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.
The cruise started with 2 days in Nuremburg which is enough to savour the party atmosphere around the Xmas Market, (the largest in Germany) and to sample the quality shops that abound. In addition, for the culture vultures, there is much to see and the Uniworld tours provide a well informed, well organised and well paced and effortless way to sample the historical sites. One not to be missed are the famous courts where the Nuremburg trials took place after the Second World War.
When we set sail along the Danube from Nuremburg late on 23rd December, following the Captains Welcome Dinner, all were in great spirits and anticipation of even greater times to come. The anticipated highlight was clearly going to be the New Years Eve Ball at the Daun Kinsky Palace in the heart of Vienna. This was to be followed by attendance at the famous New Years Day Concert also in Vienna. Little did we know or suspect that Mother Nature was conspiring to make the attendance at these events as problematic as possible - a conspiracy that Uniworld faced head on and defeated with efficiency and expediency over the next few days.
Arriving in Regensberg on 24th we were aware that the river level was rising and we were kept fully informed of possible issues by the able and energetic cruise manager, Tamas Kocsis. Xmas Eve and Day were spent as planned in Regensberg and all was going exceptionally well. Midnight Mass on Xmas Eve and a Mass on Xmas Day morning at the Cathedral attracted a large number of passengers- a 10 minute walk from the ship.
On Xmas Day we were informed in a professional and tactful manner that due to the river level, the River Duchess, and indeed all the other cruise ships docked at Regensberg, were not able to pass under a nearby bridge and that we would have to remain in port for at least another day and hoping that the water levels may subside.
There were 6 other cruise ships in port and all were suffering the same fate. News arrived on the Duchess that other cruise ships were curtailing their cruises and passengers were given early flights home. The ball and concert planned over New Year in Vienna were becoming a far off dream. It was with great relief, and indeed surprise to many, that Uniworld were to continue their "cruise" to Vienna. There was clear determination from the crew and no doubt from the hierarchy and the behind the scene workers at Uniworld HQ that the cruise would continue in some form and importantly that the celebrations in Vienna would take place. The water levels did not subside over the next two days yet ample buses were on hand to take passengers to the scheduled ports of call and most of the planned tours.
This of course meant more travelling in buses but all tours were honoured. The vast majority of passengers were greatly impressed by the total commitment of all staff to make the problems have as little effect as possible. It was regrettable that there was a very small number of passengers who seemed hell bent on complaining at every opportunity but after a day, when all had time to reflect on the situation and course of action taken by Uniworld, all (except 1 passenger) had great admiration for the high quality of the alternative arrangement that had been made.
On the 29th December all passengers were taken by bus into Vienna and had 1 day in the fabulous (and most expensive) 5 star hotel in the centre of Vienna, the Inter Continental - if it was good enough for President Bush then it was good enough for me!. Cash was provided for the evening meal- this gave the opportunity to savour the local restaurants. We teamed up with fellow passengers and had a great Viennese evening.
Uniworld had called out numerous staff from all over Europe and they brought the ship, River Beatrice, out of winter storage, berthed her at Vienna and restocked and prepared her for us to continue our cruise. We boarded her on the 30th. The River Beatrice is fabulous and passengers thought her of a higher standard than the Duchess. Due to her larger size than the Duchess most passengers were ungraded to cabins of higher standards. Most of the staff were brought from the Duchess to the Beatrice but other staff that had been recalled to duty stayed with us and we continued our cruise.
The New Years Eve Concert at a palace in Vienna was something special and despite the quality of the food, wine and service not being of a Uniworld standard the ceremony of the occasion made it a memorable experience and one to recount and share with friends and family for many years to come. Back to the ship for midnight and then on the top deck to celebrate the New Year by sharing the massive firework displays that occur all around Vienna and its suburbs-a memorable evening and the perfect way to see in the New Year of 2013.
The New Years Day concert at 11am was a glitzy and extravagant affair and it was a privilege to actually attend one of these occasions after seeing them every New Years day on the TV. Setting sail for Budapest in the afternoon most passengers relaxed and recovering from the New Years activities and celebrations.
2 days in Budapest brought an end to a cruise of the highest of quality, one packed with incident and handled in the most professional of manner by Uniworld.
The action taken by Uniworld in relation to the high water problem clearly enhanced their already “top of the tree” status, the financial costs of the dramatic changes made to the itinerary must have been frightening and it was gratifying, in the economical climate, to see that passengers expectations and the Uniworld reputation was of far greater importance than the financial cost involved.
It is difficult to comprehend the extent of the efforts and expense that the preparing, restocking, and bringing new staff to the Beatrice would have cost. Some of the staff said they have been at home for less than 1 hour at the start of their 2 month break when they were informed to return- they came from all over Europe and all still with a great smile and not one complained to us- just the contrary, they were pleased to maintain the passenger reputation of Uniworld.. The "new" captain had to leave on the day of his daughter’s birthday just to accommodate us.
Uniworld could have taken the far easier option and cancelled the trip. The booking conditions clearly allow this- this course of action was taken by all other cruise operators with ships at Regensberg. In addition, and quite unnecessarily they also gave each passenger a $500 credit towards a future cruise!!
Would we go again? Well, 2 days after arriving back we have already re booked for December 2013!
P and C McKay (UK)
This cruise was our first river cruise, and we rate it a "5+ star" in all major categories. Even better than most of the "ocean" cruises we have taken. The staff were extremely friendly, courteous and always there to help. Our cruise director Gabrielle was totally awesome and ought to be on stage (in fact I heard at the end of our cruise that this is exactly what she will be doing)!
We were certainly pleased with the luxury and comfort of our cabin, as well as the lounge and dining room. Our room steward, Csaba, was especially wonderful and took ...
great care of us, often with a lot of patience. The food was "5 Star" at every meal, and the dinners were always delicious and well-presented. They offered a wonderfully diverse and delicious selection, especially at the daily lunch buffet. The dessert chef truly outdid herself! Our waitstaff were fantastic to a person--always attentive, polite, and very friendly. The wine selection was superb (this coming from a native of Napa California!), and the quality of wine served was only surpassed by the skill and panache of the wine steward Nicholas. Our glass never seemed to run dry.
The top deck was a bit sparse, but no loss as we seldom had the opportunity to use it, as were too busy exploring the local towns and villages at each stop along the way (or the lounge prior to dinner). We would recommend this cruise to anyone except those wishing to travel with teenage children or younger--they'd be totally bored. Uniworld is a wee bit more pricey than some other popular lines, but several of our travelling companions commented on "you really get what you pay for" and that Uniworld was worth the extra cost.
We had been to France in the past, but this was our first time to explore the Burgundy & Provence regions. Travelling via the River Royale is certainly the way to go, and we especially enjoyed our four days in Aix-en-Provence on our own prior to boarding in Arles. Our biggest & warmest "thank you" and a bigger Merci, a bientot! to the entire crew!Read More...
My wife and I had long been tempted to try river cruising. We kept it as a backup idea mainly because we thought it was more expensive than ocean cruising for a trip of the same duration. This year we were tempted no more and took the plunge. An airfare discount was part of the incentive and did the trick to get me to book “Castles on the Rhine” aboard Uniworld’s S.S. Antoinette.Our expectations were exceeded for service, food, itinerary and atmosphere. Our only regret is our cabin was ... small, we booked late and upper deck cabin were not available, so we took a water line cabin. The cabin did fit us and all of our stuff so I do not regard the cabin as a detriment. It does bring up the advice to book and get a upper deck cabin, the S.S. Antoinette is new for 2011 and the boat is comfortable and tastefully decorated. There is a lounge with views on both sides, a dining room, and a top deck dining room ad a separate lounge. The Antoinette even has a pool, no Olympic venue but sizable for a boat that is only 36 feet wide.
My unease and perception at cost difference between Ocean ships versus River boats was resolved when I realized that 1 excursion per port was included as well as included wine beer or soft drinks at dinner. The dinner waiter was very dedicated to keeping my glass full. The meals were good of high quality with larger than expected portions. This was no “scale model food” involved.
The crew was fabulous from the stateroom attendants, front desk staff, waitstaff to the Captains (Capts Peter and Freddy). All were professional and focused on the guests. My highest praise goes to our cruise manager, Christine. She was always around when we were touring, open to questions or just conversations. She demonstrated resourcefulness on the morning of day#5, just as the boat was about to pull out of Rudesheim, we got word that no movement was allowed because of a bad barge accident further up river. Within one hour Christine arranged for busses to take us up to our next port at Koblenz and the optional excursion to Marksburg Castle. Since the busses could not be in Rudesheim until the afternoon, she also arranged for complementary morning activities.As an experienced Ocean cruiser I, found that this river cruise was better than the large ship ocean cruise I have been on. Rather than being 1 passenger in 1600, you are 1 in 140. You can get to know everybody on the boat and there is an intimacy that you can’t get on a mega-ship. True there won’t be a broadway-style show in the front of the ship, you may have to be happy with a piano player and a singer, but the absence of lines and crowds more than make up for the absence of the glitz. Read More...
As very experienced river cruisers,....we first discovered river cruising in 2000!!... we have travelled with many cruise specialists. However, we have never experienced the level of service and quality food that we did on the River Countess. This is surely due to the professionalism of Hotel Manager Julie and her entire team. WE made some lovely friends and look forward to travelling with Uniworld again and regularly in the near future. They really could not have been better.Thank ... you, Uniworld!!!
Hi there, just wanted to tell you what a wonderful holiday we had from May 21-June 7 of this year. Our Travel Agent Tom did all the bookings for us, we chose European Jewels with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, it was fantastic, we flew Vancouver, B.C. Canada with KLM Airlines to Amsterdam, met by a Rep. from Uniworld & taken to our ship "The River Empress" where a lovely brunch/lunch was awaiting us. The Cruise Manager Monika, Hotel Manager Jerry all the Staff were so friendly, accommodating, everything was so well organized. Our Stateroom was great the Food that was ... prepared everyday was good. We Thoroughly enjoyed all the Ports of Call, my 1st trip to Europe, Cruise the Rhine, seeing all the Castles, Germany with so many Roman Ruins, cobblestone streets, palaces, Vienna, Budapest, wow it was a Dream come true for my Husband and myself, one of the best Holidays we have taken and we love to travel. We also booked the extended days in Budapest and was amazed at our Hotel The Corinthian Royal, 5 star and it certainly was in every way, from our rooms to service to the food to the pool/spa. We have been on 3 trips with the larger ships and we could not have asked for anything better. In Budapest we also booked a Hungarian Dinner with the Gypsies, taken by coach and we also did some sightseeing. Again the guide was great and we really enjoyed this. I also want to mention that we really enjoyed the smaller ship as you get to know your fellow passengers, the only way to travel from now on.
Every tour was so well organized with guides waiting for us, we were so surprised that between the two of us we took about 1500 photos, thanks goodness for digital cameras.
At the end of our trip we were asked to fill a survey, well what could we say we could not find one thing to complain about it was such a wonderful time for both of us. Thanks go out to all the Crew of the River Empress for being so outstanding we are now left with so many wonderful memories for Fantastic Trip along the Rhine, Main, Danube.Read More...
The cruise was the most enjoyable holiday we have ever had.
The staff from the Captain down could not do enough to make everything run smoothly.
We would like to thank all the staff for such a pleasant trip. Could you please pass on our thanks to Captain Bot, Cruise Manager Monica and Hotel Manager Lucia.
We will certainly recommend Uniworld to our friends.
Jim and Jan Doyle
Now that we are finally back and "sort of" in a routine again, we would like to take this time to thank your whole team for putting together such a wonderful, educational trip!!! We were so happy with the Ship, River Duchess, AND her staff.....everything was first class the whole way!
I was particularly impressed with the way my allergy to garlic was handled, no cruise before has held a candle to the service your team provided! Chef Orlando was most gracious, making all my food just as special as everyone else's, and I had not one problem the whole trip. Thanks ... goes also to our table waiter, "Vinni" as we called him, he was an absolute charm! The whole staff felt like family, from the engine room to the wheel house, it was a wonderful, wonderful experience! We have absolutely NO negatives about the trip at all, from the minute we arrived at the dock in Amsterdam to the time we disembarked in Vienna! We can not see anything we would change other than the fact we wish now we had gone the whole way to the Black Sea!!!! We just can not say enough, we are most certainly going to book another cruise with Uniworld, and would have done it from the ship but, have friends who want to do a trip too (actually they are the ones who had to cancel because of an unfortunate fall) We need to consult with them of course to make this perfect for all of us.
We certainly hope the tips we left got to all the very deserving staff!
Looking forward to sailing down another river with Uniworld soon! Thank you so much for making it such an exciting experience.
Lynne and Dave GregoryRead More...
My husband and I just returned from a cruise on the River Empress from AMS/FRA. It was probably one of the best vacations ever...and we'd go again...but for a longer trip.
We have been on many cruises..this was our first river cruise...I have to tell you that your Cruise Director, Rik, was the best we have ever dealt with. He was great...never saw his roll his eyes with a sometimes difficult "older" crowd. Luccia,. the Hotel Director, was also excellent.
We are most interested in the upcoming cruise to include the ... Flora Gala expo in AMS...Rik told us the info not out yet, but please keep us on the list.
Thank you for the trip of a lifetime.
Pam and Denny Schulstad
First, and far most, I want to THANK my Reservation lady, Annette Pesa for arranging a cake for my daughter’s birthday aboard ship the second night (happened to be the Captain’s Dinner at his Table). The best present my daughter has ever had, so she said. Outstanding, Annette, the presentation was great, cake was light and hit the spot. Thank you, again, for all your hard work and time. It was appreciated.
I’ve sailed on big ships and one other river cruise which did spoil ... me, but this trip takes the CAKE. We were treated like Royalty in every sense of the word. The ship was breath taking, the staff was at your beck and call and always eager to please you. Yes, the staff would go that extra mile out of their way to assist or please you. No request to large or small—they handled it all with a smile and a happy voice. The food was outstanding and the wait staff was always ready to fill a glass or to see if you required something special to drink or eat. You always felt welcome and at ease with any request you might have. I took my own brand of coffee and requested a pot of water the first morning, didn’t have to request a pot of water afterwards they always brought it to me without my asking for it. Shows how they pay attention to the guests and their needs.
Our room was continuously clean and ready to accept us when we arrived. I have to admit that on one occasion, bad me, I flooded the bathroom. It was reported immediately and before we could get seated on the couch there was a knock on the door and before he could get to the bathroom door another knock on the door—it was a maintenance man with a water-vac to clean up. Next thing we had four (4) men working to clean up my mess. It seems the door got out of adjustment and that caused the mess. It was fixed immediately. I really couldn’t figure out why when prior nights I had no problem at all then all of a sudden it floods. They had it cleaned up in no time.
Sorry, Annette, I just can’t think of all the great things to say about the SS Antoinette or her staff. Just wish everyone I know could make their next trip on that boat, because they would never stop talking about it or the people. I know they would enjoy it because you just can’t help it. I’m already trying to see when my daughter finishes school, so I can book our next trip on one of your other boats. I can honestly say, “ UNIWORLD” has me not wanting to go if your boats do not go to that particular place.
I did mention I had been on another river cruise prior to this and it was on the River Queen. That ship did spoil me to doing another river cruise which to me is really the only way to travel. You feel like a family traveling together not a bunch of strangers. That trip was really good and special things did happen, people were fantastic and it was relaxing the way it should be. Since I’ve been on that ship it has been completely updated and the pictures look great. In fact, my daughter and I have been thinking about doing another one on her soon.
Ann DowdyRead More...
We just returned from the most marvelous vacation on the Rhine river! Our week on the SS Antoinette exceeded our expectations. The ship is fantastic and the entire crew was professional, friendly and very well trained. The food was varied and delicious. The excursions were well planned and our guides very informative. We were blessed with outstanding weather which just added to the overall experience.
Lastly, thanks for the stateroom upgrade that you provided to both ourselves and the Palmquist party. The staterooms were beautiful. Your team is to ... be congratulated for the design of this supership. We have sung the praise of Uniworld to our friends and neighbors and already are planning our next cruise.
Jim & Dolores Flashman
I can truly say that this trip was a most wondeful experience and surpassed our expectations.
From the moment we arrived in Amsterdam until we flew from Vienna we could not fault the Uniworld staff.
This is truly a wonderful way to travel and we would do it all again tomorrow.
The whole trip was outstanding,the places, the staff and crew nothing was too much trouble.
The accomadation onboard was spotless and the house staff kind and efficient. The onboard entertainment was also very enjoyable.
We experienced so much and met wonderful people and will travel this way again, the ... only problem we have now is deciding where to go. Would recommend doing the pre and post cruise tours especially to people travelling from Australia and New Zealand as it gives you time to get over the longhaul flights.
-Aileen CouttsRead More...
I don’t think a lot about soap. The cosmetic industry reports tens of billions of dollars in revenue, annually, and quite frankly, it is lost on me. Give me a bar of zest, splash on a little Old Spice, and I am good to go. This explains why I didn’t really get all that excited when my colleagues went on and on about how pampered I was going to be when embarking on my upcoming Uniworld River Cruise. The company uses the L’Occitane product line of toiletries on their river boats. Because of an arduous journey getting ... to the beautiful River Beatrice river boat, I really wanted nothing more than to get something to eat, and then crash. Long airline delays and near cancellations of flights had left me frazzled. After enjoying a sumptuous dinner, I made my way to my stateroom. Figuring a nice hot shower would help wash the day’s tension and frustrations away, I unwrapped a bar of soap, and waited for the water to cascade over me. I had no sooner disposed of the soap’s paper, when I noticed an unusual and pleasant aroma. Could a bar of soap smell this good? Perhaps it was the extra virgin lotus petals, (or whatever they use in their soap), that had the calming influence I needed to get a good night’s sleep. The following morning, as I was about to make my way to breakfast, I met my stewardess, Stefania. I introduced myself, thanked her for making my stateroom so comfortable prior to my arrival the night before, and in passing mentioned how nice the soap smelled. Stafania flashed a huge, bright smile and said she would try to make me as comfortable as possible during my stay on the River Beatrice. Who’s not going to be comfortable, I thought? Egyptian cotton linens and towels, a bed so comfortable, you could do nothing more than sink into a sublime bliss for 7 days? I thanked Stafania again and went on my merry way. Upon my return to the River Beatrice after a day of exploring Budapest, I couldn’t help but notice the same inviting aroma I had experienced the night before. It took me a few moments to realize that it was the soap. Geez…this stuff could double as a nice room freshenerl! I turned on the light to the bathroom, and instantly noticed three bars of the L’Occitane soap on the vanity. I didn’t readily make the connection, and thought my first impression with my stewardess hadn’t gone as well as I thought. Did she really think I needed three bars of soap to get clean? No matter. Perhaps she had left a week’s supply of soap behind as a time saving measure during her daily routine. While dining with my companions that evening, I casually introduced the fact that I had enjoyed the soap. Instantly, one of the guests informed me that indeed it was not soap, but rather a “cleansing bar”. They didn’t use lotus petals, they use verbena. You can’t call it soap, because it is made with extra pure vegetable oil. Okay, Okay, I get it! I made a mental note not to bring THAT subject up again, and bid my dining companions good night. Upon returning to my stateroom, I passed Stefania. We exchanged pleasantries on the way to my stateroom. My bed had been turned down, the lights were low, and on my pillow were two more bars or soap! Some people get chocolates, I get soap. Stefania greeted me the next morning, and I could contain my curiosity no longer. I asked my stewardess why she was leaving me so much soap. I will never forget the look of concern on her face. Stafania asked if there was something wrong with the soap. Of course not, I assured her. It’s just that how much soap can one person use during the course of a week’s cruise? She advised me that it was her responsibility to ensure my comfort while sailing on the River Beatrice. She was part of a team whose job it was to make sure this cruise would be an unforgettable experience. My stewardess listened to my saying something as innocent, as liking a bar of soap, and took it upon herself to guarantee my supply would not run out. Stafania went on to explain, that her intent was for me to take some of this soap home after the cruise, so the memory of my time on the River Beatrice would not end at disembarkation. It finally hit me. And it wasn’t only Stefania who felt this responsibility. What about the waiter, who after hearing me lament at breakfast, the fact that while in Brataslava, there was no Slovak staples on the menu at lunch, or dinner? Surely they should offer Haluski, a cabbage and noodle dish, and pierogi. Imagine my surprise at dinner, when my waiter brought me tastings of both dishes. I told my waiter that the chef didn’t have to make those dishes just for me. The waiter let me in on a secret. The chef hadn’t prepared those dishes for me. After finding out about our discussion, the chef sent a staff member to the Christmas market, purchased the dishes, and brought them back to serve, so I didn’t have to venture out at night. Wow. I was speechless. My time on the River Beatrice was such a rich learning experience. There is a lot to be said for docking in a town or city, walking off the boat, and instantly becoming a part of the charm each destination has to offer. No need to travel hours at a time on a motor coach for some shore excursion that will likely be over in twenty minutes. The ability to go on and off the boat at my leisure, afforded me a convenience not found on a conventional ocean liner. Nothing however, can compare to the service given on the River Beatrice. Uniworld has a winning formula for success that should be envied by the entire cruise industry. This morning I picked up a bar of the L’Occitane soap, (or cleansing bar or whatever you wish to call it). Instantly, I was transported in thought back to my stay on the River Beatrice. Stefania, et al, you succeeded. Indeed, my memories of being in your company stay with me even today. For that, I am eternally grateful.Read More...