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Sail Date: December 2012
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 ... Read More
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! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2010
My husband and I, with a great deal of luck and a little bit of juggling, managed to make it to Basel on December 21st to begin our Christmas Market Rhine River Cruise, which because of the timing did not include any German Markets. It ... Read More
My husband and I, with a great deal of luck and a little bit of juggling, managed to make it to Basel on December 21st to begin our Christmas Market Rhine River Cruise, which because of the timing did not include any German Markets. It wasn't a huge loss because we did shop at the Basel, Lucerne, and Strasbourg Christmas Markets and hit the "Mother of all Markets" on the Champs-Elysees when we arrived in Paris, for our Part II Vacation. What follows is our reflections on the river cruise part of our holiday and is an attempt to provide an honest and balanced account of our experience aboard the River Queen. THE GOOD The River Queen is a well appointed boat with very nice spaces, including a comfortable lounge with a cozy fireplace. Compared to cruise ships, it is very compact which means the distance from your cabin to the dining room can be all of 70 feet. The cabins are attractive and the floor to ceiling windows in ours were great for viewing the lovely scenery rolling by. The bed was really comfortable, the towels plush and the bathrobe generously cut. The food, for the most part, was good and on a few occasions very good. Lunches were more appealing than the dinners, which tended to be very drawn out affairs, reflective perhaps of a wait staff which was stretched too thinly. I would recommend the soups and the vegetarian entrees, including the stuffed crepe, the onion tart and the rosti. I especially appreciated the fact that the menus reflected the cuisine of the region. Tour guides for the included excursions were enthusiastic in sharing their knowledge of the various cities and the rich history behind each. You could partake of these guided tours or go off on your own. They did not seem to offer different tours for those passengers with mobility concerns. All of the included tours seemed to move at a fairly brisk pace. The extra cost excursions reflected good value for the price charged. They were really enjoyable, especially the trip to Lucerne and the tour of Marksburg Castle. We participated in all of the extra tours and we were glad we did. Onboard entertainment was surprisingly good. We were told not to expect much on a small boat but the performers, who we had the pleasure to experience, were marvellous. They ranged from a lovely woman who lectured about German Christmas traditions, an Edith Piaf type singer accompanied by an accordion player, a trio consisting of two violins and a guitar who performed folk music and classical music and finally, this wonderful woman who, accompanied by her husband on the keyboard, sang everything from country music to polkas to opera to swing - just fantastic. THE BAD The storage in the cabins left a lot to be desired. There was no long section in the wardrobe to hang dresses or suits and the shelves were awkwardly placed. I would strongly suggest that future passengers buy a few over the door hangers. It would alleviate some of the problems we encountered. When we called to confirm the docking location of the boat on the day of our departure, we were advised that the location had changed and we were given a different address by the Uniworld agent. We arrived at this spot along the river with a cab driver who was quite eager to unload us and our luggage on a deserted road with no boat in sight. We can laugh about it now. We gave him the original address in our cruise documents and the ship was there. Sixty francs later we were schlepping our luggage down a winding ramp and up to a boat that looked empty of passengers and crew. Not a soul was in sight, in the lobby or behind the reception counter. We pressed a button which opened the door to the ship, lugged our bags in and called out, "Hellllll-oooo-oooo!" A crew member did appear within a few seconds of our call and we marvelled at the difference between security onboard cruise ships and river boats. Anyone could have boarded the boat and stowed away in a number of places. It was all very strange and somewhat unsettling. One of the things that I found most disappointing on my River Queen cruise was the inconsistent service I encountered. Some of the crew were outstanding and seemed to really enjoy their jobs. Gabor, the bartender was a delight, always smiling and pleasant, greeting passengers by name and remembering their favourite drinks. Any request, and my requests are always politely made, would be met cheerfully. Sabina, our cabin attendant, was always cordial when we met and kept the cabin spotlessly clean. There was only one female member of the wait staff in the dining room and I can't recall her name, but she reflected this same level of professionalism and efficiency and was so good at her job. Unfortunately, this was not the case with all of the wait staff who managed to straddle that thin line between aloof and downright surly. One night, I decided to try an alternate dining option which included fish or chicken. When I asked the waiter how the chicken was prepared he looked at me with great impatience and said, "I don't know." Isn't that the job of a waiter, to know? Wouldn't the correct response be to say, " If you give me a moment I'll go and check with the chef to see how it is prepared." When you would ask questions, this league of waiters, and there were about half a dozen of them, would either nod or shake their heads as though uttering an answer would be a terrible waste of their energy. I was puzzled as to how the dining room manager could not see this and correct it. THE UGLY When we have cruised on ships in the past, we have had few occasions to deal with officers or management and on the odd occasion when we have had a concern it has been dealt with quickly and competently. I am very sorry to say that this was not the case on the River Queen. The first incident had to do with the hotel mangager. On the second day we had no hot water from our shower. We reported it and the officer at reception said she would look into it. The next day it was fine and we asked another passenger if they had the problem with hot water and the person said that he, too, was without hot water on the second day. A few days later, I was without hot water again. This time the hotel manager told me I didn't know how to operate the nozzle. I explained that this was not the case and I felt it might be a hot water shortage in certain cabins at peak hours. I left frustrated and when it happened the next day again, my husband insisted that the hotel manager come to room and see for himself. He arrived with the boat's engineer and they insisted it was still a problem with the faucet in the shower. When my husband turned on the faucet in the sink where there was no hot water either, they simply gave him this blank stare and shrugged. I fully expected a bottle of wine with a letter apologizing for the inconvenience, to be waiting for us in our cabin when returned from sight-seeing that day, but there was nothing. There was no follow-up to any of the three complaints of no hot water at any time, during the cruise. They never apologized for the inconvenience. The second incident had to do with the cruise director. During one excursion my voxbox, a device that transmits the voice of the tour guide to your earphones, was not working. Again, the cruise director, after trying an alternate set of earphones, just shrugged and told me to stay close to the guide so that I could hear. When I suggested that he should test the voxboxes before the bus leaves the area of the boat so that he could get replacements if they malfunctioned, he was pretty nonresponsive. Again, no apology. On another excursion, when he lost part of the group, I urged him to follow from the back and send someone ahead with the directions, he pretty much ignored me and my advice. He set a pace and never looked back to see if the passengers were with him. He just seemed unaware or indifferent. His job was to introduce the talent in the evenings and he did so. However, I don't ever remember him coming up to the front of the lounge after the performance was over to thank them and lead a round of applause. This was an individual who really lacked polish and style, as well as some basic organizational skills. THE VERDICT I enjoyed many aspects of this river cruise. I liked the itinerary and the intimacy of a ship of this small size. The passengers were friendly and there was a casual feel to the whole experience. You could dress up for dinner if you wanted to or you could wear a nice pair of pants and a sweater and you'd be good to go. However, the inconsistent service and the issues involving the cruise director and hotel manager left a bad taste in my mouth. My husband is not opposed to going on another Uniworld cruise and thinks that perhaps any of the negatives we encountered could very well be unique to the particular ship and the crew. I, on the other hand, think that there are so many other lines out there, why not try them. After this cruise, I would be hard pressed to recommend Uniworld to friends or family. River cruises I would recommend to anyone! Read Less
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