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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.

As a travel agent, I returned my commission to my clients after this cruise...

Queen Isabel Cruise Review by Ggoldie

23 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: August 2016
  • Destination: Europe River
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Balcony Stateroom
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.
Ggoldie’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Deluxe Balcony Stateroom
Cabin 1 214
Very nice bed linens. Nice sized shower. Serviced only twice per day.
Upper Deck Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins