7 Uniworld Queen Isabel Cruise Reviews

I have sailed with Uniworld twice before and with Viking a few times. I chose this sailing because of the beauty of Portugal and the friendliness of its people. Although the scenery was lovely, people do need to understand that the ... Read More
I have sailed with Uniworld twice before and with Viking a few times. I chose this sailing because of the beauty of Portugal and the friendliness of its people. Although the scenery was lovely, people do need to understand that the regulations on the Douro only allow for sailing during daylight hours. This means very limited time in port and a lot of time on the ship. Also, except for Porto, the ship docks in the middle of nowhere. Thus, one of the joys of walking off a river cruise and into a city or town is nonexistent. There was a lot of bus travel. I believe this applies to all Douro River Cruises and none of that was a problem specific to Uniworld. Uniworld promotes itself as a luxury boutique line. It’s motto is “Nothing but the best for you” and you pay for that level of attention. The staff was lovely and the food was good. The problem lies with the ship. Uniworld is supposed to have another ship sailing this itinerary next year, but that didn’t help us. 1. The new reusable water bottles that were left on our bed we clearly used and contained liquid - one of them brown. 2. The sink had a large chip in it and a mess of caulk on the back. 3. We only had hot water about half the time. This was not just during busy times but at any time of the day. 4. We heard the sound of every toilet on the ship flushing in our cabin. Hard to believe, but true. More details in cabin review. All of this was reported to the manager. On seeing the condition of our sink, he offered to move us across the hall. He said he could move us to another level for another 1400€ each. We decided to stay. We did not yet know about the toilets. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
Just completed the Douro River Cruise. Would not recommend based on level of service, weak excursions and nightly double and triple parked boats at the respective docks. Fuel smell, noise and overall commotion was distracting from the ... Read More
Just completed the Douro River Cruise. Would not recommend based on level of service, weak excursions and nightly double and triple parked boats at the respective docks. Fuel smell, noise and overall commotion was distracting from the expected advertised trip. Over paid and will not recommend nor return based on a total lack of interest from Uniworld. We paid for balcony and were at times less than 2 feet from adjacent boats. Just very disappointing based on all the advertising. This will be last trip for us on Uniworld based on their lack of interest in the failures with regard to expectations. Never seen triple parking before. Had to walk through 2 other boats to get to ours when returning to the boat. Shore excursions were like a drill when they said we had 20 min to shop and use restrooms. Depending onlines you could be waiting in line for 15 min. Just not worth the price............... Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
Wanted to see the Douro River and Portugal. Chose this ship because it was small and reviews were good. It was lacking in many things: bathroom had black mold and smelled. Ship needs renovation. Even smelled like diesel fuel at ... Read More
Wanted to see the Douro River and Portugal. Chose this ship because it was small and reviews were good. It was lacking in many things: bathroom had black mold and smelled. Ship needs renovation. Even smelled like diesel fuel at times. Front desk was unfriendly and unhelpful. Food was hit and miss -- some meals weren't even hot! Had two very disappointing dinners -- the dining room staff did try to make it up by bringing me chocolate covered strawberries. The cruise director did not speak English well-- pronounced with Portuguese sounds. He was not especially friendly and did not explain things well. His projector with pictures of what we would see tomorrow seemed silly-- want to see it in person first! Wasted time instead of explaining times of tours, etc. in a clearer way. Piano player was good. Only a couple of nights of other entertainment. Tours were average- some interesting, some not. On the plus side: The dining room and lounge staff were super nice, friendly, helpful. Tour guides were good (in Lisbon and the tours off the ship). Bottom line: don't expect personal service and excellent food even though it is such a small ship and it is NOT a luxury boutique like they claim. Intercontinental in Lisbon was nice-- but only one restaurant in the large hotel. First night had to have dinner in bar because didn't know to make reservations. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
We choose Uniworld based on their reputation as a 5 or 6 star line. of the 13 day cruise from Lisbon to Madrid, we were on the ship 8 nights and the other nights in very nice hotels. The overall experience was good, worst part of the ... Read More
We choose Uniworld based on their reputation as a 5 or 6 star line. of the 13 day cruise from Lisbon to Madrid, we were on the ship 8 nights and the other nights in very nice hotels. The overall experience was good, worst part of the cruise was on the ship. They were VERY understaffed and they kept saying the air conditioning was being fixed, however it NEVR worked the entire time!! Extremely uncomfortable in the lounge and dining room!!! They had ONE waiter/bartender for 50 people on the sun deck. You could NOT ask for a drink at the bar! You were told the drink would be brought to you. Yes, a half hour later!! Again, One bartender, ONE waiter!! for 100 people!! I could go on but just say we were, and our friends that travelled with, were EXTREMELY Disappointed in Uniworld. We did find out that the Queen Isabel is not operated by Uniworld, but it is leased out?? Not on the ship, The tours and guides were very good Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
Extensive Review of Uniworld cruise… Very Disappointing!!! We expected a 10 but experienced a five. September 2016 Douro River Cruise Beware…this is not a Uniworld product. The ship and crew are leased from Douro Azul River ... Read More
Extensive Review of Uniworld cruise… Very Disappointing!!! We expected a 10 but experienced a five. September 2016 Douro River Cruise Beware…this is not a Uniworld product. The ship and crew are leased from Douro Azul River Cruise Lines, according to the ship hotel manager who was one of only two Uniworld employees on board. Both of the Uniworld managers had only been on the ship since the day before we arrived. They were as frustrated with the staff and as disappointed as my nine guests and I. The manager stated that he had never encountered a crew that cared less about customer service and pride in performance than this one. The crew, I was told, is not trained by Uniworld but by Douro Azul. Throughout the cruise there seemed to be an element of animosity and contempt from the Douro Azul crew towards the Uniworld management. The attitude seemed to be that “we are Douro Azul, not Uniworld.” We all felt very sorry for the Uniworld manager. He seemed out of his element. Evidently they have partnered with Douro Azul since 2011 so you’d think they would have their act together by now. The capacity of the ship is 118 and I was told that there were only 90 passengers on board. I am a travel agent and veteran of over 30 cruises. Along with my wife I brought four other couples along on this cruise. All are discriminating travelers and foodies with whom we have traveled to Scotland (Awesome), Africa (Inspiring), Italy (Delicious) and South America, (Celebrity cruise in Aqua Class… Outstanding). We did the Douro River because they have done almost everything else. I convinced the group to take the Uniworld brand because it was named best river cruise line for 2016 by Travel + Leisure Magazine. I ended up rebating my full commission back to my clients…here’s why: First the hits: The ship was clean, the bedding was superb, the showers in the cabins were the best I’ve encountered on any cruise ship. Housekeeping was good. The river venue was pleasant and the day tours were well done with an excellent tour director. Now the many, many misses: The service and the food was not what we expected from the number one river cruise company of 2016. We expected superb service and over-the-top food as touted in all of Uniworld’s advertising. Unfortunately the service was extremely poor and the food was, at best, mediocre. There was only one public restroom on the ship just outside the dining room. This restroom was in constant use during dinner but was in a constant state of untidiness. Several times we complained to the manager on duty. His comments, without apology, was that his colleagues were supposed to have taken care of it. Even then, it was not handled. This was a nightly occurrence and was even a problem on the last evening. The personnel in the dining room always seemed understaffed. Requested drinks and water were often overlooked or entirely forgotten. There was no anticipation on the part of the wait staff. When asked for water or wine refills, only the person who requested the refill was taken care of then the waiter was off without filling other glasses. Some guests were almost finished with their meal before others were served. Orders were forgotten. Clearly the wait staff was not properly trained. At least four more wait staff or even busboys were needed to accommodate their guest adequately. On the pool deck, there were never enough towels for the guests. Even when requested, it took more than 30 minutes for additional towels to arrive and then only three or four were brought. There were seldom waiters on the pool deck. There were buttons to push for service, but seldom did any waiters appear. More often than not, passengers went down to the bar to get their own drinks. When we commented, they told us they were understaffed and took care of passengers in the lounge first so if you want drinks, come and get them yourselves. On the first day, during the passenger orientation, the temperature in the lounge was in the mid-eighties. Everyone was fanning themselves and requesting the air be turned up. The air conditioning could not keep up with the outside temperature which was in the nineties. We were told it had been even worse the last two weeks as the outside temp was over 100. If it’s always this hot, why don’t they have a/c that can accommodate? In two of our staterooms, the air conditioning was very poor as well. On the night we were in Porto, I felt badly for the passengers that were on the right side because they were tied up against the wall and had no view. We had a beautiful view of the city from the left side. During dinner, a Douro Azul ship pulled up alongside us and completely blocked our view too. We were there for two days with nothing to look at but the side of the other ship. Obviously Azul had more priority than Uniworld. At another port, we were pulled up alongside a parking lot with several dumpsters full of garbage only a few yards away. There were flies everywhere and they entered the dining room and our cabins in the evening. I noticed two Viking ships were moored on the other side of the river. The next day they were gone and we moved into their spot. It seemed that everywhere we went, Viking ships had the best moorings and we were secondary. Each of my guests had a $50 per cabin credit. Other than the small gift shop there was no place to spend the money except for massages, so all of us used the credit for laundry. Upon checkout, we were indignantly told “It is the policy of Douro Azul that cabin credit cannot be used for laundry.” As the group leader, I told the front desk woman that there were no indications anywhere that this was not allowed. She looked me in the eye and angrily said “It is policy! You cannot use!” This was typical of the negative feeling we felt from the crew. I later talked to the Uniworld rep and he gave us the credit. The windows on the entire ship were never washed from day one on. Nothing could be easier on a river boat than washing windows in each port. The windows seem to have not been washed in weeks, if not months. Now the worst part… Two of my guests were in cabins that had a toilet blockage down the line that backed up into their cabins. The first guest encountered the problem at five a.m. when she arose to use the toilet. She stepped into two inches of sewer water. She called the front desk immediately. At five thirty she called again but was told that they could not find the engineer. The other couple awoke at seven to the same problem. Shortly after seven the engineer appeared. At this point their suitcases were wet as was everything on the floor. Getting prepared for the day tour was very inconvenient. They went to breakfast and after breakfast it was time for an all day shore excursion. They were told that they would be upgraded to a higher cabin but when they returned, their cabin had been cleaned and dried by an on shore flood repair company and they were not given a new cabin. The cabins continued to be very humid for the next two days. As an apology, each cabin was given a bottle of prosecco for the room and two massages. (As an aside, I had two clients on a Viking Cruise a few months ago that missed their connection because of weather. They had made their air arrangements through Viking. Their late flight was met at the airport by a Viking rep, they were taken to a five star hotel, taken to the next port the following day, given a $300 on board credit, two bottles of champagne, upgraded to a suite and given a 50% credit for their next Viking cruise. All Viking was obligated to do was get them to the next port.) Kudos to Viking. If you were a travel agent, which line would you send your clients on? We were a group of foodies. We chose Uniworld because of their advertisements showing lobster and oysters on the half shell among other wonderful taste sensations. We were so disappointed. The food was at best a five on a scale from one to ten. Breakfast and lunch were buffet with much the same selection every day. The daily specials were meager. The eggs benedict were served on a slice of un toasted white bread with no ham and a cloying, sticky, heavy cheese sauce. We had been in Lisbon, independently, for the previous three days and had eaten in some wonderful restaurants. In some of these restaurants we took pictures of almost every dish. On the ship, we took only one picture of a dessert on the very last day. The preparation and presentation of the food was unimaginative and pedestrian. There was not one outstanding dish the entire voyage. There was a coffee machine outside the dining room that was available 24 hours. It made coffee from a pre-mix and cappuccino, lattes, and other coffee drinks were available. We expected that in the dining room the cappuccino would be made from a dedicated espresso machine but, instead, the waiter went out to the mix machine for the caps. I was told by the hotel manager that they were getting a real espresso machine next month! When we were in the bar one of my guests ordered a coffee and Bailey’s. He was told (not asked) to go downstairs to the machine and get his own coffee because they were too busy! At mid-cruise a “How are we doing” questionnaire was handed out. After discussion with my guests, I filled out the questionnaire for all of us. Under service I wrote “very poor” and under food I wrote “mediocre at best”. I wrote my name and room number and said I was willing to go into detail if they were interested. When I returned from the daily excursion, I spent 90 minutes with the two Uniworld employees. They told me of their frustrations and said please don’t judge Uniworld by this cruise and that my group should try another one. I told them this cruise was ruining their brand and that they should take this voyage off line until they can fix it. We paid about $5,000 per person. Douro Azul River Cruise Line operates the same cruises for less than $2,200 per person. That is about what this cruise was worth. That is why I returned my full commission to my clients. Upon returning home, I see that the Cruise Critic rating on this cruise is only 63% positive whereas most of the Uniworld voyages rate 90% or higher. In reflection, I wish I’d checked CC before I booked this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
This was our first river cruise, after many hours of research of different river cruise ships, we chose UniWorld due to so many great reviews. We are well traveled seniors, having visted over 40 countries the past 10 years. Disappointment ... Read More
This was our first river cruise, after many hours of research of different river cruise ships, we chose UniWorld due to so many great reviews. We are well traveled seniors, having visted over 40 countries the past 10 years. Disappointment with this cruise and cruise line would be a vast understatement. The Queen Isabel is a leashed ship, and falls short of meeting the high standards and expectations of UniWorld superior reputation. Several malfunction of the ship put a damper on the comfort of the passengers. Two guest had an unexplained loud noise in their cabin, they spent the first night sleeping in the lounge, called it to managements attention the following morning, maintainance was sent to check the problem. It was deemed as a unknown problem, the solution was the guest either put up with it, or sleep in a very small, dark room on the next level down. They chose to sleep with earphones on the remainer of the cruise. A couple nights later they were given a free bottle of wine to compensate for their inconvenience. The air conditioner quite working and it reached well over 90 degrees in the dining room for the last 3 days. The breakfast and lunches were good, but dinners fell way short of of expectations. Most shore excursions required 1-2 hours each direction on very curvy roads, many of the passengers experienced motion sickness. On the plus side the housekeepers, waiters, and tour guides, did a superior job. When sharing our grievances with UniWorld, five couples whom we are in touch with, did not even get a response . After several attempts, five months later, and the help of our travel agent, we were offered a pittance ,their cookie cutter offer for any unhappy customers, a 350.00 credit for a future cruise with them. No Thank You, we have scratched them off our list. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
My wife and I just returned from our fourth Uniworld trip in the past two years and we have our fifth Uniworld trip already booked for this September. We have become frequent and loyal Uniworld customers because of the extraordinary ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from our fourth Uniworld trip in the past two years and we have our fifth Uniworld trip already booked for this September. We have become frequent and loyal Uniworld customers because of the extraordinary quality, service, and care we have experienced on earlier trips. This cruise on the Douro River was a different story entirely. This is not a Uniworld-owned ship--a fact that is not at all clear unless you read the very tiny print at the back of the catalogue. In fact, the ship is owned by a local Portuguese company, Douro Azul, and there is only one Uniworld employee on the entire boat. The Queen Isabel itself has a gloss of Uniworld decorating about it, and it flies a Uniworld flag at its bow, but it is by no means equal in quality to the Uniworld-owned ships we have enjoyed before. The failings of this ship and its staff are far too numerous to detail, but the most annoying of all was that we could hear every single time a toilet flushed on every floor above us (we were on the bottom deck, so that's a lot of toilets!). Between 10 and 11 in the evening we would hear as many as 6 flushes per minute (I counted!). The noise was so loud that the cruise manager moved us to another room, where the flushes could still be heard but not quite as loudly. The flushes were also clearly audible in the hallway outside the rooms. Who designed this ship?! I have a bad neck and the pillows on the bed were so soft that I couldn't get the necessary support for my neck. Since Uniworld boasts in its catalogue that “you always have your choice of pillow options to ensure the most restful sleep,” I asked the manager for a firmer pillow. He had none, but said he could go ashore the next day and buy me one if I could tell him what I wanted. Uniworld promises in its catalogue: “We’ve crafted a culinary program for the most discerning of palates. . . .” Not on this ship! Dinner the first night set the pattern for the week--food that was, on the whole, mediocre to inedible. The first night my beef was nothing but fat and gristle--and it was accompanied by frozen mixed vegetables! Service was rushed and the wait staff was inadequately trained, lacking the professionalism we have experienced with wait staff on other Uniworld ships In short, this is not a Uniworld ship and it is not a Uniworld operation. Despite Uniworld’s promise, you will not have a “Six-Star Experience” on the River Isabel. You’ll get a Douro Azul experience, which is something quite different. What astonishes me is that Uniworld states in its catalogue: “Unlike many other river cruise lines who use third-parties to cater their onboard operations, Uniworld handles ALL aspects of our onboard operations—hospitality, culinary, and nautical.” This is flatly wrong with regard to the River Isabel. It is owned and entirely operated by a third party—Douro Azul. Since there is only one Uniworld employee on the ship with the rest of the staff—and the ship itself—owned and operated by Douro Azul, I think it’s fair to compare the price of the 7-night Douro River cruise on the River Isabel with the other Douro Azul-owned ships that take visitors on the identical trip (same length, same stops, same excursions). Douro Azul's Douro Spirit and Douro Cruiser both offer the 7-night trip. The base price ranges from 895 to 925 Euros. Douro Azul charges extra for the excursions—but if you include those in the price and convert to dollars (at 1 to 1.36), you get a total price for the trip on the two Douro Azul ships of $1,535 to $1,576 respectively. Uniworld charges from $$3,849 to $4,499 base price for the same cruise on their Douro Azul-owned and operated ship—not a bad markup for doing a little decorating on the ship and adding a single Uniworld employee to the voyage! Even if Uniworld could get Douro Azul to get its act together, I wouldn’t recommend this trip to anyone who is familiar with Uniworld quality. As long as the River Isabel is owned and operated by Douro Azul, it will never match the quality of a Uniworld-owned and operated ship. It's that "third-party" operator problem that Uniworld says in its catalogue that it doesn't do (but, in fact, does do on this ship). I also believe Uniworld should make it clear in their catalogue that this trip will not meet the standards touted in their catalogue. If you believe you will be getting Uniworld’s “Six-Star Experience” on the River Isabel you will be disappointed and for Uniworld to offer this trip with the suggestion that you will receive that level of service amounts to little more than “bait and switch.”   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Queen Isabel Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 4.0 N/A
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 3.0 3.3
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness & Recreation 3.0 N/A
Family 2.0 2.9
Shore Excursions 4.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 1.0 N/A
Service 4.0 4.1
Value for Money 4.0 N/A

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