1. Home
  2. Cruise Destinations
  3. Baltic Sea Cruises
  4. Baltic Sea Cruise Reviews
Cruise Ratings
See Reviews For
Sail Date: July 2011
We traveled for the 11 day cruise boarding at Le Havre, France around the North Sea. Happily, we had fair weather and enjoyed Scotland, an old favorite Amsterdam, and Hamburg in the sun. Crossing from Norway to Scotland was a terrible day ... Read More
We traveled for the 11 day cruise boarding at Le Havre, France around the North Sea. Happily, we had fair weather and enjoyed Scotland, an old favorite Amsterdam, and Hamburg in the sun. Crossing from Norway to Scotland was a terrible day at sea, and half the (full) ship was a bit sea sick. Costa is just a cut above MSC in quality, however, it is a big trench above the other Italian line in price; and frankly, although MSC is the pits, so is Costa. Catering to a majority of Italians, you'll find smokers abound, unattended children in places they shouldn't be - like the casino, and using the corridors as playground space. It's the same old poor quality bar drinks -- MIA TIAs made with 40% lemon juice; coffee from mid-west America, runny eggs and greasy potatoes in the morning buffet, to same old same old lunch, to dinner by candle lite but perhaps only to hide the poor quality cuts of meat, questionable fish, and rot gut wine. However, deserts were acceptable - but not the corny cheese plate with stale walnuts. So why do I say "dishonest". Nowhere, except in the fine print of the final boarding pass, is the 6€ per day per person tip mentioned that it is not negotiable. Perhaps in advertisements it is mentioned, but never that it cannot be argued with in the case you don't agree that the service warrants it- like all other cruise line packages. So there, if you understand a finer point, you see that the tips should be added to the cruise price - making it a less competitively package. Thus, it's false advertising. Perhaps here, I'd like to point out that Vacations To Go lists that the charges are negotiable, perhaps out of ignorance. All that aside, the cruise was pleasant, inside cabin small but well appointed and serviced. Regarding the ship in general, it is decorated to the hilt, however, it has few interesting public spaces, with deck 5 serving as a main public space with a host of lounges of differing venues. But, just as with the food, attitude, excursions, etc. these offer little value as they are overcrowded, or sometimes just dead due to lack of interest or talent. The spectacles in the theater were saved from embarrassment by a quartet of fairly talented Chinese acrobats. Without these, take a star off Costa. Actually - I give it a 2 star rating, and have had better food, entertainment, and service on 3 star ships, like the Louis Magesty. Regarding the casino, just forget it as the pay offs on the slot machines were non-existent; you could easy drop 50€ per 1/2 hour play on almost straight loses. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We started our Viking River "Cities of Light" cruise four days early by visiting friends in Western France trekking all Brittany and the Normandy Coast. Then on to Paris for the official start of the tour. The Paris Pullman ... Read More
We started our Viking River "Cities of Light" cruise four days early by visiting friends in Western France trekking all Brittany and the Normandy Coast. Then on to Paris for the official start of the tour. The Paris Pullman Tour Eiffel hotel we checked in to was delightful. The rooms were large, the beds comfortable, the food excellent and the service superb. We spent two days seeing the sights of Paris (we had been there many times before) and this beautiful city again didn't fail us. Then on to Trier to board our ship Viking Fontane to begin our true river tour. What a WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE!!! The stateroom was excellent, the food magnificent, the wines with meals excellent, and the crew service was without peer. The Viking crew never failed to amaze with their willingness to cater to our needs and their cheerful demeanor. The itinerary sailing the Mosel to the Rhine to the Main to the Danube Canal to Nuremberg and then on by motor coach to Prague was well selected and filled with places to see and things to do. Sailing at night from port to port that left days filled with walking tours of German cities like Cochem, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Wurzberg, Bamberg, was enervating as well as enabling us not the gain the weight we normally might have eating all of the wonderful shipboard fare! Even the breakdown on the bus ride to Prague we fun -- we spent the time exploring a local industrial park and found "Hans" and "Fritz," two German Shepherd guard dogs who didn't appreciate our arrival. Arrival in Prague was late but our rooms at Prague Hilton were ready and were of the same high quality as those in Paris. We decided to extend our trip by three days and found Prague to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We changed our hotel to the Best Western Prague Palace and would recommend this hotel to any who visit Prague. The view out our window was the Presidential Palace and St. Vitus cathedral lit beautifully at night. This small, intimate hotel with its lovely lounge, dining room and lobby is made even more wonderful by the service and smiles of its employees. Roman the Bell Captain would make any guest's experience a comfortable and happy one! In all aspects this tour and Viking River Cruises are "bucket list" experiences. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2010
When Volcanic ash stopped air traffic to and from Europe, we were on Uniworld's River Baroness sailing from Paris to Normandy and back on the Seine. Since our flight home had been cancelled, it was an easy decision to repeat the week, ... Read More
When Volcanic ash stopped air traffic to and from Europe, we were on Uniworld's River Baroness sailing from Paris to Normandy and back on the Seine. Since our flight home had been cancelled, it was an easy decision to repeat the week, again aboard the River Baroness as we so enjoyed the initial week. It is difficult to describe how wonderfully managed the cared for this boat really is. The crew is great in every way. Caring, warm, friendly, and never, ever did I see or detect an "attitude". They work hard but do not complain and are eternally cheerful. One can't think of a better place to be for two weeks and that is without talking about the scenery, tours, and all of the other wonderful things that go on on this itinerary. It is truly a memorable trip which includes Paris, the Normandy Beaches and the American Cemetery, a visit to Giverny and Monet's home and famous gardens, a stop at Honfleur, where Impressionists often painted, and two days in Rouen, a beautiful city with many interesting attractions, great shopping, and excellent restaurants. All that in a week? What could be better...two weeks! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2009
Paris to Normandy Trip Report We were docked at Port de Javel Bas, Pier Quai Andre Citroen, by Citroen Park with it's tethered balloon ride (good landmark). I arrived at the River Baroness at 10 am and since check in was 1:00 - ... Read More
Paris to Normandy Trip Report We were docked at Port de Javel Bas, Pier Quai Andre Citroen, by Citroen Park with it's tethered balloon ride (good landmark). I arrived at the River Baroness at 10 am and since check in was 1:00 - 1:30, I headed out walking along the Seine until I reached the Eiffel Tower - 40 minutes with photo stops. The first part of the walk is a little commercial, but the rest is very pretty. You walk right by the French Statue of Liberty and get a great close-up of the statuary on the bridges. From the Eiffel Tower I walked through the Parc du Champs de Mars until I was in front of Ecole Militaire, and then headed left for a few blocks until I came to Rue Cler. This is a fantastic pedestrian area - oh the smells of cheese and pastries. A man was playing delightful music on a hand organ and the sidewalk cafes were full. After a few blocks I made a left on Rue St. Dominique, right on Avenue Bosquet, and came to Pont de l'Alma. I crossed the bridge on the left hand side and came to the torch (replica of Statue of Liberty's) which is situated over the tunnel where Princess Di was killed. On the wall around the little plaza where the torch is, folks have written their sentiments. Back over the bridge and back to the ship - 3 hours in all. Let me mention that if I had been too tired for the walk back there is an RER station right at the beginning of the bridge, and a ticket agent there where you can buy metro tickets if you haven't purchased them from reception on the ship. Take the RER to Blvd. Victor and you will be very close to the riverboat. It's the C line. Very easy - we did it the last day from the Musee d'Orsay station. Checked in and found we were upgraded to cabin 137- our original "least expensive category" cabin (109) was being used as an adjunct to the laundry room. The cabins have three small drawers in the closet, a huge drawer under each bed, shelves next to the beds and over them. You get rather cumbersome, heavy keys for the room. The safe is a combination requiring 4 numbers. There were two bottles of water, and a large glass carafe to refill them, but to refill the carafe cost 2 Euros, so we just filled the bottles from the "patio" where there was coffee of all kinds, including cappuccino, hot water for tea, hot chocolate, an ice machine, and water. Also there were always pitchers of water and sweet and unsweetened iced tea. Those up before the scheduled time for breakfast were invited to help themselves to a beverage and pastries. Across from this area was the one computer. Since something went askew with their billing on the computer, we could use it or personal laptops free all week. Usually costs 5 Euro an hour! I headed for the deck and 74 degree sunny weather where the friendly passengers for this cruise were already meeting each other and toasting our good fortune to be on this fabulous trip! Our wonderful cruise manager named Tony held briefings every night, gave us the predicted temperature for the next day, organized everything, wrote up everything for the bulletin board, etc. After the embarkation talk on deck there was a briefing in the lounge describing our next day in Les Andelys. There would be 4 groups walking the 20 minutes uphill to the ruins of Chateau-Guillard and one bus for those with difficulty walking. This company utilizes Vox technology, so you take a unit every time you get off the ship, attach it to the earpiece which you keep, and you can hear the tour guide beautifully, even when wandering away to take pictures. You turn the units back in along with the boarding card given when you leave the ship, at the end of every tour. The boarding cards have cabin numbers on them, so they know everyone is back onboard. Evenings we had either local entertainment or Laszlo who took the whole trip with us and played piano for tea and most evenings. We didn't get French lessons or play French trivia as mentioned by another poster. They must have had another Cruise Manager. There is a game and book section of the lounge and I saw many take advantage of that, although we felt we were kept busy enough! Also small newsletters for USA, British, Australian and Canadian passengers. I had difficulty sleeping that first night. The twin beds are narrow, and the duvet was heavy and kept falling off the bed! You can request a regular sheet and blanket if it bothers you, but I stuck with it for the week. Then, finally asleep, at 4:30 the alarm in the room went off - apparently left on by the previous inhabitants. After pushing all the buttons and finally getting it to shut off, in five minutes on it came again - I must have pushed the snooze - so out came the batteries, and I was never able to set it correctly since the clock didn't match the instructions in the info in the room. I had a travel alarm with me though, and one particularly early start we had a wake-up call, too. So that misty first morning I was on deck at 7:30. We were docked right in the town and the Chateau was easily visible at the top of the cliff. I took a delightful stroll through the charming little town of Petit Andely taking pictures, and got back as the groups were forming for the tour. After a short tour of the little village including the old church, Eglise Saint Sauveur built in 1202, and the half-timbered houses, we started up. It was a tough uphill climb, but we stopped frequently to catch our breath. Unfortunately a woman in another group badly broke her leg coming down, and the ambulance and first aid workers had to take her to a hospital. Lunch was 12:30 - 2:00 in the restaurant, or you could have a light lunch in the lounge with live piano music by Laszlo the very talented pianist. Took another walk in town and then attended a lecture at 2 o'clock on the Impressionists by a guest speaker. We enjoyed time on the deck as we sailed for Rouen. Every day there was tea time around 4 o'clock with piano music, but we only stopped by a few times for a tiny sandwich or dessert. We were having such nice weather we preferred to be on deck and have a drink there. Such a different experience from a riverboat trip I took in May one year when, because of rain, I only got to sit out once, and it was cool and drizzly at that! We dressed up a little since this was the Captain's Welcome dinner. All the men I saw had on jackets and ties, and the women were very nicely dressed, including some long skirts. On this ship everyone dressed nicely for dinner every night! At 6:30 was the welcome drink (champagne) in the lounge, followed by a Port talk and crew introduction. By 7:00 we were seated at the Captain's Table, an unexpected treat. We had a delicious dinner followed by an after-dinner drink courtesy of the captain, of Calvados, a rather strong brandy-like drink made from cider. By then we were docked in Rouen. We left the ship, turned right and up the steps and straight across the street. Within a few blocks we came across the Cathedral bathed in light, although the light show that had been going on all summer had ended several days before. This is a breathtaking sight. No wonder Monet was entranced by this Cathedral of Rouen. We walked around for awhile before making our way back to the ship and music and dancing in the lounge. The next morning after a great buffet breakfast (specials each morning included such treats as a pancake, a waffle, eggs Benedict, etc.), and always omelets made to order, we picked up our Vox unit and found our tour leader. Up the steps and across the street, and we were back at the Cathedral of Notre Dame for a thorough tour inside. There was bombing damage both from the Germans and the Allies, but one chapel survived intact. Inside are 16th century stained glass windows, 14th century statues. Richard the Lionheart has his heart in a tomb there. Outside we saw the carving of the apparently famous "Philosophical Sow". This Cathedral has the highest spire in France. We then walked through the streets admiring the half-timbered houses, some houses leaning, some windows crooked! We learned that for tax reasons houses were built with an overhanging construction because they were only taxed on the size of the house at street level. Unfortunately, the city caught on and they were outlawed after 1520. We then entered what was the fortified city of Rouen under a big astronomic clock. From there we walked through the old market square where fresh fruits, vegetables and meat were being sold. Beyond that was Joan of Arc Church fronted by the Cross of Rehabilitation erected after her exoneration. We headed back to the ship for lunch, and then we walked back into Rouen on our own. Unfortunately we didn't turn left when we should have, and wandered for hours outside of the old city. Eventually though we found the area around Joan of Arc. We bought scarves along the way, and two bottles of wine from a grocery store. Important: take the map provided at the reception desk for each city! We made it back in time for Tony's lecture on Normandy and a tour overview at 4:30. At 6:30 he continued with a Port Talk about the beaches of Normandy. All the Canadians on board were asked to be on Bus 3 because they would have a stop at Juno. We had a French dinner that evening complete with escargots and Beef Bourguignon. The other entrEe choices were mussels from Normandy and as always a vegetarian dish. If nothing appealed, every night there was also steak or chicken. In the lounge that night was a local entertainer Monsieur Philippe de Nemours who sang and played keyboard. The Normandy day starts early - we were to be on the buses at 8 am. After 1 ½ hour ride and one comfort stop, we were at Gold Beach where the British invaded. We could see the Mulberries (breakwaters) there that were towed in to form a harbor. Next stop was Arromanches for lunch. We ate at a table next to a stand - I had a ham & cheese (jambon and fromage) baguette and a cider. Money wasn't provided for this lunch, although other posters mentioned it was. Guess that changed. Then it was on to the American Cemetery which is a U.S. territory. At the entrance, we were each given a flower to lie at a grave of our choice. We walked through and picked our graves and then walked to the Memorial Chapel. Beyond it is the other half of the cemetery - so many young lives. We then walked along and at the bluff, saw where the soldiers who landed at Omaha Beach finally made their way up to land. Steep! From there I went to the Museum and saw the film and then went to the Wall of the Missing. Next stop was Omaha beach which is only 1/3 of the size it was on D-Day. I walked on the beach and filled three small bottles with sand. There is a beautiful steel sculpture there. The final stop was Pont du Hoc where the Texas Rangers climbed the steep cliffs to get the German gunners. You could see the bunkers and the bomb craters. It was suggested we go to the far viewing platform and notice the curve of the land. Apparently, the cliffs are deteriorating and falling into the sea. We drove directly back to the ship arriving at 6:30 to hot chocolate and warm face towels, and the ship sailed at 6:45 for Caudebec. The weather wasn't the usual cold and windy at the beaches, but beautifully warm with very little breeze. So although the hot chocolate was delicious, cold iced tea might have been better that day! At 7:00 Tony held a port talk in the lounge and at 7:30 dinner was served. I had the roasted lamb for dinner that night, although everything, including the vegetarian, was tempting. The desserts were wonderful, too! We had a good time in the lounge after dinner with Laszlo at the keyboard. Coaches left for Honfleur at 8:30 and it took about an hour. Interesting ride past thatched roofed houses with irises planted on top. After the walking tour that included Sainte-Catherine church we had a choice of staying there and going back by bus at 3:15. We opted to stay although it was the only misty, drizzly day. It's a charming town, often painted by the Impressionists, and still populated by many artists painting along the banks. We enjoyed just walking around. First we headed for the Eugene Boudin museum because everything closes from 12 - 2 there - I guess in most of the towns. Found a sidewalk cafe called Le Marin along the Vieux Bassin and fortuitously took a table against the restaurant. When the rain came we stayed dry! My friend had the best mussels she has ever had. They came in a big pot, and were in a cream sauce. I had a Croque Monsieur . By the way, your ticket to the Musee Eugene-Boudin also entitles you to go into the Clock Tower of Sainte-Catherine. We were back early enough to check out Notre Dame de Caudebec before the 6 pm sail-away to Vernon. After a drink of the day (White Russian) and Tony's port talk about Giverny, we went to dinner and were joined by two couples from Australia. More great choices - desserts: Normandy style apple tart with Calvados custard, bourbon vanilla ice cream and whipped cream OR Chocolate and Mocha ice cream with eggnog, caramelized walnuts and whipped cream. Decisions, decisions! Left for Giverny at 9 am Friday. Seems like the schedule changed, unfortunately, and instead of the Riverboat heading to Port of Mantes la Jolie where the Giverny tours would return for lunch onboard, the ship stayed in Vernon. That meant sailing to Mantes after lunch, the Versailles group meeting us there, no time to spend in Conflans-Ste-Honorine as indicated in the tour itinerary, and a very long sail to Paris, arriving too late to stay up to see the lights of the City. I loved seeing the small towns, and had really looked forward to time in Conflans. As it was, I got 30 minutes in Vernon - just time for a church visit and a little bit of shopping. But Giverny. . . what a beautiful place. We started in the water garden where the famous bridge over the lily pond is. Then walked to the gardens surrounding the house. The gardens were reconstructed from Monet's paintings, and with the advice of a gardener who was still alive when the renovation was being done. This was only done in the 1980's. After touring the house on our own we could spend an hour in the gardens, go back to the water garden, go to the gift shop, or walk up the street to the Impressionist Museum. If you make a left on the Rue de Monet outside the gift shop exit you will come to a cafe for a coffee, and a few gift shops. Further along is the Impressionist Museum which also has lovely gardens. You get a discount with the Monet House ticket, but I just enjoyed being among the flowers and the sunshine! Then it was back to the bus, and to Vernon and lunch onboard After the folks going to Versailles left at 1:30, we left Vernon for a lovely, long afternoon on the ship, spent mostly on the deck, with some commentary by Tony, until we reached the Port of Mantes la Jolie. We weren't permitted off the boat and just waited there for the buses to come in from Versailles. Then it was off for Paris and the Captain's farewell reception followed by the disembarkation briefing and port talk. Dinner was served at 7:00 pm and we had French entertainment with Jean-Louis and Marie in the Lounge. Everyone enjoyed them, and there was a lot of dancing! Saturday morning after breakfast the City Tour started around 9 am. We had two stops, one at the Place du Tracadero to view the Eiffel Tower, and the second at Jardin du Luxembourg a huge park with a lot of activity, children's playground, tennis courts, bocce courts, etc. It was also a rest stop. We saw a great deal of Paris from the bus and it was a good orientation for those who hadn't been before or were staying on for a few days. Tickets for the Musee d'Orsay were available at the reception desk of the ship, and in the interest of time, we bought them as well as metro tickets. The bus made one stop at the d'Orsay before going back to the ship for lunch. We had a quick bite at a little cafe by the museum, and then were able to skip the line and go right in the entrance for those with tickets. Well worth the 1 Euro surcharge. After an hour exploring mostly the Impressionist collection, we left and went over the nearby pedestrian bridge to the Right Bank. We walked through the Tuileries Garden another lovely park. Following Cruise Critic advice, we tried to find the Arc du Carrousel entrance to the Louvre, but no luck - maybe we should have tried it from the Rue de Rivoli. We did go downstairs and were under the pyramid. Following billet signs we bought our entrance tickets at the Virgin store, and paid a surcharge. But, still, we were pressed for time, so I guess it was worth not waiting on the line outside. Once inside, there are signs pointing the direction to see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Winged Victory is in front of you as you actually get into the museum. Confusing, but if you go in downstairs, look for the salon you want (I had the Rick Steve's map from the internet) and take that escalator. We spent an hour there, of course seeing a lot of art on our way to both masterpieces. From there we walked through Ile de la Cite having crossed a pedestrian bridge to get there, stopped at a cafe for a soda, and then came upon Notre Dame. The line looks long to get in, but it only takes 5 - 10 minutes and is free. After walking around inside, we walked around the back to see the buttresses and more gargoyles. We crossed the bridge to the Left Bank, and got Line C of the RER at the Musee d'Orsay stop in the direction of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. I hadn't noticed the flyer at reception giving very good instructions on using the Paris Metro to get to the River Baroness. It may not have been out in the morning. Do take their map of Paris which will be at reception in the morning. There were two optional excursions in the afternoon, one to the Louvre, and the second put together by Cruise Manager, Tony for a Seine Cruise. He arranged for a bus to take folks to the boat for a ride on the Seine past all the major sights. Tickets for the boat were available for 10 Euro, cash only for the boat. Since we were trying to see more of Paris, and particularly the d'Orsay I thought we'd buy the tickets later and use the RER or Metro to get there for a night cruise, but that didn't work out as I had worn my friend out running around Paris all afternoon! We did go on deck for the Eiffel Tower "show" at 9:00 pm. Overall this was one of the best trips I've ever been on in terms of itinerary, fellow passengers, tour leaders, Uniworld staff, and food. Tony confirmed all our flights for us, arranged for the transfers to the airport. We had early afternoon flights so our van left a 10:00 o'clock. Our bags had to be out by 8 am and we had to be out of the cabin by then. But we were free to stay aboard, use any public room, plus the deck, and of course eat breakfast. I'd recommend this cruise to anyone, and envy those 50 or so from our cruise that were on the Grand France tour and headed out Sunday morning for a cruise of Southern France. Maybe next time! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
The company we chose was Uniworld - based on recommendations from friends and some special 'last minute' discounts for cruises starting in September. The 17-day cruise we eventually signed up for was on the "River ... Read More
The company we chose was Uniworld - based on recommendations from friends and some special 'last minute' discounts for cruises starting in September. The 17-day cruise we eventually signed up for was on the "River Princess" from Paris to Vienna, including 2 nights in a hotel in Paris at the start, the coach transfer from Paris to Trier where the 'river' part began, and the 15 nights on the 'boat' (this is the term Uniworld uses for its vessels, and I will do likewise). This boat can accommodate a maximum of 136 passengers. The cruise passed through four rivers - the Mosel, Rhine, Main and Danube, and one canal - the Main-Danube canal built as recently as 1992. In summary, we couldn't have asked for more! Uniworld claims to be a "boutique" operation, and while there is no ready definition of what this means, they really lived up to our expectations of personal service and catering to individual needs - which the big ocean cruise lines cannot possibly match - or even come close to. If you want to find out the details which led us to this conclusion, please read on. Staterooms: Definitely smaller than on an ocean cruiser, but all the basics were there and the quality of the beds, sheets, duvets and towels couldn't have been better. The toiletries provided were from L'Óccitane and the shower mixer was thermostatically controlled (a step up from the common hot/cold mixers which never seem to be able to maintain a constant temperature). There were five categories of staterooms starting from Cat 1 to Cat 5 and included 4 suites. All staterooms were the same size (except for the suites) and the main difference was deck level and the size of the window - ranging from a shoulder high narrow window on Cat 4 and 5, to a floor to ceiling picture window in Cat 1. We had a Cat 4 stateroom on the lowest deck and did not hear any engine noise or vibration, and hardly felt any movement. The only 'disturbance' came from fellow passengers having noisy conversations in the passage way! Facilities: The boat had excellent facilities including a laundry (you pay only for the detergent), a fitness centre with a sauna and 3 exercise machines (didn't seem to be used much, especially considering the amount of pastries consumed!), free bicycles for riding at each port, a well-equipped and reasonably priced shop, and 24-hour coffee and tea. Internet: The most popular service on the boat seemed to be the on-board internet. The charge was very reasonable - €20 for unlimited use over 14 days. Having signed up, you could use either one of the boat's two terminals or log-in with your laptop using WiFi. The WiFi was only available at the front of the ship and not from staterooms. This is probably the only service that could be improved - the speed of the internet connection was consistently slow and often unreliable. While being able to provide any internet at all on a moving vessel is commendable - considering the difficult terrain, frequent entry into locks, passing under bridges, and passage through some almost uninhabited stretches of river - there were times when even in the middle of cities, the internet was down. The boat seemed to rely on satellite links for the data connection; perhaps, a combination of 3G and satellite may bring about an improvement, since our GSM mobile phones always had a good signal. Extending WiFi coverage to all the cabins and improving the speed and reliability of internet will be a worthwhile investment for the company. Entertainment: The on-board musician Fredy provided excellent music in the evenings and the small dancing area was frequently occupied. He had an excellent repertoire from waltz, to rumba, to fast and furious disco and rock. On some 4 occasions a local musician came on board for a short performance. They were all good and gave Fredy a well earned break - and the passengers some variety. On one evening, I hasten to add, when the ship was docked for the night, the Captain assisted Fredy with some good Satchmo imitations. Excursions: At every city or town visited (including Paris) there was some kind of included tour - making a total of 15. Often it was a walking tour, sometimes a bus tour, and once a wine-tasting expedition. Each tour was allocated a specialist local expert guide - and all tours included the use of a Quietvox receiver for each participant - which meant that every word was heard. The guides, without exception, were all very knowledgeable, and the majority spoke good English. These 'íncluded' tours sometimes involved a fee, which Uniworld always paid. In addition to the included tours, Uniworld offered some 'optional' tours which had to be paid for. There was no pressure at all to join these and some passengers only did 2 or 3. We joined two of these optionals - and they were really fantastic value for money. For instance, there was a concert at the Kusalon, Vienna, on the last night which cost €49 each and this amount included return transport by coach, entry ticket to the concert, and a glass of wine during the intermission. The return coach journey back to the boat was diverted to include a mini Vienna-by-night tour to re-visit some of the city's main sights at night. To top it off, on return to the boat there was a lovely cup of hot goulash soup and a bread roll waiting! It was touches like this that made us very appreciative of Uniworld's policy of never cutting corners, and instead of adding many extra small but generous touches throughout the journey. Cruise Manager: We all know what a difference the experience, knowledge, dedication, and passion of the CM contributes to the experience. The CM on our cruise was Piet who not only excelled in all these departments but also had a cheeky sense of humour! He took it upon himself to be ever present on all the tours and was never impatient with the many questions and difficult situations that arose. For example, when a passenger developed a severe eye infection, he not only arranged for the passenger to be seen by a doctor and an eye specialist at the next port - but also went along to act as interpreter during the consultations. Whenever the boat traversed an area with some historical or other significance, he was always in the wheel-house giving a commentary. Meals: In the restaurant, Uniworld again proved they had every right to call themselves 'boutique'. The breakfast buffet had a choice which was equivalent to a 5-star hotel. And every day there was a made-to-order specialty - on one day it was my all time breakfast favourite - Eggs Benedict (If this was a specially planned manoeuvre to hook this particular traveler - they certainly succeeded!). Wine was included with dinner - and it wasn't just basic wines - it was always high quality - according to some of the wine connoisseurs on board (I am sadly not a wine drinker). Seating was open plan - which meant you often shared a table with complete strangers. And by midway, you had established some good friends from the USA, Australia and Canada. Tipping: We have never been fans of the ocean cruise liners' policy of debiting your onboard account a set amount for gratuities (Carnival claimed the daily rate was set with the help of Amex??) and you were free either to lower or to increase by visiting the Purser's Desk at the end of the cruise. The Uniworld policy is to suggest some daily rates and then leave it to individual guests how much they contributed - in cash, and in two envelopes - one to be shared by the whole crew and the other for the CM. These envelopes were dropped into a box at reception on the last day; the whole process being quite anonymous. This is by far a fairer method but would probably favour those who wanted to sneakily opt out and not partake in this gesture of appreciation for a job well done. While I have no idea what the final outcome was on our cruise, there was much evidence of passengers passing folded notes to frontline staff in all departments in the last 2 days of the journey. Without exception, every staff member we came across showed genuine concern and went out of their way to meet our needs. For example, when it became known I only liked ice cream for dessert - it simply appeared in front of me at every meal - irrespective of what exotic dessert was on the menu. Timing: Deciding on how much time to spend at each port, whether to visit one or two places each day, whether to sail at night or by day, and at what time to leave a port, are some of the tricky decisions a river cruise operator has to make. Uniworld seems to have mastered this well. For instance, those parts of the river with scenic stretches - with important castles, or the vineyards of the Wachau valley - were traversed during the day, and at the ports that had some good nightlife (e.g. beer halls in Rudesheim) departure times allowed plenty of time for late night revelers to get back on board (e.g. at Rudesheim, the boat left at 1 a.m. and not at the usual time of 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.). This is another example of Uniworld putting the passengers' needs as the first priority. While it is hard to compare ocean and river cruises, there is definitely huge advantages in being on a small boat with a small number of fellow passengers - and having the thrill of being in a different place every day. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2009
We are home from a very enjoyable first river cruise. Thank you to all of the Cruise Critic Board members whose posts gave us the information we needed to plan our first river cruise. We have cruised ocean going vessels with passenger ... Read More
We are home from a very enjoyable first river cruise. Thank you to all of the Cruise Critic Board members whose posts gave us the information we needed to plan our first river cruise. We have cruised ocean going vessels with passenger sizes of 920 to several thousand. I was concerned that a very small ship with limited on board and evening activity options would not suit us. I was wrong. River cruising is an entirely different kind of cruising than ocean cruising. Obviously, there are no "sea days" (which we love), there are limited dining and entertainment options, but none of these things are disadvantages. To me, comparing the two types of cruising is truely an apples to oranges excercise. We now know that we love both. Ship: The River Princess was very nicely appointed. The cabins were well appointed. Comfortable bedding, wonderful linens, towels, bath amenities. The cabins were big enough to not feel crowded. One of the reasons I chose Uniworld was because of their advertised "hotel style" beds. In the past, we have resorted to bringing foam "egg crate" matress pads on a couple of ocean cruises (Celebrity and Princess) because of past experience with very uncomfortable bed. Comfortable beds have been a plus on Holland America and Crystal and I understand that more cruise lines are upgrading their matresses. As usual, a "queen" is actually the two twins arranged so they are together. Uniworld had an interesting European touch: Each "side" had its own wonderfully comfortable duvet covered comforter (no top sheet). No tugging of the blanket You can read many descriptions about the ship on Uniworld's site. Due to its size, everything was convenient. Stairs were mostly "half flights" arranged like a split level house. The cabin had a 110v outlet next to the bed - perfect for recharging the camera, cell phone, ipod, etc. The chocolates were WONDERFUL. The water carafe and water bottles (for use on shore) were very convenient. Water pressure was excellent. Our cabin had an easy to set alarm clock, but I was glad I had mine so I could set two alarms. Each cabin had a safe. We had two side chairs and a small table. There was good sound proofing between the cabins, something that has been a problem on some ocean cruises. The dining room was beautifully appointed with comfortable chairs (an important aspect of enjoying a leisurely meal). The lounge was a great place to relax, watch the scenery, listen to port talks, visit, etc. The upper deck was well enjoyed. It was a spectacular place to be. On our particular cruise, however, there were times that only a portion of it (in front of the wheelhouse) could be used because of low bridges. It is pretty cool to watch them lower the wheelhouse. The food: Very well done. We really enjoyed our leisurely dinners, which included unlimited wine (or beer). There was also a very nice, reasonably priced wine list, but the included wine was well selected and we never had the need to purchase a different bottle. Sometimes I would start with the white wine and switch to the red if that better suited my appetizer and entree choice. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style. As has been mentioned previously on this board, the dessert selections at lunch were fantastic. On several days, it made sense to eat lunch on shore (at our expense). I do wish we had chosen a to eat dinner on shore in Rudesheim, we found a lot of tempting menus when we disembarked, but we had just finished dinner on board. Instead, we had a wonderful Rudesheimer coffee at a beergarden and enjoyed ourselves greatly. The itinerary: WOW. I can't imagine a better itinerary, but I am looking forward to testing this in future years on future river cruises. We cruised the Mosel, Rhine, and Main rivers (and canal). Beautiful scenery, beautiful towns. We took all of the included walking and bus tours. I cannot give enough praise to Uniworld's organization, coordination and adaptablility. What a premium experience. The group sizes were small. We were usually divided into 5 groups, with one group specified for those who desired or needed a slower pace. One of our guides was average, all of the rest were fabulous; interesting, informative and engaging and exceeded our experience with non Uniworld guides. The Vox system for hearing our guides made the tours easier and more enjoyable (and allowed us to pay attention to what we wanted to linger over without missing any information from our guide or having the stress of "keeping up"). It was wonderful to just walk of the ship and get started. No lines, no waiting for tenders. Our cruise director, Wouter, was the best cruise director we have ever had. He looked after our very varied group with great skill, friendliness and even handedness. He made sure that everyone had and understood all of the information we needed to optimize our vacation experience. He treated us as a group of individuals, not as a "group". He is truly an accomplished travel professional. We enjoyed our two nights in Paris, explored a lot. We were not in the main hotel with most of the group (the Pullman). There were about 25-30 of us at Le Meridien Montparnasse. Both locations have their own advantages. The River Princess staff arranged for taxis (of course, at our expense, but what a convenience) on our disembarkation morning for those of us not taking the included transfer to the Nuremberg airport. We went to the train station and took the train to Munich and stayed there for 2 nights. That way we got to see another city and were able to get a direct flight to Atlanta, changing just once to get home. We had been completely spoiled by Uniworld though! We had a great time in Munich but we were "on our own" after having become quite accustomed to the Uniworld way We took the optional Bamberg Beer experience afternoon tour. Well worth it and what a fun time, particularly if you, like us, are beer and wurst lovers. Crew: One word: Wonderful! We enjoyed our first river cruise. Loved the casual atmosphere, the "port intensive" nature of the cruise. Sometimes, when we take an ocean cruise, we do it just to relax....the ship itself is our destination. Our river cruise on the River Princess was a great way to actually travel, to see and experience new things. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2009
Just returned  from a 13 day vacation on Avalon Scenery with 7 nite cruise, 2  nites in Paris, and 1 in Nice. Started in Paris with 2 nite stay at Le Meridian in Montparnese area.Nice rooms and close to Metro.Buffet breafast inc.Then ... Read More
Just returned  from a 13 day vacation on Avalon Scenery with 7 nite cruise, 2  nites in Paris, and 1 in Nice. Started in Paris with 2 nite stay at Le Meridian in Montparnese area.Nice rooms and close to Metro.Buffet breafast inc.Then on day 3 took a 3 hr. bus ride to Chalon du Sur on Saone River to board ship.They did stop for lunch at roadside restuarant with remarkably good food and facilities. The ship was spacious in cabin size, 170 sq.ft and it had a french balcony.The problem was it had a bad odor and lighting in bathroom was inadequate.Other passengers also complained about this and it did seem to get a little better after sailing.The food was average for breakfast with buffet,but coffee lukewarm.The lunch buffet was below average, little choice, food not warm enough and little choice for desserts.But dinner was better with more choices and taste was above average for most riverboats I ve been on.Ports of call inc. Avignon, wonderful city with Popes Palace to explore ,plus many cafes and shops.A wonderful train goes around town for 45 min.trip to get feel for city.Boat parked within 1 block of city entrance.Easy to see on your own,not necessary to join tour.Viviers was another lovely town, very old and historic areas.Went to a church were a wonderful organ recitial was held.Would have liked to stay longer, but only 3 hr.before ship left.Arles a great city, easy to walk around.Took bus ride to Nice, about 3 hrs.Stayed at Hotel Bosculo, nice rooms and great location.As far as entertainment, had it a2 nites on boat.A French singer and band called Gypsy Kings, nice but sort of hokey.Did have nightly dancing with piano bar.The people on board were all well traveled, professionals,,mostly 50 plus range.No facilities for children and would not bring them .The crew was very nice and fun,helpful,etc.Have been on many riverboats,but would not go on another Avalon because of above problems.                  Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2009
1) It's all inclusive - no nasty surprises. Luxury cabins, all meals, drinks, wine, transportation to and from private excursions/tours, equipment, EVERYTHING is included for one reasonable price.2) Our luxury suite just happened to ... Read More
1) It's all inclusive - no nasty surprises. Luxury cabins, all meals, drinks, wine, transportation to and from private excursions/tours, equipment, EVERYTHING is included for one reasonable price.2) Our luxury suite just happened to be located on the ship. Rather than us packing, unpacking and then repacking at a luxury resort every day - they move our resort for us! Talk about easy! You simply could not replicate this trip on dry land without spending a huge amount of money and spending most of your day traveling from one port to the next. And even then, finding restaurants and meals and equal accommodations, for all practical purposes, impossible. The canal barges are an excellent value for money deal.3) The entire crew was Johnny-on-the-spot eager (!) to help, answer questions, find answers and provide whatever our whims required. Want a major US newspaper delivered to your cabin door in the morning (even if the ship is miles from any major city)? Just ask ahead of time; out in the relaxed rural areas, the locals are very much less interested in stocking the LA Times daily. We asked for - and got - the papers of our choice. (It turns out the crew spent some time arranging delivery to a local shop, in the shop in the town we would b at the next morning. Then at first light a crew member would go out and retrieve the papers from the local shop. This feat is even more amazing as the local shops are not usually open at 5:30 AM. How the crew managed to pull of this trick day after day still amazes me.)The crew did not cease to amaze me in the care and feeding of the passengers. Can't eat grapefruit because of a medical concern? Let them know ahead of time, and if by magic, grapefruit disappears from the menu. The replacement, a large assortment of other fresh fruits, was available. The impressive part of this is that the chef very quietly took care of our diet needs in such a way as to be absolutely undetectable by any other passengers. Rather than pointing out a medical condition by serving one 'odd man out' meal, the entire menu was seamlessly adjusted so that everyone could fearlessly eat everything that came out of the kitchen. It's a small touch, but it means a lot.Our guide would meet us after breakfast and off we would go for another private tour (no line to wait in at all). Private wine tasting with the vintner himself? Check. Private tour of historical sites? Check. Time to explore small towns? Check. And all the while, our Guide was charming, funny and very informative.The entire (small) crew work hard and long to achieve, and retain, a very high level of service and comfort. They seemingly defy gravity in their efforts to meet passenger requests. These guys and gals earned their tips, and I gladly stuffed an envelope for their gratuity, for I was, and remain, grateful for all of their hard work. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
My husband and I traveled to Paris for our first river cruise aboard the Uniworld River Baroness in September of 2007. We have done many ocean cruises and were anxious to compare the experience. We arrived in Paris at around noon, got ... Read More
My husband and I traveled to Paris for our first river cruise aboard the Uniworld River Baroness in September of 2007. We have done many ocean cruises and were anxious to compare the experience. We arrived in Paris at around noon, got our luggage, and were immediately greeted by the Uniworld representative. We waited for a few other couples and were on our way to the ship. Once we arrived, they escorted us to our room - a category 1 cabin on the second floor. We knew our room was going to be smaller than on the big ocean ships, but it had everything we needed. There was a large picture window and nice bedding. They served a light lunch in the lounge area where we could relax after a long day of traveling. We loved the fact that you could step off the ship and be in the heart of Paris. We spent the afternoon strolling around Paris before our first dinner on the ship. We found the ship to be in excellent condition. The lounge was very comfortable and relaxing. It had a little library where they had information about some of the sights history of the area. Upstairs, they had a sundeck with nice chairs for viewing the scenery. There was also a glass enclosed area if it got windy, which they sometimes had to lower when we were going under a bridge. Downstairs was the dining room, which had nice windows as well. There was a tiny shop and exercise room as well on the first floor. The food was very good. Most nights there were a couple of appetizer choices, a soup which was always excellent, two or three choices of entrees, and a couple of delicious dessert choices. They also had a nightly cheese buffet that we enjoyed sampling. There were a couple of times where neither of the entrEe choices appealed to us. Once, I ordered an entrEe portion of the appetizer which they cheerfully brought. They also always had steak or chicken on the menu which my husband tried once. On the Captain's nights, they had even more courses which they just kept bringing out. They dishes were beautifully presented and very good. We enjoyed the open seating where we could meet new people or choose to dine with folks we had gotten to know through the cruise. As much as we liked the dinner, we thought the buffets at breakfast and lunch were maybe even better. For breakfast, they had everything you could want including an omelet station. They also had a special of the day which was always excellent. Lunch was just as good, with wonderful salads, a carving station, sandwiches, their delicious soups, and of course very good desserts. Even though the itinerary had changed from the original plan, we still enjoyed it very much. We understand things happen when you travel and we felt Uniworld did their best to make things right. Instead of the evening boat tour of Paris that we were to have originally, they gave us a tour the next morning. My husband and I, along with another couple on the ship, decided we wanted to see things lit up at night anyway, so we took the metro to the Eiffel tower on the first night and did a boat tour on our own for 10 euros per person. Although it was nice to see things at night, we agreed that you could definitely see more in the morning, and we actually enjoyed it more then. We thought the included tours were very well done. They broke you up into smaller groups so you didn't feel so overwhelmed. The voice boxes were also nice so that you could hear everything that the guide was saying. We are not big art fans, but we did enjoy learning more about the greats such as Van Gogh and Monet. We elected not to do the optional tours to The Louvre and Versailles, since we really enjoyed relaxing on the ship on the sun deck watching the world go by, and we did not want to cram too much into one day. My husband absolutely loved the visit to Normandy and is still talking about it. My favorite was Honfleur, a darling little fishing village. They gave us fifteen euros to have lunch in town that day, and we had a glorious time eating mussels and enjoying the water view. We thought the staff on this cruise was wonderful. Out cruise manager, A.J. was very funny and personable. Really, everyone from the front desk to the tour guides was very helpful. For example, I asked for a copy of the daily menus on the first day of the cruise so that I could bring them home. They told me they would copy them every day and have them at the end for me. I thought I might have to remind them, but there they were on the last evening laying on the bed in a nice folder. One of the things that could be improved upon was the entertainment. Every night, there was a port talk and a mini French lesson given by the cruise director before dinner. After dinner, they did have a lounge type singer on a couple of nights and a French trivia game at the end, but that was pretty much it. Many nights, we strolled back into town to go into the internet cafe or walk off our dinners, but we might have stayed onboard if they had anything going, such as maybe a movie in the lounge. Not a major deal for us, though. Before we left we wondered about the clientele, considering we are in our mid forties. It turns out we very much enjoyed our company onboard. Although most of the folks who took this cruise were older (there was one other couple that was our age), they were all mobile, well traveled, and very interesting people. In summary, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise onboard the River Baroness. We would highly recommend Uniworld and this itinerary. We are looking forward to sailing with them again soon. Read Less

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise