd host in various cities -- no charge, just for fun.
Occasionally, when the ship was docked well into the evening, local performers would come on for a post-dinner show. These were delightful. In Bratislava, the Pressburger Duo, consisting of a pianist and violinist, performed classical standards with a humorous twist. On the evening we were alongside in Linz, I was hard pressed to choose between Hildegarde's night walk and a performance by the New Ohr Linz Dixie Band; I opted to stay onboard for what turned out to be a lovely mix of the two -- the music was superb and loud enough that I was able to enjoy it from the sun deck, watching the sun set over the old city.
Other memorable events on our cruise included an afternoon spent cruising along the Danube at its most beautiful part between Melk and Durnstein. We all gathered on the sun deck while Hildegard told us what we were seeing as we drifted past castles and vineyards. The trip into Budapest, early in the morning as the sun was rising, was a similarly entertaining and gorgeous experience, again complete with narration.
And the most memorable event of all was a gift from our captain. After our trip's last dinner, as the ship was docked overnight in Budapest, the captain took us out for a night cruise around the city. It was a chance to see Budapest's monuments all lit up -- and under a starry sky, no less -- and it was magical.
River Beatrice Public Rooms
River Beatrice's four-deck-high, white, mirrored atrium, is an eye-popping spot, both warm and contemporary. Its focal point is a most gorgeous white chandelier made by Venice's Vecchia Murano. The atrium spans all passenger decks and is the ship's hub: all public rooms save for the Captain's Club are located off the atrium. Here's where you'll find the purser's area (don't miss the gorgeous Chagalls -- originals -- displayed there), where you can change money, ask to borrow a bicycle or make any other request, for that matter. Up one deck is the shore excursions desk where you can sign up for tours and get information on the stops on the itinerary. A gift shop sells some gorgeous, and quite pricey, jewelry and collectibles, as well as necessities.
The Lounge is the all-purpose gathering room with a bar. It's most popular as a pre-dinner venue but also is a great spot for peace and quiet during the day and for post-dinner entertainment.
The cozy Captain's Lounge, located aft, is a secondary gathering spot with a well-stocked library, cozy seating area and tables roomy enough for foursomes to play Bridge. Two Internet-connected terminals are available; passengers with their own laptops can also pick up wireless signals in cabins, in the main lounge and on the upper deck. I will warn you that when passing through canals, access was often cut off. Cost is a flat 15 euros for the week -- a pretty good bargain for onboard Internet.
One of the most pleasant aspects of the ship -- especially since we were blessed with a rain-free week -- is its outdoor spaces. Wrapping around the Captain's Lounge is a charming seating area with nice wicker furnishings -- a perfect spot for a morning cup of coffee. The ship's sun deck, which runs the length of the ship, was the nicest one on the Danube -- covered in teak-like wood, it's equipped with gorgeous wrought iron chairs, tables and loungers with incredibly comfortable puffy cotton cushions. Three canopies offer shade.
An elevator services all decks. Laundry service is available for a fee (there's no dry cleaning) and a small launderette is free to use, though there's a nominal charge for soap.
River Beatrice Spa & Fitness
As on most Europe riverboats, River Beatrice's gym facilities are compact (featuring a couple of machines and a fitball) but the ship's lone spa staffer makes the most of the space. Yoga was offered each morning on the sun deck.
The spa consists of a guest cabin turned into a massage room, but the handful of treatments, focusing on massage, are more than adequate.
Most recreation is experienced off the ship. I loved using the complimentary bicycles in most of our ports (even in Vienna!); crewmembers haul them on and off at every port. (Even in Durnstein, when we were actually docked alongside another riverboat, staffers would haul them up the stairs, across the other ship and down again.) The bikes have locks, and you can request helmets. Passengers can also borrow Nordic walking sticks.
There is no pool or whirlpool on River Beatrice.