Sail Date: September 2016
Service was very good. Food quality and variety very good. Complimentary wine selections with dinner better then on other cruise lines. Many of the service personal an people at the front desk remembered your name after a couple of days. ... Read More
Service was very good. Food quality and variety very good. Complimentary wine selections with dinner better then on other cruise lines. Many of the service personal an people at the front desk remembered your name after a couple of days. The off the ship tour directors that did the half day and full day tours had great knowledge of the countries visited and made suggestions for shopping. Cabin size was larger then on other river cruise ships I have been on. Port talks were very informative and tour director friendly and knowledgeable. Embarkation was a quick process. A ship's representative met us at the airport and stayed with us till we arrived at the dock. Towels in the bath were soft and fluffy and bath products were of really good quality. And the gym has good equipment and more options then on other ships I have been on and there was also a Jazuzzi. This was my 5th river cruise and i would sail with them again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2013
Summary: If you want to take the Tulips and Windmills cruise to see the tulips (our trip started April 12, 2013 from Antwerp to Amsterdam), understand that you are guaranteed to see windmills but all bets are off regarding viewing fields ... Read More
Summary: If you want to take the Tulips and Windmills cruise to see the tulips (our trip started April 12, 2013 from Antwerp to Amsterdam), understand that you are guaranteed to see windmills but all bets are off regarding viewing fields of tulips. No one can control the weather which we learned changes daily and no one can control the tulip season which apparently varies year to year. This year we were too early. You are guaranteed to see them indoors at the Kuekenhof Gardens so do not let the weather give you pause. On all other counts the cruise was a delight. The port stops focused on walking through charming villages, viewing the unique architecture of the region, the continuing efforts to keep the water out, the famous Belgian and Dutch art, and of course the flowers. You also had ample time to sample the food favorites of each region - beer, chocolate, mussels, French fries, and waffles in Belgium and their counterparts in the Netherlands. This is peak time for river cruises in this area and there were always multiple river ships in each of the ports we visited. See below for more on ports. TIP: Don't miss the French Fries from Frituur Number 1 and chocolate from Chocolate Line in Antwerp. The French Fries with mayo were fabulous. Wasabi chocolate not bad either! Ship: The River Empress is a lovely ship commanded by its very able Captain Anton de Bot. The crew were wonderful and did everything possible to make our voyage memorable. They quickly remembered who you were and if you had any special needs or liked things a certain way. Amazing they could do this week after week. The public rooms were comfortable and roomy. The cabins were what you would expect on a river cruise, small but efficiently laid out. Plenty of nooks and crannies to stow stuff. There is space under the beds to store your luggage but if you have more than one suitcase you might have to use the closet. There was wifi in the public areas but it was pretty weak and very slow most of the time. Embarkation: There were about 21 of us who landed in Brussels in the early morning. We waited maybe 20 minutes for someone to show up from Uniworld. We were bussed to Antwerp and were able to get on the ship and offload our bags and have breakfast right away. We could not get into our cabins until 3 p.m. They gave us maps of Antwerp and many of use went off to see the town. There's lots to see in Anwterp. It's very walkable. Dining: The food was excellent and the staff easily accommodated all the various food allergies. And if you find something you especially like, they will bring it to you every meal if you want. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style and included a wide variety of items for every appetite. Dinner was sit-down and included a starter, soup, entree, and dessert. There were usually 3 choices for each. Wine was included with dinners and the selections were perfect accompaniments to the menu. Portions were just right so it was easy to have all 4 courses. They often included something local to the area we were visiting. Other items: The gift shop was disappointing in that it did not stock anything from Belgium or the Netherlands. It may have been due to the other route this ship takes going from Amsterdam to Budapest. But a few local items would have been nice, in case you missed them in one of the towns. There was a fitness center with an elliptical, treadmill and other equipment on board. Massages were available and I heard they were wonderful. For those inclined there was daily exercise at 7:15 a.m. There is self-service laundry. In addition to the on-board piano player, there were special local groups to entertain us several times. They were ok. Most people disappeared to their cabins by about 9:30 p.m. The lecture one morning about Dutch art was excellent. Cruise extension in Amsterdam: The weather was not warm enough or the winds calm enough to sit up on the top deck. Again, that is just the timing of the cruise in April. We chose to start in Antwerp so we could spend more time in Amsterdam at the end. We booked our own hotel and did the city on our own. It is very easy to do. Everything is within walking distance. We allowed 3 days which was just fine and better than the Uniworld extension offering. The renovated Rijksmuseum is a must-see. There is a new Canal House Museum that is also worthwhile. Other ports: Not all of the ports we stopped at are listed by Cruise Critic so I will just write it here. There were included featured excursions, often walking tours of the town, in each port and sometimes there was even a choice. There were a few optional excursions - visit to Delft factory and the town, a bulb-growing farm, walking tour of Amsterdam. Each evening before dinner, the Cruise Manager told us about the next day's itinerary and deadlines for booking optional excursions. Having taken other cruises where the optionals were a must-do, these were less so. They were interesting but did not add appreciably to the experience. The walking tour to see the hidden gems in Amsterdam was a disappointment partly because it was a Saturday and because of the crowds, it was a great effort just to keep up with our guide. Delta Works near Veere was fascinating and Veere itself is a delightful town to walk/bike through. There is not much to see at the Delft factory and there are stores in other places where you can buy it. Skip the tour of Delft and just walk around on your own. Skip lunch as it takes up too much time and your time is limited. The Zuider Zee outdoor museum in Enkhuisen was very interesting. We went to Arnhem instead of Nijmegen because of the weather but Arnhem was fun to walk through. Hoorn was another lovely town. Actually all the towns are charming. The brick homes and the little streets go on and on. Nuenen, where Van Gogh lived for 2 years, was a lovely suburban village. It houses a museum which talks about the period when Van Gogh lived there. But the village looks nothing like the time when Van Gogh lived there. Use your imagination. It was a long bus ride. We had the choice of a full day at Keukenhof Gardens or half-day Kuekenhof and half-day Zaanse Schans. If the weather is sunny, do the full day at Kueknhof or half-day Keukenhof and relax on the ship in the afternoon. Zaanse Schans is very touristy. Every place you visit also sells souvenirs. Not worth the time. Tipping: Other cruise lines include tipping. Uniworld does not. I'm not sure what is the best method. I think I would prefer them to include gratuities and let us decide to give extra to those people who really made a difference in our trip. Also, having to have euro coins handy every day for the bus drivers and local guides was a nuisance. While they say that tipping is not required, you tend to feel obligated. Would be better if it were all inclusive. We plan to continue using Uniworld for our next river cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
We thoroughly enjoyed our European River Cruise. The service by all the cruise staff was exceptional The Cruise Director,Peter,was very professional. He was well organised, friendly, informative and approachable. He was only too willing ... Read More
We thoroughly enjoyed our European River Cruise. The service by all the cruise staff was exceptional The Cruise Director,Peter,was very professional. He was well organised, friendly, informative and approachable. He was only too willing to sort out any problems that we encountered.We had a port talk every night about what to expect the next day, and were always well informed about entertainment. This was varied and once again used local talent. The one problem he did not forsee was that the Australian passengers had all paid their tips in advance. The other passengers had not done this, and at the end of each excursion would be very visible tipping the tour guide and bus driver.This made the Australian visitors feel miserly and embarrassed and some started to give extra, to save face. The drivers and tour guides were always knowledgeable about the tours they were leading. The communications with listening devices were excellent. The European summer weather let us down, and many fellow passengers were also caught short by not bringing enough warm clothes as we were expecting warmer weather. However the warm welcome back to the boat after every excursion by the Hotel Manager and often also by the Captain(always with a warm or cold drink and moist towlette) made up for the wet cold conditions we often encountered. The food and wine were local,and typical of the area, usually having been purchased in local markets. My one disappointment was that in the Rhine region we didn't seem to get a local sweet white wine which I like to drink.At meal times we were only ever offered a dry white,red wine, local beer, and limited soft drink, as our free beverages.We were given champagne on the formal evenings. The only low calorie soft drink was Diet Coke. As I hate all of the preceding, I drank a lot of water for 14 days. The cabins were well appointed and very comfortable.The cosmetics were good by L'Occitane There was no self service laundry on this boat, & it was very hard to launder things in your room. There was little to no provision to hang wet clothes in the bathroom, so in the end we had to get our laundry done. This was quite expensive.We visited Brussels, Antwerp, Maastricht, Venlo, Cologne,Koigswinter, Koblenz, Aschaffenburg, Miltenberg, Wurzburg, Bamberg,and Nuremberg. All of the towns along the way showed some Roman influence. We usually had a coach tour to give an overall picture, followed by a walking tour, usually of the Old Town. We certainly experienced lots of locks, which may have lost their appeal to watch, after the first few. The highlight for me was the visual feast of vineyards and castles along the 64km Upper Middle Rhine Valley.The tours were graded and people with mobility problems were also catered for, but they probably missed out on things were steps were required.We saw a lot of churches, museums, castles, cathedrals.We toured boutique beer breweries and a Horticultural Expo. We also did an excellent post tour of Prague at the end of the River Cruise.This was also excellently organised. The hotel facilities at the Prague Imperial Art Deco Hotel, especially our room, made the ship look small. I'm glad we did it this way, as after this the cabin would have felt cramped. One problem I encoutered was that the windows on the boat are slightly tinted and any photos taken from the inside have all come out blue. Just something to be aware of. I didn't realise this until later. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2012
With an American 70-cabin river boat and 34 crewmen and program directors all with excellent conversational English, this was an excellent adult touring and discovery Rhine and Mosel rivers cruise - from Antwerp, Belgium, through the ... Read More
With an American 70-cabin river boat and 34 crewmen and program directors all with excellent conversational English, this was an excellent adult touring and discovery Rhine and Mosel rivers cruise - from Antwerp, Belgium, through the Netherlands and Germany, and touching France, to disembarkation in Basel, Switzerland. The boat was impeccably clean and inviting, serving full breakfasts and gourmet meals for lunch and dinner (including wine at dinner). The 132 passengers were grouped with three dedicated and local-knowledgeable program directors, so we got to know each other quite well, leaving contacts for further get-togethers. Guided port walking tours to ancient market squares, churches and half-timbered buildings in the close-by quaint Roman and Medieval-founded towns along the Rhine and Mosel rivers were almost everyday. Included bus tours were provided: to the every-10-year Floriade horticultural exposition in the Netherlands, to castles, to the WWII liberation museum and Remagen Bridge, and on the French Alsatian Wine Route; and a canal boat tour was made of Trier, the principal city of the Mosel valley. Only 4 optional extra cost tours were offered (Dutch Delta Works, Luxembourg, Marksburg Castle, and the Black Forest), all in parallel with other included town info tours. On-board activities included daily piano, vocal, magic, and gypsy entertainment, as well as kitchen and bridge tours, a Belgium chocolates discovery by treasure hunt and candy display and explanation, and a 'horse" race, all in the separate lounge - just plain fun. We were upgraded to a balcony stateroom - enough room for two chairs, but we were outdoors for beautiful weather throughout the trip (early July) except for two short rain episodes. Embarkation and disembarkation shuttles and assistance were well coordinated, as was the administration of the whole cruise. It was the cruise of a lifetime, and we'll probably do another soon. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2011
We chose this particular river cruise company because of the itinerary--it covered lots of countries on the Rhine, plus the city of Brugges, a must-see! We had sailed on a Danube cruise with Amawaterways a few years ago, an exceptional ... Read More
We chose this particular river cruise company because of the itinerary--it covered lots of countries on the Rhine, plus the city of Brugges, a must-see! We had sailed on a Danube cruise with Amawaterways a few years ago, an exceptional cruise, and figured that Viking wouldn't match up. How wrong we were! It was about the most perfect trip we have ever taken. Viking has their act together!!! After gaining 5+ pounds, I can say that we had 5 star gourmet food at every meal plus wonderful snacks. The servers were so professional and hard working, wanting to please the passengers. Andreas, the chef, was great--I loved his cooking demonstrations and his sense of humor. The rooms were kept spotless, free bottled water in the rooms every day, and lots of storage room for clothing. How nice to only unpack once for the whole trip! Our Program Director, Luk, gave informative talks about each port and optional excursions, and he had such a great sense of humor! I felt as though he was a friend by the time we left the ship. One of my favorite parts of the cruise were the guided tours by local guides--they spoke excellent English, answered all our questions, and were enthusiastic. We took the optional Colmar town excursion which was a quaint Alsace town--a must-see! We also went to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam on our own, that we recommend seeing, even though we had to wait in a long line. Don't bother spending extra money to upgrade to a balcony cabin. The window in our D level room was large and let in plenty of light. We were able to see swans close up swimming by our window several times! You won't spend much time in your room because the lounge is beautiful with great picture windows, and we also spent a lot of time on the upper deck watching the castles go by! We went with 10 of our neighbors and 6 of them went on the optional tour to Lucerne--it was not the best experience because traffic was bad due to road construction and they only got to see Lucerne for an hour and 1/2 and had to rush around--their guide was a bit grumpy, too. My advice is to go on the Lucerne post-cruise extension, so that you can get a longer time in this beautiful city (we had visited Lucerne before). In Basel, we had the option of the regular city tour, or the "Close and Personal tour" (no extra charge)where you got to ride the streetcar and ferry in addition to a rigorous city tour. We loved this tour, because the guide told us tales about the city, and we got to see more places than the regular city tour. We only had a half hour on our own which was fine with me because we covered the city very well. We had listening devices provided for most of the tours which was wonderful. We could hear everything said. I was surprised at all the 80+ year-old people on this trip, though. At least the ship provided a leisurely guided tour at each port for them because walking on cobblestones, up and down hills and steps is a bit much for most people of that age and is very tiring for all ages. The ship provided entertainment every night, but don't expect it to be like the entertainment you get on a large cruise ship. I didn't care because usually after dinner was over at 9 or 9:30, I was tired and ready to turn in. The piano player was super, though, and very talented. No complaints on this trip--so much to see and we did it in high style! Thanks Viking Sun! Read Less

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