Christmas Market Cruise River Duchess,12/20/2013
Perfect Adventure for adult children and senior parents!,10/1/2013
What a delight. It was perfect for the more active like my sister and I and also for my 80 year old mother, who sometime was content to just sit and watch the action from the boat.
We got to enjoy the historic outings whether she felt up to it or not.
I highly recommend this vacation for Adult children and their parents. Everyone will have a good time, even the mobility challenged.
The service and friendliness of the staff were incredible. They often would even check on my mother when I was not on board.
The food was great, and historical tours were just the right pace. We so enjoyed so much this, that we may do it again in two years, to China.
Having been on many large impersonal liners, but this was perfect with the intimacy of the 130 passengers. The 35 employees on board became like family.
It's like a floating hotel.
I have a feeling this well kept secret will not be a secret much longer.
What a wonderful experience. Read More...
River Duchess: Pampered like a King and Queen,7/16/2013
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...
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...