River Duchess Cruise Review by South Carolina Traveler
- Sail Date: August 2012
- Destination: Europe River
- Cabin Type: Suite with French Balcony
We are experienced travelers, but had never taken a river cruise. We opted for one of the four suites due to the length of the cruise. The River Duchess was recently refurbished and is an attractive ship. The public area (Blue Danube lounge) is small for the number of guests and many events were standing room only. The meals were good to excellent. Our suite was well appointed with a small sitting area, an ample and luxurious bath with wonderful toiletries and sumptuous towels, and a comfortable bed with choice of bedding. We especially enjoyed the Delongie Nespresso coffee maker in our suite. Wireless internet was generally well received in our cabin and there are plentiful 110 volt outlets. The staff was polite and (with some notable exceptions) competent. The cruise itinerary was interesting in the main, although the last week was less compelling principally due to poor port/tour infrastructure (it was over 100 Fahrenheit with poor bus air conditioning and some very long bus rides). The cruise terminated at Turnu Magurele Romania, about 60 miles short of our planned ultimate port because the Danube was low due to a protracted drought, but Uniworld did their best to mitigate the inconvenience.
There were significant problems that were never resolved. Our suite was on the top passenger deck (as are all four suites on this ship) with only the sun deck above. River boat height is critical to passing under bridges, but the lack of reasonable sound insulation in the sun deck floor is appalling. Any foot traffic above was amplified in our cabin and heavy footsteps made our entire room shake! Nevertheless, we quickly reconciled to such noise during waking hours and attributed it to fellow passengers. However, the problem was that frequent footsteps (many very heavy) occurred between 11 PM and 6 AM. We ascertained by personal observation many times as well as by having the purser's desk admit to us that this was due to crew. The crew is housed in the lowest level of the stern; their smoking area is on the stern of the sun deck. The smokers utilized this area all the time, but it was a major problem before their early and after their late shifts. The only way crew can access the sun deck is to come up the passenger stairs amidships and then walk to the stern. The most convenient route was to the port (left) side which was our room's location. We complained about this often, but it seemed that the issue could only be slightly and very temporarily mitigated. We would never choose a top deck cabin again on the River Duchess; if you must be on the top deck, we suggest you opt for a starboard cabin.
The second major problem was a lack of sound in our suite. The speaker system did not work-ever. We missed every announcement and even after requesting phone notification of important announcements, never received one. It took almost a week for the staff to even acknowledge we had a problem. We were told that we needed to manually turn the volume up; they argued that we only had one volume control (suites have two); they told us that since only certain announcement were broadcast to the rooms, that we shouldn't have heard (many) announcements. When we finally had the engineer come to our cabin, the problem was acknowledged. He tried to repair the problem, but after a few days he said that he could not and that the sound system would need to be looked at by experts in Amsterdam. The amazing thing to us is that the problem would have been mitigated if the TV channel of the Blue Danube lounge had had sound. None of the lectures, entertainment programs or port talks ever had sound. We were informed that this was Uniworld policy for "privacy concerns". It is insane that public announcements could not be broadcast. Other passengers, just off of a Uniworld Russian river cruise, told us their boat did include lounge sound.
The last major problem was the cruise manager. She was unorganized and had marginal verbal communication skills. We suggest that the important "talking points" of any port talks etc. be provided in writing; we feel this would have helped immeasurably.
The remaining areas of dissatisfaction are relatively minor but, for the purposes of giving a thorough and honest review, bear mentioning:
Complimentary beer was provided at lunch and dinner, but for all 27 days, there was only one choice available. The complimentary white wines were good to excellent (the wine offering varied daily) but the reds were mediocre to poor.
Of the large number of television channels being broadcast, an insufficient number were in English. American news channels were limited to CNN and CNBC. Internet band width was inadequate except when passengers were otherwise occupied.
The seating in the Blue Danube lounge was not very comfortable except for the half dozen or so bar stools. The acoustics in the Palace Restaurant (where all meals are served) are poor, making conversation difficult.
We hope these comments are helpful, and that anyone choosing to travel aboard the River Duchess will be making an informed choice.