6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
We just returned from an amazing trip on the River Empress on one of its designated family cruises. It was beyond any of our expectations. There were 13 people in our party of extended family members (including 5 children ranging from ... Read More
We just returned from an amazing trip on the River Empress on one of its designated family cruises. It was beyond any of our expectations. There were 13 people in our party of extended family members (including 5 children ranging from 3-17). The service by the staff was extraordinary. They were attentive to the adults and children and engaged in making each experience fabulous for all. The embarkation and disembarkation process was seamless. The cabins were beautifully and efficiently designed. The food was excellent. The chef was creative and provided fun experiences including fun additions like German sausages served on deck as we sailed by all of the beautiful castles along the Rhine. Every meal had a new surprise - - delicious! The excursions and onboard activities were perfect for children. The staff even organized a kick around game of soccer at our port near Colmar and the kids loved it. One of their favorite activities was going for ice cream with Captain Henk and the children's hosts. The kids loved playing chess on the top deck and going through the locks. The crew spent time teaching the kids about the locks and letting them be engaged in the process. We would definitely cruise with Uniworld again! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
The rooms on this ship are tiny. Ours was a suite, which had a nice bathroom, but otherwise was about the same size as the regular rooms. The dining room was constantly over crowded. The food was mediocre at best and awful at worst. The ... Read More
The rooms on this ship are tiny. Ours was a suite, which had a nice bathroom, but otherwise was about the same size as the regular rooms. The dining room was constantly over crowded. The food was mediocre at best and awful at worst. The day was structured to force you to attend evening talks in a crowded bar area every night after which everyone on the ship went to dinner. As a result, the dining room was overwhelmed and it took 2 plus hours to eat every night. You can barely move around the breakfast and lunch buffets as the tables are so jammed together. Every event was preceded by a stampede of passengers. The lecturer speaking on the reformation started his talk about religion by saying he was an atheist and then read from note cards. We did complain and efforts were made to make things better for us, but frankly, not much could be done. This would have been our worst vacation ever had it not been for the wonderful staff on the ship. They always had a smile and made every effort to please. The experience is designed for travelers that do not want to explore on their own and that do not do their homework or try to learn about their destinations but want to be spoon fed. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
My mother, who passed away earlier this summer, swore she would never go on a cruise. My father, widowed at the ripe young age of 79 and overwhelmed by sadness and being alone, asked me to accompany him on a cruise. We had friends who ... Read More
My mother, who passed away earlier this summer, swore she would never go on a cruise. My father, widowed at the ripe young age of 79 and overwhelmed by sadness and being alone, asked me to accompany him on a cruise. We had friends who had traveled with Uniworld in Europe previously and raved about the experience. In fact, they took the exact cruise (Castles on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel) we signed up for several years before. So we planned the trip around my father's octogenarian cousin in Amsterdam... we'd start there and end there. The flight in coach class from LAX to Amsterdam was great for me, but my dad was super uncomfortable. He would have preferred a stop-over. I think he is nuts. KLM was nice, although they did switch aircraft on us at the last minute and it's conceivable that we got a plane with smaller seats. I admit that the seats were small and close to one another. Again, he would have preferred a break. I say get it all over with. (Note: the flight home was also nonstop, seats were roomier, and the flight was a breeze.) In Amsterdam we stayed at the modest but super comfy (and ideally located) Best Western Delphi on Apollolan, adjacent to the Beethovenstraadt shopping district. Easy to catch the trolley to the heart of Amsterdam, but far enough away for peace, quiet, and cost-effective travelling. Online pricing was great. Location was literally 5 to 7 minutes from the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum in super efficient and easy-to-use public transit. Got ourselves to the port in Amsterdam for the cruise, easy as pie. Cruise folk were welcoming from the very beginning. We ate lunch on board before sailing - with my dad's cousin, I might add - and despite the cold and light rain (mid-October departure) it was a fun and exciting day. Sites were great along the Rhine. Walking tours, particularly the gentle walkers tours, were ideal for my slow dad. And the availability of the Alpine walking sticks was genius. Whoever thought of that should get a raise. REALLY helped my dad (and many others on the cruise) get around on cobbled streets. Weather was cold, and for the most part grey; for me it was a tremendous and wonderful change from the California drought. My dad, also known as Grumpy Grumperson, was a bit put out, but had the proper clothing and was fine. Heavy coat, cashmere scarf, nice lined gloves and an in-room thermostat... what more could he ask for? Don't ask... Day trips were well-planned, well-guided, and not too overwhelming (not too fast, not too far, not too much information to manage), even though their cost was in addition to the cruise for the most part. My favorite was the Black Forest. Would have loved more time in Strasbourg - guess I'll have to go back. Heidelberg Castle tour was lovely, but if you've been before (as we both had), that field trip is ONLY a shopping excursion. Included for all excursions were ear pieces with transmitters so on tour with a guide, you could easily hear everything being said. That was SUPER clever, and worthwhile. Ship amenities were wonderful. Meals were plentiful, delicious, and varied. Super nice to be able to eat well (read healthy) at every single meal and not feel like I was missing out. The fact that drinks - ALL drinks - are included in the price of admission makes the cruise even better. I had prosecco a lot. My dad is a single malt scotch guy. Neither of us was disappointed. Would have liked a better rowing machine in the gym, but who goes on a cruise to row in the workout room? I guess I do. My dad had a couple of massages and loved them. Thanks for making that service available. Bar/lounge entertainment was a bit 1950s Vegas hotel, but I imagine it's hard to find excellence when you're at sea (on the river) for weeks at a time. Pianist was good, but not great. It's OK - it was background noise to the rest of the trip. And he was far better than having no music at all. Staff were OUTSTANDING. LOVE YOU GUYS! First, they put up with Mr. Grumperson. Second, and more importantly, they were charming, smart, witty, fun, professional, and attentive. Seriously, thank you all. Rooms were surprisingly (to me) comfortable for such a small space. The beds were plush, as were the bathrobes. Room safe was a breeze to use. Bathroom was totally great (love the nightlight feature). HATED when another ship was parked outside my bedroom window, but I'm guessing that couldn't be helped. If it had happened more than once and for more than a relatively limited time, I might have been uncomfortable. Would love to take a cruise with my love next time (although my dad can come too as long as he's less grumpy). But, I have to say, that as far as having a vacation where I was supposed to be looking after my dad while on holiday, the river cruise was ideal, and Uniworld made it totally possible. Thanks, Uniworld. I had a lovely time. I hope I can do it again, soon! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
We had never been on a River Cruise, just Ocean cruises. The crowds did not appeal on the big boats. The River cruise with Uniworld was fantastic, we didn't want to leave. The bed was so comfortable, the ship beautiful and so well ... Read More
We had never been on a River Cruise, just Ocean cruises. The crowds did not appeal on the big boats. The River cruise with Uniworld was fantastic, we didn't want to leave. The bed was so comfortable, the ship beautiful and so well kept. The crew were all amazing. Our waiters and especially the cruise director could not have been more friendly or engaged in caring for us. The excursions and guides were excellent. We took some optional excursions which we paid for, but the included ones were great. Not having to worry about tipping, and the included alcohol were very, very nice. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
Have been wanting to go on Europe river cruise for awhile. Booked Uniworld cruise line. Best thing about Uniworld cruises is they are "all inclusive". No tipping, no signing for drinks, included tours every day in port!! There ... Read More
Have been wanting to go on Europe river cruise for awhile. Booked Uniworld cruise line. Best thing about Uniworld cruises is they are "all inclusive". No tipping, no signing for drinks, included tours every day in port!! There are some "optional" excursions that are not included; but we only went on two and each worth the money. Day trip to Rotenberg, Germany to see the medieval of the city; wonderful tour; and symphony in Vienna, Austria. I have been on at least 10 ocean cruises and river cruising is completely different. Small ships (ours had 138 capacity); 40 crew; we only had 90 passengers on our cruise so you got to know everyone. Uniworld is at the top of river cruising. A number of passengers had been on 5-6 river cruises before and they all said Uniworld was a level better than any other cruise line. Viking gets the press and spends the most on advertising; but it is not in same class per those that had been on both lines. The crew on River Empress is outstanding; service is impeccable; food is excellent and prepared as you order it for dinner. Breakfast and lunch are buffet. Beer and wine (very good wine) is free as well as most cocktails before dinner; there are a few "premium" liquors; but the regular brands were just fine. I like a martini before dinner and they served Grey Goose. Ship stops in port very near city centers; and in some cases, you can walk right off the ship into town. Otherwise, buses are ready to take you on the excursions; typically only 30-40 people per bus. Our cruise director (Marcus) was beyond outstanding. He takes care of everything so all you do is sit back and enjoy the cruise. Our cruise left Amsterdam and first port was Cologne, Germany. Cruise stops in many German cities and each one was well worth seeing. The German beer and sausages are wonderful!! Everything in Germany is clean and everything is in the correct place. Really enjoyed seeing sights in Germany; many castles and medieval parts of cities. One morning, you sail by about 40 castles on the river with commentary on each by the cruise director. Cruise takes you on the Rhine, Main (pronounced Mine), and Danube rivers. Be aware there are 68 locks to travel through between Amsterdam and Budapest, Hungary. You even go over the continental divide for Europe and there are something like 16 locks that day. Going through the locks when you are sitting the ship with a cocktail is very interesting. Some lift or drop the ship 80 ft. After Germany, you sail on the Danube through Austria and only stop is Vienna. The departure city is Budapest, Hungary and it is a very beautiful city. Very few people know what a gem of a city this is. We also went on a evening cruise our last night on the ship. The city is lit up beautifully and fireworks go off each night. Quite a way to end our two week cruise. Would recommend this itinerary to anyone wanting to see a good part of Europe on the river without going on buses and packing every night. Best cruise for us every!! River cruising is more expensive than ocean cruising on most line; but we felt it was worth every penny.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2013
I know I should review the ship and the ports, but looking back on the trip, the service is what I remember most and what makes me want to travel with Uniworld again. The trip was great, despite the rainiest spring Europe has had in over ... Read More
I know I should review the ship and the ports, but looking back on the trip, the service is what I remember most and what makes me want to travel with Uniworld again. The trip was great, despite the rainiest spring Europe has had in over 30 years (or so said EVERY single tour guide). We did make it through the trip prior to the horrible flooding. We were extremely lucky. I was lucky enough to have my mother plan and pay for this cruise. We took the River Empress from Amsterdam to Budapest in late May 2013. 5 of us cruised together for the first time. 2 mother and daughters (first set: 60 and 40 2nd set: 50 and 14) and one husband. The entire ship had no idea who was whose mother, but that's another story. I cannot say enough good things about Uniworld. Our great service started from a room mix up in Amsterdam. Muriel, our Uniworld hotel lady (not sure of her technical term) was able to sort it out quickly and calm my crazy mother. She also sorted out a planned toured booked with another company. Without her help, we would have never sorted that mess out. The tours booked through Uniworld had no issues, it was the cheap ones my mother found on line that caused grief. Great welcome on board the beautiful River Empress. Lovely lounge and quiet Captain lounge. The bar service was great. Violetta, the bar manager, made sure the 14 year old traveling with us felt special, not like some little kid. Alex, the server, impressed us on the first night. Even though there were no assigned tables, we made sure we got to the 6 top in his section every night. He had patience and a great sense of humor. Again, service was amazing. The crew would bend over backwards to make us happy. Not my mother, the other mother, had pureed sweet potato with a dish. It was not prepared her normal way, it was savory, not sweet. She told Alex it would taste better with butter, sugar and cinnamon. He laughed and nodded and walked away. He shortly returned with 3 pats of butter, 6 sugar packets and a small prep bowl of cinnamon. He would also try to find diary free desserts for my husband, who didn't think he should mark the special dietary needs on his cruise profile. (TIP: mark lactose free on any cruise profile in the future) Our trip's only drawback was the weather. It was the rainiest and coolest in 30 years. It didn't rain 24/7, and we did have 2 sunny days and some partly cloudy days between the rain drops. This is not normal. I have been told by some Travel agents May and June are the perfect times to do this trip. Between our cruise director, Rik and our 1st captain, we were well informed of our progress and if the rising river waters would impede our trip. One more shoutout, to Daniella, the deck attendant. She along with Violetta and Alex made this trip of a life even more amazing. I may have mention a few memorable people by name, but the entire crew of the River Empress made this a great cruise. They all have spoiled me for any cruises in the future.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2013
Summary: If you want to take the Tulips and Windmills cruise to see the tulips (our trip started April 12, 2013 from Antwerp to Amsterdam), understand that you are guaranteed to see windmills but all bets are off regarding viewing fields ... Read More
Summary: If you want to take the Tulips and Windmills cruise to see the tulips (our trip started April 12, 2013 from Antwerp to Amsterdam), understand that you are guaranteed to see windmills but all bets are off regarding viewing fields of tulips. No one can control the weather which we learned changes daily and no one can control the tulip season which apparently varies year to year. This year we were too early. You are guaranteed to see them indoors at the Kuekenhof Gardens so do not let the weather give you pause. On all other counts the cruise was a delight. The port stops focused on walking through charming villages, viewing the unique architecture of the region, the continuing efforts to keep the water out, the famous Belgian and Dutch art, and of course the flowers. You also had ample time to sample the food favorites of each region - beer, chocolate, mussels, French fries, and waffles in Belgium and their counterparts in the Netherlands. This is peak time for river cruises in this area and there were always multiple river ships in each of the ports we visited. See below for more on ports. TIP: Don't miss the French Fries from Frituur Number 1 and chocolate from Chocolate Line in Antwerp. The French Fries with mayo were fabulous. Wasabi chocolate not bad either! Ship: The River Empress is a lovely ship commanded by its very able Captain Anton de Bot. The crew were wonderful and did everything possible to make our voyage memorable. They quickly remembered who you were and if you had any special needs or liked things a certain way. Amazing they could do this week after week. The public rooms were comfortable and roomy. The cabins were what you would expect on a river cruise, small but efficiently laid out. Plenty of nooks and crannies to stow stuff. There is space under the beds to store your luggage but if you have more than one suitcase you might have to use the closet. There was wifi in the public areas but it was pretty weak and very slow most of the time. Embarkation: There were about 21 of us who landed in Brussels in the early morning. We waited maybe 20 minutes for someone to show up from Uniworld. We were bussed to Antwerp and were able to get on the ship and offload our bags and have breakfast right away. We could not get into our cabins until 3 p.m. They gave us maps of Antwerp and many of use went off to see the town. There's lots to see in Anwterp. It's very walkable. Dining: The food was excellent and the staff easily accommodated all the various food allergies. And if you find something you especially like, they will bring it to you every meal if you want. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style and included a wide variety of items for every appetite. Dinner was sit-down and included a starter, soup, entree, and dessert. There were usually 3 choices for each. Wine was included with dinners and the selections were perfect accompaniments to the menu. Portions were just right so it was easy to have all 4 courses. They often included something local to the area we were visiting. Other items: The gift shop was disappointing in that it did not stock anything from Belgium or the Netherlands. It may have been due to the other route this ship takes going from Amsterdam to Budapest. But a few local items would have been nice, in case you missed them in one of the towns. There was a fitness center with an elliptical, treadmill and other equipment on board. Massages were available and I heard they were wonderful. For those inclined there was daily exercise at 7:15 a.m. There is self-service laundry. In addition to the on-board piano player, there were special local groups to entertain us several times. They were ok. Most people disappeared to their cabins by about 9:30 p.m. The lecture one morning about Dutch art was excellent. Cruise extension in Amsterdam: The weather was not warm enough or the winds calm enough to sit up on the top deck. Again, that is just the timing of the cruise in April. We chose to start in Antwerp so we could spend more time in Amsterdam at the end. We booked our own hotel and did the city on our own. It is very easy to do. Everything is within walking distance. We allowed 3 days which was just fine and better than the Uniworld extension offering. The renovated Rijksmuseum is a must-see. There is a new Canal House Museum that is also worthwhile. Other ports: Not all of the ports we stopped at are listed by Cruise Critic so I will just write it here. There were included featured excursions, often walking tours of the town, in each port and sometimes there was even a choice. There were a few optional excursions - visit to Delft factory and the town, a bulb-growing farm, walking tour of Amsterdam. Each evening before dinner, the Cruise Manager told us about the next day's itinerary and deadlines for booking optional excursions. Having taken other cruises where the optionals were a must-do, these were less so. They were interesting but did not add appreciably to the experience. The walking tour to see the hidden gems in Amsterdam was a disappointment partly because it was a Saturday and because of the crowds, it was a great effort just to keep up with our guide. Delta Works near Veere was fascinating and Veere itself is a delightful town to walk/bike through. There is not much to see at the Delft factory and there are stores in other places where you can buy it. Skip the tour of Delft and just walk around on your own. Skip lunch as it takes up too much time and your time is limited. The Zuider Zee outdoor museum in Enkhuisen was very interesting. We went to Arnhem instead of Nijmegen because of the weather but Arnhem was fun to walk through. Hoorn was another lovely town. Actually all the towns are charming. The brick homes and the little streets go on and on. Nuenen, where Van Gogh lived for 2 years, was a lovely suburban village. It houses a museum which talks about the period when Van Gogh lived there. But the village looks nothing like the time when Van Gogh lived there. Use your imagination. It was a long bus ride. We had the choice of a full day at Keukenhof Gardens or half-day Kuekenhof and half-day Zaanse Schans. If the weather is sunny, do the full day at Kueknhof or half-day Keukenhof and relax on the ship in the afternoon. Zaanse Schans is very touristy. Every place you visit also sells souvenirs. Not worth the time. Tipping: Other cruise lines include tipping. Uniworld does not. I'm not sure what is the best method. I think I would prefer them to include gratuities and let us decide to give extra to those people who really made a difference in our trip. Also, having to have euro coins handy every day for the bus drivers and local guides was a nuisance. While they say that tipping is not required, you tend to feel obligated. Would be better if it were all inclusive. We plan to continue using Uniworld for our next river cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
The holiday of a lifetime was how I would describe our River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest on Uniworlds luxurious River Empress in early October. I have never experienced so much commitment toward the guests enjoyment of a holiday. ... Read More
The holiday of a lifetime was how I would describe our River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest on Uniworlds luxurious River Empress in early October. I have never experienced so much commitment toward the guests enjoyment of a holiday. From the Captain to Zsanett, our stateroom stewardess, they were superb. I want to mention the waiting staff but then I would have to talk of the reception staff, the hotel manager, the bar staff, the Tour Manager, the Chefs, the sailors because everyone did their job expertly and then showed kindness and thoughtfulness beyond their duty. The moment we arrived on the quayside at Amsterdam we were swept up into the friendliness, efficiency and quality that is Uniworld. Our cases were spirited away and were there in our stateroom when it was ready, a buffet lunch was waiting along with a welcoming coffee, wine or soft drink. Every breakfast, lunch and dinner was first class with options always to suit everyone's taste and often reflecting the country and area we were in at that time. Drinks with meals were complimentary and again a reflection of the local area. Almost every day there was a town, castle or Church tour and almost all were included and well handled. If I could find a tiny fault with the holiday then I would say that one or two of the local guides fell short of the very best. We did not have to disembark and did, indeed, choose to cruise on one day and did not regret it as the scenery was superb. There was often evening entertainment on board or land. No cash is required on board as payment for all drinks, optional tours and gift shop purchases is signed for and paid by credit card at the end of the holiday. Alot of the cruising between stops is done at night and that was fine but I could have coped with more time on the river during daytime. The Rhine was beautiful with wonderful Autumn colours in the many surrounding forests but the Main was the star for me with the romantic Danube a close second. A highlight, amongst many others during the trip, was the Mozart and Strauss concert in the grand and atmospheric Liechtenstein Palace in Vienna. Thank you Uniworld for a wonderful holiday -- need I say more than to add that we have already booked the 11 day Portugal, Spain & the Douro River Valley for the same time next year. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
We are a couple from Southern California, both in our late 60's, taking our first river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest on Uniworld. The arrival and departure went very smoothly. Even though we managed our own transportation ... Read More
We are a couple from Southern California, both in our late 60's, taking our first river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest on Uniworld. The arrival and departure went very smoothly. Even though we managed our own transportation to/from Europe (miles),we were met at the airport and after a short wait for some other passengers, bussed to the River Empress. The departure was also done well. People left as early as 4:30 AM and as late as 2 PM. All were taken to the airport or to a hotel by charter bus. We were in a category 2 room which was small, but with the luggage under the bed, we managed to get everything in its place and could sit comfortably in the room. However, we found we spent very little time in the room. If we weren't eating, on a shore excursion, or in the lounge, we were topside watching the amazing scenery. The food and meal service was outstanding! The breakfast buffet always included scrambled eggs, sausages or ham, a chefs special (eggs Benedict, sailor's omelet, etc.), yogurt, cereal, cheese, cold cuts and more. The lunch buffets were also great with a wide variety of dishes with beer and/or wine included. The dinner's were from a menu with several choices for each course. If none of the entrees looked good, sirloin steak, salmon, and chicken were always available. We took a few optional tours, the best being the concert in Vienna. Another highlight for me was a 33 km bike ride, with escorts from a local shop. Sixteen of us left about an hour ahead of the boat and met the boat down river near a bier garden where we had stopped after our ride. One thing not clear to me before the trip was that you could put gratuities for the tour director and staff on your cabin bill and settle it at the end of the cruise with a credit card. I thought the gratuities had to be in cash so I made a couple of stops at ATM's in Germany. ATM's were easy to find at each port. We were given maps of the cities that highlighted the local attractions, ATM's and the ship's location. Other cruise lines may be excellent as well, but I was really impressed with our crew and staff. At every stop I could see our sailors cleaning the outside of the ship, and when the hotel staff wasn't cleaning rooms, they were dusting the passageways. We were always met by the hotel staff with a cold towel and a cold drink after each shore excursion and welcomed back aboard. All in all, an outstanding vacation. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
We flew independently to Budapest and easily got a taxi outside the airport terminal doors to the Corinthia Hotel. The taxi rate is fixed by zone and I think we paid about 20 Euros (Forints not necessary) for the approximate 20 minute ... Read More
We flew independently to Budapest and easily got a taxi outside the airport terminal doors to the Corinthia Hotel. The taxi rate is fixed by zone and I think we paid about 20 Euros (Forints not necessary) for the approximate 20 minute drive to the city centre (Pest side). The Corinthia had a room for us early in the morning, was beautiful and comfortable but we would have preferred staying closer to the river and main shopping area--maybe the Marriott, Sofitel or Intercontinental. I concur with the comments posted previously by Charlotte T. and Adjohn so I will just make some additional comments: Although this is an older ship, it is in mostly beautiful condition and is easy to navigate on the short flights of centrally located stairs -There is a conveniently located launderette with 2 washers and dryers. Detergent and use are provided at no additional cost -Uniworld gives cruisers stainless steel water bottles and replaces fresh water daily -There is one large umbrella in every cabin and additional available when exiting the ship -There is a blue night light that remains on in the bathroom ceiling -Wifi was only available in the lounges. It was slow and not available when going through the 67 locks. Bringing a newer device will make connection faster -Since we don't know if we will get back to that part of Europe again, we took all the optional excursions and they were excellent. Most were in the afternoon, after lunch on the ship. The cost isn't posted (but it's reasonable) until you board but you can sign up for them a day or two ahead or all at once after the CD talks about what's offered at the initial welcome meeting -The dining staff offered 3 nights of dining topside in a glass enclosed room where there was a fixed menu and steaks were grilled -Fellow cruisers were Americans, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians--a congenial group of 103 passengers of ages late 50's to 80's -Disembarkation was well organized and executed. Passengers could select when they wanted to leave the ship and transport was arranged by the staff. We stayed additional time in Amsterdam and the staff had a taxi waiting to take us to our hotel when we specified. Passengers must vacate cabins by 8:30 AM but are welcome to stay on in the lounge through a light lunch time there, even as new passengers are boarding. We highly recommend Uniworld and we really enjoyed river cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
We have just returned from our first river cruise on the River Empress. Our room was on the lowest level right beside the washers and dryers. One would think this was a poor location, not at all! Hardly any noise from the room next ... Read More
We have just returned from our first river cruise on the River Empress. Our room was on the lowest level right beside the washers and dryers. One would think this was a poor location, not at all! Hardly any noise from the room next door. (mostly from people visiting each other outside the room in the hall) Location was very close to everything. Rooms are basically all the same and are very compact. We spend hardly any time in the room so that was not a concern. An important note, the temperature control in the room was excellent and very quiet. A not on the washers and dryers. These were available to all travellers and detergent was free for the asking at the desk. Although the language could be changed to English on the units, this was not an easy task. Most of us just guessed. I tend to get sea sick on an ocean cruise. I had no problems as all on this river cruise. What a bonus! The lounge area and library were very comfortable. Main lobby clean and airy. Staff extremely friendly and helpful. The food was buffet at breakfast and lunch. There was something for everyone. I would have preferred a sit down meal for lunch as I found I ate too much with the buffet! Dinner always offered a pasta, meat, fish and vegetarian choice. Besides the daily choices, steak, chicken or salmon were always available. There was always cheese and crackers available after dinner as well and the cheeses were fantastic! Wine and beer were included with lunch and dinner and flowed freely. The German whites were outstanding as well as the German beer of course. There was a station with 24 hrs coffees and tea. There were also cookies available here as well. Very nice touch! There was a fruit of the day and a bowl of fruit was also to be found in the area. In this area you could also have early or late breakfast items for those early risers or for those who slept in. The internet was a bit sketchy at best but was free. Still much better than on the ocean cruise lines. Of course going through the many locks the signal was lost as well but can't be helped there. A pass code needed to be entered and was good for 2 hours. Codes were readily available from the front desk. TV very limited but then I did not come on the cruise to sit in my room and watch TV The excursions were of a good length and at most ports you had a fair amount of time to browse on your own after. Some excursions offered a slow walkers group. There were a few extra excursions offered at a reasonable price and those that went said they enjoyed them. I personally only went on the beer tasting trip and thoroughly enjoyed it! Captain Anton was at each port sending us off on our tours with a smile. He even sang a couple of times for us in the lounge. During the evenings there was a piano player in the lounge. We were somewhat disappointed here. The crowd would just get going and he would either play something that was not dance music or go for a break at which point everyone tended to drift back to their rooms. Several times during the two weeks we had local entertainment either right before dinner or after. For the most part this was quite entertaining and lasted about one hour. This was our first river cruise after having taken several ocean cruises. I much preferred the small and more intimate atmosphere of the river cruise. We found it much easier to socialize with other travellers. The scenery is wonderful on the river. We were able to spend a couple of days just sitting out and enjoying the quiet ride down the river. All in all the very best cruise we have been on by far! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
From the moment we arrived at the pier in Amsterdam where 2 crew members met us, brought our luggage in the ship to the moment we disembarked in Budapest where they continue to help us booking a taxi and transferring our luggage. As soon ... Read More
From the moment we arrived at the pier in Amsterdam where 2 crew members met us, brought our luggage in the ship to the moment we disembarked in Budapest where they continue to help us booking a taxi and transferring our luggage. As soon as we boarded the ship we were directed to the lounge where a nice and delicious buffet was available to us, plus a choice of beer or wine all inclusive. The stateroom was small but so beautiful and well organized that it was not a problem at all and we were able to completely unpacked and put our luggage under the bed. The bathroom all marble with Occitane products was another nicety. At the different ports all the excursions were well organized with plenty of room in the buses and they even had a group for gentle walker. Our cruise manager seemed to be everywhere at the right time to check if we were all OK. It was always reassuring to see him show up in the middle of town. The food was out of this world, I have Celiac disease so before each meal the dining-room manager came to see me and go over the buffet or the menu pointing which dish I could have. Twice they even made a special dessert for me. They had real good gluten free bread always fresh.The entertainments we had at night were tasteful and of good quality.I could go on forever on how happy my husband were with our choice of cruise line. We have been so spoiled,we don't know if we will ever be happy on the big, ocean ships. The ship was spotless clean everywhere. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2012
From June 3 to 17, we sailed on the Unwieldy River Empress from Budapest to Amsterdam. We had previously done a Nile River cruise on GCT which we found to be wonderful. This last trip on the Empress was a mixed bag. Rooms were expected ... Read More
From June 3 to 17, we sailed on the Unwieldy River Empress from Budapest to Amsterdam. We had previously done a Nile River cruise on GCT which we found to be wonderful. This last trip on the Empress was a mixed bag. Rooms were expected to be small and they were. We had 2 chairs removed from the 150 sq.ft. room so that we could circumnavigate the bed. Bathroom was good and bath amenities were very good. TV in the room was very limited with about 3-4 English speaking channels and 1 film per day on the ship's channel.Stewardess was wonderful and the room was very clean. Food was spotty. Breakfast was a buffet and had standard fare. Lunch was always a buffet with a really good and tasty selection of appetizers and entrees. Dinner was spotty, ranging from gourmet to awful. Usually 3-4 choices at dinner but they also has steak, chicken and salmon as standard fare (always available). We had salmon 5 times during the trip after we had to send back the daily choice of entree since it was inedible. At other times, the dinner was outstanding such as rack of lamb. The problem on this river boat was that save for mealtime the only other food available were candies in the foyer and cookies and/or coffees at the area that house the gift shop, gym, lounge area and computers. The Internet reception was a joke it was so bad. The itinerary was great, always on time with really good guides, clean buses, when needed, and "gentle walkers" had their own group. The cruise director was the best employee on the ship. The tours outstanding. Our morning wake-up call was usually prescribed by the sound of the thrusters which occurred at almost anytime during the nigh. 4 am was not unusual. We thought that getting a room toward the bow would alleviate our having to hear the engine noise. Apparently the best spot on the ship is in the 300 section toward the stern. Library, bar area and deck lounge areas were good though we thought drinks were pricey.The wait staff in the bar area and restaurant were really good people and very competent servers, mainly from eastern Europe. Everything on board was in Euros and you could settle in US dollars. The major irritant to me personally was that the $300 shipboard credit we had for our cabin was equated to Euros at the rate of $1.48 while the daily rate was circa $1.24. So we lost about 40 euros with the explanation the Uniworld only converted shipboard credit once a season and the they did, it was at the higher rate. We lost about 40 euros with that slight of hand. This was our first European river cruise. Would we do it again? Maybe, but on a ship that had more suites, amenities, less motor noise, and more entertainment or offerings at night. Seabourn have any river ships? Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
Having taken a Uniworld Riverboat Cruise in April this year to Russia, and not being too satisfied with the Boat, and or Crew, we complained to our Travel Agent. We were convinced to give Uniworld another try, and were told - the ... Read More
Having taken a Uniworld Riverboat Cruise in April this year to Russia, and not being too satisfied with the Boat, and or Crew, we complained to our Travel Agent. We were convinced to give Uniworld another try, and were told - the situation in Russia was not truly a " Uniworld" experience due to the boat being owned by Russia, etc., etc. We decided to try the EUROPEAN HOLIDAY MARKETS Riverboat cruise on the Danube from Vienna to Nuremberg, with an extension to Prague. This trip was our 30th wedding anniversary present to each other, so we wanted it to be very special. This trip has turned out to be the " TRIP OF A LIFETIME " for the both of us, as we were amazed at the difference between the Russia Trip and this wonderful experience. The Riverboat Empress was clean, beautiful, and very comfortable all at the same time. The Crew made us all feel like we were royalty, and they were our subjects, as I have never had better service in any hotel, any large cruise ship, and / or the River Victoria in April this year. We were so amazed with the service we went way beyond the suggested quality guidelines when we departed the boat. The itinerary of Vienna, Durnstein, Linz, Passau, Regensburg, and Nuremberg was wonderful, and the "featured included excursions" in each port were excellent as were the local guides. Our main attraction of course in each city was the Christmas Markets along with the local sights. Our Cruise Manager - BART ROELOFS, of Uniworld was the very best ever Cruise Manager / Director we have ever sailed with on any ship/ boat including Cunard, Carnival, Celebrity, and Holland American. Our decision to take the "extension" trip to Prague for the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th of December was the best travel decision we have ever made. The land extension Uniworld Staff and local guides were as equally talented and experienced as the Boat and other local guides. The experience in Prague, and the Christmas Markets there turned out to be the best Christmas we have ever had. Of the many places we have been lucky to visit in our 30 years together, and where we have said we would like to return to, Prague surly is at the top of our list. A Riverboat Cruise and visit to Prague = Wonderful Vacation. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
Even though there were approximately only 130 passengers - EVERYONE was easy to get along with. Everything about the ship was great. The decor in our cabin (category 1) was beautiful. Although I did not realize that there are only 4 ... Read More
Even though there were approximately only 130 passengers - EVERYONE was easy to get along with. Everything about the ship was great. The decor in our cabin (category 1) was beautiful. Although I did not realize that there are only 4 cabins that have double sinks in the bathrooms. We enjoyed having the "French Balcony" - sliding glass door. The reason that the ships do not have balconies is because of the width of the numerous locks that you travel through. Sometimes there are only inches between the ship and the walls of the lock. The food was delicious and the service always great. We had the most interesting dinner conversations with numerous new friends on the ship. The included shore excursions were fantastic. My favorite was wine tasting under a castle with 1,000 lite candles. The tour guides in every city were very knowledgeable. We are looking forward to cruising with Uniworld again in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
My wife and I took the European Jewels cruise May 9th 2009 aboard the River Empress. I will say that the entire experience, from the time we boarded the ship in Budapest and were checked in, to the day we disembarked in Amsterdam, was far ... Read More
My wife and I took the European Jewels cruise May 9th 2009 aboard the River Empress. I will say that the entire experience, from the time we boarded the ship in Budapest and were checked in, to the day we disembarked in Amsterdam, was far beyond our expectations. The food was remarkable and the wait staff was exceptional. I have eaten in five star restaurants that didn't do as good a job as the restaurant staff on the River Empress. Almost without exception, the shore excursions and local guides were easy to navigate and understand. The ports selected were a wonderful cross section of the area and represented big cities to small villages and everything in between. The Cruise Director became the "Go To" person for questions large and small and handled each one with humor and grace that had my wife and me shaking our heads in wonderment. Bravo to Bart. At the end of a long day of sightseeing ancient towns and villages, eating great food and drinking wonderful wines and beers, if was a pleasure to retreat to our cabin and climb into the best "Hotel Bedding" we have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. I would recommend this cruise and Uniworld to anyone who would like to experience Europe in comfort and style. 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
River Empress Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 4.3
Dining 5.0 4.6
Entertainment 3.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.8
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.0
Family 4.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.5
Enrichment 2.0 4.2
Service 5.0 4.8
Value For Money 5.0 4.5
Rates 4.0 4.7

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