S.S. Maria Theresa Entertainment & Activities
In common with all river vessels, entertainment is fairly low-key. The heart of the vessel is the plush Habsburg Salon on the Hofburg Deck, where passengers can relax throughout the day. Decor is in blue tones, with a collection of small tables and chairs in the center and more substantial armchairs and sofas with coffee tables on the perimeter. It features a full-service bar, and waiters also serve a variety of teas and coffee drinks that include Americanos, lattes and cappuccinos.
Each night before dinner, the cruise director holds a short briefing here. Depending on the day's program of excursions, talks are also held related to the itinerary. There might be an expert on the local art, a lecturer discussing Germany in the 20th century or one exploring the region of Bavaria. The ship's pastry chef also presented a session on making apple strudel -- and served up the result. A resident onboard pianist and singer perform before and after dinner, and also at teatime. There's a small dance floor, which didn't see much use on our cruise. Throughout the voyage, entertainers come onboard to showcase local music, song and dance. On one cruise, this included a talented classical trio of violinists and a pair of dancers who performed the Viennese waltz.
On a much smaller scale, the Leopard Bar is a bright spot to read during the day and enjoy a cocktail in the evening. Located aft on the Hofburg Deck, it takes its name from the animal-print carpets, upholstery and imposing leopard sculptures. There's a small bar, with four seats, but the majority of the space is filled with banquets and armchairs with glass-topped tables. Shelves are stacked with a good choice of books -- novels and guidebooks on the countries visited during the cruise -- plus playing cards and board games, including Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit. Four wrought-iron tables with chairs can be found just outside the bar, for relaxing on deck on nice days. Expert bartenders are on hand to mix classic cocktails that have been given a Uniworld twist, such as the Flat White Martini made with Baileys, espresso coffee, milk and a dash of sugar, and the River Cosmo, which includes vodka, triple sec, pineapple and cranberry. If your favorite tipple isn't on the list, the talented bar team will mix it in an instant.
If you don't want to watch films in your cabin, the 10-seat Lippizan Cinema on the Bavarian Deck is a cozy venue with deep-blue velvet banquette seating and walls adorned with old film posters. Passengers can settle down to enjoy classic films, complete with a bowl of popcorn. There are generally screenings every morning, afternoon and evening.
Most shore excursions are included. Led by local guides, they make use of Quietvox portable audio headsets (stored and recharged in cabin closets) so passengers don't have to cluster around the guide in order to hear. There's almost always a choice of at least two excursions at each destination, and walking tours always have a "gentle walkers" group, to accommodate slow-movers. Groups are always small, so you don't feel like you're in a herd -- especially nice at museums. In general, there is one general excursion offering targeted to folks who haven't visited the destination before and one for returnees. The latter are often "Do as the Locals Do" experiences, which might include a walking tour to visit local markets or a "village day," where you meet local craftspeople. The ship carries a dozen bicycles, and other more active shore excursions use them or include hikes. In some instances, there will be a "Choice Is Yours" option, where groups are split up even further into different interests to try watercolor painting, visit a brewery or go on a vineyard walk and tasting.
S.S. Maria Theresa Services
The cruise director and concierge desks are located opposite the reception desk on the middle Schonbrunn Deck.
Unusual for a river vessel, there is a passenger laundry on the lower deck, equipped with three Miele washers and dryers -- particularly useful for people on a two-week itinerary. There is also laundry service, including pressing and ironing, with clothing returned within 24 hours. This is free for passengers in suites, with a charge for those in other staterooms. No dry-cleaning is available.
There's no computer room, but complimentary WiFi is available throughout the ship. The signal is generally very good in port, but it can be patchy or nonexistent in certain areas, such as locks. It's also possible to access the Internet via the in-room keyboard and TV.
There's no onboard boutique, but display cases on several decks offer jewelry, upmarket items like fine watches, Mont Blanc pens, Lacoste bags and Polo shirts for sale. To make a purchase, check with reception.
An elevator serves the Bavarian, Schonbrunn and Hofburg Decks, with an additional individual seated elevator that glides up the portside stairway to the Durer Sun Deck.
S.S. Maria Theresa Outside Recreation
On fine days the Durer Sun Deck is a lovely area to relax, read, enjoy a cup of coffee and simply watch the world float past. You'll find 70 loungers with individual sun shades, 15 tables for four and a smoking area aft with three tables. This is the only spot where smoking is allowed onboard. The deck, which runs the length of the ship, is clad in brown carpet designed to mimic wooden planks, and in one area there's a giant checkers board. Many of the loungers are shaded by the two large canopies, but could be shifted to be in full sun. There are also six large umbrellas, which can be raised to shade the tables. Cozy blankets are provided for cool weather.
The Bohemian Terrace is a small outside area on the upper Hofburg Deck, just fore of the lounge, with five white wrought iron tables and chairs that seat four and two tables that seat two.
In good weather, a variety of gentle early morning classes, such as stretching and yoga, are held daily on the Sun Deck (or in the Habsburg Salon on colder days). Water aerobics are also offered in the pool, and the Wellness Trainer also leads hikes and bike rides. The ship carries Nordic walking poles and a dozen bicycles.