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33 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
A few years after my wife and I had a very positive experience on a Uniworld River Cruise ' we did Amsterdam to Budapest on the Rhine and the Danube on the River Princess in 2008 ' we decided to try it again, this time on ... Read More
A few years after my wife and I had a very positive experience on a Uniworld River Cruise ' we did Amsterdam to Budapest on the Rhine and the Danube on the River Princess in 2008 ' we decided to try it again, this time on Russia's waterways linking Moscow to St. Petersburg. Uniworld has only one ship running this schedule ' the River Victoria ' and you can either choose to go from Moscow to St. Pete's or the reverse. In its brochure, Uniworld warns would be customers that since they don't own the ship and are not in total control of how some of the activities are conducted, travelers may find that the amenities 'may differ from those of a Uniworld company-owned ship'. Our experience from this cruise, however, is that in terms of comfort and services, the River Victoria meets and even surpasses the levels of comfort and quality of services on other cruise ships. For one, the River Victoria is considerably larger than most cruise ships on the Rhine and Danube ' there are no low bridges to deal with on the Russian waterways ' which provides more comfort and room to move around (for example, the tables in the dining room are not so tightly packed on the River Victoria); the ratio of staff to guests is almost double on the River Victoria compared to the other Uniworld cruise ships (110 staff to 202 guests on the River Victoria vs. 41 staff to 130 guests on the other ships). This, of course, reflects on the level of service provided. The staterooms are not larger on the River Victoria than on the other ships, but where there is a difference is that on the two upper decks, the Volga and the Neva, the staterooms come with oversized (about 12 x 8 ft) private balconies. These balconies were originally part of the public decks and were divided up into private balconies when the ship was remodeled in 2011. It is hard to imagine a cruise that would offer better food in terms of variety and taste than what was provided for us on the River Victoria ' we were even served caviar and Champagne for breakfast! It is true that many of the menu items are prepared with plenty of cream, which is great for the palate, but perhaps not so great for the rest of the body ' but it's only for two weeks! The quality of the service in the dining room is also worth noting. The staff is made up of young Russian college students who are mostly studying languages; they are well trained, always very polite and extremely keen to provide the best service possible. They seemed to work 24 hours a day but they were always smiling and very cordial. As for the cruise itself, spending three days visiting the two mega cities at each end, Moscow and St. Petersburg, certainly makes the entire trip worthwhile. However, guests should not expect the same spectacular scenery along the Imperial Waterways of Russia that one finds along the Rhine or the Danube. Northern Russia is flat and mostly undeveloped with a relatively low population density. The waterways run mostly through pristine forest with little sign of human activity. There are a few villages along the way but most are uninteresting and appear rather run down. There are a few exceptions, including the city of Yaroslavl on the Volga and Kizhi Island on Lake Onega. These are real gems; both places are important historical centers with spectacular architecture, including colourful onion-domed churches, and represent the two most interesting shore excursions along the waterways. The other three stops, Uglich, Kirillov and Mandrogi, are interesting but not nearly as attractive as the two mentioned above. Some visitors regard Mandrogi as a tourist trap due to the large number of souvenir shops, while others complain about the rainy weather that often prevails here as well as the abundance of mosquitoes. We were blessed with perfect weather on the day we went and not a single mosquito (this was in late August which may be the best time to go to avoid the bugs). I should add that the tour guides, all Russians, were very knowledgeable about the history and other facets of what they were guiding us through. All spoke English well and with the Quietvox Transmitter System provided, it was very easy to follow what was going on even at a distance. In addition to the numerous cruise ships that sail these waterways ' cruise ships that all look alike, at least on the outside ' you will see many other types of ships including tankers and bulk carriers. These waterways constitute a major commercial artery linking the Baltic and St. Petersburg with Moscow and all the cities and towns along the Volga as far south as the Caspian sea. So, if you enjoy watching large ocean-going ships up close, it may compensate for the lack of great scenery.   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
We just returned (a few pounds heavier, and heads still spinning) from a fabulous experience on Uniworld's SS Antoinette from Amsterdam to Basel. Each and every crew member was pleasant, gracious, and on a mission to show the ... Read More
We just returned (a few pounds heavier, and heads still spinning) from a fabulous experience on Uniworld's SS Antoinette from Amsterdam to Basel. Each and every crew member was pleasant, gracious, and on a mission to show the guests a great time. The food was fabulous! There were sumptuous breakfast and lunch buffets and multi-course plated dinners with freely flowing wine. The ship is beautifully decorated and immaculately clean. There were a couple first-season technical glitches (TV system took a couple days to settle down), but one could tell that these issues were being actively addressed and didn't detract from the experience in any way. After all, who wants to watch television when around every bend in the river is another photo-op of a story-book castle? There is wifi available, but don't plan on heavy-duty internet access through the satelite system - particularly during heavy use periods. The only other thing of note is that the Rhine river level is lower due to lack of rain and we had to be bussed into two cities (approx 20 minutes) because the Antoinette wasn't able to go as fast in the low waters. No real issues or inconvenience at all. The cruise offered four optional tours (35-59 Euros PP each). Heidleberg and Marksburg were great and worth the price. Those who attended the optional Rudesheim Dinner reported that they really had a fun time. The tours guides were universally knowledgeable, kept a good pace, and were pleasant throughout. There are accommodations for those who had trouble keeping up the pace, while allowing them to have an enjoyable experience. Bring good walking shoes, a high-capacity memory card for pictures/videos, a small notebook to jot down interesting facts (and to correlate pictures with names of castles & churches), and I'd recommend buying the fold-out "Long Rhine Tour" (available at the front desk) to help identify the various locations as you cruise the castle stretch of the Rhine. There's just way too much to remember. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2011
We can't gush enough about the Antoinette and the service we received there. The staff was so helpful and friendly, including accommodating my husband's serious food allergy (the chef even baked my husband a cake for his ... Read More
We can't gush enough about the Antoinette and the service we received there. The staff was so helpful and friendly, including accommodating my husband's serious food allergy (the chef even baked my husband a cake for his birthday! first time he's ever been brought a cake and had waiters sing to him in a restaurant -- usually if he's going to have a cake, I have to bake it!). We were very comfortable in our cabin, and also really enjoyed playing board games in the pretty lounge, basking on the sun deck (the "Romantic Rhine" stretch of cruising with all the castles was really incredible), and swimming in the tiny pool (be warned that it is usually quite cold). We thought we'd be really excited about the movie theater, but we didn't want to see any of the movies being shown there. The food was great, especially the "epicurean dinner" night. We wished there were tables for 2, but had nice conversations with the other passengers who sat with us (at breakfast and lunch we were usually able to have a table to ourselves). The itinerary itself was not the big draw for us, the boat was. We did a lot of wandering on our own, and found Koblenz and Strasbourg to be the most interesting towns to see by walking around. Rudesheim was the least interesting of the places we stopped. The fitness center is small but nicely equipped, with an elliptical machine, a treadmill, a rowing machine, yoga mats, some free weights, a mysterious vibrating platform that confused me, and three stationary bikes, one recumbent. The ceiling is low and the treadmill is a bit tall, so people taller than me (I'm 5'9") would not be able to use it without bumping their heads! I don't see a place to add pictures to this review, but will post on the forum and link to pictures. We recommend taking a few days beforehand in Amsterdam and we found it easy to get to the boat on our own; however, arriving in Basel was a little difficult as we were taking the tram to the train station and the tram ticket dispenser wouldn't take paper bills, and it was hard to find a place to get change because everything is closed on Sundays. All in all, highly, highly recommended. We had an amazing time. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2011
Antoinette was on return leg of her maiden voyage from Basle to Amsterdam, weather was great & although we are seasoned cruisers we had never before considered a short river cruise. Our fellow passengers were mainly from USA & ... Read More
Antoinette was on return leg of her maiden voyage from Basle to Amsterdam, weather was great & although we are seasoned cruisers we had never before considered a short river cruise. Our fellow passengers were mainly from USA & Canada with a few from Ausralia & Sth Africa. We were as far as we know the only Europeans on board. We could hardly have chosen better. Compared to big ships our cabin was much smaller than expected but really lovely. As we had expected the Antoinette had a few minor "settling in" problems e.g. two of our three TV's didn't work, light fittings were not all working, a cupboard door came off. All except TV's were fixed within an hour. The bedding & furnishings were really nice & were complimented by a crysal chandelier hanging over our bed. Staff were without exception efficient, attentive & all round service was A1. Menus were restricted for choice compared to the big liners but quality was beyond compare. Excursions were excellent as were the tour guides. One thing we would like to see on other cruises was the Uniworld gratuities policy of recommending a gratuity to the cruise director & another for all other staff. This is done anonymously & discreetly but the recommended tips were perhaps inadequate & we were more than happy to give a few special people a little individual contribution. All in all it was a great intro. to the Rhine & we cannot wait to go again asap Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2010
We arrived on December 21st at about 8pm, having been delayed by weather. We were dropped at the curb by our cab, and left to pull our luggage down to the ship, up the gangway, and after finding the entry button, into the lobby. We were ... Read More
We arrived on December 21st at about 8pm, having been delayed by weather. We were dropped at the curb by our cab, and left to pull our luggage down to the ship, up the gangway, and after finding the entry button, into the lobby. We were surprised to find no sense of security and were unchallenged. Once we made it into the lobby, however, the service was quick and efficient and we were soon in our cabin. The cabin space was small but adequate. Decor was as pictured in the brochures and online, but somehow not as over the top as it appears and on the whole quite pleasant. The bed was very comfortable. There was limited storage space for clothing, and no place to hang a long garment; I'd have sacrificed the desk for more closet space. Our one complaint about the cabin was water temperature. On 3 separate days we had cold showers; albeit in each case maybe a little late (8am). We suspect that there is a limited hot water capacity. The most offensive part of this, however, was that when we reported it first they questioned if we knew how to operate a shower (we're quite familiar with these controls, and the sink was also cold), and then told by the engineer that it couldn't possibly happen. The public rooms were nice. I liked the scale of the ship, having just previously sailed on the Oasis of the Seas, and enjoyed being able to walk anywhere in a few seconds. We liked the on-board entertainment, especially the guest performers. We felt that they were not given a very professional introduction by the cruise director. The dining room food was generally good; sometimes excellent, sometimes not great. The service was also mixed. Many of the service staff seemed to resent being in a service position - often surly. The bar waiter, Gabor, was a pleasant exception - he seemed to truly enjoy his job - always greeting us by name, remembering our beverage choices and offering exceptional service. The excursions were generally good. Can't beat ancient castles and cathedrals for North Americans where "old" is 100 years. On the whole, I think Uniworld made a good effort to arrange activities given the timing (Christmas eve, Christmas day). We didn't like being dropped in Heidelberg to shop when the shops were closing at 2pm and having to wait around for the bus. We were most disappointed by the tour director. We thought he was generally disorganized and claimed to be busy trying to manage lost luggage - not sure why that was his job. On one occasion, the "VOX" box wasn't working and his answer was "stand close to the guide. I guess we were the slow group that he didn't tolerate since in Rudesheim he walked on ahead leaving a few slower walkers on their own to try and find the museum. My overall reaction: Europe was magnificent, river cruising is an individual taste (I liked the scale, my wife preferred the large ocean cruise ships), but we were disappointed enough in the service on this particular ship that we would likely not choose Uniworld again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2010
This is first river cruise, and probably the last! Get to fly home tomorrow! The brochure was very misleading and this has been very frustrating for all aboard. The internet has been "not working" for 95% of the cruise. I've ... Read More
This is first river cruise, and probably the last! Get to fly home tomorrow! The brochure was very misleading and this has been very frustrating for all aboard. The internet has been "not working" for 95% of the cruise. I've only been able to log on between 3 and 5 A.M each morning. The cruise line has done nothing to help and just given flimsy excuses. It could've offered a 10-15 minute ship to shore phone credit so travellers could contact loved ones, etc. I believe river cruises are meant for those folks that are older, need nothing but a lounge and a bar while being herded around. Here are the main differences I noted. 1. No evening entertainment or shows, AT ALL. 2. Excursions are nearly non-existent with only choice in most ports is to take the ship offered excursion, or stay on the ship! 3. Eat only at the 3 scheduled meal times. No pizza spot, dessert spot or other offerings. The staff was great and the ship was clean and organized. After 33 cruises, I'll stick to ocean cruises which have more activities, excursion options etc. Maybe when I'm 90, I'll try this style. I'm no rookie at cruising. I'm 62, have visited 92 countries and taken 33 cruises. Viper 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
Sail Date: August 2009
We have been on many ocean cruises, but this was our first river cruise and it was truly a remarkable way to travel. We previously visited Europe on land tours which involved lots of packing and unpacking and getting on the bus and off the ... Read More
We have been on many ocean cruises, but this was our first river cruise and it was truly a remarkable way to travel. We previously visited Europe on land tours which involved lots of packing and unpacking and getting on the bus and off the bus. The river cruise takes all the hassle out of traveling from one locale to another. Uniworld has certainly perfected the art of river cruising by choosing unique and entertaining destinations, first class service and a beautiful vessel. We sailed on the River Countess and were amazed that the shower was much larger than on ocean cruise ships. No need to do the hokey-pokey to take a shower! The tile and marble were beautiful and the towels big and fluffy. The entire ship was well-maintained and always clean. The entire staff was outstanding and made each guest feel special. Our cruise manager, Hildegard, had an amazing store of knowledge about every port and all the castles and towns, locks and vineyards we sailed past. Her enthusiasm, experience and love of cruising were contagious and enhanced our experience onboard. The food was of excellent quality, beautifully and artistically presented, and represented a wide variety of ethnic cuisines which we especially enjoy. The wine included in the price of the cruise was quite good and plentiful. The itinerary included a great mix of major cities and small towns that were unknown to us before this trip. What wonderful surprises they held! Without exception, the local tour guides we met were very knowledgeable and personable. Our only criticism of the cruise concerns the lack of consistent internet access. We had inquired before departure and were told that internet access could be purchased for 20 Euros for the entire trip, whether using the ship's computers or our own. We therefore decided not to bring along our international cell phone as we would keep in touch with family via email. We were told that there might be reception difficulties when traversing locks, but were not aware that there would be 66 locks on our voyage from Amsterdam to Vienna! As soon as we boarded, the staff informed us the internet reception was not good and they would not charge us for access. Many guests were frustrated trying to get online, and we finally resorted to seeking out internet cafes after our tours in order to keep in touch with family as promised. This was not an insurmountable problem, but was annoying until we got near the end of the journey when internet reception was much better. As we sailed past many similar ships, we marvelled that there exists this wonderful segment of travel that we were totally unaware of until very recently, and we're so glad we discovered river cruising! I would not hesitate to recommend this type of travel to anyone interested in a unique travel experience. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
Itinerary-Legendary Rhine & Moselle. This was a fourteen day river cruise, starting in Amsterdam, down the Rhine to Koblenz, down and up the Moselle, and down the Rhine to Basel. Great towns to visit, great scenery, and a great ... Read More
Itinerary-Legendary Rhine & Moselle. This was a fourteen day river cruise, starting in Amsterdam, down the Rhine to Koblenz, down and up the Moselle, and down the Rhine to Basel. Great towns to visit, great scenery, and a great itinerary all around. Embarkation/Disembarkation-We opted for the Uniworld air package, so transfers were included. When we arrived we were greeted at the arrival hall and after a short wait to pick up other passengers, were bussed to the ship, arriving about 11:00 am. Rooms were not ready so our luggage was stored. A light lunch of soup, sandwiches, and desert was served. Since our ship was docked at Central Station, we walked into town for a few hours. We returned around 3:30 and our room was ready. Since the ship was not full, we were upgraded from our original cabin on the lower deck. The day before disembarkation, our flight numbers and transfer times were posted. The next day it was an easy transfer to the Basel airport. Ship- The River Queen is a modern ship built in the fashion of a 1930's river boat. It is very warm and elegant. Lots of dark wood with moldings, highly embossed wall coverings, etched glass, granite countertops, decorative floorings, and alabaster lighting fixtures. There is a glass elevator serving all but the bottom deck and the sun deck. The Main Lounge has heavy leather and upholstered chairs and couches, the bar, and a fireplace. It was the most comfortable lounge we have found on a cruise ship. The Club Lounge, which serves as the library, also has heavy leather seating. The Patio lounge is airy and bright with wicker seating and glass top tables. It had 24 hour coffee, teas and ice water. There was a laundry room, beauty salon, shop, workout area, ice machine, and limited spa services. The dining room has two levels and elegant furnishings. The rooms are all the same size except for the suites. The only difference is the window size. There is lots of closet and drawer space. The beds are hotel style, slightly bigger than queen size, with premium bedding. The bathroom is adequate, with a shelf for your toiletries. The shower is quite large considering the size of the bathroom. Provided toiletries are bars of soap, shower caps, sewing kit, swabs, manicure kit, and dispensers of shampoo/conditioner, and hand/body lotions. Bathrobes, umbrellas and other amenities are provided as well. Crew-The crew was excellent. Very accommodating, efficient, accessible, and friendly. All spoke English very well. From the deck hands to the captain, there was always a greeting, a wish for a nice day, or an inquiry on how things were, etc. Service was excellent. In the middle of the cruise, evaluation forms were distributed and responded to the next day. Requests made to staff were always accepted cheerfully and provided quickly. The tour manager was terrific. Food-The food was outstanding. The best we have ever had on a river cruise. Breakfast was a buffet, with 20-30 items to choose from, with a daily special from the kitchen. Eggs could also be ordered. Lunch was also a buffet. There was always a carving station with meat or fish, another main course, and several hot side dishes. There was also a pasta dish, a hot soup, and a cold soup, and some kind of sandwiches. Then there were five to eight salads, garnishes, cold cuts and a bread assortment. The desert buffet was incredible! Always a hot item, two kinds of cakes or pastries, a mousse of some kind, a large cheese assortment, and three kinds of ice cream or sorbet with all the toppings, including a brick chocolate topping. Dinner was by menu with a choice of two appetizers, two soups, three main courses (meat, fish, and vegetarian), and several desert selections. You could always get a steak or chicken breast instead of the main courses offered. All the food was very, very good. Very delicious and presentation was outstanding, even on the buffet items, with every dish decorated with some sort of garnish. I would not hesitate to call it gourmet most of the time, especially at dinner. Entertainment-A talented ship musician played an electric piano, guitar, and saxophone during the cocktail hour and in the evenings after dinner. On several nights there was on-board entertainment by local groups such as a Shanty Choir, Bavarian dancers, a jazz band, and a French accordion/singer duo. There were several lectures, a wine tasting, and a cuckoo clock demonstration on-board as well. Passengers-Most were of retirement age, and a good mix from several countries. Everyone mingled and rotated at seating for meals, etc, so you were always meeting someone new. Dress during the day was casual, but almost everyone dressed up more for dinner. For the Captains dinners 90% of the men wore suits/sport coats with ties. Excursions-City tours were provided at every port, and were very comprehensive, hitting all the important sights. Pacing was easy. Vox boxes were used so that you could always hear the guide. This was great as you could wander around and still hear the guide and know where they were. Local guides varied, but most were good. Free time was usually provided. Almost always we were docked in the city center, but if not, shuttle buses were provided in the afternoon. In one city, with easy tram service, we were given transportation day passes. Several optional excursions were offered at a reasonable cost. In summary of our six river cruises, 1 on Victoria, 2 on Avalon, and 3 on Uniworld, this was by far the best in every respect. I would rate it 5 star in just about every category. Uniworld was fantastic from start to finish. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2006
Fourteen Days on the Uniworld River Countess After spending five days in Salisbury, England, to help some of our English friends celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, my wife and I hopped on a Flyby turboprop airliner from ... Read More
Fourteen Days on the Uniworld River Countess After spending five days in Salisbury, England, to help some of our English friends celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, my wife and I hopped on a Flyby turboprop airliner from Southampton to Amsterdam to board the Uniworld, MV River Princess for a 14 day river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, Hungary. We had purchased the cruise at the last minute through an interliner site for $1399 per person plus port charges and taxes. The total cost (including port charges and tax for two people) was a little over $3200. This covered transfers to and from the airports and a number of city tours. True to their word Uniworld met us at the international airport in Amsterdam and by 1:00pm our luggage and we were in our cabin on the River Princess. Although the cabin was mostly below the waterline of the boat, it had two large windows just above the waterline that made for an unusual look at the river. All the cabins on the River Princess are the same size (about 154 sq. ft.). The difference in categories and prices is simply the height above water level and the style of windows you have. We found the furnishings, bed linen, towels and robes to be first class all the way. We quickly made our way to the dining room where a great buffet awaited us. The food was good and plentiful. The wait staff could not do enough for you and they meant it when they said, If there is something you want, just ask. The afternoon was spent getting familiar with the boat. It was small compared to the 2000 passenger ocean going vessels we were used to. It did have a laundry room with two washers and dryers plus a place for ironing clothes. It had a nice patio with 24 hours tea and coffee service, a well-stocked library/computer room and a good size show lounge. There was a small fitness room but with all the walking tours, additional exercise was not needed. The top of the boat had a huge sun deck, which was partially covered in case of bad weather. There was no pool or hot tub but we thought we could rough it for two weeks. A hot tub would have been nice after a day of sightseeing. The Captain, hotel staff and crew were just as friendly as the wait staff and the passengers got to know them all during the cruise. There was only one open seating for all passengers and the spacious dining was pleasant and not the least bit noisy. The first night dinner was a time for testing the wait staff. I soon found out that the menu was limited. There was a choice of three main courses and always consisted of one meat, one fish dish, and one vegetarian choice. Since I am a beef eater, I only ordered from the menu three of the fourteen nights we were on the cruise. The rest of the time I ordered steak that they were happy to provide. The desserts were the best I have ever had on a cruise. The little gal who did the pastries made apple straddle that one could die for. The rest of the pies, cakes, strudels and other desserts were done equally well. I must say, however, that this trip was the first time that I have ever eaten walnut ice cream topped with dried apricots and prunes. The first night the Captain, Hotel Manager, and Cruise Manager briefed us. We knew exactly what to do in case of an emergency (if the boat sank, go to the top deck and wait). The boat was taller than the river was deep. The cruise manager, Maddy, told us what to expect the next day, a routine that happened every evening before dinner. The hotel manager covered the procedure of keeping track of the passengers and all other related procedures. Our musician, Matthew, played the piano for a couple of hours after dinner for those of us who could stay awake after a long day. On day two we arrived in Cologne. After a walking tour we had some free time to see the city on our own. We had been to Cologne in 1960 and to say the least, it had changed. The only thing we recognized was the cathedral. We soon learned the ABC's of river cruising. Another Bloody _______. You fill in the blank with castle, cathedral, city, church or canal lock. After walking about the shops and bars for a hour or so, it was back on the boat for Maddy's briefing for the next day, dinner, and more piano music by Matthew. The next day we cruised through the Rhine Gorge that was one of the highlights of the cruise. Passing castle after castle we spotted the Lorelei just before we arrived in Rudesheim. Our tour in Rudesheim was of the Siegfried's Mechanical Musikkabinett. The private collection of working mechanical music makers (some of them filled an entire room) is outstanding. Anyone who travels to Rudesheim should tour the collection. We were back on boat by six but to tired to take the optional Rudesheim dinner and entertainment tour that night. Our new friends spoke highly of the tour. The next day we toured Heidelberg, another bloody castle. We had been there in 1960 and the castle had not changed, however, there were so many tour groups around that it was hard to take a picture without getting a tour group in the picture. There were also more shops and restaurants ready and willing to separate the tourists from their money. We had lunch at a local restaurant that served typical German food and it was surprisingly good. Not what I expected, having been in Germany a number of times. Miltenberg in the morning and Wertheim in the afternoon of day five saw us taking ABC tours. Tour guides gave us a little history and a lot of legends about the towns but who knows what to believe. I did not know that the Crusaders had brought so many religious relics back through Germany and dropped them off at every little town on the Rhine. The next stop was Karlstadt. In the morning before we stopped at Karlstadt, Karl Heinz, a guest lecturer from Wurzburg, lectured on Architectural Styles that we would see in cities on the cruise. After lunch aboard the boat, we debarked in Karstadt for the bus ride to Wurzburg where we had a walking tour of the Prince Bishop's Palace. The palace was awesome. Although the palace had been largely destroyed during WWII, it had been restored in all of its grandeur. If anyone ever visits Wurzburg, you must take a tour of the Prince Bishop's Palace and do not miss the chapel. Monday, October 2nd started out overcast with a 60% chance of rain forecasted. It was one optional tour that we really wanted to take. It was to Rothenburg, the walled city. Here again, a large part of the city had been destroyed during WWII but had been restored beautifully. A walk around the wall revealed a number of plaques with names with 1m, 2m, or 3m on them. These people were responsible for restoring the wall, meter by meter. The rain held off and the sun showed Rothenburg in all of its beauty. The optional tour was well worth the extra $82 pp it cost. At Bamberg, the next stop, the rain finally caught up with us. However, a stroll downtown in the rain was worth the discomfort. The big attraction was the town hall in the middle of the river. The market might have been a great place to shop but most of the booths closed early because of the rain. The canal between Bamberg and Nuremberg was extremely interesting. We went under bridges where we had to flatten all the lounges on the sun deck in order to make it under the bridges. Even the wheelhouse was lowered. We would lie on our backs to take pictures of the bottom of the bridges. At mile markers 53.7, 61.9, 79, and 87.1 the canal went over roads and rivers. It was unusual to see cars and trucks as well as boats going under your own riverboat. We declined to take the optional tour of Nuremberg when we found out that we would not be able to tour the Palace of Justice where the Nuremberg trials were held after WWII. Instead we enjoyed just cruising down the river taking pictures of the beautiful countryside. The next stop was Regensburg, where we had two hours of free time before returning to the boat. One hour was plenty of time. It was a quaint little town but by this time we had had enough of quaint little towns. It was Friday so we must be in Passau. Another quaint little town, however, this one had a big cathedral with the world's largest pipe organ. Uniworld provided us with free tickets to an organ concert and it was well worth the price of the tickets. I think that the concert was designed to display the ability of the organ and organist rather than to please the concertgoers. The next morning we arrived in Melk and took a bus to the Abbey. Although we had been there before, it had changed. Modern art was everywhere to be seen. Gift shops and restaurants were everywhere. What had been a beautiful Abbey was had been restored and renovated but some of the charm was missing. Maybe it was the busloads of tourists that made it feel like a tourist trap rather than a piece of history. Vienna was Vienna. What a beautiful city. Just to walk about and look at a piece of living history was well worth the cost of the entire cruise. We visited some old haunts and relished the new look of old landmarks. The black soot, for the most part, was gone and the buildings gleamed white in the sunlight. Part of the restaurant that we had enjoyed in our last visit in 1997 was now a sports bar but enough of the old remained that is was recognizable. We could have spent much more time in Vienna and the 7 ½ hours allotted by Uniworld passed quickly. We arrived in Budapest the next day and docked on the Pest side. We took a shuttle boat to the Buda side. Here again 7 hours was not enough time to see all the wonders of Budapest. I suggest that if you have not been to Budapest and want to take a river cruise that you take the three-day extension that Uniworld offers, buy a transportation pass, and see the city on your own. It is a beautiful city and deserves more than a few hours. A Hungarian Operetta and Folklore Performance highlighted our last night on board in the lounge. The performers were professional and the program was outstanding. Uniworld did an outstanding job of organizing the cruise and tours. This has to be near the top of all the cruises I have ever been on and another river cruise is definitely something I would want to do again. Bucharest to the Black Sea comes to mind. Debarkation was quick and uneventful. The Uniworld bus took us to the Budapest International airport where we Delta 99 direct to New York JFK International where we took a flight straight to Tampa. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2000
Holland at Tulip Time Uniworld Cruise aboard the River Empress May 1- 8, 2005 After taking many traditional cruises, decided to explore Holland about a river cruise ship, the Uniworld River Empress. Although quite different than typical ... Read More
Holland at Tulip Time Uniworld Cruise aboard the River Empress May 1- 8, 2005 After taking many traditional cruises, decided to explore Holland about a river cruise ship, the Uniworld River Empress. Although quite different than typical cruise ships, it was nonetheless a terrific experience and a great vacation. Approaching the ship in Amsterdam, the first thing that occurred to me is that there were "no people" waiting to board!! We walked right up the short gang plank into the lobby where the Uniworld crew welcomed us with warm smiles and keys to our cabin. Check in was quick and easy and we were in our cabin within only a couple of minutes. The ship holds 138 passengers, and has 5 passenger decks. Deck 5 is the "Sun Deck" which is mostly an open air viewing deck with chairs and lounges. There is also a glass covered sitting area so that even in inclement weather you can have a panoramic view. This is where the "bridge" is located as well, and towards the very front are tables and chairs. We often brought drinks to this part of the deck and watched the countryside slowly pass us as we relaxed. Deck Four is where the beautiful dining room is location (more on food later!). Also, all of the ship's suites (4 of them) and top-graded cabins with floor to ceiling windows are on this deck. Towards the front is the bar/lounge which is the meeting place for port talks, captain's welcome aboard party, etc. Deck Three is cabins, and Deck Two is cabins, along with an area (indoor patio) for 24 hour coffee and tea, a small boutique shop, the gym/sauna and the hairdressers. Deck One is cabins, along with the small launderette (2 washers, 2 dryers which are free—soap is available for $2.50 for 2 loads). From top to bottom, the ship sparkles. Although much smaller and cozier than a cruise ship, they have all the bases covered with great cabins, a spacious and bright dining room and the services mentioned above. The Itinerary: Holland is really beautiful at tulip time. The trip begins in Amsterdam, sails north to Hoorn and Volendam, then heads back south to Rotterdam, Delft, Arnhem, and Schoonoven. I won't go over each and every detail of the ports (Uniworld's brochure does a terrific job of that!), but instead will provide some of our favorite activities on the trip. Amsterdam: We were lucky that the cruise spent a night in Amsterdam at the beginning of the trip, and 2 nights at the end. There is a lot to see and do, so don't worry that there is too much time there. We boarded the ship about 2:00 p.m. on Sunday and spent an hour on board getting unpacked and touring the decks. Went to visit the Anne Frank House (well worth the 15 minute wait to get inside) and walked around central Amsterdam. We had tried to go to the Anne Frank House earlier in the day, but the lines were too long. At 5:00, they had diminished quite a bit and I had heard that the later you go, the shorter the wait. The next morning, Uniworld took us to the world's largest flower auction just outside of Amsterdam. It is called the Aalsmeer Flower Auction and it is similar in many ways to the New York Stock Exchange, except that in place of stocks, the product is flowers. This place is HUGE and you walk ABOVE all of the action and look down at flowers, the actual auctions (where the prices are set for flowers WORLDWIDE) and the logistics of getting the flowers in and out of the auction center. We returned to the ship midday and as we were eating lunch we sailed up to Hoorn. Zaanse Schans is an outdoor windmill museum and they also give demonstrations on how to make wooden shoes. Great photo opportunities here, and also on the bus ride through the multi-colored fields of tulips that extend as far as your eyes can see! In Delft we toured the Delft pottery factory and then spent time downtown. Many old and interesting churches, and a huge plaza with nice outdoor cafes. The Dining Room: Open seating at all meals. Breakfast and lunch are buffet style. However, at breakfast, you can order an omelet of your choice from the buffet and at lunch, you are offered soup and and desert from your waiter. Dinner includes a starter (every night is different, and they are really creative!), soup, a main selection (either meat, fish or vegetarian), a nice desert choice and cheese and fruit from the buffet. The food was all outstanding and there is something for everyone. If you cannot find something, they will make something for you e.g. steak. The food overall was high quality, tasty and delicious. The cabins: At 154 square feet, not overly spacious but certainly adequate. The cabin layout was very nice and they managed to fit in bedside tables, a sitting chair and table, and a bathroom with nice shower (that consistently had great temperature control and water pressure). Very clean and new, and the cabin service is excellent. Ten reasons to choose a river cruise over a traditional cruise: To begin, I believe there is a market for both types of cruises. However, here are 10 reasons why I would travel on a river cruise again with Uniworld: 1. The crew. They can make or break a cruise, and hands down this crew (of only 36) did an outstanding job in every way. We had great service from the cruise manager, the officers, the front desk personnel, the cabin attendants and the dining room staff. 2. The ship. Although much smaller than traditional ships, the River Empress had a great deck plan and above all, was sparkling clean. Everywhere. 3. The food. I was never disappointed with any of the meals. There was a lot of variety, and portions were the right size (although you could order seconds if you wanted). 4. The destinations. Although Amsterdam is a large city with an adequate port, most of the other destinations we went to were too small for traditional ships. This trip gave us an opportunity to experience, and explore, ports that we otherwise would never go to see on a cruise. 5. The tours. Every one is included with your cruise fare. Just show up when they tell you to, and a first class tour bus is waiting for you just a few feet from your ship. Not only did they leave and return on time, every one had a knowledgeable and friendly tour guide, along with an experienced driver. Do not underestimate the value of having all your tours covered in your cruise fare, particularly when the conversion rates for dollars to euros are so poor! 6. Easy on, easy off! These river ships are more like hotels when it comes to arriving and departing guests! Whenever the ship is in port, it is easy to just walk off and on without great fanfare...it reminded me of going to and from a hotel. Quick and easy, in and out! 7. Other passengers. With such a small group, it is easy to meet others and we found that over the week we made many new friends. 8. Relaxation. There is something remarkably soothing about sitting on the top deck and watching the nearby land go by. 9. The other itineraries. Uniworld has many ships sailing throughout Europe and other parts of the world. Now that I've had my first experience with them, I'll definitely be back to another river cruise. 10. The small things. Umbrellas in the cabin should it be raining out. Juice, coffee and pastries at 6:00 a.m. for us early risers. A small vase of fresh flowers in every cabin after the cruise begins. Free washers and dryers. Welcoming smiles from the crew in the lobby every time you come back on board. What a wonderful week we had seeing Holland on the River Empress. I'd do this trip again if there weren't so many other places I want to see first! Read Less
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