You only have one chance to make a first impression. Uniworld failed, and then failed again. Yet we had a wonderful cruise and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Uniworld product to anyone.
This was my 37th cruise; fourth river cruise; third Europe river cruise; first Uniworld. My favorite ocean cruises are Crystal and Celebrity, and in Europe our two river cruises were on AmaWaterways (I’d certainly be happy to cruise with them again). We booked through an agency that puts together air and “best available” cruise cabins, close to departure, at good prices. We were hesitant to let somebody else plan our air, but we booked less than two months in advance on a cruise we had wanted to do but didn’t think we could fit into our busy schedule! This itinerary has a Jewish Heritage option for tours in 2018, which is what attracted us to it. I had inquired about whether they’d be doing the same for 2019 and they didn’t know yet. Because the planning would be minimal (just check the weather and try to pack appropriately), we decided to jump in and book.
We actually were happy with the Delta flights chosen for us. We were flying to Basel to start the cruise, and we knew we’d have three ups and downs (we don’t live in a hub city) so it was fine. What was a bit frustrating is that the Basel airport has two distinct exits, one into France and one into Switzerland. We didn’t see the signs about that; we were merely focused on finding our luggage carousel. Luckily a friend who was with us saw the appropriate signs and stopped us from using the wrong exit. I thought Uniworld could’ve mentioned that for guests embarking in Basel. Then to compound the frustration, after finding the representative and boarding the bus for our group transfer, we arrive at the “pier”, with two ships parked along side. No representative from Uniworld welcomed us. Only one crew member came to get luggage, and he couldn’t take everybody’s at once. Finally a second crew member showed up and assured us he’d take our bags, suggesting that we just go to board the River Empress. It wasn’t even clear which way to choose to walk to the ship!
The cabin is as attractive as a tiny cabin can be. The lights were a bit perplexing but all in all, the cabin was extremely comfortable. The television offered many great movies pertinent to the cruise as well as two Rick Steves broadcasts.
A bus ride took us first to Worms with an incredible Jewish cemetery which survived the war. The headstones are amazingly well preserved, some almost 1000 years old! Two guides, both excellent. Then we walked into the walled city and visited a synagogue that's now in use again by Russian immigrants. Prayer books are Russian and Hebrew.
Back in Speyer, we visited the site of the mikveh and ruins of an old synagogue.
This tour can be called phenomenal!
We started with a bus ride during which we heard quite a bit of history. Then we visited a museum that features the basements of several Jewish homes from well over 100 years ago. Fascinating, and next to a Jewish cemetery, party of which survived the war and part of which includes head stones, and parts of some others, that have been preserved in a few different ways. Outside of the cemetery, there are memorial stones to all pre-war Frankfurt Jews.
There's a museum in the Rothschild mansion which has been under reconstruction for some time and was not available for visiting.