We booked this river cruise because of the great deal offered and because of what was about half-price we thought we got good value. The staff were friendly and welcoming, the tours were excellent and on the whole, the ship was ... Read More
We booked this river cruise because of the great deal offered and because of what was about half-price we thought we got good value. The staff were friendly and welcoming, the tours were excellent and on the whole, the ship was comfortable.
When we arrived we were greeted warmly, our baggage was immediately taken off us and carried onto the boat. The reception staff were always pleasant and helpful. We were directed to the lounge where there were soup, open sandwiches and cake being served for a light lunch. Shortly before 3pm we were escorted to our cabin and shown around. The cabin was small but quite comfortable with one armchair and a footstool in front of the small desk area, although we would have preferred an upright chair. We liked the French balcony which allows you to look out and get fresh air without wasting space on a real balcony that isn’t needed on a river cruise especially as often you’re rafted up to another boat. There was enough storage and room for suitcases under the bed. However, the bed was disappointing with a mattress that definitely needs replacing. It was very hard and even after we requested and were given another duvet to lie on, the bed sagged to one side and was uncomfortable. The duvet was also old and lumpy. We do wish people would provide a top sheet instead of just a duvet in Europe. We were near the back of the boat and did find it rather noisy for sleeping the first couple of nights. But we quickly got used to it and it didn’t bother us for the rest of the cruise. We were quite happy with the housekeeping service and the room was kept clean.
The small bathroom was good and had a decent shower. However, we woke one morning to find our toilet wasn’t functioning; a situation that lasted nearly all day as we had to wait for an engineer to come on at the next stop. Ours wasn’t the only one and another couple had several instances of their toilet flooding throughout the trip. Also, occasionally there was a whiff of an unpleasant smell in the bathroom. Clearly the plumbing system needs an overhaul.
We were very impressed with the cruise directors and the tours. Soma and Armin were great - professional, friendly and very helpful. They were always available for questions and would join guests at meals and other times to chat and offer advice. They accompanied all the tours and made sure that everything was running smoothly. We couldn’t have had better people. Soma gave a briefing every evening before dinner with a rundown of the next day’s programme and included plenty of tips on what to do at each stop as well as the included tour. Maps of the towns were given out at every stop. Armin put on quizzes and other activities during sailing times for which there were decent prizes of nice boxes of chocolates and bottles of wine instead of the cheap pins etc given on ocean cruises. The few times entertainers came on board, they were well worth watching. The Oompah band solo performer was terrific.
There was an included tour every day which were excellent with very good and knowledgeable local guides. All the stops were at beautiful and interesting places. Also, Soma provided excellent commentaries for the scenic cruising through the Rhine gorge, the Wachau valley and the sail into the Budapest. We were delighted to find that a full inside tour of the Wurzburg Residenz was included – ours was taken by an architect who provided lots of interesting detail. It’s worth asking your cruise director for advice on which local guide is likely to suit your particular interests. We took two optional tours which were also good and reasonably priced. The whisper devices with headphones seem to be standard these days and worked very well. Many of our guides told us interesting and amusing stories and one even quoted some of his own doggerel poems which were most entertaining.
The only tiny issue we had occasionally with the tours was the timing for the buses. In Bamberg the free time lasted too long on a cold Sunday afternoon with no shops or museums open. The bars and cafes became very crowded with all the tour groups in town who had nothing else to do. Many people returned to the meeting place early to wait for the buses. On the other hand, there was hardly any free time in Nuremburg as the tours went over time. There was the option to go back into town after lunch on a bus for the afternoon but just another half an hour or so in the morning would have been good. In Vienna the boat is docked way out of town at Nussdorf which isn’t practicable for public transport. The tour started at 8.15am and if you wished to stay in town, the only options for a return bus were at 3pm and 4.30pm. Shuttle buses running throughout the afternoon as they were in Amsterdam would have been much better. Nevertheless, we were very pleased indeed with the touring side of the cruise.
The one thing we were disappointed with was the food. While it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t very good either. The dining room is too small for the number of passengers so the tables and chairs are squeezed in with hardly any room to get in and out to go to the breakfast and lunch buffets. It was also extremely noisy which made talking very difficult. Service was not always very professional and rather bossy. For instance, you were instructed to pass menus, dirty plates, etc to the waiters the minute you were finished. They wouldn’t remake the used tables at breakfast and lunch so you were forced to walk around trying to find a spare space even if you had to sit apart from your companions. Once I was told off for sitting at a table already set for dinner even though there were no tables left ready for lunch. It was as if the staff felt we were there for their convenience rather than the other way around.
The meals were acceptable but rather repetitive with little variety. Some meals were lovely but others weren’t very well cooked. Servings were sometimes very small. The vegetables were generally undercooked and the soups mostly tasted the same and were too salty. The breakfast buffet was very good with a wide variety of offerings and a specialty cooked item each day as well as eggs and omelettes that could be ordered. Cold meats and cheeses were put out at breakfast but never with the salad buffet at lunch which was always one hot meat and one hot fish dish, plus soup, a hot sandwich or pasta dish that could be ordered. But the most disappointing aspect was the poor quality baked goods. The bread was mass-produced and not good. There were little rolls put out for breakfast but never for lunch or dinner. We heard that all the bread and cakes were frozen and then thawed out and you could tell. Many days the cakes at afternoon tea were a dry Sour Cherry cake and stodgy apple pie. This was so disappointing in countries like Germany and Austria that have such wonderful bread, cakes and pastries.
There was a coffee machine in the back corner of the lounge but it would have been good to have also had a hot water dispenser for tea and hot chocolate. It was frustrating to queue for ages while people made their coffees when all you wanted was some hot water. At first nice sachets for hot chocolate were available but after a few days they were replaced with an uncovered bowl of cheap chocolate mix – this in a ship where people were constantly coughing from a nasty cold that was going right through the ship. It got so bad that people were ordering taxis at ports to take them to pharmacies and even the local hospital on the weekends to get medication.
There was a choice at dinner of one white and one red wine that changed every night plus a house beer. There’s a bar the back of the lounge but it wasn’t easy to get any service. Even if you went up to the bar you were told to go sit down and wait for service. We waited 40 minutes to get a drink one night. The passengers were divided between those from Australasia who had prepaid their tips and those from North America who hadn’t. It became obvious that the wait staff were giving priority and better service to impress the people who hadn’t prepaid their tips. They always seemed to be served first and immediately presented with lots of bar snacks which instead we had to ask for. The back lounge has been converted to a steakhouse restaurant in the evenings which we went to once. The food was good and we enjoyed our evening with another couple. We sat there sometimes during the afternoons to try and avoid the coughing of the sick passengers. It was a pleasant place to sit and watch the wonderful views out of the floor to ceiling windows.
Disembarkation was well organised and you could request taxis to be ordered in advance. We were very pleased to be allowed to stay on board for a while longer because we couldn’t get into our apartment until later in the morning. All in all, we felt the cruise was very good value for what we paid. But for the reasons given, mainly the bad mattress and variable quality of food, we wouldn’t book with Gate 1 again if we had to pay full price. Read Less