1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Gate 1 Travel
  4. Gate 1 Travel Cruise Reviews

21 Gate 1 Travel Cruise Reviews

This will be long. I will provide info about some things I could not find a lot of info on before we went. These include... Dress code on and off the ship Are there good laundry services on the ship? Currency needs Are there ... Read More
This will be long. I will provide info about some things I could not find a lot of info on before we went. These include... Dress code on and off the ship Are there good laundry services on the ship? Currency needs Are there travel guides to hire to supplement the Gate 1 offerings? How are the optional tours? OUR GROUP We were a group of 12 (6 married couples) from the US. Most of us have known each other for years. We are generally in our early to mid 60s, are active, and we like to have fun. OUR TOUR It was booked as 14 Day Danube with Munich and Budapest. It is really 12 days because day 1 is travel to Munich and day 14 is travel home. The first few days were in Munich. Then we bussed to Regensburg and boarded the ship. After a week on the ship, we spent the last couple nights in a hotel in Budapest. HOTELS We stayed at the Hilton Munich City, and then at the Hilton Budapest City. Both were very nice and included a great breakfast each day. Both had a room safe. MONARCH PRINCESS There are other reviews of the ship and I generally agree with them. This is not a luxury liner, but it is very nice and very clean. There are two suites, and my wife and I had one of them. It is a slightly bigger room, but the more important thing is that the bathroom and the shower are bigger...in a standard room, they are pretty small. We are not luxury travelers or budget travelers. We usually stay in nicer hotels when we travel. With that in mind, we were totally satisfied with our accommodations and the ship in general. DRESS CODE We like to be casual, and things were quite casual. Most men wore long pants and a sport shirt for dinner. Even for the final night dinner on the ship (called the Captain's Dinner or the gala dinner), I don't recall seeing any ties or jackets...so, you can leave them home. Frankly, I probably saw at least a couple pairs of shorts with tee shirts at dinner every night. For breakfast and lunch, shorts were the norm when it was warm. I tend to wear shorts and a sport shirt, but there were plenty of shorts with tee shirts. For down times on the ship, shorts and a tee shirt is fine. Casual was also the norm in the ports. I generally wore shorts on the tours and while doing things on our own. My wife and the other ladies generally wore slacks and a nice blouse for dinner. There were occasional dresses, and maybe a few more on the last night on the ship, but not really fancy ones. My conclusion is you won't feel out of place whatever you wear. CLEANING SERVICES ON THE SHIP These were great, and I was a regular customer. They do cleaning and pressing, but not dry cleaning. The weather was much hotter than forecasted, so I had too many long pants and not enough pairs of shorts. And, it was hot enough that I did not want to wear shirts for touring and dinner some days. You would just put your cleaning in a bag provided and leave it on your bed in the morning or when you go to dinner. Then it would be returned within 24 hours (they were usually quicker than the promised 24 hours). Prices were ok. For example, pants and shorts were 6 euros, and a shirt was 3.5 euros. Anyway, now that I know how well this works, I would be comfortable packing less and planning to use the service. CURRENCY We were in Germany, Austria and Slovakia, where the euro is the currency. In Hungary, the forint is the currency. The tour guides we read suggested that some places in Hungary would accept the euro. Our experience was that most places in Hungary accept the euro. Exceptions seemed to be state run places like museums and the Parliament tour (but they take a credit card). So, we all had more forints than we needed. But, we were able to spend them in restaurants, etc. KEEP SMALL CHANGE FOR BATHROOMS Many of the public restrooms charge for use. The charges we saw varied from one euro to 50 or 60 cents. At some, you could get change, but not at all. When we were on some of the bus tours, everyone was scrambling for change when we did a restroom stop. So, when you get there, change some of your euro bills for coins and keep them handy, even in Hungary. FOOD ON THE SHIP We thought it was very good. There are some picky eaters in our group, and all were quite happy with the offerings. Breakfast and lunch were generally buffets, with a special offering at each meal (like a sandwich of the day at lunch, or eggs benedict one day at breakfast). There was always an omelet station at breakfast. Dinner was usually 2 or 3 choices. Also, you could always get chicken, potato and vegetable every night instead of the offered entrees. Also, beer and wine is included with dinner. It was not limited. In fact, we usually left dinner each night with a drink in hand as we headed for the evening entertainment. SHIP ENTERTAINMENT We had fun. We did the entertainment every night. Dinner was usually about 7-9 pm, and the evening entertainment was usually 9-10 or so. A couple of nights it was special entertainment, which was good, and other nights it was a game of some sort. It was easier for us because we had a group, but participation was good every night. From 10 to about 11:30 or so, the ship musician took over. We stayed until the end every night! SHIP STAFF They were great. We really enjoyed them. Our cruise director was Katarina, and she was wonderful. She also managed things for those who went to Munich before and Budapest after...she was on site at both hotels. She works really hard! She was always helpful, and always with a smile on her face. Our activity director on the ship was Betti, and she was great too. She was very enthusiastic and so friendly. We also really enjoyed the ship musician, Randy. He is a very good guitar player and also plays keyboards. We kept him busy every night! All other staff members we encountered were friendly and helpful. LOCAL TOUR GUIDES MUNICH AND BUDAPEST When we first bought the cruise, one of the optional tours offered was a trip to Dachau. However, they cancelled it and it appears they no longer offer it. While it is not that difficult to figure out how to get there, we decided to get a guide. We hired Curt Milburn, and his company is Big Hat Tours. He did a great job. He came to our hotel, and then we used public transport all day. We started at 9 am and immediately went to Dachau, We stayed there for the morning, and then returned to Munich for lunch and a city tour (again, all on public transport, or walking). The trip to Dachau is a little confusing, so having him to help us get there and then guide us through was well worth it. He is really good and is so knowledgeable about the history of Munich and Dachau. Check out his website. He could be hired for just a Dachau visit, or for that and more. One of our 6 couples did Dachau on their own, and I think our visit with Curt was much easier and we got a lot more out of his with his guidance. We were in Budapest on a national holiday, so the optional tour they offer that includes going in the Parliament Building was not offered because some of the places normally included on the tour were closed. We hired Andrea from Tours by Locals to do a tour to include going in Parliament (it was not closed on the holiday) and doing other things we did not see with the general Gate 1 bus tour. Andrea was great. She is a life resident. She was so interesting, and really helped us understand many of the cultural aspects of her country. There were 10 of us, so we had a driver and a very comfortable minibus. You should check her out if you have the need to do anything extra in Budapest. OPTIONAL TOURS The only one offered while in Munich was a full day to Oberammergau and Neuschwanstein Castle. We all went. We probably would not do it again. The whole tour of the castle is 20 minutes long!! That's it! It is soooo crowded, It is apparently the most visited attraction in the region. It's beautiful, and the scenery is fantastic, but... Also, there is nothing special about Oberammergau. It's just like a long restroom stop. There is not enough time to do anything there. So, it seemed like a very long day with little return. We all did the full day optional tour to Salzburg, and we really enjoyed it. For our free time after lunch, most of us took the funicular up to the Hohensalzbug Fortress. The views were spectacular, and we were all glad we did it. By the way, I saw another review about this optional tour, and it said the lunch provided in the restaurant was not very good. We all thought it was quite good. A few couples did the optional classical concert tour in Vienna and they enjoyed it. None of us did the optional Schonbrunn Palace tour in Vienna, because that took up what little free time we had. OVERALL GATE 1 SERVICE It was very good once we arrived. A few of us had some less than great experiences with the phone center when we were trying to get some info before the cruise. But, once the trip started, everything was great. PLANNING I did a fair amount of research before going on the trip. As a result, I generally knew which things I wanted to see in each port. This helped me maximize the use of the limited free time. A lot of the group tours are bus tours with 30-40 people, so we don't always go into all the places we are seeing. In cases where the group tour didn't include something, I was usually able to figure out how to do it. HIGH POINTS Melk Abbey was amazing. No pictures allowed, though, so we bought a book in the gift shop. We really enjoyed Munich, Budapest, and Bratislava. Vienna seemed very crowded and kind of hard to find things. Sailing through the Wachau Valley after leaving Melk Abbey was beautiful, so get a seat outside on the sun deck for this. Same goes for the morning sail into Budapest...great to see the city from the water. PHONE SERVICE We use Verizon. If you enroll in TravelPass, you can basically get your same phone service for $10 for each 24 hour period. If you go over some amount of data in a 24 hour period, the speed slows down. I used my phone a lot, and that happened to me only twice, and both times near the end of the period. I used my maps on my phone a lot to get from one point to another in the cities. The ship has wifi. It generally worked well, but not always. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We chose Gate 1 cruises because they were more economical than other options. We were in a twin cabin on Sapphire Deck. It was well set out and the bathroom was well appointed. The Monarch Countess isn’t a large ship and we found the ... Read More
We chose Gate 1 cruises because they were more economical than other options. We were in a twin cabin on Sapphire Deck. It was well set out and the bathroom was well appointed. The Monarch Countess isn’t a large ship and we found the experience to be much more relaxing and personalised than ocean cruises we have been on. The staff were friendly and efficient. The evening meals were excellent. The choice is more limited than on some of the more expensive lines but I could always find something I liked. They always have the option of grilled chicken or salmon if you don’t like the daily selection. The lunch selection was not as good as the evening meal but compared favourably with what I have experienced on ocean cruises. Breakfast was also good. Entertainment was enjoyable but we didn’t take part in the afternoon games or quizzes. The included tours were well organised. We didn’t do any of the optional tours but were given good information from the cruise director regarding what you could see and do during your free time in port. I enjoyed my experience with Gate 1 and would definitely recommend them. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
This is the Classic Danube/Mainz/Rhine cruise 68 locks. We booked May 25 the water levels were good 2018 had the worst low water levels many river cruises canceled July & August.Our cabin was 206 french balcony the bed was comfortable ... Read More
This is the Classic Danube/Mainz/Rhine cruise 68 locks. We booked May 25 the water levels were good 2018 had the worst low water levels many river cruises canceled July & August.Our cabin was 206 french balcony the bed was comfortable there was a mini fridge and you were allowed to bring on your own alcohol including beer which was convenient . This was our 9th cruise but our first river cruise it was amazing being able to look out your window and see the vineyards and castles small towns landmarks and nature ( hint bring binoculars) plenty of birds deer & rabbits and people love waving . The food, breakfast and lunch were buffet style and dinner was served the selection was good usually a meat dish / fish dish / and vegetarian choice and Caesar salad chicken breast and hamburger were always available along with a selection of cheese and fresh fruit . Our dinner table usually had the same guests us 2 Canadians a couple from Australia a single gentleman from Ottawa and Michelle from NYC and she set the tone saying she was only there for the wine and the staff kept our glasses full ( no fixed seating ). I cannot say enough on how exceptional the staff treated us from the girls at the front desk to the hotel manager Hiomara and Marius Maitre d'hotel and Danielle entertainment director but Somas the cruise director was fabulous he did a 15 minute talk before dinner and we miss these words ( Let see how your day will look tomorrow ) . Now Captain Peter the big kahuna from Bratislava the world hockey championship was being held in Slovakia (Bratislava) we bonded over hockey and i got to sit in the captain chair . The entertainment in Budapest they had classical musicians and opera singers and traditional Hungarian folk dancers in Bavaria they had a Bavarian band and anther night they had a Zither concert all shows were awesome . Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We have returned from a 14 day Classic River cruise on the Monarch Governess starting from Budapest to Amsterdam. I couldn’t find any information on this cruise ship so I decided to write about our wonderful experience. We booked ... Read More
We have returned from a 14 day Classic River cruise on the Monarch Governess starting from Budapest to Amsterdam. I couldn’t find any information on this cruise ship so I decided to write about our wonderful experience. We booked the Suite and if this can be an option it is well worth the extra money for a bigger room and bathroom. Let me start with the wonderful staff. They were all exceptional; especially Gary and Nad who made our time on the ship fun and run smoothly. All the staff greeted you and made you feel special each day. The food was fantastic along with all the wine and beer you can possibly consume with your evening meal. You can have alcohol in your room that has a bar fridge or the drinks are reasonable at the bar. Being from Australia, there was a few of us on board who sang and danced most nights along with American’s, Canadians and a sprinkling of other Nationalities. All the tours ran according to plan and we had booked all the optional tours which were worth it except for the Classical concert, which was staged for the tourists and not worth the money. I would highly recommend Gate1 Travel over all the other river cruises as they are much cheaper but still go to all the same places and dock in the same spot as all the other far more expensive companies such as Viking and Scenic. Little bonuses are you don’t have to dress up for dinner, you can do as much or as little as you want, you never feel like there’s so many people around (in fact there was 120 people on board and even after 1 week I still didn’t recognise them all) you can be as sociable as you like and you can join in the nightly activities and have a great time. I loved everything on board the Monarch Governess and all the staff at Gate1 Travel should be proud of running a fantastic cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We have wanted to go on a river cruise forever and finally booked with Gate 1. We are laid back people so wanted something exciting but not overly formal or stuffy. This cruise was so different than what we expected, starting off with ... Read More
We have wanted to go on a river cruise forever and finally booked with Gate 1. We are laid back people so wanted something exciting but not overly formal or stuffy. This cruise was so different than what we expected, starting off with guest introductions so everyone could get to know each other, all the way thru disembarkation support and local Budapest tips on what to do and see after we left the ship. It was well beyond our expectations and made for, by far, our best vacation ever. Our cruise director Krisztina A was absolutely amazing. So incredibly knowledgeable in the local areas and history. Beyond that, she was so charismatic and personable that we felt as if we had known her forever. Everything was perfectly planned and executed without a hitch, it was so easy going and laid back without us having to have a single worry the entire trip. She was there whenever we had questions but always treated us as friends rather than guests or just a job, which is what we had experienced previously on other cruises and just made our experience that much better. The activities host Armin was such fun. He was engaging and comical and drew quite the audience. There was morning stretching, technical details, all kinds of mid afternoon activities, and a ton of nightly fun and games. He was always around and even when we felt like it should’ve been time for him to take a break, he spent time with us and other guests. The trip includes local tours at every stop and the tour guides were fantastic. We learned so much and always had more than sufficient time to explore on our own as well. The food and drink each day was tailored to the country we were in which was great. We got to have local cuisine even if we didn’t choose to leave the ship. And who can complain about complementary beer and wine with dinner! The whole trip felt like we were at home with old friends but really were on an amazing adventure with people we had just met. Very highly recommended and we will be back! Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
Four of us travelled together. We spent 3 nights in Prague then boarded the Monarch Empress for 7 nights along the Danube and finished with 2 nights in Budapest. I cannot say enough good things about the Gate 1 staff who really worked to ... Read More
Four of us travelled together. We spent 3 nights in Prague then boarded the Monarch Empress for 7 nights along the Danube and finished with 2 nights in Budapest. I cannot say enough good things about the Gate 1 staff who really worked to make our experience special. Gary, our indefatigable cruise director, was always on duty, very knowledgeable and kind. He went the extra steps to make sure our needs were met. Amir, the activities director was fun and personable(and a fabulous dancer!) The front desk staff were great as well. Wish I could remember the name of the lovely woman in charge who was so kind and caring. The food was amazing. Always 3 different specials and then regular items such as salmon and chicken which were available. The maitre d was observant. While I did not tell anyone that I was a vegetarian, he observed my choices and by the 3rd night, made sure that my hot and cold appetizers were vegetarian as well. My only complaint about Martin was that he kept filling my wine glass! (Yes, I could have stopped him.) We went on most of the provided tours and were pleased with most of the local guides. We especially liked the optional tour of the concert in Vienna. There were 2 groups of entertainers brought on board. Both were of high quality. The classical concert in Budapest was exceptional. We met some very interesting and lovely other guests. All were American with an average age of 60. The Hotel Imperial inPrague was amazing ... centrally located with an easy walk to Old Town. The restaurant had one of the top chefs in Prague so you can only imagine how good the morning breakfast was. The Hilton in Budapest was very nice as well. We highly recommend Gate 1. This is our second river cruise with them and our 4th trip. We will join them again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We used Gate 1 for a trip to Thailand a dozen years ago so we decided to try them for our family reunion trip on the Rhine River. Their prices, air inclusive, just could not be beat! We travelled northbound from Basel to Amsterdam on ... Read More
We used Gate 1 for a trip to Thailand a dozen years ago so we decided to try them for our family reunion trip on the Rhine River. Their prices, air inclusive, just could not be beat! We travelled northbound from Basel to Amsterdam on the Monarch Countess (which was booked entirely by Gate 1). We found the ship to be clean & well appointed, staff was helpful and friendly, and the food was varied and good. The included shore excursions were terrific - we were divided into small groups and toured with knowledgeable local guides. We added two optional tours (Heidelberg & Marksburg Castle) that were also very good. (We generally avoid optional cruise excursions, prefering to explore on our own, but we found that making arrangements to see these two locations was logistically complicated and more expensive). Gate 1 delivered a 5 star cruise at a bargain price without skimping on the important items....they provide a well appointed ship and cabins, a knowledgeable cruise director overseeing the cruise, evening entertainment, a nice dining room with great wait staff & good food plus included beer/wine with dinner, a coffee bar available 24/7 and a interesting and diverse itinerary. Give them a try, we think you'll be impressed! Read Less
Sail Date May 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
Sail Date April 2019
Having done a 27 day European river cruise two years ago on a high end cruise line I was looking for a shorter Danube River cruise to take my mother and sister on with my husband. Gate 1 offered the ports I was most interested in at a ... Read More
Having done a 27 day European river cruise two years ago on a high end cruise line I was looking for a shorter Danube River cruise to take my mother and sister on with my husband. Gate 1 offered the ports I was most interested in at a huge price savings per day and additional three days in Munich prior to our cruise as well as additional days in Budapest at the end. As others have mentioned there are very few reviews of Gate 1 River cruises. We found the ship to be first class in every way and our cabin had ample storage and of a very good design but the only obvious difference was not having a small table and chair next to the French balcony . The food was very good but perhaps not quite as gourmet as our former experience. Still very nicely presented and many options. All of our city tours had excellent local guides and our Gate 1 leader Krisztina was absolutely amazing in every way. The three day pre-extension in Munich was fabulous with the location of the hotel and touring experience Gate 1 provided. Be sure to go see the river surfers if you were in Munich! We did the optional NEUSCHWANSTEIN Castle tour ifrom Munich and the Salzburg tour from Linz . Both are beautiful drives with good guides Do not do the castle tour if you have a problem walking. My 89-year-old mother struggled with so many stairs. We did two additional concerts in Vienna on our own, both are fantastic. Mozart concert at the Golden Hall and a string concert at Saint Ann’s Church. Be sure to enjoy the coffee houses in Vienna. I must say is the Gerstner Coffee house across from the opera house. Be sure to go up to the third-floor as the ceiling and room looks like a palace . Budapest is where we ended our tour and even though I’ve been there a few times I always look forward to going again. A definite must see is the New York city café which is the most beautiful café in the world. Google it to believe me! Our experience was wonderful with Gate 1 and I would not consider them a budget line except for the price. We will definitely consider them in the future as we met so many people on board that had used them up to 26 times with all fantastic trips! We usually take three trips a year, sometimes booking everything on our own, sometimes going with a land tour or cruise company. I would not hesitate to book with them again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
My husband and I took the Danube River Cruise with Prague & Budapest end of October. We are highly seasoned international travelers. We have taken numerous ocean cruises (premium to luxury), and this was our second river cruise. ... Read More
My husband and I took the Danube River Cruise with Prague & Budapest end of October. We are highly seasoned international travelers. We have taken numerous ocean cruises (premium to luxury), and this was our second river cruise. Through no fault of Gate1, our flight was delayed by 6 hours due to having mechanical issues causing a change in aircraft, and then waiting for the reserve aircraft to go through safety checks prior to departure. While waiting for departure, my husband called not once, but twice to keep Gate1 apprised of the situation. Long story short, we arrived in Prague, and even though we had been told by Gate1 that they would be monitoring the flight status, we, and one other couple, were ABANDONED at the Prague airport and essentially told that we did not arrive within the time frame according to their contract, and it was up to us to make our way to the hotel via taxi. Excuse me, but we were in the Immigration line for 1 hour and 25 minutes, and you took the other 10 passengers AHEAD of us that were on the SAME flight. Post trip -- I issued a Complaint with Customer Service that Gate1 owed us an explanation and an apology … that was 10 days ago … still waiting. I've decided that the home office is simply not equipped to handle simple apologies when they fall short, so expect about a 2 rating on Customer Service from this company from the home office. And, don't expect them to be waiting for you at the airport if your flight is delayed. Honestly, it was a BIG DEAL because we had paid for our transfers as they were not included in our package. And, when you pay for a product, you expect the service to be delivered. The REAL REASON for this review, is honestly once we got past the initial disappointment, and the "Uh Oh, what have we gotten ourselves into" ... the whole experience changed dramatically. Everything about this trip was truly Top Notch! From the European Guides to the Hotels to the Tours to the Meals provided. Last year we took a Rhine River Cruise with Viking with additional nights pre-cruise in Brugges, Belgium, and Amsterdam. Both cruises were so close in nature that I think you can't go wrong. Following were our comparison observations: 1. Agents/Tour Guides/Cruise Director: All Excellent. 2. Hotels: Both Viking and Gate1 provided superb hotels. 3. Longboats: We upgraded to a true balcony cabin with Viking. Gate1 offers French balcony. I was concerned that we would not be satisfied with the sliding window, but as a matter of fact, it was great. I thought there was much more storage provided in the cabin with Gate1; excellent design. Both companies kept their longboats immaculately CLEAN! 4. Dining Room: There seemed to be just a tad fewer choices on food items with Gate1 as opposed to Viking, but I thought both the quality and service was better with Gate1. 5. Tours: All included tours and optional tours were top notch. 6. Fellow Passengers: Well, this truly is luck of the draw, so it will vary. Based on our two river cruise experiences, the Gate1 passengers tended to be much more diverse and more friendly. 7. Price: Reviewing the invoices, and comparing the differences paid in cabin category, shore excursions, airfare, and the additional night provided on one trip as opposed to the other, we paid roughly about the same for both trips. 8. Home Office: Viking is definitely more high touch. If you have not traveled much before, or are somewhat uncomfortable with traveling overseas for any reason, I would recommend trying Viking first. Viking's home office can't seem to do enough for you pre- or post-cruise. Additionally, even though their home office is located in California, their response time is super fast. This is where Gate1 truly misses the mark, and needs to improve. In summary, would we travel with Gate1 again? Yes, we absolutely would. The trip itself was absolutely wonderful. Final note: If you don't purchase your airfare with a cruise, you must pay for your airport transfers separately. I highly recommend contacting the hotel assigned to you. Many times they offer a car service at a fraction of the cost of what is provided by the cruise line. Lesson learned. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Prepare for a review of epic proportions! (sorry, I'm really verbose in my descriptions - but I also try to go into detail for uber planners like myself who want every detail nailed down before a trip starts). Why did I go with Gate ... Read More
Prepare for a review of epic proportions! (sorry, I'm really verbose in my descriptions - but I also try to go into detail for uber planners like myself who want every detail nailed down before a trip starts). Why did I go with Gate 1? Because they were the cheapest. The end. Seriously. I have always wanted to do a river cruise. Unfortunately, river cruises are crazy expensive and the one time I priced a Viking river cruise the subtotal about sent me into cardiac arrest and my dream of a river cruise died. I subscribe to a newsletter whose top 20 deals featured Gate 1's river cruises having a huge sale for some of their sailings. A majority of fall sailings were slashed 50% off, and while it's still not cheap, it suddenly became affordable. They call it the 9 day cruise. It's not. It's a 7 night river cruise. The 8th and 9th days are travel days to and from the States. I usually research everything to death before I book, but the price was just too good so I literally jumped on it (bargain hunter here) when I found it and booked 2 cabins for our family of 4. That was probably the most impulsive vacation planning I've ever done! Then I started the research. The research ended within 10 minutes. It ended very quickly because there are barely any reviews online about Gate 1's river cruises. No one knew what I was taking about when told them I going on a Gate 1 river cruise, because the few people who knew about Gate 1 kept telling me I must have it wrong because Gate 1 is a travel agency. Except they're not a travel agency who has been expanding into river cruising and buying and building their own ships. Which apparently, only like, 200 people know about. As the months went by, a few reviews trickled in here at cruise critic, but there was still a dearth of information, and Gate 1's website is straight out of 1996 and completely uninformative. They need to go and hire some college student to redesign their website, because it's super NOT-intuitive and sad. BUT - I was encouraged because the few reviews I did find all had pretty good things to say. I resolved to be one of the few who came back to leave a review because I wish more people had done it when I was planning. So here we are. About me (so you know if you should take my review seriously or not depending on your personality and cruising style): I'm in my 30's and I vacillate between being a lazy vacationer and being over ambitious with what I want to see and do. I've done a lot of ocean cruises via NCL, RCCL and Princess, but this is my first river cruise. I'm an awkward introvert who is generally quiet when I'm not working, so I don't generally partake in the games and entertainment offering on ships. I like cruising because I like waking up in a different location each day, only having to unpack once, and the variety of offerings for different people: you can be as entertained and social as you want, or if your'e like me, find a quiet nook to read and nap or to binge watch shows. So...I am boring. I'm also a super planner and rarely do ship-sponsored excursions. I like doing the research and booking my own excursions because I'm not a fan of big bus tours. If you're an exciting social butterfly, you're going to have a different experience than I did. THE SHIP We sailed on the Monarch Princess, which as I understand, is a reskinned Avalon ship. Now upon first sight, she's not a lot to look at. The big honking Gate 1 logo is not inspiring and well, she's not as pretty as some of the other river cruise ships. Buuuuut...once you step inside, she's beautiful and immaculate. You absolutely cannot tell from the inside that this is a second hand ship. Whatever they did to renovate her, she looks fantastic. The ship is immaculately clean, everything looks to be pretty high quality and in good condition. The decor has muted neutral colors with clean lines and the overall effect is classy. No bright colors or neon lights here. There were times in port when we were tied up to other ships and had to walk through them to get to ours or reach the port. I rubbernecked a bit when we did the walk throughs and I honestly didn't think these other ships were any nicer than ours. I was pleasantly surprised. I think in the back of my mind I expected it to feel more Holiday Inn than Westin (I would peg it at Westin level - not Four Seasons or Waldorf - but you're also not paying Waldorf prices). There is one dining room with multiple tables for 4, 6, and 8. There was one large group of 12 on our sailing and the waitstaff put together a few tables together for them and they all sat together every night - so while you can't make reservations, the staff is nice enough to accommodate large groups. Otherwise, it was open seating. We ended up sitting in the same area because 1) we're creature of habit and 2) we really liked the waitstaff there who quickly learned our preferences and were super nice. There are (I think) 2 public restrooms on the ship, but since the ship is so small, it's just as easy to walk to your own cabin to use the facilities! (keep in mind though, I'm a lot younger than the average cruiser there - so perhaps those more aged with more bladder issues would appreciate the restrooms) There are 2 lounges onboard: the big one at the front of the ship with the bar (most people hung out here) that also had a musician for entertainment, and a smaller one on the back of the ship on the 3rd floor (there are only 3 floors. The 4th is the sundeck, which I never went to). The smaller lounge in the back tended to be quiet. There were a few tables and some club chairs as well as a TV. They have a coffee machine with hot water, tea, and cocoa. They also have a plate of butter cookies that were constantly refilled. There were some board games and books available, and it was where the quieter people on the ship tended to go to chat with their friends, drink coffee quietly, or just read. The reception area isn't very large, but that's where the cruise director and activity host had their desk as well and it was a hub of activity. They had lots of umbrellas we could borrow on our way out if it looked like rain, and it was a small but thoughtful touch I appreciated. There was also ship-wide wifi, which wasn't super fast, but was sufficient for checking emails and social media sites, though definitely not for streaming. They told us there was a hot tub on the sundeck, but it was closed for the season because it's too cold. Except we ended up with sunny days and weather in the low 70's for most of the sailing, so I don't know why the hot tub remained closed. I think it would've been nice to soak in after a long day of walking around the cities. THE CABINS I loved my little room. Because of a work engagement, my brother couldn't make the cruise after final payment had been made so I got the little cabin to myself. And the cabin is small, but it's laid out very well and perfectly functional and comfortable for 2 people. for just me - it felt like a palace. A small one. The rooms have a (small) TV (with HDMI if you want to bring your own DVD player or something), a long desk space with a fridge and lots of cabinet storage underneath, a roomy closet with a safe, and a pretty spacious bathroom. It's not super big, but it was kitted out MUCH more nicely than the standard balcony cabin bathroom on an ocean cruise. With all the wood accents, cabinets and storage space in the bath, it felt similar to the bathrooms in penthouse rooms on an ocean cruise...just smaller and without a tub. My favorite thing about the bathroom is the glass shower door, so there was no shower curtain to molest me. The toiletries were abundant and amazing. The towels while not super plush, were of good quality, clean, and replaced daily. The bed was a little hard for my taste, but comfortable enough that I slept very well, and there were two twin sized duvets (which seemed a little small. I'm 5'2" and thought the blanket was a little short) on the bed along with a big square pillow and a little pillow for each bed. I don't know how they separate the beds if people don't want to sleep together, every cabin I peeked into had the big bed in the center, and since my brother couldn't come, I had the super bed to myself. All the rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floor have juliette balconies with sliding glass doors, window sheers, and black out curtains. There are two little nightstands and two reading lights. There's a lamp on the desk that's not very bright, and there's no nightlight. But there's a charger for the whisper units (receivers we bring on our tours using earbuds so the tour guides don't have to yell for us to hear) that emits enough of a glow that was sufficient to guide me to the bathroom late at night. There are hooks on the bathroom door, 2 robes in each cabin, and they gave us 2 bottles of water a day at turn down so we'd have water for our tours the next day. The rooms were decorated in muted neutrals and looked very clean and high-end. Our steward kept the cabin immaculate and he was always super fast. He didn't replenish the toiletries, but with just me, I still had a whole other set of smelly lotion, shampoos and bath gels left! Speaking of toiletries, this is the mother lode! They gave out toiletries from Rituals (Happy Buddha) that smelled like oranges, which included soaps, shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and body lotion. And it was a set per passenger so I got 2! There was also a sewing kit (which I did make use of), and a shoe polisher. The TV had a few English channels like CNN and Sky news - there was a movie channel and a TV channel, neither of which played anything good. I ended up watching movies and shows I downloaded onto my tablet most nights and rarely turned on the TV. THE FOOD Unlike ocean cruises, there was no feeding trough. We ate well, but there was no gorging like an ocean cruise would usually entail. There's only one restaurant, there's no room service, no buffet, no 24 hour cafes, so you're not constantly eating on this cruise. There are 3 set meal times, and they said they had late night snacks in the lounge from 10 to 11, but as I was always in my cabin by then, I have no idea what those snacks were. Meal wise, the food was phenomenal. The serving portions were not large. They're European portions, not American. But the chef told us that we could always order more if we were hungry. Sometimes my mom requested another soup, and my dad requested another entree once - and it was never a problem. There was always a choice of soup (from 2) available, a salad/appetizer of some kind that everyone got, a selection of entrees (usually a meat, a fish, and a vegetarian choice, though they always had baked chicken breast with sautéed vegetables or a Caesar salad available) and a choice of desserts. A cheese plate and a fruit plate were always available. Wine (2 generous glasses) and soft drinks were free at dinner. The quality of the meals was very, very good. My parents, who don't enjoy much beyond Asian food, enjoyed all their meals onboard. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, and each day they would have a special you could order from the waitstaff. It wasn't a large buffet, as the ship itself isn't large, but there was plenty of variety for everyone. There was always an egg/omelet station in the middle for breakfast. They also had assorted breads with a toaster, spreads, pastries, charcuterie for the sophisticated continentals among us, smoked salmon, bacon, sausages, scrambled and hard boiled eggs, and fruit. Lunch buffet varied, but there was always a choice of meats, fish, salad, roasted/sautéed veggies, and plenty of breads and meat and cheeses for sandwiches. You could also order soups or sandwiches as available from the waitstaff. While there was no gorging until I hated myself (my basic state on a cruise), I never went hungry. I had purchased some snacks for my room from the market before boarding the ship because I was afraid I'd be hungry without being surrounded by food 24 hours a day, but I didn't need to raid my stash. (I did, but just because I like snacks, not because I was hungry). ENTERTAINMENT I can't say much about this because I almost didn't partake of any of this. I'm in my thirties. Most of the passengers are in their sixties and seventies. And man, they could party! While I'm tired at the end of the night and almost falling asleep during dinner, I could hear them dancing and singing and playing games in the lounge. I'm a weird awkward introvert, so the extent of my socializing with people I don't know is generally limited to smiles and nods, but everyone genuinely seemed to have a lot of fun. Because there's only one lounge, everyone gathered there for drinks and games. My cabin on the 3rd floor (room 304) was close to reception, so I could hear them at night. I went to my cabin and didn't venture out after dinner. I opted to catch up on TV shows and movies I missed and read books and sleep. But if you're a social person there are things to keep you entertained. There's a reception on the night we board the ship where they pass out mimosas, champagne and hors d'oeuvres where the captain, hotel manager, and cruise director spoke at length. Every day 15 minutes before dinner we'd gather in the lounge for port talk, where the cruise director would give us a rundown of the next day's schedule and an introduction of what we're going to see. Then everyone would troop downstairs to dinner. They had a piano/keyboard player named Attila. He's...not to my taste. And I listen to just about every genre of music. But his music...it sounded like the background tracks to karaoke songs from the 80's and 90's. The ones on laser discs. It wasn't inspiring, but the rest of the passengers had fun and danced to it, so it's probably just me. EXCURSIONS Gate 1 has a city tour available for every city, and some optional tours you could add on. These are all big bus tours. I don't like big bus tours because the group moves as fast as the slowest person. And people who go on the cruises I do are generally not in their 20's. Case in point: we had someone in a wheelchair on this trip - and that made some of the walking tours difficult because Europe is paved in uneven cobblestones - and her party had a hard time maneuvering her around a lot of the times. Which meant the whole group of 30 was slowed down significantly. It's not her fault, and the guides were super nice and accommodating - but as I'm a fast walker and impatient by nature, big bus tours are just not something I go for. But that's all Gate 1 does - and river cruises, unlike ocean cruises - are not conducive to private touring at all. We had 135 on our sailing, and there's no way we could tour a city with a group that size, so they generally split us up into 4 groups. In the morning before you get off the ship you have to get your boarding pass. It's a laminated card with your room number on it. They are low tech on river cruises - they count who is onboard based on the boarding passes they have. So no swiping of ID's, no security...you just walk on and off. You also pick a colored tag from one of the baskets, and that designates which bus and tour group you're in so they can evenly distribute us among the buses and tours. It's a super easy process, and it worked very well. If you make friends on the ship you just have to coordinate which color to grab before that basket runs out of tags. Passau: lead by a local university student, the tour of the old town lasted an hour. Unfortunately, it was a national holiday in Germany so almost all the stores in this little town were closed. After the hour long city tour we had free time to look around and we could walk back to our ship, which was docked right in the city. The tour was OK. He was a nice kid, but it's a small city, it was bitterly cold, and it's not his fault that nothing but the church was open for us to look at. After wandering the town for awhile we went back to the ship for lunch. Regensburg: a 1.5 hour bus ride to get to, and one I was contemplating skipping because I was still jet lagged and tired. However our waitress at lunch told us that we shouldn't miss it because it's beautiful, and I'm glad I went. The buses were clean and comfortable coaches and I ended up napping on the way there, which meant I had enough energy to get through our tour there. We split into even smaller groups once we got to Regensburg and we ended up with a fantastic guide named Daniel, who is British but who grew up in Germany. He had a dry wit, had great stories, was efficient and fun, and he was one of our favorite local guides of the trip. We had almost an hour of free time before our bus left, so we wandered into the big church to take a look, took some photos while wandering around, and then ate gelato. There were free restrooms at the tour bus stop, but my mom said they smelled terrible, so I didn't partake of the facilities. Linz/Salzburg: I paid for the optional tour of Salzburg, as did a lot of the passengers, so I don't know what people did in Linz, though I know Gate 1 had a city tour available. We started with a 1.5 hour bus ride to Salzburg, then toured the city with a local guide. We got lucky and had a fantastic one who was from Linz, went to school in Salzburg, but was also an exchange student to the States so she spoke almost perfect English. The city tour was about an hour and moved at a pretty fast clip. Lunch was included as a part of the tour and while the restaurant was historic and beautiful - the schnitzel was dry with just some potato wedges. It was dry (I was a barbarian who longed for ranch sauce), and no one at our table finished ours. We looked over at another table from another cruise line and they had much better food! They had soup, and a chicken dish that had root vegetable accompaniments. We had food envy. Our dessert was some kind of meringue thing that was okay. We had just over an hour of free time after lunch, which with all there is to see, is just too short!. We shopped (thank God for H&M because I brought alll the wrong clothes for the cruise), then sat and had coffee and cake at Cafe Tomaselli like Mozart did. I did wish we had more time in Salzburg. You had to pick one activity in your free time: if you wanted to go up the funicular and see the castle, then you didn't have time for anything else. If you wanted to wander around the Mirabell Gardens (from The Sound of Music), your didn't have time for other stuff because the walk there and back to the meeting point would take too long. I would have liked to visit the museum that's in Mozart's birthplace but we just didn't have time. The tour was a very brief surface overview of the city, which is necessary because of time, but I can't help but wish we had an extra hour or so in Salzburg. Melk: while our ship was docked in Melk, the Benedictine abbey we were visiting was a very steep hike, so we all loaded into buses for a 5 minute bus ride instead. The abbey was beautiful, the local guides are people who work at the abbey and are incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the history of the abbey. It was gorgeous. Sooo beautiful. The downside? No photos allowed inside. Which made my soul cry a bit because there was so much I wanted to take photos of - especially the library! It's like walking into the Beast's library in real life. Once again, free time was very limited, I think less than half an hour, and we didn't have time to look at the gardens. Our cruise director Karol told us to just rush in for 2 minutes to take a look at the very top, so that's what we did. We have pictures at the very beginning of the garden, like the other passengers who rushed in, grabbed a few photos and then had to rush for the bus. Vienna: we were docked in the suburbs, so we couldn't just walk into the city center. We had to be bused into the city and it was just under a half hour. The city tour was okay. Our guide spoke in a monotone voice and with her accent, it was harder to listen to. We did a tour that lasted just over an hour before we were given under an hour for free time. We went for cake and coffee (like good Austrians do) at Cafe Sluka as recommended by our guide, then wandered the shops and bought more t-shirts, since the weather went from freezing cold to warm. There was a shuttle back to the ship for lunch at around 11 am, with a shuttle back to the city at 1:30pm and shuttles back to the ship at 3 and 4:30 for people who wanted to stay longer. Some people opted to have lunch in Vienna instead of returning to the ship, and I don't blame them, except we had to go because we booked the optional Schonbrunn Palace tour. The drive to Schonbrunn Palace was about 45 minutes. We took a tour of the Palace with an excellent guide, then we had about 45 minutes of free time. We wandered the gardens, then went to the cafe for apple strudel before boarding the bus. The optional tour of the Palace wasn't very expensive, and as I'm interested in history I thought it was well worth it. But it was sooooo crowded. There were numerous tour groups as well as independent travelers in there all kind of shoving at each other. Bratislava: we were supposed to sail to Bratislava, but because the Danube River was at record low levels given the dry and hot summer, our ship couldn't go any further than Vienna because the captain didn't want to get stuck in a sandbar the way some Viking ships had been. So we bused 1.5 hours to Bratislava. I knew this was a possibility since I'd been monitoring the Danube levels all summer in anticipation of the cruise, but I do think Gate 1 handled it well. Bratislava is a very small town. We also happened to visit on a Sunday where all the shops other than souvenir shops for tourists were closed. I think if they had been open, it would have been a more interesting visit because there wasn't anything to do there. We saw the old churches and memorials, walked through the town squares, and after our hour tour, we had almost 3 hours left in the city. I would've been ecstatic to have 3 hours in Salzburg or Vienna. But uh, there's nothing to do in Bratislava for 3 hours with all the stores closed. That's a pity because they don't have department stores - they're all mom and pop shops. There's a generations old bookstore that's owned by a family who reclaimed it after one of the sons survived the concentration camps that I would have loved to browse in. The pharmacy owned by the same family for 100 years - yes please. Unfortunately, none of those fascinating stores were open - just kitschy souvenir stores. I know one couple made the hike to the castle up the hill. I didn't do anything that active. I found a cafe, had soup and a latte and some dessert, walked around more, and ended up on a city bench eating gelato. Actually, a lot of people from the tour ended up in adjacent benches on the city's promenade eating gelato because that's where all the seating was. The free time there was just too long. Now, had we been able to port in Bratislava, we would've been able to return to the ship for lunch. Because we couldn't, Gate 1 gave each person 15 Euros for lunch. I thought that was pretty generous of them! Budapest: we also couldn't sail into Budapest, but no one was sailing into or out of Budapest. Instead, on the 6th morning, we had to disembark. So our cruise was cut short by a day and was 6 nights instead of 7. HOWEVER, Gate 1 did everything they could to smooth our way and ensure we still had a good time. We had to bus into Budapest, and the bus that left Budapest at 4 am did not make the 8 am departure time from Vienna - instead, we left Vienna well after 9 am. That pushed everything back. We had a "comfort" (bathroom) stop halfway in, and continued to drive to Budapest. Upon arrival, the 4 buses split off into tour groups. Unfortunately, because we already had a "gala" dinner planned for us with a Danube River cruise and we all still had to check into the hotel, we didn't get to do a walking tour. Instead, as the bus circled around the city (a necessity because the Turkish president was in town and a bunch of street and bridges in Budapest were closed) our phenomenal guide who'd been up since 2 am narrated a tour and pointed out places of interest and stories. She told us where to eat, how to purchase souvenirs, etc. She was fantastic. Gate 1 gave us each 5,000 HUF (about $17) per person for lunch and that more than covered our traditional Hungarian lunch at the restaurant she recommended (which was really good and very reasonable). After 2 hours of free time (which included lunch), we were bused to our hotel (we were assigned to the Hilton in the Castle District in Buda, which was FANTASTIC) where we checked in, and had about an hour and a half to rest and refresh ourselves before our dinner. The gala dinner was held in a ballroom at the Radisson Blue (one of the 3 hotels we were split into because no single hotel could hold all of us with 4 days notice) where there was a large buffet spread with drinks (wine, beer and soft drinks) included, a coffee machine, and dessert. Our cruise director called in a favor from a friend who brought a string quartet, and a few opera singers from his troupe to come and perform for us for an hour (they were due to perform at the state opera house at 9 am, so they performed from 7-8 and had to run across town) during dinner. About 2 hours into dinner, we all got onto our buses and were driven to where the Marriott is on the Danube and we got onto our own sightseeing boat that took us up and down the Danube for about an hour so we could see the city all lit up. After the cruise, we were all sorted back onto our buses and taken back to our hotels. Our hotel was for independent travelers (we were sorted by people who had flights home immediately, people taking the extended land tour with Gate 1, and independent travelers who made their own plans - us) and check out was at 11 am. Our booking with the hotel included breakfast - and the breakfast was PHENOMENAL. MISCELLANEOUS NOTES As stated above, we had to leave our ship a day early as we couldn't sail beyond Vienna, so we had some long bus rides. But Gate 1 tried to make the process as smooth and easy as possible. They gave us lunch money for Bratislava and Budapest, booked us hotel rooms in Budapest, arranged a goodbye dinner at one of the hotel ballrooms and booked performers during dinner, got us onto a river cruise so we could see Budapest lit up from the Danube and even hosted an open bar on the ship for an hour (not just wine and beer, everything!) on our last night and had an open bar at the Gala dinner. We were split into 3 separate hotels because of the short notice. We had thought the ship would be able to make it to Budapest when we started sailing, but conditions changed very quickly and a plan B had to be implemented. We were at the Hotel Hungaria, Radisson Blue, and Hilton in the Castle District on the Buda side. The service on the cruise ship was fantastic. All the people who worked there were fast, efficient, and super nice. The receptionists were super sharp and just about memorized where everyone was staying within a day because she always handed me my boarding pass before I could tell her my cabin number. She also knew the cabin my parents were staying in and would hand me their boarding passes too when she saw me picking up colored tags for our excursions. We sat in the same area of the dining room throughout the cruise and the servers there knew our preferences and would anticipate our needs. My room was always clean and my steward Bowo was amazing. Would I cruise with Gate 1 again? Yes I would (provided they have a sale. Wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise). There are distinct differences from ocean cruising though. There are less choices and options with regards to EVERYTHING, but the convenience of having your room so close on a small river ship cannot be overstated. The meal times are set with very little flexibility (the only flexibility really, is breakfast) which is usually not my thing on vacation, so flexibility for lunch and dinner is something I miss. I missed being able to hit the buffet whenever I wanted to for a snack, or even for a meal as opposed to a sit down meal. I wasn't always hungry during meal times, and sometimes I wasn't in the mood for a 4 course sit down dinner in a nice dining room. There's no dress code on the river cruise and no formal nights - everyone wore their touring clothes to the dining room. The disadvantages of going with a small company on a river cruise is that they can't ship swap the way Viking does when they have problems with the water level (either too low or too high), but Avalon doesn't ship swap either and we heard from one of the passengers that Viking didn't secure hotel rooms for their guests, so they were being bused 4 hours to tour Vienna, then 4 hours back to Budapest. Even though we were on the "value" ship it never felt like a value ship. Like my analogy earlier - we were paying Holiday Inn prices, but it felt like we were traveling in the Westin. Maybe the Viking ships and Avalon ships were like the W or the Four Seasons, but honestly, I didn't find anything lacking in our ship. Could we have had more than 3 (really it's 5 with the always available items) choices for dinner? Could we have more choices in excursions instead of everyone going on the same tours? Yes - but that would cost significantly more and those didn't matter to me as much as I thought it would. Because I had a good time - and Gate 1 ensured I had a good time - so I didn't really miss what we didn't have. The experience never felt cheap and we never felt like we were being nickeled and dimed at all. Gate 1 gives a good product at a base price and you can choose to pay more to tailor it how you want. And since I don't (can't) drink, I'm happier it's not all inclusive otherwise I'd feel like I was subsidizing someone else's alcohol consumption. I hope this sheds some light on the Gate 1 experience. I would recommend them - they took good care of us, the ship and staff are fantastic, and most importantly, I had fun on my vacation and they delivered on their promises. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
When I booked this cruise I was very hesitant, I had never heard of the company, had never been on a river cruise (though I had always wanted to) and was not sure about the price. But I have been on over 20 ocean cruises so I knew it would ... Read More
When I booked this cruise I was very hesitant, I had never heard of the company, had never been on a river cruise (though I had always wanted to) and was not sure about the price. But I have been on over 20 ocean cruises so I knew it would not be completely different, and it turned out to be just different enough to be highly entertaining. I found this cruise as part of an alert from one of the general travel sites – they find the deals and pass the info along to you. The Gate 1 cruise was at least half of what Viking and the others were charging, the itinerary fit my needs, and after checking out cruise critic I decided to take a chance. A few reviews on cruise critic had given Gate 1 the thumbs up, so I booked for myself and my Mom – it was an early birthday gift for her. Since DH was not traveling with us we signed up for almost everything including airport transfers, additional excursions and two extra days in Budapest post cruise. Everything went like clockwork. We were notified in advance that there was a chance that water levels would not allow us to make the whole trip on the ship. It was August and not a shock to us – we are very easy going on natural mishaps and they do not affect our trip. So we were not surprised that we were unable to travel by ship during the last leg from Slovakia to Budapest. The captain did an excellent job getting us down river as far as he did. As informed the night before (we had daily meetings before dinner with the cruise director on what to expect each day), we were put on comfortable buses, given money for lunch, taken to a place for eating and shopping including handcrafts, and enjoyed the sites. We were then checked into the Doubletree in Budapest (our luggage went ahead of us and our room was assigned and ready when we arrived) and provided a lovely dinner buffet and local entertainment) They could not have been more accommodating, organized and just genuinely nice about the whole thing. A true class act. Our rooms on the ship were adequate, with a decent size bathroom, shower, and comfortable beds. It was kept clean and all requests were quickly responded to. Dinner was a set time at night, but you could sit where you pleased, and for most nights we ate with the same people as we enjoyed their company. As these are small ships, you get to know the other passengers fairly well, at least to smile and nod. Dinner was delicious – and we were given 3 choices every night for appetizers, soup, main course, and dessert. Beer, wine and soft drinks were included with dinner, but not lunch. This was not a problem for us. There was entertainment offered in the lounge every night, but we were usually so tired after dinner that we went to bed ready for the next round of fun the next day. The extra excursions offered at a reasonable cost (around $60-$80 per person) were excellent. We went to Salzburg, visited Shonbrunn Palace and attended a concert performance in Vienna (yes, they always play the Blue Danube). The concert was geared to tourist which was fine with us as the playing was excellent and the singers and dancers very talented. All around, we got our monies worth. The ship included excursions were mostly town tours (which we enjoyed) and we had no complaints. After the one night in the Doubletree we were moved to the Hilton which was also an excellent hotel just down the street for our included post visit (again the price was excellent for what was included). The city tour was really good (extra) and the dinner (extra) in the woods was fun although the dessert was not to my taste. You could spend your time completely on your own if you liked, but as this was our first visit, we opted for the extra tours – best decision we made. The guides provided were excellent and just plain nice – everyone was just so nice, it was amazing. All in all we had a great time and I would not hesitate for a moment to book any tour with Gate 1 again. We talked with several Viking customers who complained that they had to be lifted off of sandbars – our captain was too good to get trapped into trying to go all the way to Budapest and we were grateful. You should give Gate 1 a try. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
We are a retired couple who booked our first ever river cruise via Luxury Escapes on the Gate1 Travel Monarch Princess. After purchasing the voucher I tried to find some reviews on TA but it was difficult to find a lot. Some of those ... Read More
We are a retired couple who booked our first ever river cruise via Luxury Escapes on the Gate1 Travel Monarch Princess. After purchasing the voucher I tried to find some reviews on TA but it was difficult to find a lot. Some of those that we did find referred to this cruise as not as good as the key players in this market (Avalon, Viking etc), and because it was a lot cheaper than these companies, I became slightly concerned about what I had gone and bought. Just by way of background, I worked in a role which required a lot of travel and the Company always put us up in 5 star accommodation so I used this as some sort of comparison to the quality of the cruise accommodation and service. I’ll go through some of the key things : Before cruise Gate1 communicated with us directly soon after our purchase. Lynne Ahmu was the person who emailed us and she was just excellent. Prompt on answering questions and very helpful and friendly. On Board - Staff We simply cannot speak highly enough of the staff on this cruise right from the time we boarded the ship. They were organised and had a light lunch available for several hours as people checked in. Then throughout the entire cruise nothing was any trouble and everybody has a smile. The staff are a credit to this company and we were super impressed with their friendliness and help at all times. I give them all a 10 out of 10 and there are many industries, especially in the hotel business, who could learn some lessons here. The Ship To be honest, it was much more than expected. We had a French balcony room which was similar in size to a regular hotel room. It was spotless and comfortable. Suitcases fitted under the bed for storage so we were able to get them right out of the way. Bathroom is small but I did expect that. Plenty enough hot water for the shower and all the small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash etc that you get in good hotels. Towels were lovely and thick. Plenty of storage space for clothes plus an in room safe. The bonus was the fridge in the room which we did not expect to see. Rooms were serviced in the mornings and a turn down service was performed whilst everbody was at dinner, with a little chocolate left on each pillow. There was a lounge at the front of the ship and at the back of the ship. The back of ship lounge has coffee machine and ice machine available 24 hours. Outside of this lounge is a smoking area. The front of ship lounge is where all the entertainment and Port Talks (see later) were held. Both were roomy and comfortable. The Food I don’t know what other river cruise lines serve or offer in choice but there was always an appetizer, choice of soup, choice of 3 main courses plus chicken breast which was available every night, then choice of maybe 3 or 4 sweets. That’s plenty enough choice for us. But the quality and variety of the food was outstanding and very well presented. We enjoyed every single meal. Breakfast is a buffet with the usual array of breakfast foods plus an omelette cooked for you if you want it. There was also a different “breakfast of the day” each day which was prepared for you if you wanted it. Wine and beer is served and included with lunch and dinner and many times the wine was local wine from the particular region we were in or near to. Sometimes we had food unique or special to the area we were in. And the service was outstanding in the restaurant. A request for wine, beer, etc was immediately met by a smiling and happy staff member every time. One morning we went for breakfast a bit late but there was still a table for us. We were going to toast some raisin bread in the toaster but that area had already been cleaned up. The waiter came to us and offered to cook the toast in the kitchen and bring it to us. Now that is 5 star service. The tours Every morning there was a walking tour of the city we were in conducted by local guides. Sometimes buses were needed to get us to the centre of the city for these tours and these were included. These tours were included in the cost of the cruise. Then there were the optional tours which were an additional cost. The only one we did was the Concert in Vienna which was fabulous and we’re so glad we did it. Those who did do the other tours were full of praise for them. Onboard entertainment Again, I don’t have a comparison but every night there was something happening in the lounge. From the in house musician to some games (lots of fun), dance lessons, etc. Morning exercises were run every day (early morning 7am). Port Talk Every afternoon before dinner there was a Port Talk relating to the next days stop and program. We found this very informative and helpful in deciding what to do. As mentioned, there was always a guided morning walking tour but often the afternoon is free so we preferred sometimes to just go in the afternoon as we like to just wander and take photos. However, the guided tours were very interesting because they were full of history regarding the towns. The Port Talk summary was then left in your room each night so you didn’t actually need to remember anything. Before finishing, and I don’t really like to call out specific staff especially as in this case, everybody was just great, I do want to mention our Cruise Director and Assistant, Adrien Kiss and Daniele. Adrien was absolutely outstanding. Nothing was too much trouble. She was very knowledgeable on all the ports we visited and history of the area, thorough in her organisation and execution of all tours (paid and unpaid), very friendly and very accommodating. When you consider the hours she works on these cruises (early morning until well into the night) not once did she display any sign of tiredness or frustration at having to deal with over 100 people who very often had differing requests, or who simply did not listen at Port Talk and then she has to repeat it all again to individual people. I hope that the owners of Gate1 appreciate what they have here. Thank you so much Adrien. And Daniele – what an entertainer you are. And what a gentleman. You chose an elderly lady to dance with one night and you just made her night (and probably her cruise), especially as you kissed her on the cheeks afterwards. You are funny, entertaining and very enjoyable company. Thank you for adding such fun into this trip. So would I use Gate1 again. You bet. Would not even bother to price the alternatives. If we are lucky enough to do another river cruise we will just go straight to Gate1. So should you. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
The ship was modern and the crew was the best ever! Our balcony room 215 was the epitome of relaxation, lying in bed with the curtains and sliding glass doors open, gliding down the river complete with sounds of water. It was like a ... Read More
The ship was modern and the crew was the best ever! Our balcony room 215 was the epitome of relaxation, lying in bed with the curtains and sliding glass doors open, gliding down the river complete with sounds of water. It was like a movie. Our room was cleaned twice daily and the beds and blankets were unbelievably cozy. There is so much storage space in the room, under the beds, in the closets and bathroom. And there is a refrigerator. The first night there was a champagne briefing and there was complimentary wine with every evening meal. If you have never been inside a lock or were curious about them, you will get a chance to know them up close because we entered at least 6-8 of them. Quite an educational experience. Our entertainment director was Daniele, quite the character from Italy. Wouldn't have been the same without him, although I'm sure other Gate 1 cruises have a Daniele almost-equivalent. Dining in the dining room was 3 times a day. Breakfast and lunch were buffet=type, while dinner was off the menu. For breakfast, you could select from the many choices of food or you could have the chef prepare something you request. Midweek, Daniele hosted a fun night for all on board. Audience participation. It gives you a chance to really know your fellow cruisers and brings out everyone's personality. It was a blast! The night before we disembarked in Germany, we were treated to a surprise performance. I will not give it away, for those future cruisers. But you will be delighted!!! On disembarkation day, we had to be ready by 5am and hated that we would miss breakfast. Surprisingly, Gate 1 prepared breakfasts for us consisting of a sandwich, oj, an orange, an apple, etc. So thoughtful and unexpected! And so organized! The driver picked up our bags at 4:45 and were were provided a personal driver and van to the airport, 1.5 hours away. Gate 1 thinks of everything. We failed to bring adapters for electronic devices but Gate 1 gave us a loaner. And for the rain, Gate 1 provided umbrellas. I have only 2 complaints total. One cannot be resolved because it's how things are. Whenever we got into port, we would often have to dock next to other ships, which completely blocked the view from our cabin. This is common practice because there are not enough spaces to park along the banks. what you do is walk through the other ships or they walk through yours. The other is that, twice, I got a bad radio, used for the tours. Once, the guide had an extra one, but the other time I had to endure the tour without a radio. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
The trip was FABULOUS. The Monarch Empress itself, the complete staff, the food, and the tour people were all EXCELLENT. Everyone on board (it was a wonderful group of travelers) agreed that Gate 1, and this cruise boat was the equal, ... Read More
The trip was FABULOUS. The Monarch Empress itself, the complete staff, the food, and the tour people were all EXCELLENT. Everyone on board (it was a wonderful group of travelers) agreed that Gate 1, and this cruise boat was the equal, if not better, than any other on the river. The whole crew could not have been more pleasant, more efficient and more accommodating. It was a fun-filled and most enjoyable vacation. Cabin was comfy, roomy, modern and spotless. The itinerary was filled with beautiful and interesting cities along the route. Only minor squawks mentioned by others on the boat were that the food choices lacked more salmon, and that the fish choices were mostly fried. My wife and I loved the food and the whole dining room staff. Kudos to Gate 1, and their cruise director Krisztina, all of the tour people, and all of the Monarch Empress staff on board. 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
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
Sail Date May 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
Sail Date April 2018
Never having used Gate 1 Travel before, we were not sure what to expect. The entire experience was wonderful and beyond our expectations. The booking process and flight arrangements were very professionally handled. Gate 1's web ... Read More
Never having used Gate 1 Travel before, we were not sure what to expect. The entire experience was wonderful and beyond our expectations. The booking process and flight arrangements were very professionally handled. Gate 1's web site is very easy to navigate and communications from the company were excellent. We were warmly welcomed on board the ship and received personalized service and attention throughout the cruise. The fact that there were only 80 passengers, made it feel like it was a private ship. We had very knowledgeable and easy to understand local guides in all the ports of call. Did an optional concert tour in Vienna which was outstanding. The food was excellent, good variety with local/regional cuisines. After the cruise, we spent three days in Munich. Again, the cruise director/tour director from the ship accompanied us and made sure we got the most from our visit. There is no doubt in our mind that we will travel with Gate 1 again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
Without a doubt one of the best vacations we have ever been on. i was worried because we had taken the viking river cruise up the rhine and the bar was set pretty high. gate 1 met and at times exceeded the bar. the moment we entered the ... Read More
Without a doubt one of the best vacations we have ever been on. i was worried because we had taken the viking river cruise up the rhine and the bar was set pretty high. gate 1 met and at times exceeded the bar. the moment we entered the airport in prague to be transferred to the hotel until the moment we were transferred to the departure airport in budapest everyone and everything was fantastic. mari in prague was a great initial point of contact for gate 1 and gave us tips and suggestions that were perfect. she was there for us and any of the rest of the group 24/7. the imperial hotel was above and beyond our expectations, and for a first time gate 1 traveler, left an appetite for more. the transfers from the airport, hotel to the ship and the departing airport were coordinated perfectly. then there was the cruise. what a trip!!!!! the stops and tours were out of this world. gate 1 really stepped up the game and again we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the tours and the tour guides. michael in regensburg, gerhardt in salzburg and nora in bratislava. the crew on the ship was without a doubt the best team we had ever cruised with. the following individuals need mentioning: captain peter, hotel manager cristian, 1st receptionist nicoleta, ex chef miro, maître d marcin, housekeeping samsudin, cruise director karol, activity host saber, room steward veri, head waitress baloga, 2nd waiter marius and richard the piano man. there were many more and they all deserve a big hand. the cabin we chose was comfortable and roomy, i stand 6'5" and the issue i have with these ships is the bathroom and shower. not this time!!! it was very efficient and the shower was the perfect fit. we were in room 215 and it wasn't a suite. the food was gourmet every night and the breakfast was as you want it. there was entertainment on the ship every night thanks to karol and saber. saber had nightly trivia contest and they were very entertaining, especially the battle of the sexes. karol arranged for local groups on the ship to sing and dance the local specialties along with a couple of nights of local refreshments. karol also narrated the wachau valley tour on the ship as we cruised down to vienna and spoke on the danube river and the locks. and cristina was always there to help with any request. the individual stops and tours at regensburg, melk abbey, salzburg, passau, vienna, bratislava and budapest were well organized and the quality of the tour guides were top notch. i always say that if you walk away learning more than you knew at the start you were doing good. i learned more than i ever expected. this was a very educational trip as well as an enjoyable learning experience. Everyone asks me what was my favorite part? the whole trip!!! i could go on and on but the only way anyone would understand is to experience it themselves. this is the first of gate 1 new ships with more to come. this is a must trip and this is the must company to use. thank you all for a great time. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
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
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click