Uniworld Cruise Reviews
Perfect despite Flood Conditions,7/10/2013
SS Antoinette “Castles Along the Rhine”,6/17/2013
Incredible Tour Guide, Amazing Trip!,6/15/2013
Before the trip was over, Hubert felt more like a family member than a tour guide. ... We have taken four vacations with Uniworld over the past few years, but Hubert stands head and shoulders above everyone else we have travelled with. High praise indeed, as all of our experiences have been excellent. If there's such a thing as Tour Guide of the Year - heck, Tour Guide of the Century! - Hubert would win hands-down. Read More...
Mr N Kerman,6/4/2013
Floating Boutique Hotel: All Aboard!,5/22/2013
We are 40/50ish couple from Sonoma/Napa Valley with a passion for food, wine and sailing and while this was not our first Luxury Link (LL) purchase, it was our first cruise and organized tour of any kind. This was a last minute getaway (within 3 weeks from departure) and LL (where we discovered UniWorld) ... and UniWorld collaborated seamlessly to finalize logistics timely (ticketing, transfers, land extensions, etc.) for the Imperial Cities Danube River cruise starting in Instanbul (land extension) and finishing in Vienna.
We started with a land extension in Instanbul. [One tip on visiting Instanbul. UniWorld must advise to get your Visa in advance and will recommend a company to do so. Due to limited time between booking and departure, this company was unable to guarantee receipt of our Visas before departure. I contacted the Turkish embassy in LA and the gentleman informed me to avoid paying high cost Visa service providers and to simply get the Visa upon arrival at the airport in Instanbul. He said it would cost $20 USD CASH and that it is simple. He was 100% correct and saved us $300 USD.
From the moment we stepped aboard our floating boutique hotel to disembarkation, we received continuous outstanding service, ate exquisitely prepared meals with local influences paired with delicious wines, enjoyed onboard entertainment (either by classically trained house musician Freddy or local musicians/performers) and explored each destination with expert guides.
Boutique Boat: Overall, we consider Uniworld's website extremely resourceful and accurate at representing the boat, the itinerary, and all other aspects of the cruise. The info and photos were accurate, in other words, there were no surprises. We were greeted by the ships crew in Guigui, Romania where we boarded our ship. My heart skipped a beat at first; as there isn't much curb appeal to the Princess from the exterior (or any other river cruisers we passed along the way); however, a modern with European bistro flare, well equipped, meticulous boutique ship awaits you on the inside. The ship is plenty large to accommodate guests and crew for all on board activities. We enjoyed lectures and entertainment in the lounge, relaxing and dining on the patio deck at lunch or while cruising, and strolling through towns and cities on the free bikes offered by UniWorld.
Stateroom: We upgraded to a Category 1 stateroom (Cabin 423) which gives you a room on the Rhine Deck (top floor) and a door that opens to the great outdoors (not more square footage). The use of space in the stateroom is brilliant with plenty of closet space and luggage storage under the bed (2 x 29, 1 x 20 inch luggage, camera bag). The beds were extremely comfortable with linens like silk. Bathrooms are small compared to hotel standards, however, as boat owners, offered more than enough space, were totally functional and equipped as described with L'Occitane shampoo, conditioner, hand soap & lotion. Deseslava did a fantastic job preparing our room day and night, managing to complete this without ever interrupting our privacy.
Food & Wine: We ate exquisitely prepared meals with local influences paired with delicious wines. The variety for breakfasts (served buffet style with made to order chef specials, eggs, omelets, etc.), lunches (patio or dining room options available) and 4 course dinners was typically a spectrum of delicacies with fantastic quality. They catered to specific needs and half way through the cruise requested a guest survey to improve the dinning experience. The next day, guests including our suggestions were implemented. The complimentary wines were worth exploring and for those interested in expanding their tasting horizons, the wine list was interesting and fairly priced. Martin and his staff are to be commended for our fabulous dining experiences.
Excursions: Our Cruise manager Bart was a blast. He made us laugh often, he arranged spontaneous walking excursions and was one of the best guides overall, and he was truly committed to ensuring a positive experience by all. We took advantage of most included and many optional excursions (additional fee) and considered the majority to be fantastic with tour guides that were subject matter experts and enthusiastic teachers. Often there were overlapping excursions and choosing was difficult; however, there was typically an overview tour (e.g, city) and an alternative more specific tour (e.g., fine arts museum). Uniworld had excursions for both the first time or repeat visitors and did a wonderful job ensuring enough guides to accommodate group size and ensure a more personalized experience. We appreciate the balance required for each tour and time needed. While many excursions are half or full day and guides are sensitive to group pace, many are fast paced for content and so the time allocated may not be enough for all (e.g., a half day at a fine art museum may be frustrating for a real art buff.) For the adventurous (us) with time to research/plan in advance (not us), you may consider planning your own excursions/ exploration which adds to the overall experience, explore at your pace, and this approach could also be money saving if cost is your concern. Given the nature of this specific cruise, there was a significant amount of motorcoaching involved for some destinations and each time, the accommodations were top notch (brand new coaches with AC and WCs). The convenience of the excursions adds to the overall relaxation. Guests are expected to tip the guides and drivers (and they are so good you'll want to). Uniworld does a fantastic job to recommend customary tipping guides, however, we look forward to 2014 and our understanding that UniWorld will adopt a truly cashless system and include all gratuities for excursions in the package price. We considered the following Optional Excursion highlights: Bosphorous cruise, Spice bazzar, Night in Budapest, Bodor Mayor Horse Farm,
Service: The service we received was as wonderful as the places we visited. The entire River Princess crew is to be commended for delivering exceptional professional, helpful, and friendly service. It is clear that UniWorld prides itself on service delivery. Our expectations were exceeded in every level and we look forward to going aboard a UniWorld river cruise in the very near future. Our only dilemna, which one?
Thank you LL for introducing s and UniWorld for providing a most memorable vacation.
River cruising is a wonderful way to experience a destination and will certainly become a new way of travel for us! Read More...
None come close to the enjoyment, sense of security and relaxation,5/22/2013
A Delightful Trip,5/17/2013
Highlights of China & the Yangtze River Cruise,5/4/2013
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...
2012: Paris & European River Romance,4/22/2013
The river portion began at Nuremberg, GE, and ended at Trier, GE. We passed through 17 locks during the cruise, most at night and the crew handled the boat so gently that we seldom knew that we were passing through passing through a lock. The boat was beautiful and immaculate, the accommodations were luxurious and the food was wonderful. We took every possible shore excursion and loved every minute of the trip. The excursion guides were knowledgeable and professional as was ... Peter, the cruise director.
The Paris portion began with a bus trip from Trier to Paris. The only negative thing that occurred on the whole trip occurred on that leg: the bus driver on our bus was an ill-tempered person who was rude to several of the bus passengers, including me. We reported him to the cruise director upon arriving in Paris and I suspect that he will no longer be driving tour buses for Uniworld tours. Our stay in Paris was great and we had several nice excursions, including one to the Versailles Palace.
We enjoyed our 2012 Uniworld cruise so much that we are taking one in Italy in July 2013. 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...
So good that we signed up for the Purtugal trip as soon as we got back......we're going in July 2013...
The "Volcano" Trip,3/1/2013
By the time we reached Frankfurt one of Iceland's volcanoes had erupted, air travel in Europe was at a standstill, and those of us who planned to fly home from there were stranded.
The staff on Uniworld worked around the clock to make sure that every person on the ship had a place to go or somewhere to stay. My husband and I, not experienced travelers, ended up ... staying with family in the UK. The tour director helped us arrange train travel and a ferry across the North Sea. His patience was admirable and the travel went as planned.
All in all the trip was a great success. We loved everything about our River Cruise and even ended up enjoying our adventure on the way home. I call it our one week /three week trip.
This June we are taking another cruise with Uniworld. We are again looking forward to the excellent food and service as well as the shore excursions. (And hopefully no volcano surprises.) Read More...
Grand Christmas truly Grand,1/24/2013
My mother taught me that "you have only one chance at a first impression". Uniworld understands this well. Our transfer at the airport was ready and on time. To keep the review short, I will deal succinctly with a few issues.
I like ocean cruising due to the distances that can be covered, but I liked the smaller, more intimate setting of ... the Duchess. Everything they did had a stamp of quality about it. Yes, there was an incident when our guide left us standing in the cold. I gave them space to deal with it and they dealt with it professionally and without a fuss. Stuff happens.
The food was very good and visiting the dining room always a pleasure; Roberto and his team learned our preferences quickly and we were treated like royalty. It happens that the menu does not always suit one's taste, but it is rare and you work around it. Uniworld is excellent with making exceptions. The fact that we picked up weight is proof of their culinary successes! When a steward brings gluhwein onto an icy deck, you know you are in good hands.
I never saw a staff member in a bad mood. I made a point of not having a bad mood around them either. They work hard and looked after us well. Our cabin attendant Biljana was like a ghost - things just happened. What a pleasure.
I did find our stateroom a little tight but after all it is a river cruise, and the furnishings etc. of high and pleasing standard. The temperature control worked perfectly, and in so many hotels I find it a challenge to get the temperature right. Not here. Perfection.
The guides employed were almost always of very high standard, with some real gems among them. Eva was a bundle of energy who had us in stitches for two days. Uniworld's excursions on this cruise are worthy of mention - especially the trip to Theresienthal.
And then the problems struck with water levels rising too much. Nature happens. And our Cruise Manager Mery did not blink an eye. I often saw her on the steps of the bus making calls to change arrangements without us hearing a word. Well done.
The alternative arrangements were perfect and our only sadness is that our last night was spent in a hotel and not on the ship, but we were adequately compensated. We did not miss any excursions and they did in fact throw in an extra excursion for us together with future credit and cash for an evening meal. Attention to small detail is what sets them apart, I think. Even to arranging our transfer outside of the normal transfers - a little extra that they did not have to do. The kind of thing I remember.
Any real complaints? Well, we did not have the White Christmas we hoped for, but that is not their fault, is it?
Thank you for a bunch of very special memories that will last a lifetime.
Uniworld say “You shall go to the ball”….and we did!!,1/5/2013
When we joined the impressive River Duchess at Nuremburg on 22nd December 2012 all were in festive mood and the reception given by staff as you enter the ship enhances the mood of all travel weary passengers. You are immediately immersed in the high but unobtrusive Uniworld standards of facilities and service – a standard that was maintained throughout the whole cruise.As this was a period of celebration we had a suite, this was spacious, fittings impressive, beds plush and very comfortable. There was ample storage space for the many clothes we had brought having regard to the festive ... celebrations that lay ahead including the New Years Eve Ball in Vienna. The ship has a degree of opulence, is kept spotlessly clean and there was always a member of staff on hand to cater for any wish.
From the first meal to the last the food was of the highest quality and it was evident that fresh ingredients were being used and being expertly prepared by the army of chefs onboard led by Milos. The well trained, polite and disciplined waiters, marshaled by the more than competent Maitre D, Roberto, ensured an unforgettable dining experience. The complimentary wines and beer throughout all meal times was a bonus, quality wines as well!
The cruise started with 2 days in Nuremburg which is enough to savour the party atmosphere around the Xmas Market, (the largest in Germany) and to sample the quality shops that abound. In addition, for the culture vultures, there is much to see and the Uniworld tours provide a well informed, well organised and well paced and effortless way to sample the historical sites. One not to be missed are the famous courts where the Nuremburg trials took place after the Second World War.
When we set sail along the Danube from Nuremburg late on 23rd December, following the Captains Welcome Dinner, all were in great spirits and anticipation of even greater times to come. The anticipated highlight was clearly going to be the New Years Eve Ball at the Daun Kinsky Palace in the heart of Vienna. This was to be followed by attendance at the famous New Years Day Concert also in Vienna. Little did we know or suspect that Mother Nature was conspiring to make the attendance at these events as problematic as possible - a conspiracy that Uniworld faced head on and defeated with efficiency and expediency over the next few days.
Arriving in Regensberg on 24th we were aware that the river level was rising and we were kept fully informed of possible issues by the able and energetic cruise manager, Tamas Kocsis. Xmas Eve and Day were spent as planned in Regensberg and all was going exceptionally well. Midnight Mass on Xmas Eve and a Mass on Xmas Day morning at the Cathedral attracted a large number of passengers- a 10 minute walk from the ship.
On Xmas Day we were informed in a professional and tactful manner that due to the river level, the River Duchess, and indeed all the other cruise ships docked at Regensberg, were not able to pass under a nearby bridge and that we would have to remain in port for at least another day and hoping that the water levels may subside.
There were 6 other cruise ships in port and all were suffering the same fate. News arrived on the Duchess that other cruise ships were curtailing their cruises and passengers were given early flights home. The ball and concert planned over New Year in Vienna were becoming a far off dream. It was with great relief, and indeed surprise to many, that Uniworld were to continue their "cruise" to Vienna. There was clear determination from the crew and no doubt from the hierarchy and the behind the scene workers at Uniworld HQ that the cruise would continue in some form and importantly that the celebrations in Vienna would take place. The water levels did not subside over the next two days yet ample buses were on hand to take passengers to the scheduled ports of call and most of the planned tours.
This of course meant more travelling in buses but all tours were honoured. The vast majority of passengers were greatly impressed by the total commitment of all staff to make the problems have as little effect as possible. It was regrettable that there was a very small number of passengers who seemed hell bent on complaining at every opportunity but after a day, when all had time to reflect on the situation and course of action taken by Uniworld, all (except 1 passenger) had great admiration for the high quality of the alternative arrangement that had been made.
On the 29th December all passengers were taken by bus into Vienna and had 1 day in the fabulous (and most expensive) 5 star hotel in the centre of Vienna, the Inter Continental - if it was good enough for President Bush then it was good enough for me!. Cash was provided for the evening meal- this gave the opportunity to savour the local restaurants. We teamed up with fellow passengers and had a great Viennese evening.
Uniworld had called out numerous staff from all over Europe and they brought the ship, River Beatrice, out of winter storage, berthed her at Vienna and restocked and prepared her for us to continue our cruise. We boarded her on the 30th. The River Beatrice is fabulous and passengers thought her of a higher standard than the Duchess. Due to her larger size than the Duchess most passengers were ungraded to cabins of higher standards. Most of the staff were brought from the Duchess to the Beatrice but other staff that had been recalled to duty stayed with us and we continued our cruise.
The New Years Eve Concert at a palace in Vienna was something special and despite the quality of the food, wine and service not being of a Uniworld standard the ceremony of the occasion made it a memorable experience and one to recount and share with friends and family for many years to come. Back to the ship for midnight and then on the top deck to celebrate the New Year by sharing the massive firework displays that occur all around Vienna and its suburbs-a memorable evening and the perfect way to see in the New Year of 2013.
The New Years Day concert at 11am was a glitzy and extravagant affair and it was a privilege to actually attend one of these occasions after seeing them every New Years day on the TV. Setting sail for Budapest in the afternoon most passengers relaxed and recovering from the New Years activities and celebrations.
2 days in Budapest brought an end to a cruise of the highest of quality, one packed with incident and handled in the most professional of manner by Uniworld.
The action taken by Uniworld in relation to the high water problem clearly enhanced their already “top of the tree” status, the financial costs of the dramatic changes made to the itinerary must have been frightening and it was gratifying, in the economical climate, to see that passengers expectations and the Uniworld reputation was of far greater importance than the financial cost involved.
It is difficult to comprehend the extent of the efforts and expense that the preparing, restocking, and bringing new staff to the Beatrice would have cost. Some of the staff said they have been at home for less than 1 hour at the start of their 2 month break when they were informed to return- they came from all over Europe and all still with a great smile and not one complained to us- just the contrary, they were pleased to maintain the passenger reputation of Uniworld.. The "new" captain had to leave on the day of his daughter’s birthday just to accommodate us.
Uniworld could have taken the far easier option and cancelled the trip. The booking conditions clearly allow this- this course of action was taken by all other cruise operators with ships at Regensberg. In addition, and quite unnecessarily they also gave each passenger a $500 credit towards a future cruise!!
Would we go again? Well, 2 days after arriving back we have already re booked for December 2013!
P and C McKay (UK)
"just another day in paradise",1/1/2013
Jean & Ray Read More...
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!, the local tour guides we met were very knowledgeable and personable.
I would not hesitate to recommend this type of travel to anyone interested in a unique travel experience. Read More...
Castles on the Rhine,9/17/2012
The extra care and attention to detail was extraordinary,9/7/2012
The best vacation my wife and I have ever experienced.,9/5/2012
The best vacation my wife and I have ever experienced. Everything about the cruise was first rate. The food, the service, the attitude of the entire ship's staff was outstanding. I would highly recommend this cruise to anyone. From the time we were met at the Amsterdam airport until the time we were bussed to the Budapest airport, everything was outstanding. Tony, our tour director, Carylene, our hotel director, Roberto, our dining room director and most of all our captain - who got us through some pretty ... shallow water when other cruise lines were busing their passengers, shows the commitment of Uniworld to hire first rate people. Read More...
Perfect cruise for our anniversary,8/28/2012
We were impressed by how the entire crew worked collectively to offer great and friendly service. From day one, we were made to feel at home. It was nice meeting Captain Pascal who invited us to join him at his table for the Welcome Dinner and who shared information about the local culture & customs. Patrice, our hotel manager, is enthusiastic & excellent and it was wonderful that he spoke some Bahasa Indonesia (which is similar to our Bahasa Malaysia). We were surprised to later find out that he has only been working with Uniworld for 2 weeks as there is certainly great camaraderie between him and the entire crew. Emmanuelle, our Cruise manager, is fabulous - funny, entertaining, knowledgable and helpful. Together, Patrice & Emmanuelle kept the mood onboard fun & lively! There was much laughter daily at the pre-dinner briefings! Aniko & Cosmin of Front Desk, Marius, Kriztian, Georgiv, Sarin & Jakub (restaurant staff) and Ilona of Housekeeping are cheerful, efficient and great at their jobs. We enjoyed the refreshing morning walks with Rene, the onboard masseur. The guides we found particularly good are Kristian (Lyon), Jeannette (Tournon/Tain L'Hermitage/Viviers) & Francis (Truffle farm/Les Baux).
We also met many wonderful fellow passengers from various countries, some of whom we're keeping in touch with. It was with heavy hearts that we bade goodbye to everyone at the end of the week. We will definitely be going on another Uniworld cruise and will highly recommend Uniworld to our family & friends.
To the entire crew of River Royale, thank you very much, well done & keep up the great work! :) Read More...
p.s. We travel with our teenager. Many kids are over the raucous beach vacations and are ready for more substance. The demographic of Uniworld appears to be decidedly younger or younger at heart. This combination works out beautifully. Read More...
Uniworld River Queen Cruise - European Jewels (August 6-20, 2012),8/22/2012
Not a single issue, not a single excuse, not a better team on a cruise than the River Queen for those 14 days. We can understand why the River Queen was ranked #1 recently. If Uniworld can find a way to bottle this winning formula on each and every cruise ship they own.... The sky is the limit!
Someone told me many years ago - if you love your job, you will excel at it - I don't think there was a single Uniworld employee on the River Queen that didn't want to be there. Uniworld - the River Queen knocked this one out of the park!
I will be recommending the Uniworld Boutique River Cruises to anyone looking for a vacation idea. Read More...
Kudos to Kevin Lin,8/13/2012
Burgundy and Provence - Rhone River,7/31/2012
I thought the Cruise Manager was great in trying to be flexible with the program. There was a couple stops where we started the city tour an hour later because some folks requested a later wake up time. If possible, I would suggest offering both since I felt we lost time on that tour and visting the Valhrona chocolate factory in Tain L'Hermitage should be a must - we got to go but had very little time to sample and shop! The best experience was the open air market in Beaune but I felt we didn't have as much time for wine tasting. If we didn't stop for a sit down lunch, we could have but after looking at all the wonderful product on sale in the market, it made me hungry and I honestly didn't think i'd feel hungry all week. The service is so fantastic that there was a person waiting at the airport at 5AM to take us through the Lyon airport and made sure we got our baggage tags and boarding passes - and he wouldn't even take a tip. That was literally "door to door" or "plane to plane" service.
I am so hooked and can't wait to try another UniWorld tour! Read More...
Neville & Cathy,7/24/2012
NB: Our cruise was down river from Vienna - Istanbul (River Duchess).
Given the travel investment involved we felt a 15 day cruise was not enough to justify the time and cost so chose to break the journey north with a two day/night stopover in Dubai. Additionally we included the Prague pre-cruise extension and front loaded this with a further night in the same hotel. This gave us a suitable break (Dubai - Prague only 4.5 hours) and provided two buffer periods should there be any unexpected ... delays. This worked well and would recommend it.
We took as cash Euros only (1050) which lasted from Prague to Istanbul. Given most excursions are included in the boat fare only discretionary spending cash is needed. Money was changed either at a bank or an official money changer. Currency exchange was also available on the boat and given the small amounts of local currency required the cost was insignificant. In Dubai and Bangkok we accessed local funds from an ATM ($5NZD Fee).
We had a two day/night stopover in Bangkok on the return journey which very much assisted post travel recovery and gave us an overall 25 day journey which justified, and was appropriate for, the travel involved.
Uniworld are a great cruise provider; excellent food, service, excursions and boats. We stayed in suite 208 and consider the upgrade from level 1 to be well worth it. We visited new found friends in level four and found their suite to be the same size, a sliding door but no balcony - the slider remained closed most of the time due to heat/noise etc so not worth it in opinion.
Most afternoons were free but optional excursions at additional cost were available and many of these were also good value. Later in the cruise there were some all-day excursions which some less than fit struggled with in the heat. For shopping it was best to use the morning excursion for an overview then return on your own in the afternoon to spend more time a chosen sites/shops.
Overall a great experience. These types of cruises are only now becoming known in our country and in our view are much superior to travel by bus etc.
Note the advice re walking a footwear.
Neville & Cathy
New Zealand Read More...
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.