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39 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
I found very few reviews for Gate 1 Travel and the Monarch Empress traveling the Danube so I thought I would post a quick summary. Marigold252's review in post #2409882 ("Gate 1 17 Day Danube River Cruise with Warsaw, Krakow, ... Read More
I found very few reviews for Gate 1 Travel and the Monarch Empress traveling the Danube so I thought I would post a quick summary. Marigold252's review in post #2409882 ("Gate 1 17 Day Danube River Cruise with Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest & Prague") on this forum has some fairly detailed additional information. This was our first river cruise and most of our tour experience has been with various Rick Steves' small group land tours - so our observations about this river cruise come from that perspective. Gate 1 Travel - Their tag line seems to say it all... "See More of the World for Less". I certainly was unfamiliar with them but many of our fellow cruisers had done numerous land tours with them over the course of 5 - 10 years. They seem pretty well established but have a low profile compared to some of the other river cruise lines. When I compare the quality of the ship, food, service, and experience compared to the many other cruise lines I researched, we certainly felt that it was great value for money. Ship - The Monarch Empress is quite new (first put into service in 2016 I believe). The decor was more modern/contemporary than what we saw on some of the other ships that were docked close to us. More about clean and sleek and less about overall glitz. Passengers - Approximately 130 or so passengers for our cruise - a slight majority from the US but Australia, New Zealand, and Canada folks were broadly represented -- with a smattering from other countries as well. The age range was mostly 50 to 80... with just a few folks that were either younger or older than this demographic. Daytime dress was generally casual - this was September so mostly long pants and a mix of layers to adjust for temperature and showers through the day. Dinner dress was a bit mixed. We specifically chose this cruise line over some others because we DIDN'T want to feel pressure to dress up for dinner every night. Men were generally dressed more casually than the women - slacks or dress jeans along with more casual collared/button-down shirts. Women (as expected) dressed up a bit more for dinner/evening... but from my observation the vast majority just tried to add a scarf, a nicer top, and maybe a bit of extra jewelry - though there were a handful of women that (in my opinion looked out of place) dressing in high heels and evening dresses. Cabin - I used the price difference between Gate 1 and many of the other cruise lines as an opportunity to upgrade to a top-floor "Suite" instead of a mid-level cabin. See the detailed review in the separate section below. Dining Experience - Because this cruise was more budget conscious, we expected the food to be on the simple/bland side - and we were actually very pleasantly surprised and the variety and quality. I know that some river cruise lines have lots of choices on the dinner menu but we felt that the choices on the Monarch Empress were rich and varied enough to more than meet our needs (and pad our waist lines). With a 4+ course meal (depending on how you counted such things) that was beautifully prepared, we never went hungry. Obviously, if you want to maximize your food experiences than this cruise line might not be a good match... but if you want to try a smaller (but plentiful) array of regional foods and yet have the fall back of some tried & true standbys, I think you will find what was served here to be more than adequate. Entertainment and Activities - Truthfully, our focus was on the ports and excursions and we took minimal advantage of on-board entertainment/activities. We were generally so tired after being out and about all day that we just wanted to fall in to bed and rest after dinner. My impression is that the on-board activities are probably a bit less sensational than what might be available on other (more expensive) cruise lines -- but in our case why would we want to pay extra for something we never used? Service - ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT!! Our minimal experience with ocean cruises prepared us to expect fairly perfunctory service -- but the entire crew made us feel as if we were a part of their family. Within just a day or two the restaurant staff knew many of our specific dining habits - for instance, my desire for a beer instead of wine... it would be delivered to the table within a few seconds of my sitting down anywhere in the restaurant (even though we didn't have assigned seating). The folks that serviced the rooms operated silently in the background - but would address our every need with instant efficiency. Ports and Shore Excursions - This was a 7 day cruise and we added 2 or 3 days in both Budapest (at the beginning) and in Prague (at the end). We would have loved to spend a bit more time in each of the locations where we stopped -- but this is a challenge for nearly all of the river cruise lines... my research showed that they all had very similar itineraries. In our case we cruised up-stream.... which tends to make actual travel a bit slower. I don't know, however, if this translates into less time at each specific port or whether they simply travel longer at night. Be aware that many of the excursions start relatively early -- Often leaving by 8:15 or 8:30. If you signed up for most/all of the optional excursions (as we did), you may find that you have little time for leisure or taking advantage of after-dinner activities. Most (if not all) of the excursions (standard and optional) had knowledgeable local guides -- but don't expect that you will have the time for a deep-immersion experience... but rather just an introduction with a little time on your own to dig just a bit deeper. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
My wife and I have now completed four river cruises with Scenic and yet again we have not been disappointed, it was excellent. The cabin was clean and tidy at all times by the housing keeping service, the butler service was great being on ... Read More
My wife and I have now completed four river cruises with Scenic and yet again we have not been disappointed, it was excellent. The cabin was clean and tidy at all times by the housing keeping service, the butler service was great being on call at all times, the balcony is unique to Scenic with the electric opening and closing windows that allow for you to sit out there regardless of the weather. The dining as usual was first class from the light lunches to the speciality table restaurants on board and being remembered by the crew for drinks and other services was especially great. As for the activities as we have come to expect from Scenic they were all great and well timed to not be totally exhausting but very informative and a wonderful experience each time. And we will always recommend Scenic for those who want luxury and an exceptional adventure that is value for money. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
We chose this river cruise because we wanted a more personal experience, and to be on a smaller boat than a cruise ship. We had a feeling we would like this more than prior cruises we went on before, but didn't expect to love most things ... Read More
We chose this river cruise because we wanted a more personal experience, and to be on a smaller boat than a cruise ship. We had a feeling we would like this more than prior cruises we went on before, but didn't expect to love most things about it as much as we did. The food was exceptional, with many offerings that covered everything from fresh and healthy, to rich and satisfying. Always very fresh and well prepared. The wines were very nice and of a wide variety. It was nice to taste different wines from different regions every night. The inclusive details made this a no -brainer for us. The excursions were all well thought out, and with very hospitable and knowledgeable guides. The travel to and fro to the different off site excursions were comfortable, and the drivers were very professional. The service was top tier as well. The smiling faces greeted us daily and consistently had very positive attitudes and pleasant conversation. Everyone who we encountered on the boat spoke very good English! It (their English) was very good! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
We sailed on 13th sept 2017 We chose this cruise from Bucharest to Budapest because of the itinerary and we were not disappointed. The various trips out and the insight into the history was excellent. We were supposed to be on Sky ... Read More
We sailed on 13th sept 2017 We chose this cruise from Bucharest to Budapest because of the itinerary and we were not disappointed. The various trips out and the insight into the history was excellent. We were supposed to be on Sky but it was changed to Sun, which was no problem as the ships are identical. The ship itself was spotless, every one of the crew was helpful and polite. The shiny surfaces, glass and mirrored surfaces did take a bit of getting used to, and could be a bit of a problem especially the stairs where we saw a few near accidents. The balcony suite was fine, always kept immaculately clean by Darko. Plenty of hanging storage as the safe has now been moved. The dining experience however was nothing like as advertised. The dining room itself is extremely noisy, and the only way to converse with fellow passengers is to shout, making it an uncomfortable experience. The food was to say the least disappointing and not at all as represented in the brochure. I have to say however, a fellow traveller who had recently been on Sky said the meals on there were excellent. Portions were extremely small, bland and unappetising. Several guests felt they had to order double to be satisfied. A starter of meatballs should not only consist of one meatball, neither should the cheese board consist of three tiny cubes of cheese with a similar thumbnail size of chutney and no crackers. We flew KLM Manchester via Schiphol threw Emerald. When we arrived in Bucharest our luggage along with quite a few other couples failed to arrive. We duly filled in the claim form, went out into arrivals to find all the transport had gone. Ourselves with one other couple after landing at 1.20pm had to wait until 5.20pm for transport, despite the Emerald rep telling us first of all it would only be 10mins. She then asked us to wait for the London flight promising us to be first on the transport. We were then totally ignored when the transport arrived but managed to tag on at the end. When we got to the hotel our cruise director Yana took details of our lost luggage, but after that showed no interest in it unless we asked her. We were not informed the night after when it arrived and the following morning it had disappeared again, thankfully found on another floor!! As a result of this we went from Wednesday morning till Saturday afternoon in the clothes we stood up in. Yana did say on the Friday, again after asking what we should do, that we had €100 each for necessities. This experience soured what should have been a very enjoyable holiday. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
We had a wonderful time on this river cruise. The ship was excellent, the food was excellent, the service was excellent, and the cities we visited were exceptional. We chose this cruise because we had never been to Budapest or Nuremberg. ... Read More
We had a wonderful time on this river cruise. The ship was excellent, the food was excellent, the service was excellent, and the cities we visited were exceptional. We chose this cruise because we had never been to Budapest or Nuremberg. The room was adequately sized and appointed. It was the Viking Jarl. The dining was excellent as I stated above. Roger and Jahz were fabulous. The were very attentive and knew what we needed before we did. They made the trip. Also, Neli kept our room clean and neat. We visited Budapest, Vienna, Nuremberg, Regensburg and Passau, Germany. At each port we took the walking tour and learned the history of each city. We also too the Nuremberg Jewish tour and learned of the trials of the Nazi war criminals. In Passau we visited a horse farm and a lovely beer festival. We look forward to our next trip and it will be on Viking as they have the best overall package we have found between the ships, personnel, cities visited and service. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Loved this idea of spending our 25th anniversary in Europe. All went well-great staff, good food, nice ports, but wished there was more free time and fewer ports to visit. Had to get up pretty early for the free excursions, which are ... Read More
Loved this idea of spending our 25th anniversary in Europe. All went well-great staff, good food, nice ports, but wished there was more free time and fewer ports to visit. Had to get up pretty early for the free excursions, which are largely church/history oriented, if you're into that sort of thing. Would have preferred more intimate excursions (for free) instead of 50-60 people ushered around already popular destinations. If you are a history buff, and like lectures, etc. This is for you. The passengers are largely 60+, and highly educated. A few wheelchairs also, although Europe is tough for them with all the cobblestones and hills. I really prefer Gate 1 for this sort of thing. More free time, less expensive, and a smaller group. You're not tempted into gluttony as much. Food was good, but not as good as some of the finer meals I've enjoyed in major cities. If there were more shore excursions catering to intimate experiences, that would be better-like seeing a cobbler make shoes. Since the cruise is so pricey, these should be included without an extra charge. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2017
On September 10th my wife and I and 34 neighbors from our Del Webb community took the American Empress riverboat from Clarkston Washington to Vancouver Washington (not Canada). The costs were $9189 not including flights, gratuities or ... Read More
On September 10th my wife and I and 34 neighbors from our Del Webb community took the American Empress riverboat from Clarkston Washington to Vancouver Washington (not Canada). The costs were $9189 not including flights, gratuities or transfers. Although everyone had a great time as we were all friends prior to this trip, we were very disappointed that we completely missed the major scenic portions of the river due to the Oregon fire and the Native American salmon fishing rights which prevented our docking at The Dalles. Due to the fire, we completely missed the Columbia gorge (passed thru after midnight), Mt. Hood, Multnomah Falls, The Old Scenic Highway, Bonneville Dam, and Timberline Lodge. We felt American Queen Steamship Company let us down, when they decided to compensate us with a day in Vancouver Washington with an included 15 minute hop on-hop off bus trip, and an additional day in Astoria Oregon with an included shopping trip to Cannon Beach and Seaside beach (local beaches). We asked them to provide a trip to Mt. St. Helens as they had done on the previous trip, but they refused. After returning home we requested our travel agent to ask them for compensation but AQSC did not respond. The bottom line is the fire and the blockage of The Dalles port were completely out of American Queens control, however their replacement options simply fell way short of the missed experiences to say nothing of the $1000+ a day cost. By the way they continue to advertise the same experiences we missed, even though the State of Oregon indicates those experiences may be closed for up to 2 years as a result of the fire. Although we all had fun on the river boat, we all felt that AQSC fell short in substituting for the missed experiences. We are aware that their contract says they can make any changes they want, including doing nothing. As a group we had a great time, but probably would not travel with AQSC in the future. Read Less
AQSC Marketing, Consumer Marketing Mgr. - AQSC has responded
Hi Micoman, Thank you for your honest feedback and review! We deeply appreciate all comments and consider them when planning for the future. While the Pacific Northwest fires were unexpected and devastating in many ways, our team worked around the clock to provide the best possible revised itinerary that met all logistics needs for the cruise on very short notice . We are sorry that your cruise did not meet expectations, but hope that this does not deter you from considering us in the future. We would love to see you onboard again (hopefully without any natural disasters interfering) so that you and your group can experience a full American Queen Steamboat Company journey that we consistently receive rave reviews about. Thank you again, for taking the time to share your thoughts and comments. We are grateful for feedback such as this, so that we can continue to make improvements on all of our journeys. Best, American Queen Steamboat Company
23 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
We actually chose Gate 1 for our river cruise because of its fantastic pricing. Knowing that we were paying less than half of the cost of the other companies, I was fully prepared for a less than luxurious experience. We were very ... Read More
We actually chose Gate 1 for our river cruise because of its fantastic pricing. Knowing that we were paying less than half of the cost of the other companies, I was fully prepared for a less than luxurious experience. We were very pleasantly surprised!! We are a professional couple who have done 11 ocean cruises, primarily with Celebrity, but have also cruised with Oceania and Seabourne. We were intrigued by the thought of river cruising but have largely been put off by the pricing The Gate 1 Monarch was very easy to board. The usual security procedures which are necessary on an ocean going ship are skipped for a friendly greeting and passport inspection. The boat is small enough that everyone knows who belongs on board within a short time. You exchange your room key for a boarding pass each time you leave the boat, which takes less than a minute. There are no restrictions on bringing liquor or wines, etc aboard. Unfortunately the rooms do not have a fridge, but there are ice buckets in each room, and I heard that they are happy to cool your white wine. My husband and I drink red wine, and there was certainly not an issue with us drinking our own. There are wine glasses in each room as well. Cabins are small, with one comfortable chair, and a very comfortable bed. We had lovely bedding with a down duvet and four nice pillows. The bathroom is small, but the shower is quite adequate with good water pressure and a glass door. There are plenty of electrical outlets in the room, using a standard plug of two round pegs. There are no other outlet types so we used adapters for our Canadian chargers. The hair dryer inn the cabin had adequate power. Wifi was surprisingly good, although there were slow times and no service times in several places. There was great wifi in our cabin in every port. The boat was kept very clean , with a morning cabin clean, and an evening turndown. We were favorably impressed with the food. There was an automatic espresso machine in the lounge which we used daily. Breakfasts were a mixture of buffet- fruit, cereals, scrambled and boiled eggs, baked beans, sausages and bacon, along with wonderful local cheeses and meats. You could order from the menu omelette, eggs cooked to order, as well as a daily feature like waffles, etc. Lunch always had a salad bar, and buffet offerings which included local dishes. As well, the menu had a sandwich special, daily pasta, and soup. Dinners were a four course meal, with a fixed soup, appetizer, and dessert, along with a choice of a meat, fish, or vegetarian main. All meals ranged from good to excellent. The boat staff were largely from Eastern European countries and had great senses of humor. They went out of their way to try to please. A daily white and red wine was free, along with beer and soft drinks, at dinner. Otherwise, a drink menu could be had at lunch or in the lounge. Pitchers of ice water were placed on each table. There was also a specialty steak restaurant for 15 Euro pp that we didn't try, but heard that it was very good. The real stand out was the free tours in each of the ports. The local guides were very knowledgeable and passionate about their job. We saw the key things in all of the cities we visited, and had time to roam around on our own. Everything was beautifully organized and headsets were provided so the guides were easily heard. Many of the people on the boat have done several trips with Gate 1, both on river cruises as well as land tours. I can easily see us doing the same thing. We did not expect a luxurious cruise, but Gate 1 went well beyond what I expected. We will definitely book again with them. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Just home from a River cruise on the River Rhone in Southern France. Flew to Marseiille and then coach to Arle flying home from Lyon. Beautiful ship with excellent staff. Nothing too much trouble , all speaking perfect English, apart ... Read More
Just home from a River cruise on the River Rhone in Southern France. Flew to Marseiille and then coach to Arle flying home from Lyon. Beautiful ship with excellent staff. Nothing too much trouble , all speaking perfect English, apart from the Captain who only spoke French.Complementary walking and coach tours available everyday with extra payable ones mainly after lunch. Lovely cabins with spacious showers and toiletries provided. Food wonderful , breakfast and lunch self service and dinner waiter served. Wine and beer included with meals , several drink packages available .We chose the premium package at €19.90 per day, this entitled us to drinks from 11.00am including cocktails. We certainly got our monies worth. Speciality coffee also available on this package. Tea and coffee available from self service machines all day. Beautiful swimming pool, bigger than usual pools on cruise ships. Didn't use the gym or the hairdresser or beautician. My only criticism would be the fight to get a table at 7.00pm when the gong for dinner is rung. Would certainly recommend and would go on a river cruise again. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Recommended by travel agent it was our first cruise and we were not disappointed! The embarkation was smooth, but we had the opportunity to observe the whole embarkation process which was extremely professional with the whole of the crew ... Read More
Recommended by travel agent it was our first cruise and we were not disappointed! The embarkation was smooth, but we had the opportunity to observe the whole embarkation process which was extremely professional with the whole of the crew engaged in the operation. The ship was all we could have wished for and the cabin suited our needs perfectly. The dining experience was 1st class, good food and wine served promptly, efficiently, and cheerfully by a very professional team of waiters. The entertainment was good with the staff show on Thursday night being the highlight. The service throughout was of the highest order from what was clearly, from the captain down a professional and highly motivated team. The shore excursions are not really our "thing" as we prefer a more informal approach. Our only disappointment was the very limited daylight sailing which prevented us enjoying the French countryside. In conclusion we had a throughly enjoyable and relaxing holiday. Read Less

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