3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
I had never had a cruise before and thought a river cruise the best introduction to travelling on a boat. Thoroughly enjoyed the trip, boat fairly small but lovely, cabin compact but comfortable, large windows with French balcony, bedding ... Read More
I had never had a cruise before and thought a river cruise the best introduction to travelling on a boat. Thoroughly enjoyed the trip, boat fairly small but lovely, cabin compact but comfortable, large windows with French balcony, bedding luxurious and toiletries supplied. Bed turned down each evening, next days agenda left along with small gift, soap, shower gel, recipes etc .. Chocolates and water in room, no coffee or tea making facilities in room but available from lounge any time. Crew very pleasant and helpful. Food excellent and very varied, drinks plentiful including cocktails and Prosecco . Waiters attentive and polite, restaurant served buffet style breakfast and lunch with waiter service for evening dinner. Entertainment fairly laid back, singer most evenings, brass band one evening also a couple of lectures that were very interesting. No children on board for this trip and I would guess that most of the passengers were in the 55 to 80 age range. Majority of the passengers were Australian or from USA plus quite a few British. Scenery along the Danube was breathtakingly beautiful, misty some mornings which added to the beauty of both Austria and Germany. Would I take a river cruise again? Most certainly, my husband and I loved ever minute and highly recommend Uniworld. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
I was confused because I could find any reviews since 2015. We were on the "MS River Navigator", although this page refers to Vantage River Navigator. I'm assuming and hoping I'm on the right page. River cruise, ... Read More
I was confused because I could find any reviews since 2015. We were on the "MS River Navigator", although this page refers to Vantage River Navigator. I'm assuming and hoping I'm on the right page. River cruise, NOT an ocean liner. CanNOT really compare the two. I believe the capacity is around 150 passengers as opposed to the thousands on ocean ships. Typical small rooms and bathroom, but very adequate. Room service was great. Only one time slot for meals, all dress is casual. The meals were fine: breakfast buffet, lunch at 12:00, dinner at 7:00pm. The service was great, but the kitchen was at times, very slow. Dinner is typically salad, soup, entree, and dessert. On multiple occasions we did not get our dinner entree until 8:30pm or later. I imagine very hard to serve +100 passengers timely with such a small kitchen. Staff very friendly, but minimal accommodations. No pool, no theater, no entertainment, other than one act each night in the lounge. Small library, exercise room has a couple of treadmills and a couple of exercise bikes. Overall very enjoyable experience. I was told that the clientele is typically senior citizens which was the case on our trip. So mostly quieter and no real late night activities Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Wanting to do a European Christmas Market Cruise we chose Uniworld as it was part of the Red Carnation Brand and Hotel 41 In London recommended it to us. The décor of the ship has had varying comments but we loved it and it felt ... Read More
Wanting to do a European Christmas Market Cruise we chose Uniworld as it was part of the Red Carnation Brand and Hotel 41 In London recommended it to us. The décor of the ship has had varying comments but we loved it and it felt special not a run of the mill ship. Check in was simple and we found our room. The room was lovely, but small and initially we wondered where we would store our four suitcases and gear. But all cases fitted under the bed, all clothing fitted in the wardrobes and whilst the bathroom was tiny the large vanity drawers kept all our toiletries etc safe and sound and the rooms were kept neat and tidy. The TV in the Mirror was a good touch. The wardrobes were a good size and surprised me on how much they could hold. One of the best things about the ship was the care and attention taken to guests who were gluten free (like my husband) and lactose free like a lot of others. Francesco from day one would come over each day and advise my Husband of what he could and could not eat Breakfast and lunch (the Gluten Free croissants and bread were the best we have every eaten). At night the chef always had gluten free options including deserts. This additional attention was amazing and a number of other guests on the ship with similar eating issues were all very impressed with this. Food: overall (GR aside) the breakfasts and lunches were very good and the service was very good ( Virgil and Paul) not to mention the wonderful Francisco did a great job at breakfast each day having our table ready and our juices and almond milk, coffees and teas. Our first breakfast the eggs benedict was the best I have ever eaten, however, the second day the sauce was white and lacking in egg yolk and I sent it back, the next version came was slightly better, but there was a lack of consistently in it. Lunch: each day the salads were great and Mrs Tolands special salad dressing was my favourite, also different hot options each Day. Dinner: Probably the most disappointing meal of each day. I suppose we have been spoilt for choice on cruise ships but to be honest we did not enjoy the evening meals, limited selection and the alternative option to the changing main each night never changed. Also a personal choice I did not enjoy their wine selections. Rumyana our room attendant was excellent and always had a smile and a kind word for us. Our Captain was very entertaining and delivered the safety lecture in such a great way, however, that night with him, the cruise director, the hotel manager and the Sommelier taking to the floor it was a little "Blah Blah Blah" which the crew themselves called it the Blah Blah Blah each night. The Gym was tiny but right next to the Guest Laundry so you would put your washing on and then go to the Gym while it was doing its cycle Afternoon tea was disappointing same thing most days and not a great choice (again comparing it to the small ocean cruises). However, we were disappointed at night with the evening meals (but again being used to smaller cruise ships with more options. In saying this we did have a wonderful evening meal the second night before we were due to finish the cruise out in the Leopold Bar. They offer special dining to those in Suites each night (the same meal is each night) but towards the end of the ship other guests can book to eat there. Its a smaller area and the food was exceptional as was the service, this is what the main dining room should have been doing each night. We really enjoyed the Christmas Markets and our tour guides were knowledgeable and our bus driver Thomas was the best. Due to the river dropping we could not head into Nuremburg so we were put up in a hotel in Nuremburg and bussed in. The Staff handled the situation very well and did all they could in this situation. However, it was hard to fathom that they would give you Euro $25.00 per person per day for lunch and then for dinner that night Euro $35.00 as we could not eat on the ship. This did not make sense and a large number of us complained about this as whilst it may have and in fact was sufficient for lunch - for dinner you could not buy a decent bottle of wine for E$35.00 and considering that on the ship you had access to spirits, pre dinner, dinner and after dinner drinks plus a three course meal how would an extra Euro 10.00 per person per day cover this. We lodged a compliant but nothing happened and we were told head office would get in touch with us, its been a month and we have not heard anything. Disappointing. I loved the ship and the cruise just was disappointed with the evening meals, also having to eat all three meals in the same restaurant didn't have the same appeal as having a separate one for the evening meal however this should be taken into context that after doing a river cruise I feel we are more ocean cruise people (love Oceania and Seabourne). Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Three years ago we took an Avalon cruise on the Rhine River and loved the experience. We decided to take the Christmas Market cruise on the Danube to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We were not disappointed. Avalon does everything so ... Read More
Three years ago we took an Avalon cruise on the Rhine River and loved the experience. We decided to take the Christmas Market cruise on the Danube to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We were not disappointed. Avalon does everything so very well. The ship was wonderful and beautifully decorated for Christmas. St. Nicholas even left us sweet treats on his feast day, December 6th. Speaking of sweet treats, we loved the traditional ginger cookies always available to enjoy. I am a cookie baker and the Executive Chef helped me with the recipe to bake at home. The staff, crew and Robert our cruise director were all exceptional. The Captain was very approachable and spent time answering passenger questions. I was fascinated by all the locks we traveled through and enjoyed the presentation on the topic. The ports were all special and unique. The food for was delicious. Evening entertainment was very enjoyable. We enjoyed the wine and beer tastings. We had perfect shore excursions and plenty of time to visit the Christmas markets. We met many nice people and will always treasure the memories made on this very special cruise. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
Our group of 24 friends from Singapore were on our first ever river Cruise though we have travelled on many Ocean ones. It turned out to be beyond our expectations . It was a president`s cruise as Ms Edie Rodrigues was on board. There ... Read More
Our group of 24 friends from Singapore were on our first ever river Cruise though we have travelled on many Ocean ones. It turned out to be beyond our expectations . It was a president`s cruise as Ms Edie Rodrigues was on board. There was nothing the staff could not do for us... everywhere! Service at the Waterside Restaurant was superb thru all three meals. ...the food served at every meal was beyong expectations. So was the Bistrot when we wanted something simpler. The shore excursions on the Crystal owned buses were led by top flight guides who worked really hard to give us a nice time. They were well planned especailly the one to the Vienna museum where we were let in 30 minutes ahead of the public . It gave us the opportunity to view the objets d`art at our own pace. The special event Crystal concert and viewing at the Belvedere Palace was something I will remember all my life. We were given a tour of the Klimt masterpieces and the "Kiss" of course, before a concert by a 17 man orchestra of fine musicians playing Mozart and Strauss! Two ballet dancers performed as well as a couple singing opera. At the end the MC annouced a special surprise...three couples in formal evening wear danced to the same orchestra in the Grand foyer ! They invited the rest of us to dance to the Strauss waltzes... what an opportunity. To dance the Viennese Waltz in the Belvedere Palace to live music in the Grand Foyer!This went on for about half an hour and as we made our way to the buses...it began to snow to everyone`s delight! There s a special person I would like to mention...Sonia Gruber , head of the hotel section. She was everywhere... , when we left and when we returned on our excursions. On a cold day as the ones we experienced to come back to hot chocolate drinks ...warm smiles of welcome...Wow! Our departure time was 6.45 am on the last morning and Sonia was also there... to send us off! Our whole group enjoyed ourselves so much we have booked another Cruise also on the Mozart but this time eastwards to Budapest and beyond in the Fall of 2017. Thank you Crystal.. you guys were absolutely brilliant!! See you next October! Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
Let me start by saying that Crystal advertised this cruise as a 6 star experience.We were not disappointed.Fantastic in every way possible.If I could give 7 stars, I would!! My wife and I were looking for an upscale river cruise to ... Read More
Let me start by saying that Crystal advertised this cruise as a 6 star experience.We were not disappointed.Fantastic in every way possible.If I could give 7 stars, I would!! My wife and I were looking for an upscale river cruise to celebrate being empty nesters.Everything about this cruise was exceptional.Embarkation was a breeze.As we entered the ship you could see the beautifully appointed foyer. We were taken to our cabin immediately where we met Roman,our incredible butler who opened champagne and attended to our every need.He filled our room daily with fresh bottled water, Austrian and Czech beers and wine as well as the premium liquor of our choice.We quickly became great friends. The dining was incredible from sumptuous breakfasts, gourmet lunches,and the finest dinner cuisine you could imagine.Not to mention, continuous daily spreads of fine italian meets,cheeses,pastries etc.the cocktail lounge at night was a hit for all with entertainment by Mark Farris on piano who knew everyones name on the ship by the second night.He was superb. Our cabin was beautifully appointed with kingsize bed , a large walk-in shower and a heated toilet seat!Everything in the room could be controlled by your own personal ipad at the bedside. The shore excursions provided in all ports were mostly complimentary and were fascinating with wonderful tour guides.We did pay extra for an evening cruise on the ships 32 foot speedboat withe Bela the captain.Seeing the city on Budapest lit up at night on the Danube was phenomenal.Speaking of the crew,the service was as first class as it could be.From waiters,bartenders,and cruise directors; everyone was so friendly.The captain would take us the the pilothouse and answer any questions we had. When it comes to being all inclusive,Crystal doesn't miss a thing. We wanted for nothing.This was indeed better than we could have ever dreamed of.Hats off to Crystal;they got it right Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
Changed from a Viking to the Crystal Mozart , mostly due to additional stops along the way but also Crystals reputation at sea. In fairness, this sailing was only the 6th time the river cruise has sailed. We were in a French balcony, ... Read More
Changed from a Viking to the Crystal Mozart , mostly due to additional stops along the way but also Crystals reputation at sea. In fairness, this sailing was only the 6th time the river cruise has sailed. We were in a French balcony, room was beyond small. Had two passengers and needed the bed split. All the furniture is mounted, so this was no easy task. Made it so you couldn't open the closet, which itself is only 2 feet. There is little to know storage for a 10 day voyage and no storage or counter space in the bathroom. Although wonderfully decorated, very poor design. We requested a cabin change or even willing to purchase a second, but the ship was sold out. Thought the cruise and getting to know passengers, this was a complaint of most passengers we came across, and we were the only ones not traveling a husband and wife. In short, all the furniture is too oversized for the room. Food was exceptional, bar staff and spa were wonderful as well. Entertainment was the best! (Shout out to Mark who made every night more and more enjoyable with your witty humor and exceptional piano playing). Excursion, is another story. Hours on a bus each day only to spend a few hours touring a city with little time to explore on your own. My recommendation. Do your homework for every stop, book things outside the options given by the boat. Example, glass blowing tour, hour there, hour back, 40 minute demonstration, 15 minutes to explore a wonderful shop. (Just try to make a purchase and have it shipped home in that amount of time with a language barrier) Culinary tour in Vienna, 20 minute bus ride, walk through several alleys looking at locals restaurants, wine tasting (at 9:30 am, but they give you 5 kinds and bread), then coffee shop and a piece of cake... Not so much culinary involved. Salzburg tour, hour and half each way, and we didn't get the full experience of the "sound of music highlights ", but if I would have done more research, I would have booked through a local tour group, out of our port of call and seen it all with transportation provided. Only last recommendatio for Crystal , have some type of splash pool or misting system on the top deck, just for cooling off on the long sail days. We kept having to run down to the pool in the spa and then back up again. Overall, I think this will be a wonderful cruise once some kinks are ironed out and the learning curve is over. Nothing to keep me from taking another one in the future, and I plan to. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
We chose this cruise because of the all inclusive setup and the variety of excursions. It was the Danube cruise from Vienna to Prague. The whole cruise was truly first class. I was amazed at how good the food was. We ended up not eating ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the all inclusive setup and the variety of excursions. It was the Danube cruise from Vienna to Prague. The whole cruise was truly first class. I was amazed at how good the food was. We ended up not eating off of the ship much because the offering on board were much better. The fact that Uniworld has so many offerings for excursions and many of them are exclusive to Uniworld made for a great experience. When you went on an excursion there were no other busloads of tourists to compete with. My favorite was the concert in Vienna the first day. What a memorable experience. we shared Champaign with the musicians before the concert and a traditional layout of sausages, pretzels and beer waiting for us upon the return to the boat. Little extras that show up every day really put everything over the top. The tour of the BMW plant was spectacular. My wife especially enjoyed the trip to the Bavarian forest with a village tour in horse drawn wagons and a tour of the glass factory. The owner of the glass factory was our host. They also added a culinary tour which was new. A visit to a village butcher shop and a visit to a brewery. With samples of course.The last day they gave us a group photo of the crew and a pack of recipe cards from the chefs. First class all the way. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
Sunday, November 29, 2015 Vienna - Had arrived days earlier in Vienna to tour town on our own. Took our luggage to the Intercontinental Hotel (where is was securely stored) until several buses took us to the ship. Embarkation was a ... Read More
Sunday, November 29, 2015 Vienna - Had arrived days earlier in Vienna to tour town on our own. Took our luggage to the Intercontinental Hotel (where is was securely stored) until several buses took us to the ship. Embarkation was a breeze! Luggage already in our room - simply unpack (and store luggage under bed). Required emergency drill that everyone had to attend, then welcome by Captain and Cruise Director (Tony Campailla) and our first meal (nice selection) on the ship. Monday, November 30, 2015 Vienna – Since we had already toured Vienna, we took the tour bus into town in the morning for the “guided tour” and ditched the tour – some Christmas Markets shut down due to high winds. Had Sacher Torte and visited Museum. We then took the bus back to ship for lunch. After lunch, we took the bus to Schonbrunn Palace for the paid Excursion. It started raining on the way there and then the rain increased steadily in intensity. Christmas Market was shut down due to the extremely high winds (big disappointment as blogs stated this was one of the best Christmas Markets to attend). Since we had seen this palace twice before, we probably should not have pre-signed up and paid for this excursion and done it at the last minute. The inclement weather (heavy rain) ruined the experience. Lesson learned. Tuesday, December 1, 2015 Dürnstein – Unbelievably high winds. Had a walking tour through the small town with time to shop at the local stores. No Christmas Market. Saw the Blue Church. Melk – Since we had toured Abbey before, we walked the small town. Christmas Market shut down – only open for locals on weekends and evenings. Heard people from the Viking ship complain about this fact as they walked past us. Wednesday, December 2, 2015 Salzburg Excursion (Paid) - We took the bus ride to Salzburg. Had the chocolate pretzel and local sausages. Great Christmas Market and lots of great shopping (probably second best). Continued on with our growing Gluhwein mug collection. Lunch on own as bus took us to Oberndorf that afternoon to see Silent Night church. Then another short bus ride to a very small village, where two gentlemen sang Silent Night in the local church. Stollen and Gluhwein served up after the music in a courtyard. Bus ride back to the ship docked in Passau. Thursday, December 3, 2015 Regensburg – Another place we did not take the walking tour. Left before the tour groups and quickly found the Christmas Market. At 11 am, before tour groups arrived, we stopped at the Historische Wurstkuche (Old Sausage Kitchen) and put in our order (utilizing the free meal coupon provided by Avalon). Similar the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” we had the waiter repeatedly say: “Not all inclusive!!” We each received 6 small sausages with sauerkraut plus a beer. There was a large bread basket with a couple dozen rolls. As we were leaving after the meal, the waiter ran after us. “How many rolls?” We had 3 total. Not all Inclusive meant 1 roll per person. We had to pay .90 euro for third roll. We reported this to Tony back at the ship who was saddened since Avalon paid the Old Sausage Kitchen for this experience. In the afternoon a bus took us to the Taxis and Thurn Palace for their Christmas Market. (Looking back it was the BEST Christmas Market!) Great shopping and outdoor firewood heat everywhere. (Tony personally took the group there and back.) Friday, December 4, 2015 Nuremberg – It was becoming quickly evident that the Christmas Markets were providing way too many opportunities for shopping. Tony let us know of 2 stores in Nuremburg that carried quality luggage. When we arrived that afternoon we took the tour bus into town and were dropped off near the train station. (As with these tours, we always asked the tour guide where the bus would be picking us up and at what time.) We found a very nice carry-on piece to make sure we could bring back all the goodies we found. The Christmas Market was incredible (would rate this third best of the markets). We walked and did some shopping. We were told to meet for the tour bus ride back at the “Golden Fountain” in the Market Square. Unfortunately, the “Golden Fountain” was completely covered with construction materials, so we made the assumption that it was the Fountain based on where we were at looking at the maps that Avalon had provided. (NOTE: Avalon provides very detailed and easy to understand maps of the cities we visited. Because of this, we could find many things on our own utilizing the map. Always took a second map along for reference and kept one for our memory book.) Saturday, December 5, 2015 Munich – Bus ride to Munich. Did the walking tour, then time on our own. Since lunch was not included we did the local Rathaus (basement) for a meal. Spent the short time we had in Munich mostly at this place. Markets were far too crowded due to it being a Saturday to do shopping. The walking tour included the Hofbrauhaus and the Glockenspiel (at noon). Again, not enough time on these excursions. This was also the large “turn-over” day on the ship – the first of two. In all we experienced 3 Welcome Dinners, 3 Farewell Dinners, and 3 “last suppers”. These large change-overs are very stressful. You just get to start knowing people and then you have to start over again with a new group. This second group was very loud compared to the first. Those we talked to whom had just arrived loved Prague and their Christmas market (we missed out on that experience). Sunday, December 6, 2015 Nuremberg – Attended the morning service at a local church. Everything in German. Were able to figure out hymnal and tried sing along in some places. Church was cold – somehow heat was being pumped under the seats to help warm us up though. Did some more shopping after the service and returned to the ship late afternoon. Monday, December 7, 2015 Bamberg – Took the guided walking tour, since we had a free beer gift certificate and didn't know the location. This was a mistake. Tour guide took us to a museum and offered people a chance to use the bathrooms. Over ½ hour (almost 40 minutes) was lost due this convenience for others. Tour guide quickly walked us to brewery to get gift bag. It contained beer and glasses; however, it did not contain the smoked beer. Just a regular lager. The whole point of Bamberg is their smoked beer. In hindsight, would have skipped the walking tour, forgone the free beer gift, and spent time at the Christmas Market (we only had less than ½ hour to visit it after the lost bathroom time). Tuesday, December 8, 2015 Wurzburg – Did not do the walking tour in the Residenz. Took the tour bus there, then walked on our own. Watched the Market’s slowing opening while at a local coffee shop. Then shopped that Christmas Market. Listened to a street musician play wonderful music. Later waited for the ship to arrive at the dock. We had learned the night before that the Danube had been running high and the Captain was racing ahead of the rising waters to get under bridges. If it had been one day later, we would have been put on a bus (and off the ship). To make Wurzburg excursion, they stopped at a small town and bussed us ahead of the ship. We were also delayed 4 hours due to a lock being broken just as we were leaving the Canal and entering the Main River. This put the trip behind for awhile. Waiting for the ship to arrive in Wurzburg (it was 45 minutes late) got us a little worried that we would miss out on the paid excursion to Rothenburg. Rothenburg Excursion (Paid) – Took the bus. Left the tour group once we got inside the wall (because again the Guide stopped first at a public bathroom for the group to use). Utilized the Avalon map to navigate our way around the place. Visited the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Museum (Avalon had provided everyone with a free entrance coupon). Store was extremely crowded and very long lines to check out if purchasing an item. We were able to walk part of the rampart wall above the city – that was a great experience! Needed more time to spend exploring this wonderful place! Near the church, we had a cherry flavored Gluhwein that was exceptional. Wednesday, December 9, 2015 Miltenberg – Wonderful town! Ship had to dock a long ways away (the ship was docked at the far end of the town well past the normal docking locations) and we had to walk through muddy construction area (work was being done to build up the shore to prevent flooding damage). Again, left before the tour groups and did our own thing. The town is very narrow and long – basically two streets running parallel to the river. If you stopped in one of three stores with an Avalon poster in the window, you received a free treat (like a piece of candy). Christmas Market here was also shut down. Another place where it is open at night and weekends for the locals. Many old buildings and simply a quaint beautiful little town! Half-timbered houses and cobblestone lanes made it very picturesque! Thursday, December 10, 2015 Rudesheim – Bus ride, then mini-train ride to the Musical Museum. The mini-train is a tractor pulling covered carts that hold a dozen people each. We again did our own thing and walked the Christmas Market rather than visit the Musical Museum. Wonderful little town! Had a full lunch with everyone from the tour group at the Rudesheimer Schloss with the “special coffee” for dessert. Great local band playing during the meal. This was the second turn-over of guests on the ship. We again had people suddenly leave that we were getting to know. Friday, December 11, 2015 Heidelberg – Since we’d been there before we decided to rest a bit and started packing items we had purchased. The ship left after people got on the bus to Heidelburg and we used the time to get organized. We did not stop in Speyer – instead we stopped in Mannheim and were able to walk to the old town (a bit of a maze even with the map provided by Avalon) that included walking under the train tracks through a tunnel. Another great Market! Another great shopping mecca. More great Gluhwein and sausages. Unexpected stop – but a very pleasant surprise. Glad we bought that second carry-on luggage! Saturday, December 12, 2015 Strasbourg – We docked on German side of Rhine (most likely Avalon did not want security issues being docked in France since the attacks earlier in the month in Paris). We quickly found out that crossing the Rhine on a tour bus was a lengthy experience due to border control being tightened in France. One lane traffic vs. three lane traffic. Delays in and out of Strasbourg put a crimp on time to do anything. In Strasbourg, pairs of Policemen every block. The Market place was simply overcrowded (again probably because it was a Saturday - just like Munich). If you tried to talk to some of the vendors in English, they would ignore you (some even rude). On the perimeter, pairs of French Army with submachine guns. We got back to the ship 30 minutes late due to border delays. Alsace Excursion (Paid) – Stopped at Winery owned by a local family. Sampled 4 wines. This excursion also included a stop to the very quaint village of Obernai. Again not enough time to explore due to short time provided during this stop (would have had less time available if we took the walk with the tour guide). Sunday, December 13, 2015 Breisach – Spent morning walking the town which sits on a high hill. Long walk up to the high point to get to the church and old town. Nothing open in town (Sunday). Great views of the Vosges Mountains in France and the Black Forest in Germany though. Colmar Excursion (Paid) – Bus trip. Took the guided walking tour. Beautiful town with not enough time to explore Christmas Markets. Would have loved more time at this place. Stopped at the Hansi Shop and had a small bite to eat and drink, then shopped for Hansi specialty items. Waited for the tour guide to walk us back to the bus. She walked too fast and many people in our group struggled to keep up. The walk itself was at least 12 blocks crossing busy traffic. The ride back was a bit better until we got to the bridge crossing the Rhine. Again, the lanes went from 3 down to 1 for the border inspection between France and Germany – delayed arrival to ship. Monday, December 14, 2015 Basel – 4:30 am wake up call. Bus left at 6:00 am and took 90 minutes to get to Zurich. We were on first group to depart ship (8 of us) since our flights were that morning. Provided with a cold boxed breakfast to eat on bus ride. Disembarkation was very efficient with colored ribbons to mark our luggage. PLUSES and MINUSES: - Tony Campailla is an exceptional Director! - Suppers at least two hours long - length of meal can get tiresome after a while. Some meal selections became repetitive during a two week trip. - Breakfast and Lunch selections all wonderful. Soups fantastic! Lack of local cheeses - could have had more selections made available. - Congestion at the serving area. Badly designed. People getting soup and bread coming from two directions to also get served hot food creates a constant traffic jam at lunch. - Tour Guides for off ship excursions were not the best at time management. - Room was had lots of light from full windows. Bathroom was very roomy. Beds comfortable. Small frig in room to store occasional food items bought in excursions. Never felt cramped - even watched 3 movies while we were underway. - Service was exceptional. From the front desk staff, to the bar, to the room attendant, to the wait staff - everyone. They made you feel very welcomed and cared for. - Excursions need about 2 more hours added to them to make them worth your while. - As stated, maps provided at front desk are excellent! Daily newsletter was also very well done. Nightly talk from Tony about the next day's events was entertaining. - Selection at bar was very good with half-priced happy hour almost every night. - No snow. Both a plus and minus. Would have made markets look more magical; however, walking was nice and easy without walking in slush. - St. Nicholas Day - they had everyone put shoes outside their cabin door and in the morning a special gift from St. Nick was in the shoes. - Passenger Turn-Over. Watch for trips where passenger turn-overs can take place. Usually Nuremberg and Frankfurt are two locations where this can happen in the trip. - Coffee machine in back lounge area with good selection of cookies. - Were told at the end of the cruise that Avalon was testing out new dinner service, new linens, new towels, etc. on this specific cruise. The silverware rolled too easily on the plate; however, the linens and especially the towels were were very soft. - Would we do this trip again and with Avalon? Absolutely! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
Uniworld is great! My wife & I spent 2 nights in Vienna pre cruise, then boarded the River Ambassador which stayed overnight in Vienna to give us another full day before sailing upstream on the Rhine. From the time we boarded until ... Read More
Uniworld is great! My wife & I spent 2 nights in Vienna pre cruise, then boarded the River Ambassador which stayed overnight in Vienna to give us another full day before sailing upstream on the Rhine. From the time we boarded until the end we were greeted by an ever gracious crew who really paid attention to every detail. I can't say enough about how good they were. From the first happy hour in their well appointed lounge area, the staff not only remembered our favorite cocktails, but would warmly greet us as we walked in, asking if we wanted a "Dewar's and water" or a "Vodka Tonic". Drinks and wine are included and we never had to ask for another, since they were right there anticipating our wants and needs. (I've found slow service on other "all inclusive" trips or where we've already paid for a beverage package. The very small stateroom (128 sq ft) was the only reason to give it 4 stars instead of 5. The River Ambassador is Uniworld's smallest ship (120 passengers) and it looks like the staterooms on their other ships are larger-we could have used the additional space. However, the housekeeping staff did an excellent job of keeping it spotless every day and night. Laundry service was reasonably priced and service was same day, depending on when we left the bag out. Food was as good as we've ever had on any ocean cruise, including specialty restaurants. Breakfast and Lunch buffet provided plenty of choices and variety (example meat or veggie lasagna when they had lasagna), along with the usual salad fixings. Dinners offered a different menu every evening, and the staff was always there to refill your wine glass. The house wines changed every day and seemed to be local. Talking about the staff, I cannot say enough about how sincerely friendly and attentive they were. This was the last cruise of the season and I did not get any indication that anyone was short timing. Jaroslav, the hotel manager, was very visible and was always the first to greet us when we reboarded from our daily shore excursions. Piet, the cruise manager, was always available on board and when we were on the excellent guided tours that he arranged for us. The captain was also very visible. He did an excellent job of navigating the low waters of the rivers and canals. There were some last minute changes of docking sites and shore excursions due to the low waters and Piet made everything seemless in that we hardly realized that any changes were made. I know he had to scramble to re arrange guides and buses so we could see everything and he did a superlative job. In summary, this was an excellent experience and I get the impression that not only was the staff and crew excellent, but the commitment to flawless service came from the corporate structure as well. I can't imagine doing a river cruise with any company other than Uniworld. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
This was my second River cruise. The first was with Avalon. They are like night and day. The ship is older and very outdated... from the furniture, to the light fixtures. As another reviewer posted, the shower was smaller than I have ... Read More
This was my second River cruise. The first was with Avalon. They are like night and day. The ship is older and very outdated... from the furniture, to the light fixtures. As another reviewer posted, the shower was smaller than I have ever seen. It's awful!! the cabins are small, as to be expected, but the beds are not comfortable. We had to ask for extra pillows as there was only one little pillow on each bed. From the time we walked on board the hotel manager was nasty. She is French, and immediately made everyone feel like we were interrupting her day. If you asked her anything, or told her there as an issue with anything, she argued with you and got angry. She should not be in the hospitality industry. She made the trip kind of stressful. The staff was also not very helpful or forthcoming with information as far as when you got off the boat. IT seemed to be more of an inconvenience if you asked them anything outside of what you were told during the daily announcements. Thankfully the dining room staff staff made up for it. The internet I worse than archaic. The router they are using is worse than mot people have in their homes. It is meant for 5 connections, so it is excruciatingly slow and drops the connections every 30 minutes. That is if you sure lucky to even get a connection. The router constantly had to be rebooted. This caused problems for people who relied on having internet service for work or staying in touch with family members at home. There were not many English speaking people on the cruise, but the ones we met were wonderful. We made several great friends from Ireland, Australia, and Malta. The excursions were good as well. The food was a fixed menu everyday. If you let them know about any dietary requirement, they were very accommodating. However, if you are a picky eater, you don't have a choice on this boat. Otherwise we had no complaints about the food. Other company's give you a menu to choose from each night, which is MUCH better. Drinks are included, but limited. They couldn't make a cosmo or even a dirty martini. They said they had no cranberry or olives. We mostly stuck with wine and beer, which was good for house wine. And the Lounge entertainment was a joke! Compared to Avalon, this company is steerage. I recommend paying the extra money and going with a better cruise company... even if the drinks are not included all ay. You can bring anything you want on board, and wine/beer is cheap in Europe. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
My wife and I (both in our late 30's/early 40's) booked a Category 1 stateroom (201) on the River Ambassador for May 2015. She had always wanted to visit Prague and go on a river cruise along the Danube, so this itinerary was the ... Read More
My wife and I (both in our late 30's/early 40's) booked a Category 1 stateroom (201) on the River Ambassador for May 2015. She had always wanted to visit Prague and go on a river cruise along the Danube, so this itinerary was the perfect fit. We really can't rave about this cruise enough! The service and staff on the ship was top-notch: friendly, enthusiastic, knowledgable, and professional. The food was truly fine dining with all alcohol included. The chef always cooked a local dish using local ingredients each night. Presentation was excellent, and the food tasted even better! The excursions were excellent with knowledgable and friendly local guides. Didn't expect as many bus rides, but at least the bus itself and the drivers were all excellent. The cabin itself, while small, was well-appointed and comfortable. The ships amenities were quite convenient and in good order, and we loved the location of our cabin: right off the lobby but set back enough so that you didn't hear any noise whatsoever. The port talks every evening were very helpful in deciding which of the tours to go on the following day. There were several optional tours that cost a little bit extra that were well worth doing. Although, I would give a second thought on doing all the optional excursions in Vienna along with the featured excursion as you buy yourself a total of six bus rides on the first day, which was a little excessive and tiring. All transfers were handled very well. The Captain did a great job navigating the river, always staying a couple steps ahead. The Danube river level was rising and the Captain got us moving a little earlier than anticipated one evening so that we wouldn't get stuck behind a low bridge, thereby ensuring we made our next stop. All in all a phenomenal experience, and we are Uniworld fanatics for life! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2014
We had a great time on this ship. I really liked the "all-inclusive" arrangement -- all tips, all beer & wine, and all mixed drinks (non-premium alcohol) were included. (Please consider other cruise options carefully -- ... Read More
We had a great time on this ship. I really liked the "all-inclusive" arrangement -- all tips, all beer & wine, and all mixed drinks (non-premium alcohol) were included. (Please consider other cruise options carefully -- we've been "nickled and dimed" with crew tips and lounge drinks, even after "ship-board credit.") The food was very good, and the service was gracious and superior. There is lots of food with a good variety of menu options for most tastes. The excursions were well-organized, informative and interesting; and were comparable to other cruises we've taken. Besides the typical "city tours," we visited a family in the country, heard a concert, and got to see how regular people lived. These excursions were half-day, so we weren't too exhausted. My wife could rest back at the boat, and I could still explore on foot or or by transit. (They had optional "fee" excursions you could add to the included ones, but we passed on them for the sake of relaxation.) We have cruised on two other river cruise lines; one on the Yangtze, and another on the Rhine. I really appreciated not having to worry about additional fees, and that's worth the non-discount pricing. We chose to pay for laundry as an extra; but UniWorld comps a load on your next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
We took the 14-day cruise, Vienna to Amsterdam, & found it outstanding. Scenery was beautiful & being so close to the center of towns & cities was fantastic. We were worried about spring rain, but we had only 1 rainy day--the ... Read More
We took the 14-day cruise, Vienna to Amsterdam, & found it outstanding. Scenery was beautiful & being so close to the center of towns & cities was fantastic. We were worried about spring rain, but we had only 1 rainy day--the day we cruised the Rhine gorge. All the crew were genuinely friendly & exceptionally competent. (On big ocean-going cruise ships I find the staff's friendliness forced & competence to solve problems sometimes lacking.) The Luminary is understated & elegant, very thoughtfully designed. Sabine, our tour director, was very knowledgeable & went the extra mile. For example: in Amsterdam, my husband left his camera on a canal boat & I was sure it was gone for good. But somehow Sabine located our boat among the hundreds on Amsterdam's canals & managed to get the camera put into a taxi which delivered the camera to our ship. Service above & beyond! A couple of tips. Do not miss the Bishop's Residence in Wurzburg--amazing! And we were looking forward to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. My husband had been there, but it was my 1st visit & I was so looking forward to its treasures. We had an excellent tour guide from the ship's tour, but it was May Day, a big holiday in Europe, & the museum was so crowded that it was impossible to see anything but the top third of the Rembrandt paintings. We loved this trip so much we are going back in July on the Avalon Panorama, & while in Cologne I'm spending my entire time in the amazing cathedral there. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
We just did the European Splendor Itinerary over multi rivers and enjoyed it very much. We were in a Cat B mid ship and highly recommend this. It was a very good location. I liked being closer to the water. We were thinking of Cat E and so ... Read More
We just did the European Splendor Itinerary over multi rivers and enjoyed it very much. We were in a Cat B mid ship and highly recommend this. It was a very good location. I liked being closer to the water. We were thinking of Cat E and so glad we went for the french balcony. People were not happy down below. Loved this itinerary. I had never been to Austria or Germany and it is so clean and green. The meals were delicious. Wines not high end but adequate. Happy hour every day is a great idea. Enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine most days before dinner. Beds were comfy and lots of good pillows. One thing I did not like was the coffee in the main dining room in the morning. Just a little thing but if you want a good cup of coffee the lounge with the library on the top level has an amazing coffee machine that makes a delicious cup of most anything you want. We did spend four nights in Vienna prior and stayed at the Holiday Inn City center and have a Vienna card for public transport and used that quite a bit. Totally worth it. We did eat a lot and did not partake in the coffee and cake at 4PM or the snacks at 10:30PM. So happy to come home and realize I had only gained 2 pounds. We were able to dance most nights when we had the energy to the piano music and Nicki made sure he played a cha cha when we were there. It is a great way to travel and take in these beautiful small towns. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
After taking many ocean cruises with increasingly disappointing experiences, my wife and I decided to try a Uniworld river cruise during the December Holiday Markets time-frame. We flew into Vienna a few days ahead of time to see some of ... Read More
After taking many ocean cruises with increasingly disappointing experiences, my wife and I decided to try a Uniworld river cruise during the December Holiday Markets time-frame. We flew into Vienna a few days ahead of time to see some of the local sights not on the Uniworld schedule. We headed to the pier Sunday evening and found several river ships moored with little activity. With the limited lighting on the pier and no directive signs, our taxi driver was a little baffled and dropped us off at a nearby restaurant. After wandering around, we located the River Duchess. Our first realization was that this ship truly only holds around 150 passengers. We walked right on, showed our passports, collected our room cards and were escorted to our cabin. The ship itself is upscale, well appointed and comfortable. Breakfast buffet came with ordered omelets. Lunch buffet was usually served with a meat entree and dinner was from their menu. Food was very good to excellent. Soups were always awesome. Service was usually speedy and attentive. Our waiter, Laurentia (sp?), was particularly attentive. This was a port-intensive, Holiday Market cruise that only had one afternoon for scenic cruising. Despite the misty fog that day, it was still beautiful. One nice touch was the total lack of announcements on the cabin speakers. We were given the departure time for the buses at the briefing the night before and they left promptly at that time. A final mention needs to be made for our Cruise Manager, Christine. She was the most efficient, professional and dynamic cruise manager I have ever experienced. Somehow, she was able to solve multiple problems simultaneously along with herding us about on excursions and at the end of the cruise, solving dis-embarkation transportation issues. Ours was particularly complicated, but Christine solved it quickly and even told us in detail how to buy our tickets with the least hassle. She truly set the bar high for an outstanding Cruise Manager. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
My husband and I are first time European river cruisers. We never liked ocean cruising but river cruising is another matter all together. Luxurious surroundings, outstanding service, food and wine selection; not to mention very ... Read More
My husband and I are first time European river cruisers. We never liked ocean cruising but river cruising is another matter all together. Luxurious surroundings, outstanding service, food and wine selection; not to mention very interesting, included excursions off the ship made our cruise very remarkable and memorable. We were very surprised how smoothly the ship sailed. Half the time, we never knew we were moving. The dining room was the focal point for our journey because we shared our daily experiences with friends we met on board. The maître de, Richard, was amazing! He addressed everyone's needs simultaneously either with a friendly welcome, sharing information or satisfying your requests. His humour and camaraderie are a real asset for the River Duchess. He worked shoulder to shoulder with his staff setting an outstanding role model. The selection of food, presentation, variety and preparation were above standard; always hot and delicious. Shore excursions were varied and interesting especially the ones where we met the local people of each country we visited. Our favourite was the home cooked meal with Anita in Croatia; industrious,fascinating lady. Our tour director, Mery, also contributed to our happy, carefree existence. Her comical interaction with my husband made our trip very relaxing; like being with friends and family at home. We cannot sing enough praises for the wonderful time, staff and tours we experienced on this ship. We are looking forward to our next cruise with Uniworld. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
This was our first river cruise and we were not really sure what to expect. We have enjoyed several ocean cruises and knew how much the staff and service can affect your enjoyment of your journey. Having said that, we were also concerned ... Read More
This was our first river cruise and we were not really sure what to expect. We have enjoyed several ocean cruises and knew how much the staff and service can affect your enjoyment of your journey. Having said that, we were also concerned with the small quarters, noise, and quality of food on a smaller ship. We were amazed and delighted that our room , though small has so efficiently organized and luxurious that it exceeded the larger suites we have enjoyed on the bigger ships. The noise was negligible even though we were on the top deck. To say the food was amazing does not do it justice. Every meal was delicious, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I particularly enjoyed the choice of local cuisine on the dinner menu. Requests were taken seriously and every effort was made to fulfill them quickly. This was no small task considering the variety of nationalities on board. The wine and beer selections were deliciously varied and appropriate for the entrees being served. As to the amount of food served, all I can say is I rarely finished everything on my plate nor did my husband , a heavier eater. It was more than sufficient. Having owned and worked in service industry businesses I was particularly attuned to the service and the staff. I give them all an A+. Exemplary, is putting it mildly. Everyone from the Captain on down went out of their way to insure guests needs and desires were met. Keeping in mind , the variety of cultures represented as well as (dis)ability (age and weight related) and demands, we were truly impressed with the high level of service. In particular Monica our cruise director, Elena the fitness and massage therapist and Lucian in the dining room were stand outs. In addition, our tour guides for the excursions were outstanding, especially Erika in Hungary. The only improvement I can recommend is to contract with local barbers or hairstylist and aestheticians for grooming needs while in port. 2 weeks ( sometimes as long as 4) is a long time to go without these needs being met. This should not be too difficult to arrange and would be much appreciated, especially for senior travelers. The best recommendation I can give is to say that my husband and I cannot wait to go on another Uni-world river cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2010
We returned late Saturday night from our 16 day trip to Germany and Austria which included a cruise from Frankfurt to Vienna on Avalon's Luminary. We were thrilled to have no rain and LOTS of snow and only a few times were the ... Read More
We returned late Saturday night from our 16 day trip to Germany and Austria which included a cruise from Frankfurt to Vienna on Avalon's Luminary. We were thrilled to have no rain and LOTS of snow and only a few times were the conditions icy and/or slushy, making walking unpleasant. The snow covered scenery was magnificent and really added to the ambiance. This was our 4th visit at this exact time of year and the first time we had snow in every city we visited, except for our 4 days in Berlin at the very beginning of our trip. The Luminary is a new ship and she is elegant and understated. The highlight was the outstanding staff who was among the very best we have encountered on any cruise line. Gabriel, the utterly competent Maitre'd, managed a dining staff that was not only professional but also warm and gracious. Stand outs were Charlie (Perdang), Laszlo and Norbett. Our chef, Stefan, had been with us on our Affinity cruise last year and he was delightful, always smiling and very visible at meal times. Timea and Daniel at reception were always helpful and pleasant. Hans lived up to his reputation as an excellent cruise director, handling both the day to day aspects of his position along with the additional issues he faced due to weather challenges. We had about a dozen passengers unable to get to the boat due to weather problems in Frankfurt that disrupted flights and was on the phone constantly working to get them to the boat at the next ports of call. We had 4 in our group delayed and were surprised to learn that even though Avalon had booked their air and transfers as a complete package, Avalon's air department does not track flights at all to let the ship know of any delays. I had to let Hans know what was happening as he was unaware and told me that it is the passenger's responsibility to call him directly with any flight delays. Be aware of this if you expect to have your air issues handled by Avalon. The excellent bar staff of Vladimir, Bibi and Radu made before and after visits to the forward lounge very enjoyable. Rooms were well appointed and beds very comfortable. We had to go to the front desk to request a robe and it would have been nice to have these in the rooms when we checked in. The quality of food was excellent and we enjoyed a galley tour one afternoon with Stefan. The food is freshly prepared and was consistently cooked properly and served hot. There was a special offered each day at breakfast and several menu items that could be ordered at lunch if one did not want the buffet. The variety was very good for a ship of this size. Avalon advertises they offer a variety of low calorie options but this is really not accurate. At both breakfast and lunch, the choices for those choosing to follow a lower fat diet were very limited and the kitchen was not able to accommodate special requests for these meals. Hot soups at lunch were consistently cream based and though there was a small salad bar, there were limited items that were prepared without additional mayonnaise, etc. Veggies were prepared with butter and meats with sauces. This was not an issue at dinner when the two people in our group - including me - that prefer low cal options were well accommodated. Included wines were good. We did want to purchase better wines on a few nights but they were completely out of about 75% of the red wines offered on the wine list, the same situation we had encountered last year on the Affinity. I am not sure why they offer an ala carte list if they are unable to stock for it. We tried to order no less than 7 different reds by the bottle and not a single one was available. We were limited to the German wines and this was disappointing as we would have preferred some variety and were happy to pay the extra. By the next to the last night, they had also run out of vodka and Kahlua, which I found strange as well. There were some negatives on this trip for us: There was lots of sailing time and virtually no in cabin entertainment was available. There were three English channels and this is a cruise line that caters to North American passengers and Aussies so this is something Avalon really needs to address. Often CNN did not even have sound available. Avalon really needs to add some movie options and music channels. One can only watch progress through the locks so many times and after dark which comes very early in winter, there was no scenery to enjoy. Only twice were we docked in any reasonable proximity to the city we were visiting. I consider reasonable a 20 minute walk at a good pace. This mean taxi fares to get us back when we chose not to take the scheduled bus transfer. Walking groups were not grouped by physical ability and this was a hindrance in my opinion. There were most always 4 groups so it would have been easy to designate a group of slow walkers and another for those who wished to walk faster. Internet service was more unavailable than available. I had issues sending but could receive. The people in the cabin next to us to us could send but not receive. On this 11 night cruise, menus were much the same for the second half and more variety would have been welcomed. There was not much in the way of evening entertainment, even for a river cruise. The onboard piano player, Ivan, had a very limited repertoire. We were scheduled to be in port late in Regensburg so looked forward to being off the ship there but the heavy snowfall caused the river to rise very rapidly and instead of leaving at 11pm we had to pull out at 4:30pm. The evening entertainer was unable to get aboard that night. Last year we really enjoyed a Christmas evening put on by the crew but this was missing this year. For a Christmas cruise, there was nothing to distinguish the season in terms of any events or entertainment. A highlight for us was the crew show where about a dozen of the crew put on a series of skits that bordered from amusing to hilarious. Stefan and the gang of Roman bell ringers took top prize judging by passenger reaction. On the night of the 2nd crew show (a repeat of the first) we happened to be docked next to the River Countess and noticed their show taking place at the same times as ours. There was a young lady dressed in traditional Bavarian attire signing which made up the bulk of their entertainment and we noticed a number of their passengers peering over into our lounge where our staff had us bursting out with laughter at some of the antics. We were very happy to be on the Luminary with its very special crew. Overall we enjoyed the cruise but will next year we are booked on AMA for a wine themed cruise since they offer some of the things Avalon is missing, like walking groups organized by capability, bicycles and in room entertainment. The itinerary we chose for 2011 also has 4 of the 7 nights (enough for us we decided on this trip) either as overnight stays or very late in port which will give us the opportunity to spend more time in the cities we visit. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2010
This is first river cruise, and probably the last! Get to fly home tomorrow! The brochure was very misleading and this has been very frustrating for all aboard. The internet has been "not working" for 95% of the cruise. I've ... Read More
This is first river cruise, and probably the last! Get to fly home tomorrow! The brochure was very misleading and this has been very frustrating for all aboard. The internet has been "not working" for 95% of the cruise. I've only been able to log on between 3 and 5 A.M each morning. The cruise line has done nothing to help and just given flimsy excuses. It could've offered a 10-15 minute ship to shore phone credit so travellers could contact loved ones, etc. I believe river cruises are meant for those folks that are older, need nothing but a lounge and a bar while being herded around. Here are the main differences I noted. 1. No evening entertainment or shows, AT ALL. 2. Excursions are nearly non-existent with only choice in most ports is to take the ship offered excursion, or stay on the ship! 3. Eat only at the 3 scheduled meal times. No pizza spot, dessert spot or other offerings. The staff was great and the ship was clean and organized. After 33 cruises, I'll stick to ocean cruises which have more activities, excursion options etc. Maybe when I'm 90, I'll try this style. I'm no rookie at cruising. I'm 62, have visited 92 countries and taken 33 cruises. Viper Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
We have travelled on over 15 ocean cruises but wanted to experience the river cruise. We chose Uniworld and the River Duchess, mostly for the ports in Eastern Europe. Not knowing river cruising companies we were somewhat ... Read More
We have travelled on over 15 ocean cruises but wanted to experience the river cruise. We chose Uniworld and the River Duchess, mostly for the ports in Eastern Europe. Not knowing river cruising companies we were somewhat intimidated,however we lucked out in choosing Uniworld. Everything was great. Uniworld assembles mostly english speaking passengers for some of their cruises so we were able to enjoy all the people aboard. The main countries represented were US, Canada and Australia. River boat passengers seem to be very well travelled and welcome meeting new people. The dining was open and we never ate alone. The food was outstanding and after the big cruise lines, it was so refreshing to have the variety we experience there but not the massive quantity. To my view, the river boats are not beautiful because of the specifications they have to follow re bridges etc. but the interior of the River Duchess was quite luxurious. Our stateroom was a little smaller than we had experienced on the ocean liners but very adequate and well appointed. We thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of river cruising. We simply walked over a small gangplank and we were in a place to easily access the heart of the town or city. We were able to get on and off several times a day, at our convenience. One time we simply wanted an ice cream cone and a stroll in the shady park! The included tours were very good, although we do like to do things on our own and that was very possible. Probably the most interesting tour was the visit to the home of a resident of Croatia for lunch. It is alway wonderful to be able to see how others live. The staff went our of their way to see to our needs. Instead of the night tour in Budapest, my husband and I wanted to hear some gypsy music with a glass of wine. One of the staff found us a restaurant and when we arrived, a table had been reserved for us. We had a lovely evening enjoying the wine and the gypsy music. You would find that the staff is a little more laid back than the ocean liners, but very friendly, professional and helpful. The entertainment was really enjoyable. We had a piano player all the time, supported by a singer at times on board in the lounge. The entertainment brought on board at several ports was very high quality. No night club acts but really good entertainment. I do have to say that the cruise director Rick was excellent. He was helpful and informative at all times. All together, a really great experience. We love river cruising. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2008
Day 1: Leave Denver on Lufthansa at 5:15 bound for Frankfurt. Two nice meals, drinks with the dinner (2 glasses good white wine), and arrive a bit early at 10:30, local time. Try to avoid the Frankfurt airport! - we landed out in the ... Read More
Day 1: Leave Denver on Lufthansa at 5:15 bound for Frankfurt. Two nice meals, drinks with the dinner (2 glasses good white wine), and arrive a bit early at 10:30, local time. Try to avoid the Frankfurt airport! - we landed out in the outskirts, climbed down the stairs, and boarded a bus for the terminal. Even though its a secure area, we passed through a passport check, a customs check, and another xray security line. About 50% of the passengers got pulled out for individual wanding. I'm 2 for 2 on the inspection, since my carryon has batteries, digital camera, binoculars, and various electronics - all nice suspicious stuff on the xray machine. Watch the signs carefully to find your connecting flight in the airport. Off to Vienna. Customs a breeze (nothing to declare line). Viking rep meets us just outside the customs room, follow the driver to a VW van with 6 other passengers for transfer to ship (20-30 minutes). Onboard (staff handles bags), turn in passport in the European fashion. Ship exchanges euros at same rate as the exchange in the Denver airport, minus the $5 fee. Same rate in Vienna exchanges - figure on a 5% screwing on the exchange. ATMs are always the best bet, but only do that the first time outside a bank that is open, just in case something messes up. If it does, go inside and they will assist you in getting your ATM card back. Next time, call your ATM provider before you leave for Europe, eh? Tea/pastries in ship every day around 4, always good. Light snacks for early arrivals around noon. Meeting 6:15 and every day thereafter on "your schedule tomorrow". This one sells the 3 sidetrips on the voyage, have to buy today for arranging the buses. Dinner excellent pork/fish, shrimp and celery root mousse (good, unusual), clear oxtail soup, pastries. Captain's reception at 9, captain buys a champagne toast. Good musical entertainment with Otto, who has a very good synthesizer and knows a lot of songs. Off to bed, jet lagged. The ship: Viking Europe was built in 2001, and shows a need for some rehab (stained carpets, mostly). The cabins are 150 square feet for the main decks, and 120 square feet for the lower deck. Ample storage space on the main deck, with the suitcases stowed below the beds. Usual small bathroom - just imagine taking your half bath in your house, having the door open outward, then fitting a shower into the leftover space. Lotion and shampoo provided, nice thick towels. "Snot in a bottle" provided, but if you're not into shower gel, bring some soap. Usual confusing shower controls, this one is pretty standard for cruise ships, with the left knob giving the amount of water and the right knob adjusting the mixing temperature. Shower drained somewhat slowly. Ship is VERY UNFRIENDLY for handicapped - you must negotiate stairs for any movement around the ship. Then again - all the cities you're going to visit are also difficult for someone not able to walk a quarter mile and climb a couple of flights. All the streets of Europe feature cobblestones, uneven and inclined and often slippery. Choice of cabins - the center cabins are often blocked by the dock that the ship is moored to, noisy. No clock in cabin, bring your own - the bus will leave on time if you're not there. There are announcements a half hour and 15 minutes prior to bus tours. 115/220 dual switchable outlets in cabin, it works because I charged my camera and IPOD successfully. Day 2: Vienna Breakfast 7-9, early starter at 6 (pastries, good). Coffee and tea available 24/7, fruit on the table usually. Tea is not too good, bring your own if you're picky. I don't do Lipton or hisbiscus... Breakfast is typical cold cuts, muesli, oatmeal, granola, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and bacon always, some other meat and side. Excellent rolls, whole grain breads, orange juice, tomato juice, something called vitamin juice that tastes like V8 Fusion in the States, and champagne if you want to add a little to your juice. You can also order omelets to order, eggs, french toast. Bus leaves at 9 for city tour, ends at 10:15 at Stephan Platz in the center of Vienna for free time. Go down street for shopping at Billa, buy candy for kids and wine for cabin (bring a corkscrew in your checked luggage), then to Kleiml on Graben Strasse for gourmet candy. Bus arrives at 12, back to ship for lunch. Pumpkin soup(very good), salad bar (good), spaghetti or lamb roast, brownie with pistachio ice cream for dessert. Afternoon shuttle to Xmas market at Rathaus, spend 2 hours. Best drink is with schnapps for 2.50 euros for the cup, 3.50 euros for the drink. Nice cup, keep it for collection. Very good for pictures, see it in late afternoon for lights. Good selection, but didn't buy much. Lot of Lebkeuchen (gingerbread). Side note on shopping: I had hoped to buy some Swarovski binoculars here, but with the exchange rate, the 2% credit card fee, the 20% VAT refund - would save a grand total of $12 on a $1900 pair of binoculars! Not worth the trouble... If you spend more than $100 in a store, remember to show your passport and demand the freedom from the VAT - you have to ask for this! Back to ship for tea time, then the briefing, then dinner. Dinner is cream of herb soup, salad, wiener schnitzel or trout, apple pancake with ice cream. Waiters in Mozart wigs for atmosphere. My wife attended the Mozart concert ($55) and liked it, but hall was overheated. Some Goulash soup for a late night snack when the concert goers return. Ship leaves at 11. Day 3: Budapest Awake to cruising on the Danube. Breakfast features Nurnberger sausages today. I opt for the usual smoked salmon, muesli, and fruit. Wheelhouse tour at 9:30 - fun, and remember to ask about the wheelhouse collapsing to get under bridges in times of high water - that's interesting. Passing large cathedrals, and a ruined castle on the Danube, but I forgot the names. A guidebook on the sights would be handy, but I didn't buy one - I did get Baedecker guides to Austria and Budapest used on Amazon, and a pretty much worthless copy of Fodor's for Czech Republic and Slovakia. Use the Virtual Tourist website instead for city guides. Lunch has cream of vegetable soup, salad bar, Goulasch and spatzle, tiramisu for dessert. Arrive at 1:00, be on top deck portside for best views of Budapest. Usual city tour from 2-6. The Hero Monument is really good, read the history beforehand. 45 minutes of free time in the Christmas Market, not enough time - all handmade crafts, good prices. Budapest freely takes euros, US$ maybe - but the ATMs give forints only. Vendors I dealt with gave an honest exchange. Any forints left over can be given out as tips, or the coins make nice souvenirs for grandchildren. Hungary is switching to the euro on January 1, so this comment is soon outdated. St. Mathias cathedral is good, the view from the Fisherman Bastion is very good at night, but the spotlights are distracting and you really have to work to take a picture. Dinner is shrimp cocktail, celery soup with mussels and barley, turkey roll or butterfish, pumpkin cake or rum ice cream (Chef made some changes to celebrate American Thanksgiving) Developing an appreciation for Chef Ronny's work with soups and fish dishes, and the bread is nice and crunchy. Sailaway at 8:30, nice to watch with the city lit up. Day 4: Bratislava Up early to birdwatch from the lounge. Lock into the Danube Canal east of Bratislava. Breakfast of the usual, except the fruit today is mandarin oranges and the bonus meat is sausages. At 10:30, cold cuts and free wine spritzer (not that good) in the lounge. Lunch of cheese soup, pork roast or fried fish, good chocolate mousse. City tour 1:30 - 3. Free time - prices in Bratislava very good, selection of wood items and porcelains a specialty. A lot of grilled foods. Jewelry store near the inner market has impressive amber - necklaces with pieces the size of eggs, all kind of tacky looking costume jewelry type (I think they're fake ones). Warning: 15 steps up and 15 down getting through the customs house to the ship. Liquor store in the customs house, try the apricot brandy. Christmas mart is about a 1 km walk from the ship, and a map would be handy. Viking has city maps on the reception desk for all the cities, generally good. Dinner is artichoke soup or borscht, pike-perch or good beef, hummus or salad nicoise, mousse for dessert. At 9:00, talk on 2009 cruises, $1100/cabin savings with down payment now, date to be selected later. Free drink and egg roll as a reward for listening, but we don't bite on the deal. Day 5: Durnstein/Melk Breakfast today adds turkey sausage (weird tasting) and hash browns to the buffet, and pears to the fruit. Arrive Durnstein at 9:00, walking tour at 9:30. 1 Km walk, mild incline over cobblestones. Great overdecorated church, gilded like crazy. Nice town - half open in the off season. Lots of old walls, surrounded by vineyards. 2 hours total, with a 20 minute organ concert tossed in. Organist good, organ ordinary. Not quite enough time for serious shopper, but we buy some artisan chocolate and excellent Marille Apricot brandy. The one in the round squat clear bottle. Back on ship, leave at 11 for the cruise through the Wachau gorge. Narrative is good on the ship, but Baedecker has more details to follow along. Lunch of cream of broccoli soup, rice and pork, baked apple (very good, I had a religious experience and ordered a second). Arrived at Melk at 2:30, bus to abbey. Abbey tour - museum pretty ordinary, but the abbey is on my top church list, right up there with San Maria Maggiore in Rome and St Marks/St Lawrence in Venice. Choice is bus back or walk into town down hill and back to the ship (a bit less than 2 Km). Christmas market is small, nothing of great impact, run mostly by town non-profits (hospice, soccer, volleyball, etc). Most stores open, interesting and inviting. There's a good artist coop store with a woodcarver who is very good. Hungarian dinner of marinated veggies, cabbage soup, sauteed pike perch, some kind of crepe for dessert. Talk at 9 - questions to captain, hotel manager, chef, etc. Day 6: Linz/Salzburg Breakfast features McDonald style hash browns this morning. For me, it's day #5 of the smoked salmon. Chili sauce is good on the scrambled eggs, assertively hot, peaches for fruit today. Off to Salzburg - 1 ½ hours bus ride, one potty stop on the way near the MondSee for good views. The WCs are downstairs, exit through the giftshop with a long line. It's possible to squeeze thru the turnstile at the entrance backwards if you're skinny. Continue on the Salzburg, 1 ½ hour walking tour. Group 1 goes in back of the cathedral and see St Peter's cemetery, we get a guide that loves Mozart and shows us everyplace where Mozart had his diaper changed, etc. Go to the cemetery if you get a chance, it is really something. Lunch at St Peter's restaurant - oldest in town - near the cathedral. Warning: this takes over an hour! If you're a serious shopper, skip the dessert like we did or the entire thing and get some street wurst for a snack. Big Christmas mart around the cathedral, and others scattered around town to find on your own. Loden clothes in the mart, 20% less than the stores. Steiff animals in the mart also. Selection is really nice, prices decent. Hats, scarves, lot of candy/cookies, wooden ornaments, toys, nutcrackers and smokers. It's open on Sunday, because we were there on Sunday, but most stores in town are closed. Bought a bottle of apricot brandy in a violin shaped bottle. Remember the rule about "buy no wine in a bottle shaped like a fish"? Add the violin bottles to that rule. Town and tour very unfriendly to handicapped. ! ½ hour bus ride back to ship. If you opted out of the Salzburg tour, you got a walking tour of Linz during the morning and free time in the afternoon. You could with some research, take the train from Linz to Salzburg cheaper and faster if you're comfortable in Europe. If you took the side tour to Salzburg, you have no time to see Linz - the ship leaves a half hour after the buses return. Day 7: Cesky Krumlov Don't remember what the special breakfast addition was and didn't write it down. Smoked salmon, again and the mandarin oranges are back. Bus to Cesky Krumlov leaves at 9:30, 1 ½ hour trip on winding narrow two lane roads. Most beautiful town, with views down every alley. Avoid gypsy stores - easy to tell, ask your tour guide. Avoid exchange booths with the best prices, they cheat you too. Most of the amber in town is fake - if you want some, study up beforehand (helpful hint: look for bubbles). Just enjoy the plentiful sights, and skip most of the shopping. The toy stores in town were good. Lunch at Tornado restaurant beside the river - good, slow. No Christmas mart in town. The ATMs give korunas again. The castle tour only accepts korunas, so you're stuck. Another hour and a half to meet the ship in Passau. The Passau Christmas mart is ordinary and small, but has some different things to look over. Try the Apfeltrum (cider) with a shot of Calvados in it, I had two and was buzzed quite nicely. St Stephan's Dom was nice, excellent painted ceilings, molded/carved column tops. Photographing and filming is forbidden, I think, and I don't want to go into "How to cheat the system and still take pictures". Since it was sprinkling light rain, my wife stayed in the cabin and read. "Bavarian Entertainment" in the lounge at 9 - only poor thing on the trip, proves to be a bunch of young girls (12-16?) playing traditional tunes, mostly not that well. Day 8: Passau Early breakfast available at 3 AM in the lounge, since some passengers are getting transfers at that time. Breakfast is somewhat extended in the restaurant, since transfers are continuously leaving. This morning features weird tasting vienna sausages and that old American breakfast favorite, baked beans (in the English style, a lot of tomato sauce). My last day of smoked salmon, celebrate with a double helping. Leave the bags outside the door and go off to see the sights of Passau. Walk around, visit St Peters church (nice dark wood altars, carved), walk the river borders to see some birds (swans and gulls a feature), and go to the Christmas mart again. Buy nothing, but its the idea.... Back in the ship, settle up the bill in the usual fashion. Tips on Viking are split among the crew, which is nice for the dishwashers. We were introduced to the dishwashers during one of the dinners, which is a nice feature. All the crew pitches in for luggage transfer - I saw the head chef out there hustling luggage to the bus, the hotel manager, etc. Bus to Munich airport takes a couple of hours, we get checked through with a minimum of hassle, except for one thing! Once again, we pass through the regular security/xray, the passport check, then enter the airport. Suffering from the lack of some peasant food, we have some roasted wurst at AirBrau (very good). Passing the duty free shop, my wife pops in a buys a bottle of water for the plane. When we get to the overseas gates, there is another security line/xray, and that 1.20 euro bottle of water gets confiscated. She's still fuming over that - thankfully, I had passed up the purchase of a liter of Grand Marnier. Once again, down two flights of stairs to board a bus, then up a lengthy flight of stairs to board the plane - what are these airports like in the summer rush? Two meals on Lufthansa again, wine and beer to go with them, and the meals are wurst again - I sacrifice and eat it gratefully. I guess the bottom line for flying into Germany is to take Lufthansa and avoid the German airports. Good luck on that one. Read Less

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