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10 Gate 1 Travel Monarch Empress Cruise Reviews

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
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
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
We had not visited Poland(Warsaw, Krakow) so we joined this tour of Poland followed by a cruise of the Danube from Budapest, Bratislava, Melk, Durnstein, Vienna, Regensdorf and on to Munich to catch our flight home to San Francisco. We ... Read More
We had not visited Poland(Warsaw, Krakow) so we joined this tour of Poland followed by a cruise of the Danube from Budapest, Bratislava, Melk, Durnstein, Vienna, Regensdorf and on to Munich to catch our flight home to San Francisco. We had the very best luxury Suites on the ship but in general, felt cramped especially by the very large group from Israel who tended to monopolize the ship. But the food was OK and the service decent. It paled in comparison to our first Danube cruise on Viking. Nevertheless, the scenery was breathtaking even though we have traversed this stretch to Prague at least 3 times before. Vienna is always such a delight representing old world elegance and genteel manners with Baroque architecture and of course Motzart's music and chocolates(Motzarts kugel made with marzipan). The shore excursions were great and well managed. All in all, the cruise was good value for money. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
A friend had cruised with Gate One and recommended them. Because Gate One doesn't over advertise, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was WOWED by the quality of the service, staff, tours and entertainment. We enjoyed the ... Read More
A friend had cruised with Gate One and recommended them. Because Gate One doesn't over advertise, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was WOWED by the quality of the service, staff, tours and entertainment. We enjoyed the precruise tours in Budapest and the hotel choice (Budapest Hilton) was in an excellent location. It is attached to a mall and there is a grand market within walking distance to buy authentic cultural food, souvenirs and more!. Went to the Budapest thermal spring spa on our own, but probably wouldn't do that again. It was crowded and not that relaxing, so I would spend time seeing one of the many other amazing sights in Budapest. Food throughout the week was excellent and always plenty of choices. Didn't miss the wine/beer at lunch like other companies offer. Having those options at dinner was ample for us. The entertainment and activities on board surpassed other river cruise experiences I have had, but it wasn't too much. Ice cream sundae bar on top deck one afternoon, and a variety show performed by staff one evening for example were fun! All staff were professional, friendly and organized! We did the optional "gypsy forest" dinner in Budapest. Fun and worth the money! Optional concert in Vienna was in an impressive, intimate concert hall and included talented musicians and a couple dancers. I highly recommend Gate One Monarch Empress! Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
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
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
We had a TERRIFIC time on our GATE1 Danube River Cruise; THE stops were enjoyable and most of the tour guides were amazing: The best were Michael in Regensburg, Lyudmila in Melk, Gerhardt in Vienna, and Janko in Bratislava. The service ... Read More
We had a TERRIFIC time on our GATE1 Danube River Cruise; THE stops were enjoyable and most of the tour guides were amazing: The best were Michael in Regensburg, Lyudmila in Melk, Gerhardt in Vienna, and Janko in Bratislava. The service was impeccable and our room steward Daniel and all of the waiters and waitresses were awesome (Trix and Marius, especially, who took excellent care of us during lunch and dinner every day). The food was mostly delicious, and we enjoyed relaxing on the upper deck. I only liked only two evening activities, the Hungarian and Bavarian evenings. There was one BIG problem though: for several days, there was a horrific smell in our rooms on the 3rd floor. It smelled like a sewer. The lounge in the aft was unbearable to enter because of the smell the entire trip. The biggest issue was that I don't think it was handled well by Soma, the Tour Manager, and by Gate 1. To be offered "free sodas and alcohol at lunch" as a way of placating, or compensating the passengers for this terrible smell, doesn't really cut it. At one point we were told that Gate 1 was “flying in engineers to take care of the problem at the next port”. There was still a smell for one day after this happened. This ship was only a year old, and to have to spray the room with room spray, body mist and/or my perfume to make it bearable to sleep in, is unconscionable. I can't imagine people wanting to pay thousands of dollars to smell a foul sewer smell. I frankly believe all of the passengers affected should get some kind of major credit for their next Gate 1 trip. I would like to take another river cruise but because of this issue, I may try Viking or another company. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
A wonderful single rate was available and the ship was new so I thought, why not? First, the booking process was easy...did it all with some internet research and a few phone calls. Everything I wanted to know arrived by e-mail. From ... Read More
A wonderful single rate was available and the ship was new so I thought, why not? First, the booking process was easy...did it all with some internet research and a few phone calls. Everything I wanted to know arrived by e-mail. From home airport to the destination city--all was taken care of by Gate 1. Transfers included baggage handling so I felt comfortable and relaxed throughout. Onboard welcome was wonderful. Crew introductions and availability was superb. Everything was organized well. The cabin was beautiful and well designed with marble bath, french balcony and plenty of storage. Included shore excursions were ample and the access for "on your own" adventures were facilitated by the ship's docking close (walking distance) to city center (except in Vienna, but transportation was nearby). Good entertainment including a hilarious evening of crew skits and performances. Favorite for me was the camaraderie of fellow passengers. I was never left without an invite to join a table or excursion...but never felt pressured. We had many a good time and there were few "cliques". I would do it again...and again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
Monarch Empress Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.9
Dining 3.0 4.7
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 1.0 3.4
Family 1.0 3.4
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.8
Enrichment 4.0 4.1
Service 5.0 5.0
Value For Money 5.0 4.6

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