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3 Budapest to Europe - River Cruise Gate 1 Travel Monarch Empress Cruise Reviews

We had not visited Poland(Warsaw, Krakow) so we joined this tour of Poland followed by a cruise of the Danube from Budapest, Bratislava, Melk, Durnstein, Vienna, Regensdorf and on to Munich to catch our flight home to San Francisco. We ... Read More
We had not visited Poland(Warsaw, Krakow) so we joined this tour of Poland followed by a cruise of the Danube from Budapest, Bratislava, Melk, Durnstein, Vienna, Regensdorf and on to Munich to catch our flight home to San Francisco. We had the very best luxury Suites on the ship but in general, felt cramped especially by the very large group from Israel who tended to monopolize the ship. But the food was OK and the service decent. It paled in comparison to our first Danube cruise on Viking. Nevertheless, the scenery was breathtaking even though we have traversed this stretch to Prague at least 3 times before. Vienna is always such a delight representing old world elegance and genteel manners with Baroque architecture and of course Motzart's music and chocolates(Motzarts kugel made with marzipan). The shore excursions were great and well managed. All in all, the cruise was good value for money. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
A friend had cruised with Gate One and recommended them. Because Gate One doesn't over advertise, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was WOWED by the quality of the service, staff, tours and entertainment. We enjoyed the ... Read More
A friend had cruised with Gate One and recommended them. Because Gate One doesn't over advertise, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was WOWED by the quality of the service, staff, tours and entertainment. We enjoyed the precruise tours in Budapest and the hotel choice (Budapest Hilton) was in an excellent location. It is attached to a mall and there is a grand market within walking distance to buy authentic cultural food, souvenirs and more!. Went to the Budapest thermal spring spa on our own, but probably wouldn't do that again. It was crowded and not that relaxing, so I would spend time seeing one of the many other amazing sights in Budapest. Food throughout the week was excellent and always plenty of choices. Didn't miss the wine/beer at lunch like other companies offer. Having those options at dinner was ample for us. The entertainment and activities on board surpassed other river cruise experiences I have had, but it wasn't too much. Ice cream sundae bar on top deck one afternoon, and a variety show performed by staff one evening for example were fun! All staff were professional, friendly and organized! We did the optional "gypsy forest" dinner in Budapest. Fun and worth the money! Optional concert in Vienna was in an impressive, intimate concert hall and included talented musicians and a couple dancers. I highly recommend Gate One Monarch Empress! Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
I found very few reviews for Gate 1 Travel and the Monarch Empress traveling the Danube so I thought I would post a quick summary. Marigold252's review in post #2409882 ("Gate 1 17 Day Danube River Cruise with Warsaw, Krakow, ... Read More
I found very few reviews for Gate 1 Travel and the Monarch Empress traveling the Danube so I thought I would post a quick summary. Marigold252's review in post #2409882 ("Gate 1 17 Day Danube River Cruise with Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest & Prague") on this forum has some fairly detailed additional information. This was our first river cruise and most of our tour experience has been with various Rick Steves' small group land tours - so our observations about this river cruise come from that perspective. Gate 1 Travel - Their tag line seems to say it all... "See More of the World for Less". I certainly was unfamiliar with them but many of our fellow cruisers had done numerous land tours with them over the course of 5 - 10 years. They seem pretty well established but have a low profile compared to some of the other river cruise lines. When I compare the quality of the ship, food, service, and experience compared to the many other cruise lines I researched, we certainly felt that it was great value for money. Ship - The Monarch Empress is quite new (first put into service in 2016 I believe). The decor was more modern/contemporary than what we saw on some of the other ships that were docked close to us. More about clean and sleek and less about overall glitz. Passengers - Approximately 130 or so passengers for our cruise - a slight majority from the US but Australia, New Zealand, and Canada folks were broadly represented -- with a smattering from other countries as well. The age range was mostly 50 to 80... with just a few folks that were either younger or older than this demographic. Daytime dress was generally casual - this was September so mostly long pants and a mix of layers to adjust for temperature and showers through the day. Dinner dress was a bit mixed. We specifically chose this cruise line over some others because we DIDN'T want to feel pressure to dress up for dinner every night. Men were generally dressed more casually than the women - slacks or dress jeans along with more casual collared/button-down shirts. Women (as expected) dressed up a bit more for dinner/evening... but from my observation the vast majority just tried to add a scarf, a nicer top, and maybe a bit of extra jewelry - though there were a handful of women that (in my opinion looked out of place) dressing in high heels and evening dresses. Cabin - I used the price difference between Gate 1 and many of the other cruise lines as an opportunity to upgrade to a top-floor "Suite" instead of a mid-level cabin. See the detailed review in the separate section below. Dining Experience - Because this cruise was more budget conscious, we expected the food to be on the simple/bland side - and we were actually very pleasantly surprised and the variety and quality. I know that some river cruise lines have lots of choices on the dinner menu but we felt that the choices on the Monarch Empress were rich and varied enough to more than meet our needs (and pad our waist lines). With a 4+ course meal (depending on how you counted such things) that was beautifully prepared, we never went hungry. Obviously, if you want to maximize your food experiences than this cruise line might not be a good match... but if you want to try a smaller (but plentiful) array of regional foods and yet have the fall back of some tried & true standbys, I think you will find what was served here to be more than adequate. Entertainment and Activities - Truthfully, our focus was on the ports and excursions and we took minimal advantage of on-board entertainment/activities. We were generally so tired after being out and about all day that we just wanted to fall in to bed and rest after dinner. My impression is that the on-board activities are probably a bit less sensational than what might be available on other (more expensive) cruise lines -- but in our case why would we want to pay extra for something we never used? Service - ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT!! Our minimal experience with ocean cruises prepared us to expect fairly perfunctory service -- but the entire crew made us feel as if we were a part of their family. Within just a day or two the restaurant staff knew many of our specific dining habits - for instance, my desire for a beer instead of wine... it would be delivered to the table within a few seconds of my sitting down anywhere in the restaurant (even though we didn't have assigned seating). The folks that serviced the rooms operated silently in the background - but would address our every need with instant efficiency. Ports and Shore Excursions - This was a 7 day cruise and we added 2 or 3 days in both Budapest (at the beginning) and in Prague (at the end). We would have loved to spend a bit more time in each of the locations where we stopped -- but this is a challenge for nearly all of the river cruise lines... my research showed that they all had very similar itineraries. In our case we cruised up-stream.... which tends to make actual travel a bit slower. I don't know, however, if this translates into less time at each specific port or whether they simply travel longer at night. Be aware that many of the excursions start relatively early -- Often leaving by 8:15 or 8:30. If you signed up for most/all of the optional excursions (as we did), you may find that you have little time for leisure or taking advantage of after-dinner activities. Most (if not all) of the excursions (standard and optional) had knowledgeable local guides -- but don't expect that you will have the time for a deep-immersion experience... but rather just an introduction with a little time on your own to dig just a bit deeper. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
Monarch Empress Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.9
Dining 3.0 4.7
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 1.0 3.4
Family 1.0 3.4
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.8
Enrichment 4.0 4.1
Service 5.0 5.0
Value For Money 5.0 4.6

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