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13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
This was a 14 day river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. If you choose not to read the full review - here's a quick summary. I recommend Gate1Travel River cruise company on this itinerary. They are an incredible value, using a ... Read More
This was a 14 day river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. If you choose not to read the full review - here's a quick summary. I recommend Gate1Travel River cruise company on this itinerary. They are an incredible value, using a quality ship with professional staff that will result in an enjoyable vacation. This was our first river cruise after sailing on over 25 ocean cruises. River cruising is wonderful but different than ocean cruising. Beyond ships being smaller, the social gathering is more quaint with a wonderful opportunity to meet every fellow passenger. I was surprised that river cruising predicts daily adjustments will likely be made to the timing of your itinerary. River traffic, the timing and congestion of the use of the "locks" on the river may cause minor adjustments to port arrival times This is common to all river cruise lines. Gate1Travel did a magnificent job of keeping passengers always informed of last minute amendments to the schedule and on a couple occurances took steps to have coach buses meet us further up river to begin our port excursion on time. We booked this river cruise only 10 days prior to sailing, booking direct with Gate1Travel. They were offering 50% off on the sailing as part of their spring sale. Airfare was included and scheduled by Gate1Travel. Communication prior to departure was efficient and informative. We received detailed pre-cruise information including the itinerary, arrival / transport instructions, and contact information which limited any question we may have had. We arrived in Amsterdam about 3 PM and met up with the Gate1Travel representative at a predetermined meeting point at the airport. An 8 passenger van shuttled us and another couple directly to the ship where we immediately felt welcomed. The Ship: The Monarch Duchess is new to the Gate1Travel fleet this year after serving 9 years with another company. The ship is in great condition! The common areas include; the outside sun deck, the main lounge, the dining room, and a small aft lounge. Cabin: We were immediately shown to our cabin. We upgraded at the last moment to one of the four suites (Suite Category) on the ship. The suite was very generous in size with a very comfortable bed, small love seat, chair, long desk area with chair, and a large wardrobe cabinet as you would find on a cruise ship. The bathroom was quite spacious with a full size shower, long vanity, and quality finishes. We had the opportunity to take a peak into the other French Balcony cabins and found them to be slightly smaller than you would find on a contemporary ocean cruise ship balcony cabin. The Monarch Duchess French Balcony cabins are found on the upper level (Category A and B) and middle level (Category C and D). I would recommend booking at the lowest balcony level "D" if cost efficiency is your priority - you don't sacrifice your comfort or experience when booking any of the French Balcony cabin categories. I would however attempt to book a cabin from mid ship to forward on ship due to some minor engine vibration while sailing in the aft of the vessel. Dining: The dining experience was positive with quality food, presentation and variety at every meal. Dinner portions are adequate with guests from the US likely noticing a difference from the overly large portions they are accustomed to. Breakfast and lunch are presented buffet style with an additoinal daily special offering. For instance the breakfast may offer Eggs Benedict one day and then French Toast, with lunch specials offering a special sandwich, soup, or salad - the specials are all made to order. The buffet are is well organized with guests selecting their own items and quantity. A variety of juices, coffee, and tea are included at breakfast - coffee and water are included at lunch. The dinner menu was different each of the 14 days. The menu format begins by always offering a salmon or chicken entree any evening. The dinner menu also always offers a minimum of two appetizers, three entrees, and two deserts. A vegetarian entree is always offered and changes each day of the cruise. Unlimited wine, beer, and soda are offered at dinner. Coffee and tea are always available. The Chef engaged with all guests each eventing before taking a position at the main buffet area to offer a variety of cheeses each night. Service was exceptional - with most of the staff quickly addressing each guest by their first name, and anticipating repeat service requests. Entertainment: The ship has a resident musical performer. On this cruise the musician played piano and flute and also sang. Not the quality of a high end supper club in a large city, yet good quality and engaged with the guests. On four evenings, local entertainment was brought on board which included a German Band, Austrian singers, and Austrian musicians. A quality presentation on the history of the waterway lock system was also conducted during one "at sea" day. Ports & Excursions: Please take note. We noticed about a dozen river cruise companies on the river on any day. This included no less than four River Cruise companies docked in port adjacent to our ship on each port day. It was very apparent that the local guides are shuttled to each River Cruise company upon ship arrival, provided the standard "follow me" baton at eat gang way and commence with their group walking tour. Absent a River Cruise company jacket or emblem that is worn by the guide, the guides are very much alike, and the walking tours are almost identical. Gate1Travel's coordination of each excursion was exceptional insuring accountability of each guest. The guides were informative with a varied background from local college student to retired professor. All port stops allow for a period of "free time" with local information provided by Gate1Travel to enable self guided exploration at each stop. There are many choices when selecting a river cruise. We were tempted by the prominent river cruise companies to book with them after receiving endless promotional materials the past few years before stumbling on this last minute opportunity. We were very pleased with our Gate1Travel river cruise experience. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
This may be the first review of the Monarch Countess, one of Gate 1 Travel's own river cruisers. I was looking for reviews prior to our trip but was unable to find any. If I'm not mistaken, this ship was formerly the Avalon ... Read More
This may be the first review of the Monarch Countess, one of Gate 1 Travel's own river cruisers. I was looking for reviews prior to our trip but was unable to find any. If I'm not mistaken, this ship was formerly the Avalon Felicity. Being rather new to river cruising, we've only been on a four-day Yangtze river cruise, and a week-long Nile cruise, on other carriers. We opted this time for Gate 1's river and canal cruise around Holland and Belgium at tulip time. It was a bit early in the tulip season but we were still rewarded with lots of color, especially at Keukenhof, which was spectacular. Something I learned on this cruise is that river cruises tend to travel by night. This makes sense since you're in different ports each day, but my previous river cruises did include daylight travel. We chose this cruise because it seemed like a good value, and as it turned out, it was a good value. But beyond that, the ship is lovely, the crew is attentive, and the food was very good. If I were to do another river cruise, I would definitely consider Gate 1. We would have liked to have had a cabin with sliding doors and the juliet balcony. There was an up-charge depending on cabin location, and we would have opted for an upper-level cabin, but when we booked they were all sold out. Our cabin was in the lower level and we were wondering how that would be. Due to the above-mentioned nighttime travel, it was just fine. The view out the window is inches above the water level, but we didn't find it to be an issue. The only issue on the entire cruise was that there was a pungent intermittent and sporadic odor of diesel in the cabin. I queried a couple other travelers if they noticed this but I didn't hear of anyone else commenting on it. Perhaps it was only evident in the lower level; I don't know. But it was the only real negative experience of the whole cruise. Ports of call were interesting and beautiful. The included shore excursions were very good, as were the tour guides. Our tour director, Dominique, was terrific. I'll admit that tipping got a bit tiresome as the week wore on. At the end of the cruise, tips are collected for the crew, tour director, and activities director. But during the week, each time there's a different tour guide or bus driver or any other service person, you find yourself continually fishing for tips. I suppose this is standard on river cruises. All in all, the Gate 1 river cruise was very good. It also happened to be our first Gate 1 tour of any type. We know lots of people who rave about Gate 1 and we'll probably try a land-based Gate 1 tour to see what they're like. Read Less
24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
After 20 ocean cruises, this was my first river cruise. The two experiences cannot be compared. On an ocean cruise, your main destination is often the ship itself, which is a floating entertainment district. On a river cruise, the boat is ... Read More
After 20 ocean cruises, this was my first river cruise. The two experiences cannot be compared. On an ocean cruise, your main destination is often the ship itself, which is a floating entertainment district. On a river cruise, the boat is a floating restaurant/hotel which takes you to destinations. You spend little time on the actual vessel. With only 160 passengers, boarding and disembarking are extremely simple and fast. We only needed to pick up our boarding passes for our rooms, which are kept in slots at the front desk like old-fashioned keys at a hotel, and walk off the ship to our tour guides and busses. Returning to the ship required just handing back the boarding passes. Ship personnel could easily see who was on or off the ship by looking at the contents of the slots. There was nothing electronic about this process. While we did have some free time in port (usually about an hour after our scheduled tour with a guide), we were kept quite busy. Most days consisted of rising early, attending the morning stretching class if you were so-inclined, eating breakfast, and leaving on your morning excursion. We would be back for lunch, then left again for our afternoon excursion. At 6 pm, there would be a happy hour in the lounge with specially-priced drinks. At 6:45, the cruise director would give a port talk about what to expect the next day. At 7, we went down to the dining room and all ate a four course dinner together. Seats were not assigned, so you could decide to sit with different people every time. After dinner, there would be some kind of entertainment in the lounge, usually consisting of a game. We only went once, on the first night, to see some local people perform traditional dances. Food was good. I would say it was better and fresher than on ocean cruises because we were not being served week-old bread that had been out to sea as long as we had been. Breakfast and lunch were buffets. Dinner gave us three choices of entrees, consisting of meat, fish, or vegetarian dishes. They did a pretty good job of accommodating my travel companion’s gluten-free needs. This cruise would not be suitable for most younger people. The music played by the keyboard player in the lounge would not be exciting in an elevator. Half the bus could be found snoring in the seats returning from our outings. No one stayed up past 10 pm. That said, I would definitely go on this cruise again, and plan to go on future river cruises. Read Less
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