First experience with Gate 1 and first river cruise so cannot compare with other river cruise lines - therefore, will compare with ocean cruises. In a nutshell, excellent experience - hope to go again. We met the Monarch Princess in ... Read More
First experience with Gate 1 and first river cruise so cannot compare with other river cruise lines - therefore, will compare with ocean cruises. In a nutshell, excellent experience - hope to go again. We met the Monarch Princess in Budapest where we flew in a day early on our own from Italy. The ship was nicely appointed as described in the 1st review. It was a well refurbished older ship that Gate 1 purchased from Avalon, Talking to other passengers, I understand that Gate 1 has been in the land tour business for over twenty years and had just started with their 1st ship three years ago, Now they are expanding with new ships built for them. They currently have three - Monarch Princess being the oldest, but in my opinion, just great ,
We dropped off our baggage several hours before boarding was allowed with no problem, and Gary, the Cruise Director, was fantastic when it came to service. He was able to up-grade us from category E to D (water line high windows to french balcony) for a very reasonable amount due to a cancellation. The stateroom had plenty of storage area, similar to an ocean ship, and was slightly more compact. Shower had good pressure and was the full European 3'x3'. Slight inconvenience is drying sink washed clothes as only towel racks could be used - unless you gambled that the French Balcony safely bars outside would keep your clothes from falling off into the river.
Food was as good or better that an ocean ship, without the large menu to choose from. Wine and beer was included with the evening meal, however available any time for additional cost. My wife and I normally have a cocktail before dinner and found that prices were 10-15% lower that ocean ships. Quality of wine was good and usually local.
We especially enjoyed the Bavarian meal on the 6th night.
Shipboard entertainment included a full time disk jockey for dancing every night after the evening entertainment. With the small number compared to an ocean ship, acquaintances and friends were quickly established (also open seating at meals encouraged this) and the dance floor was filled every night. Local entertainers were provided at the start and end of the 7 day Danube cruise, and the assistant to Gary, the cruise director acted as entertainer on other nights with a sampling of what you find on an ocean cruise - "Battle of the Sexes", "Trivial Pursuit". "Bingo with a Twist", etc.
Probably the most enjoyable part of the cruise were the stops. They usually included a short 1 1/2 hr to 2 1/2 hr walking tour with local tour guides that gave you a brief orientation and history of the place you were visiting, and then turned you loose to go on your own. This especially suited my wife and I as we seldom will sign up for a tour offered by an ocean ship and much prefer to "do our own thing".
There are optional tours you can take for additional cost - similar to an ocean cruise. The only one we took was the "Classical Viennese Concert" in Vienna. It was "OK" typical tourist fare in a beautiful old concert hall packed with river cruisers from all of the cruise lines docked that day. It consisted of six stringed instruments, flute, clarinet, piano, soloist violinist, male and female soprano and baritone, and two dancers. While definitely not a true opera, it was entertaining, but in my opinion, over-priced. We had a much better experience the following Sunday at High Mass in the older small cathedral in Linz, Austria. There was a featured Viennese Opera Soloist and organist, both were fantastic. No cost other than you usual offering. This is why we "do our own thing".
Another favorite stop was the small village of Durnstein. I hiked to the old castle ruins, however, it was a very tough climb and rather dangerous with a very steep and uneven trail. Don't try it unless you are sure-footed and physically fit. Just a walk on the charming cobblestone streets of little village is great on its own. Stop by the local church and its small museum - its an inexpensive treat for only 2 1/2 Euros.
I can't say enough good things about the Cruise Director, Gary. He was always available, extremely good natured, very informed about the local attractions, entertaining, and helpful. He certainly turned a very good overall experience into an excellent experience.
Overall, the crew was excellent in all respects. The wine flowed freely at the evening meals and the entire trip was delightful. My wife and I have never been on a cruise we did not like, but this first river cruise was geat. We just hope we have the health and finances to try another.
Jack & Mary (Ole Goat) Read Less