Danube Holiday Markets,2/8/2014
The Beatrice and her crew were terrific!,11/1/2013
I can't say enough good things about the Captain and the crew - very friendly and willing to do anything to make your trip fun. Our cruise director worked very hard to arrange great entertainments ... for us.
The food and amenities were also wonderful! I will definitely cruise with UniWorld again! Read More...
Our First River Cruise - Loved It!,4/20/2013
The tours were very interesting and the options and variety was perfect. The Nikolaihof Winery tour in the Wachau Valley was exceptional. We learned a lot and had a great time on all the tours. The meals were delicious and beautifully served. And with the open seating arrangement, we met lots of interesting people from many parts of the world.
The only problem was the weather - it snowed 6 out of 8 days - so we have clearly angered the Weather Gods - but the staff made up for it. The one day we were able to enjoy the sun deck (even though it was very cold) they provided blankets for the ones who ventured up.
The ship is beautiful - very well appointed and comfortable. Our cabin (a suite) was very roomy and had plenty of storage space. Another big plus is being able to see various locations and only having to unpack once. That was great!
Since our trip we can't stop telling our friends how much we LOVED this trip and that all of them should take a river cruise on a Uniworld ship. It is truly a luxury that everyone should enjoy. Read More...
The extra care and attention to detail was extraordinary,9/7/2012
The Perfect First Experience,7/24/2012
As I learned later, there was no reason to be nervous, because I immediately became one of a ... 128 member family on the Beatrice. From day one, the crew was fantastic. Service was great, but so was the camaraderie. We hadn’t even set sail yet, and crew members were already smiling at me on the deck and commenting on my book, as well as directing me towards the library and offering to fill my glass with water. And we had just begun! The rest of the week could only get better.
On this trip, I was determined to try all sorts of new foods, and I had all sorts of opportunities to do so! All the food was AMAZING, and every dinner had a vegetarian option. The breakfast and lunch buffets had a variety of ever-changing options, and the culinary crew was always more than happy to recommend and describe any odd-looking dishes. For example, one afternoon in Germany I selected a hot pretzel to join my lunch, and Armin (a member of the crew) immediately recommended a dish of funny looking cheese sauce I hadn’t even noticed. It tasted fantastic! My personal favorite was a linguine with ‘sea fruits.’ Well I learned that ‘sea fruits’ consist of pieces of octopus and squid…yet it turned out to be a very delicious dish. Another fun touch was that every meal had some sort of local favorite. For example, the day we set sail in Hungary we had the option of eating Hungarian goulash, while in Germany we had Bratwurst.
I also had the opportunity to be a guinea pig for an amazing excursion- an (at least) 11 mile bike ride from the town of Dürnstein to Melk (Austria), through all sorts of little towns. A group of eight people set out on this adventure, and I stuck with a group of four friends I had made earlier in the week. The bike ride took us four hours- but not because of the distance! We stopped at a local café for a cappuccino, ate the picnic box lunch provided by the ship while looking over the Danube, explored St. Michael’s church, as well as purchased freshly picked apricots and peaches from a local seller. We biked by terraced vineyards and sunflower fields, all the way directed by signs. We got lost once when trying to find the boat, but that is the reason why we were the guinea pigs! :) We made it back late and missed the bus to Melk Abbey, but this was just an opportunity for the front desk to exercise their talents. Within minutes a taxi was called, and we drove to Melk Abbey where our tour manager Markus stood waiting with tickets. We walked in and joined the fourth group as if we had been right on time. The bike trip was definitely one of the highlight experiences of this trip for me, and I hope anyone else who sails the Danube has the opportunity to experience it!
But what was my grandmother doing during this biking adventure? Not everyone was physically capable for this sort of a ride…well, while I was enjoying a freshly picked apricot she was relaxing on the sundeck of the Beatrice as it sailed to Melk. The crew had prepared a barbecue on the deck for everyone to enjoy as they took in the beautiful scenery of the Wachau Valley. While I was able to tell stories about biking over cobblestones, GranAnn learned all about the pirates who used to raid the Danube and what all those crumbly buildings along the river were. So no matter where we were or what we were doing, we were creating memories unlike any other.
The second new excursion was a hike along the Else river in Passau, Germany. It was a three hour hike (although quite honestly, about 45 minutes was spent at a lovely local café) led by a fantastic local guide, Hika. The hike gave us a wonderful view of Passau that not everyone gets to experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is physically capable of wandering over dirt and root trails. The forest of Passau is beautiful, and is a unique experience that you can’t find on the deck of a ship.
All of the provided city excursions contained the perfect balance of tour guide time and free time. With a guide, we got an idea of the simple layout of the city, as a well as a fascinating history lesson. We were then free to explore as we wished, an opportunity my grandmother and I enjoyed. With the free time, we managed to find a fun bookstore in Vienna, as well as experience the subway in a foreign country. In Salzburg, we explored the local marketplace and enjoyed local food favorites (I highly recommend Baumkuchen!) If I wrote everything we did and enjoyed, I would be publishing a book, not writing a review. :) But for those curious about what we saw, I would say this cruise was the perfect first experience in Europe. We saw castle ruins, as well as vineyards. We explored local towns and the country side, as well as the two well-known European cities of Vienna and Salzburg. This trip was the perfect mix of everything, as well as an excellent teaser for any future trips!
Another unique feature of this cruise was how they created a fantastic experience by reading the group of people aboard the ship. Originally, there was only one onboard musical group scheduled to perform. (And they were AMAZING!) But as the week progressed, travelers began to dance. Every night after dinner, a good number of people would head to the lounge and dance as our pianist Zultan played and sang along. I learned to twist, cha-cha, and many more! Recognizing this developing hobby, ship managers Markus and Mario found a local jazz band from the area and brought them on board one night to play for us- not only for us to watch, but to dance along! We danced the night away, and even if you weren’t dancing, you were sipping a glass of wine watching and chatting with new acquaintances. The crew actually came to know us as people- for example, by the end of the week, everyone knew that my grandmother and I were in room 203 and that all I ever drank was water (much to the entertainment of bar tenders Georgi and Mladen!).
Not only did we become friends with the crew, but with the people around us. This is where the size of the River Beatrice comes into play. With a boat that only holds around 162 guests, we voyaged with 128 people. Because of the size, we recognized faces and made all sorts of friends. As the week progressed, we would always meet new people, but we would also create solid friendships over dinner and during city tours. We became one big happy family, one that was very hard to leave on the last day! All the trips and history I absorbed during this trip was amazing, but it was my fellow passengers and crew that added the icing on top of the cake. After all, what’s better than exploring the Danube River on a gorgeous boat full of friends? :) I’m never going to be able to thank my grandmother enough for sharing this amazing experience with me, and hope that whoever is in room 203 of the River Beatrice right now is having as much fun as we did.
THE BLUE DANBUE,5/21/2012
We are looking forward to booking another cruise with UNIWORLD Read More...
Fantastic Danube Cruise,5/21/2012
On April 19, 2012 we departed Los Angeles International Airport for Budapest via Heathrow Airport in England. We were excited because this was to be our first river cruise, though we had enjoyed ocean cruising prior to this. My wife Rosalie was having a "big" birthday and always wanted a river cruise and loved a previous trip to Budapest. So naturally, a river cruise from Budapest to Passau on the Danube would be just the thing.
My Internet research indicated that the highest rated Danube river ... cruise was with a company called Uniworld so I booked a reservation on one of their highest rated ships, the River Beatrice. With great anticipation, we planned, packed and were on our way.
We arrived at the Budapest airport Friday evening, April 20th. Through Uniworld we had planned a pre-cruise day at the beginning of our trip but were unsure of our transportation needs at our arrival. We were pleasantly surprised to see Adam standing on the arrival ramp waiving a sign with our name on it after we cleared immigration. He gathered up our luggage, placed it in a modern van and we were on our way. Uniworld had made reservations for us at the Budapest Hilton. Upon arrival there, we signed in and were escorted to our room. The next two mornings we enjoyed complimentary breakfasts at the Hilton arranged by Uniworld.
The next day, Saturday the 21st, we chose to be on our own even though Romulus, the Uniworld local host in the hotel, had arranged a tour of the city for us and any others staying at the Hilton. We declined, not particularly caring for the 0815 tour departure, having arrived tired after approximately twelve hours enroute from Los Angeles.
We had a wonderful day wandering around Budapest, taking pictures and ending up for dinner at Fatal, a restaurant we remembered from our previous trip twelve years earlier. Returning to the Hilton, Romulus gave us the schedule for the next day, Sunday the 22nd; when to check out and how to leave our luggage in our rooms for the Uniworld crew to retrieve and place in the van that would take us to the River Beatrice. Rosalie and I thought this was a nice touch on the official start of our cruise.
On Sunday, April 22, we boarded the River Beatrice and were shown to our cabin, number 315 on the main deck. The River Beatrice registration procedure was flawless and pleasant and we were impressed by the beauty of the vessel. Our cabin, though "snug", was perfect with large sliding doors to a river view and a queen size bed that we found to be very comfortable. The cabin air conditioning was adjustable and the bathroom, " the head," was well appointed with ample counter space and a nice shower stall. Incidentally, the towels were monogrammed and luxurious. We had our first dinner aboard that evening.
We spent the next day in Budapest after our first night on the River Beatrice. Monday morning again we decided to do some touring on our own. Uniworld had arranged for a river shuttle boat to take any of us from our mooring on the Pest side of the Danube over to the Buda side. We took the shuttle, docked on the other side and walked a short distance to the famous Budapest Market, a very large two story building with food stalls on the main floor and gift stalls on the upper balcony. What fun. Rosalie bought Hungarian paprika in two decorative ceramic containers, our only purchase. She wanted these because we didn't purchase them on our last visit to Budapest. We walked back to the shuttle, which ran every hour, and rode back to the River Beatrice where we had lunch onboard.
Our meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner were served in the beautifully appointed comfortable dining room. This main dining room had many tables, some round seating eight and some straight seating either eight or ten. Breakfast and lunch each day were buffet style with a wide selection of dishes both hot and cold and delicious. And, additionally, a wide selection of desserts, wickedly sweet and delicious. How tempting and, of course, we tried out many of them. Complimentary wine and beer was available at lunch and dinner. The dinner menu featured dishes of the areas we visited each day - goulash while in Budapest, etc. Coffee was served by the friendly, courteous and helpful staff and, caffeinated or decaffeinated, was served in insulated Bodum French coffee presses. What a nice touch and what a way to keep the coffee hot and delicious.
The Chief Steward must be complimented for his staff, all English speaking though mostly of Eastern European heritage. In particular I became infatuated with Sandra, one of our servers, a twenty-eight year old college graduate with a degree in hospitality management who soon will move to the reception desk in a new position on the vessel. Incidentally, only on two occasions did the dinner dress call for sport coats with or without a tie. Otherwise it was shipboard casual with many of us in jeans and sport shirts. Yes, I did pack a sport coat which immediately we hung in the spacious closet to hang out the wrinkles.
Once underway, we settled into a routine. Sumptuous breakfast buffet followed by either a bus or walking tour of the current city. Christine, the onboard excursion manager did a fantastic job of gathering us all up, sorted us into the correct buses or walking groups and assigning English speaking guides. We got used to following a guide holding up a large number sign that denoted our particular group. Lots of fun and we saw and learned a lot. Again, Uniworld is to be congratulated on how they conducted these various tours. The venues they chose were outstanding, many of unbelievable magnificence; churches and monasteries that appeared as if constructed of solid gold. Amazing. And while underway on the Danube we were treated to ever more amazing scenery as we sailed past story book village after story book village with castles and churches that looked out of the middle ages even though many were reconstructed and new.
In Vienna, Rosalie and I made a solitary pilgrimage to the Vienna Opera House, a magnificent structure and a dream visit for us as long time opera buffs. It literally brought tears to my eyes as we visited the inside lobby. I couldn't help but picture in my mind the tuxedoed burghers and bejeweled matrons of past decades ascending the formal stairway to hear the magnificent voices and spectacular music of past performances. Unfortunately that day the normal tour was not available but we were allowed by the Opera House ticket seller to take pictures even though ropes held us back from going up the stairs. We then visited the outside and around the corner Opera House bookstore. And we spent; a shoulder bag emblazoned with "Vienna Opera House" for Rosalie to flaunt back home to show we were there and some books, in German, picturing the insides of the Opera House and Natalie Dessau performing La Traviata there. We hated to leave this heart rending structure, but it became time to catch up with the tour bus and get back to the vessel.
I should mention that when leaving the vessel, we turned in our room keys and, for security, were given numbered shore passes. Upon returning, Jan, the vessel hotel manager, who is in charge of the hotel crew, would greet us, show us bowls of sweets, have us use a hand purifier that they use to keep outside viruses from coming aboard and guide us to the reception desk where Tanya or Martin would exchange the shore passes for our room keys. Additionally, this gave the desk a method to see if everyone had returned. We also were greeted with iced tea or soft drinks as we returned aboard from our excursions.
I also must say that the Reception Desk crew, Tanya, Martin and others, throughout our cruise, were extremely helpful. Martin, in particular, was the "go to person" for any wi-fi, iPad or laptop problem. The vessel had free wi-fi, mainly in the forward lounge, but, alas, was connected to the Internet via a satellite, after all, the vessel was cruising the Danube and not connected to shore. Vessel Satellite Internet is not configured for one-hundred plus people trying to connect at the same time on their iPads, laptops or assorted other devices. Usually we could download email but were unable to send messages. Such is life!
The River Beatrice also provided "low key" entertainment on occasion in the lounge. A piano player and local musicians presented short entertainment that was fun but not intrusive. This was a river cruise, not a large cruise ship with elaborate presentations. Very appropriate for us guests that spent each day on marvelous shore excursions and enjoyed a relaxing time in the lounge to meet with other passengers who became new friends.
Finally I must mention that our fellow cruisers were a nicely mixed lot and at no time did I feel out of place or uncomfortable. There was a nice mixture of gray and not yet gray hair with seniors like ourselves and younger people but no young children. Over all the experience was more than outstanding.
One unique experience I should mention was that as a retired officer in the United States Merchant Marine, I was allowed to visit the wheelhouse of the vessel while we were underway. I watched the Assistant Captain control the vessel with just slight hand movements on joy-stick like controls. Wonderfully modern on this vessel whose ships' bell indicated 2009 as the commissioning date.
If it were possible to rate Uniworld and the River Beatrice with more than five stars, definitely I would. And Rosalie and I hope to take another cruise with Uniworld in the future.
Enchanting Danube June 2 2011,3/10/2012
Mom passed away last week, and I can honestly say that this trip was one of the highlights of her life. Thanks to Uniworld and the staff of the River Beatrice for giving her, and me, one of ... the most memorable trips ever. Read More...