S.S. Beatrice Cruise Review by commonloon
- Sail Date: May 2018
- Destination: Europe River
We embarked in Budapest which we'd visited before so didn't spend any extra time before the cruise started. Uniworld picked us up at the airport and delivered us to the ship with no hitches whatsoever.
As usual, the food was excellent and Dimitar, the restaurant manager was the best we've had in Europe. He was personable and interacted with diners well while keeping an eye on the level of service. When serving staff were pressed, he pitched in serving beverages and assisting to keep service flowing smoothly. Danny the Hotel Manager was also very helpful when anything needed attention. As in the past, all of the staff were a delight working hard to keep everyone happy. Uniworld has the best soups at lunch in my opinion.
We love Uniworld's use of the VOX Box (guides transmit commentary by radio into an earpiece or headset) which allows us to hear over traffic noise and distance which develops when a group gets spread out because of narrow sidewalks, etc. Since our last Uniworld cruise in France in spring 2016, the earpieces have been improved so they actually fit in my ear canal and I didn't need to use my headphones. Suggestion for those who use hearing aids and can't insert an ear bud: Take headphones with you. The VOX receiver which has a lanyard to hang around your neck takes a standard audio jack. In addition, there is now a setting that can be used when you're on the deck. There is a GPS system that provides relevant commentary as you float past landmarks, towns and villages. It also told us about food and drink of the region.
Breakfasts and lunches are buffet style and times will vary somewhat depending on when excursions are scheduled. Dinner is generally served at 7. If there is an excursion that needs to start at 6 pm, dinner will be served early or in one case, there was a buffet dinner.
Every breakfast has a special of the day (example eggs Benedict). In the past this special was advertised on a podium at the entrance to the dining room. Now, you have to ask for a menu in order to see what the special is. People who had been on the ship for the preceding leg of the cruise didn't know that there was a special. We asked only because we'd been on other Uniworld cruises.
The on-board entertainment, a brother and sister, (Rita and MIchael) were excellent and the best on board we've had.
Refurbished SS Beatrice: I like the decor much better than on other Uniworld ships we've been on. It's more understated than the decor of the others. There is an elevator from the bottom level to the 3rd level and a mechanical chair to take a person to the top sun deck. Great for those with mobility problems.
On the negative side: the lobby floors are marble which can be slippery when wet and when wearing non-grip soles on shoes. The regular rooms (i.e. not suites) have too much furniture in them. The rooms are small, but we expected this. But between the bed and the outer wall were two arm chairs and a glass coffee table. The clearance to get into bed was far too narrow. We and other passengers had, at minimum, the glass table removed entirely and some also had one of the armchairs removed. When speaking with staff, they told us they had a room full of excess furniture. It may look nice to have these furnishings but so many pieces is not functional in the least. The bathrooms are small (again we expected this) but the toilet is squeezed between the shower wall and another wall. And it is not normal adult height but might work well for a 12 year old. Taller men were heard to say that they had to heave themselves up to get off. I'm 5'5" and had to work at standing up. There is no hook in the bathroom for a bathrobe. The water in the shower would on occasion stop altogether but only for a second or two. A problem with flushing our toilet was solved quickly because the fix-it man was in our hall after fixing someone else's toilet.
The ceiling height in the lounge and dining room is quite low. Taller people may need to duck. On the other hand, the sound baffling on the ceiling is much improved. On other ships, dinner conversations could completely obliterate your ability to hear others. This ship has fixed that problem.
The lounge is chopped up compared with previous ships, probably because of the addition of the Schubert's dining area. However the furniture arrangement of very deep sofas arranged back to back and jutting into the smaller space didn't allow much dancing room and impeded many passengers from seeing the speakers.There were no true arm chairs in the lounge. My husband with balance problems had trouble getting up and the sofas were too low and deep for him to use.
We've chosen Uniworld because of the delicious food and the attentiveness of the staff AND their provision of a gentle or easy walker program. On arrival at the ship, we were told verbally that this program was cancelled and this was confirmed by Uniworld by e-mail. After my protestations, this program was promptly reinstated for this cruise and subsequently reinstated for all for 2018. Thanks to Uniworld for addressing our complaint but the cruise started on a sour note.
My husband has MS and has problems with balance. On the ship he uses a cane; on walking tours, he uses a walker. European streets often have cobblestones which can be difficult even if you have no mobility problems. The ship staff found a place in a public space but out of public traffic to store the walker. We already had too much furniture in the room.
Comments on tours that were memorable for us:
Those who went on the 27 km bicycle ride loved it. The same for those who did the 7 km hike. Both these groups departed the ship at one dock and met up with the ship further up the river.
Spitz Village Day with wine tasting: This was an easy walk just by its nature. Our guide was both on the board of the Shipping Museum and was involved in the family business of producing apricot products. I wasn't expecting to enjoy the museum much but was pleasantly surprised by the ingenuity used in the past in using the wooden boats. We then went on to the tasting of apricot products: brandy, liqueur, jam and barbecue sauce. Altogether a very nice half day.
Nuremberg Panoramic City Tour: We were bused to Zeppelin field where Hitler held marches. A local historian guide was very good and most informative. The Nuremberg Castle was also most interesting in terms of how well protected it was.
Prague: We were bused from Nuremberg to Prague. checking in at the Art Deco Imperial was disorganized and late based on what we told on the ship. When we got to the room, we discovered that you had to step up about 22 inches to get into the tub. We were offered steps to get in (but you still had no way to get out.) Because my husband could not manage either getting in or out, we were offered a room with both a tub and a shower. In talking with others in our group, at least three able bodied people slipped in the tub. There was a combination of new tubs and soft water and no arm height grab bars. All had asked for and not received non-slip mats for the bottom of the tub. Not a good choice of hotel.
Prague: morning Estates Theater and Mucha Museum: We chose this as it involved the least amount of walking. Even so, we took a cab to the Theater so that my husband wouldn't get too tired because we'd also booked an afternoon tour. This small theater is used only for Mozart operas and is a jewel. We were entertained by a quartet playing classical music. A lovely interlude. We then walked to the Mucha Museum. I'd never heard of Mucha but recognized his work and style and it was interesting to learn more about him. And then recognized his work on hotel walls and other buildings throughout the city.
Prague: afternoon Terezin Concentration Camp: We were driven through the countryside to this camp which was primarily a transition camp where conditions were so bad many died there. There are two cemeteries, one for Christians and one for Jews. Not necessarily an enjoyable tour but most interesting. A special guide was assigned to my husband to take him the easiest walking route through the camp. This was followed by a visit to a museum in the Jewish ghetto nearby. By then, at the end of the whole cruise and the end of a long hot day, we left a little early to visit the local ice cream shop.
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