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  #1  
Old May 27th, 2013, 04:23 PM
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AttilaTheFun AttilaTheFun is offline
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Default Uniworld River Beatrice, Enchanting Danube: Thoughts, pictures, and menus

I wanted to post my thoughts and some pictures from our river cruise as we had a fantastic time and found that river cruise reviews and pictures are fairly rare, even on Cruise Critic. However, the resources on this board and the Preisman's blog (http://www.thepreismans.com/) were invaluable in planning the trip.

Overall, we had a great trip and thought Uniworld did a very nice job. I have done several ocean cruises and was convinced to try a river cruise because I am an obsessive planner to the point where planning for a vacation stresses me out more than it should! The idea of not really needing to know much about the ports before I got there sounded nice - just get off the ship and follow the tour leader! The ports visited on this Enchanting Danube itinerary were also fantastic, with Salzburg, Vienna, and Budapest being the highlights. Finally, with the inclusions of wine/beer, wifi, tours, etc., river cruising actually represents a nice value. I can't even begin to imagine trying to do a similar itinerary on my own or by tour bus! With the river cruise, we just had to unpack once (when our luggage finally arrived - more on that later...) and enjoy the vacation as our floating hotel took us to each port!

I was surprised by how packed the schedule was though - I imagined a river cruise as leisurely, with plenty of time in port on your own to explore and do as you please, but on most days, it felt like the entire day was planned out. This isn't the worst thing in the world and we could have found more flexibility by skipping included tours or meals on the ship, but we wanted to get our money's worth! Because most morning tours started before 9am, meaning we had to get ready and have breakfast before then, we found ourselves fairly tired after the trip and tried to sneak in naps during the day. I was so thrilled to be able to see everything we did - don't get me wrong - but it just wasn't as relaxing as I had imagined. However, I have a holiday markets cruise booked with Uniworld in December that I'm so excited about and it looks like that itinerary provides shorter included tours and more time to explore on your own, which should be nice.

I'll try to present my thoughts in a semi-logical fashion by category and then some tips on the ports we visited, along with some pictures we took and menus. Apologies if I jump around or forget something!

The Ship - River Beatrice
  • As one of the newest ships in the Uniworld fleet, the River Beatrice was very well-appointed and definitely felt you were in a luxe, boutique hotel. The public areas were always spotless and felt comfortable.
  • I was actually surprised at how much longer the ship was than what I expected. However, with the exception of the Captain's Lounge/Library, all the public areas were at the front of the ship - Restaurant, Lounge, Laundry facilities, Gym, and Reception Desk.
  • The sun deck was nice, although the weather was a bit chilly and didn't always encourage sitting outside. We also discovered the awnings are not waterproof, after we tried sitting up top after some rain came through - the chairs and tables were all wet! There are also some small, nice areas to sit outdoors right outside the Lounge (front) and Captain's Lounge (aft).
How about a photo tour of the ship now?


Our home for 7 nights





Reception Desk - notice the tempting candy jars!




Uniworld bikes on the sun deck




The sun deck




The Captain's Lounge at the rear of the ship




The Library section of the Captain's Lounge, including two computers (free to use), board games, and books





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  #2  
Old May 27th, 2013, 04:42 PM
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Ship tour, continued:

Laundry facilities - free to use and the Reception Desk provides laundry detergent. The dryers were wonky and had to be supervised, lest they shut off on their own.






Gym - ceilings are low and may make it tough for tall-ish people to work out










I stupidly forgot to take pictures of the Restaurant and main Lounge, so this is the best I can do - it's from a strudel-making demonstration in the Lounge





Service
  • For the most part, service was excellent. The reception desk staff was so incredible in helping to track down our missing luggage with the airline. Without their help, I don't even know what we could have done, since the airline didn't even get it to us until we were at the second port - about 36 hours after our flight landed!
  • The servers in the restaurant were sometimes hit-or-miss, especially during breakfast and lunch. I suppose this is understandable, but it could take a while to get drinks or flag someone down to get you a drink. Sometimes the tables weren't cleaned very quickly, but for the most part, it wasn't an issue.
  • We had a favorite server in the restaurant and our tablemates tried to always be seated in his section. Even though dinner is "open seating," I'd guess that 90% of passengers go right when the Restaurant opens, since it usually comes after a port talk. All the servers worked very hard and were mostly friendly. Meals usually took 1.5-2 hours, which felt like an appropriate pace.
  • The bar staff was very nice and will bring drinks up to the sun deck if you buzz them. Don't forget to ask for the trio of bar snacks if you order a drink!
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Old May 27th, 2013, 06:31 PM
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Cannot find any access to the menus stated in your post?????
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Old May 27th, 2013, 09:20 PM
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My review isn't done yet, hence why there is no mention of food yet. Thank you for your concern.
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Old May 28th, 2013, 06:27 AM
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We leave on the Queen Isabel on June 26th. I cannot thank you enough for writing such a detailed post..and the photos!! This will be our first River Cruise. Despite reading these boards almost every day for the past 7 months, I still feel like there is more I want to know. I also do a ton of research (for others as well). I enjoy the research, I love reading reviews and posts from fellow travel lovers. But I am also getting a little nervous about aspects of this vacation. But reading your spot this morning has been not only enlightening but almost "calming". It also validates my belief that boards like this one and TripAdvisor are so crucial. Anyone can look at a glossy brochure from the company. But it is invaluable when someone shares their personal experience. Of course the trick is always to try and decipher the subjective from the the objective and to understand that we come from different places, have different perspectives, different priorities and different expectations. But if you read enough of these...the "truth" emerges.

Looking forward tot he menus!
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Old May 28th, 2013, 07:37 AM
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I loved your review and viewing the photos.
I am planning my first river cruise for next year.

How does a river cruise differ from the ocean cruises I have been on?
Pros and Cons.

Thanks.
Don
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Old May 28th, 2013, 12:04 PM
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So far the review and pictures are great. Can't wait for the continuation.
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Old May 28th, 2013, 08:10 PM
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Thank you for the kind words from those who are following along! As I noted earlier, my review isn't complete yet and I still plan on covering the room, food, and some brief thoughts on the ports we stopped at.

I only took one picture of a daily agenda and this was one of the more "leisurely" days as we sailed from Passau to Linz in the afternoon, but it gives you an idea.




Room
  • We booked a Category 4 room as we didn't plan on spending much time in the room and it worked fine. There is only a small window at the top 1/4 of the wall, so we jokingly referred to it as our basement or dungeon room. However, the window let in plenty of light and we were just one staircase away from the full windows on the public decks!
  • A note about booking a river cruise, which I find a bit annoying - the price listed is for the lowest category room and is not always available. For example, on the River Beatrice, there are only six category 5 staterooms available. Even when they sell out for a sailing, Uniworld leaves the "starting at" pricing the same. Ocean cruises usually update their online inventory in real-time, so this practice feels very outdated and can disappoint customers.
  • As you'll see from the pictures, the bathroom is TINY. Even on an inside room in an ocean cruise, you'll be hard-pressed to find a smaller bathroom. It was fine, but shockingly small. The towels and L'Occitane bath products were all very nice and I appreciated the shower doors, rather than a curtain, even though the shower was also tiny.
  • The room itself was also very small, but even categories 1-3 were this size, except they had French balconies. We didn't spend much time in the room, other than to sleep and get ready, but I think it's important to set realistic expectations of a river cruise stateroom.
  • Uniworld still uses metal keys that are connected to gigantic pieces of leather, in the "European style" that forces you to leave the key with the Reception Desk as it is comically oversized and hard to carry with you. Then, when you return to the ship after a tour, you get to wait in a long line to retrieve your key - no thanks! Some may find this charming, but I found it annoying after a while, especially since you have to remember to lock you door each time you leave the room. I'd much prefer a modern keycard system.


Our category 4 stateroom (notice the table and chairs on the far wall - there is no room between them and the side of the bed, making it a challenge to climb over them)




The bathroom




You can see the shower better in this shot




If you wondered where the toilet paper was hiding in the first picture of the bathroom... it is under the sink!



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Old May 28th, 2013, 08:14 PM
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We peeked into some other staterooms while the room stewards were cleaning. These next two staterooms are both category 1-3 (as they have French balconies), but I'm not sure exactly which category







This stateroom is a Suite category. Note that suites on the River Beatrice are bigger than other staterooms, but still consist of only one room


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Old May 28th, 2013, 08:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dongordon View Post
I loved your review and viewing the photos.
I am planning my first river cruise for next year.

How does a river cruise differ from the ocean cruises I have been on?
Pros and Cons.

Thanks.
Don
Hi Don,

I've received this question very frequently since returning. The truth is, they are so different from one another that they are hard to compare, but here goes:
  • You can find an ocean cruise for $30/day or less, but would be hard-pressed to find a river cruise for less than $300 per day. This is because river cruises normally include things like beer/wine/soda at meals, shore excursions, airport transfers, wifi, etc. The economics of a river cruise are also very different - there is no casino onboard and very few "upcharge" opportunities, so with carrying 200 or fewer passengers, the river cruise companies charge more upfront per passenger.
  • River cruises and ocean cruises rarely visit the same ports. A large ship just cannot sail up the Danube to Budapest or Vienna. Most ocean cruises stop at ports that can be far away from the famous city. For example, ocean cruises dock in Civitavecchia, which is over an hour by train from Rome, or Livorno for Florence, which is nearly two hours away by train. For the most part, river cruises dock in the "heart" of a city or very nearby. The furthest we docked from a city center was in Vienna, where we could take the subway 4 stops, or about 10 minutes, to the major sights. Uniworld also ran a free shuttle a couple times to take people in/out of the Vienna city center.
  • River cruising is more intimate - you have a better chance of meeting fellow passengers where there are less than 200 of you onboard, vs over 4,000 in some cases!
  • River cruises have fewer onboard activities to entertain you. There may be a daily port talk and/or cultural performances, but it's not like daily bingo or trivia. There also aren't any waterslides and in many cases, no pool or whirlpool either.
  • River cruises do shore excursions in a better manner than ocean cruises, in my opinion. On most river cruises, the passengers are given audio headset devices that pick up the tour guide's microphone. We were able to wander very far from the tour guide and could still hear him/her perfectly. This is a really nice touch and the excursion group sizes are probably smaller than what most ocean cruises offer.
  • I did find that river cruising had a surprisingly lax attitude towards security though. Each passenger is given a keycard (that does NOT work as the stateroom key, unfortunately) and we were asked to scan ourselves in/out as we came aboard or left the ship. Not only was it incredibly easy to forget to do this, there was also no enforcement and any stranger could just wander onto a ship. To test this, we wandered onboard two other Uniworld ships that were docked with us in one port and no one stopped us. Obviously, had we been making trouble or anything, I'm sure an employee would have questioned our presence, but on an ocean cruise, it's unheard of to embark or disembark without going through the security checkpoint where they require you to scan your keycard.
  • There is one aspect where river cruises and ocean cruises are very much the same - painfully slow Internet! I know that one does not river cruise to surf the web, but there were many complaints that the Internet was so slow that people couldn't even load popular email sites like Yahoo Mail. It took over a minute to load the bare-bones version of Gmail for me on the ship's computer and it would log me out every time I tried to send an email. Be sure to copy any text from an email you're sending, in case you get booted! We had a lot more luck with using the wifi on our mobile devices, which Uniworld provided a unique username and password to log into. I don't need to Skype or anything while onboard, but it would be nice to be able to send an email once in a while.
  • I believe that river cruising probably skews older than the typical ocean cruise, though this may vary. Most of the passengers on our river cruise were still very mobile and Uniworld offers a "gentle walkers" group that took a slower pace and/or spent more time on the bus for tours than walking. I thought this was very considerate.
Those are the main items I would highlight in comparing the two types of cruising, but I highly recommend trying a river cruise and deciding for yourself! It's a bit like comparing apples and oranges and each has their own pros and cons.
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Old May 29th, 2013, 06:34 AM
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The room and bathroom really did look small. Our last cruise was a Seabourn and the room was bigger than most hotel rooms in Europe I am still waiting for Uniworld to post more photos of the Queen Isabel. But we did book a Jr Suite because I can be claustrophobic is a room without a balcony in general. Thank you for posting the daily activities. That was the first time I have seen this posted on CC and it was really helpful for me to get a sense of the day.

Im very appreciative of all the time you are taking to do this.
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Old May 29th, 2013, 09:37 AM
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Attila - awesome photos and excellent observations about river cruising.

I'm tired of reading posts from all the complainers who didn't know what they were getting into. Your posts pretty much show what European river cruises are all about. Hopefully your posts will aid those on the fence about river cruises. NOT AT ALL LIKE OCEAN CRUISES.

Thanks again for giving the insights!
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Old May 29th, 2013, 10:45 AM
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Attila, thanks for all your effort in posting this information and pictures.

A couple of questions for you if you don't mind:

How many other river cruise boats did you find docked at each port? Did the ports feel crowded at all?

Did you like the quality of the included excursions?
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Old May 29th, 2013, 09:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oysterdam View Post

How many other river cruise boats did you find docked at each port? Did the ports feel crowded at all?

Did you like the quality of the included excursions?
Because we cruised at the end of April, I don't think it was as busy as the summer "high season." We had maybe 2-3 other ships docked near us at most ports, except Budapest, where there were many more. By the time we got off the ship, there were 2 other ships tied up alongside our ship!

The quality of the included excursions was very good. We didn't have any issues understanding our guides or anything like that. Being a tour guide in Europe often requires a government license/exam and many study in university to become one, by majoring in history or such. I can't think of any issues at all with the included excursion, other than the wine tasting we did in Durnstein was very stingy - 3 sips of wine and that was it! We also had issues with some of the other passengers being inconsiderate, but I might save that story for the port tips...
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Old May 29th, 2013, 09:29 PM
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Thanks for the pictures. I don't think I'll do a river cruise. Too small!!!
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Old May 29th, 2013, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by latinqt View Post
Thanks for the pictures. I don't think I'll do a river cruise. Too small!!!
There are some river cruise companies with bigger rooms, but river cruising is never about your stateroom! There are too many interesting ports and beautiful views from the sun deck to worry about being in the room!
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Old May 29th, 2013, 10:08 PM
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Okay, onto the...

Food
  • We were very satisfied with the meals onboard and they ranged from very good to excellent. Some of the dishes could use some more salt or seasoning (especially the soups!), but that's an easy issue to fix. Because I'm such a nerd, I'll break down the food descriptions by meal
Breakfast:
  • The main option each morning for breakfast was a buffet-type setup with an overabundance of food. There were identical steam tray setups on both sides of the buffet with 9 dishes: scrambled eggs, vegetable (varied - mushrooms, mixed zucchini & peppers, etc.), potato (varied - hashbrowns, home fries, etc.), crispy bacon, "soft" bacon, sausage (varied by day), mini pancakes, mini waffles, and a hot fruit compote (varied - strawberries, raspberry, etc.).
  • Along the back wall was also yogurt, fruit, cold cuts, cheeses, smoked salmon and other fish. In the front section, there the same assortment of pastries each day - mini muffins, mini donuts, croissants, danishes, etc. There was a bread section with multiple types and a toaster and MORE types of yogurt and smoothies next to that. A chef was also there each morning to make eggs or omelets cooked-to-order. As if that wasn't enough, there was also a daily breakfast special that you could order from the waiter. You could also order poached eggs, eggs benedict, oatmeal, and porridge from the waiter as well.
  • Finally, there was a beverage tables with many kinds of juice, water, and sparkling wine and spreads like jam, marmalade, and peanut butter. There was some minor variance in items from day-to-day, but was mostly the same. However, we never got sick of the breakfast assortment and found it all to be excellent.
Bare with me on the food/menu pictures - I can only post 6 per post, so there will be multiple posts to share everything.


Breakfast menu





Front section of the breakfast buffet setup and one of the hardest working crew members on board!




Pastry selection




Steam table with daily breakfast potato, vegetables, and scrambled eggs




Steam table with bacon and sausage




Rear wall of the buffet with yogurt, fruit, cold cuts, cheeses, fish, etc.





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Old May 29th, 2013, 10:20 PM
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Close-up of the cold cuts, cheeses, and fish section




Beverage and spreads table





Lunch
  • Lunch was a similar buffet setup in the Restaurant. However, the 9 hot steam table items varied each day, usually based on the local area we were in.
  • The rear area of the buffet became a salad bar with build-your-own salad items and some cold pre-made salads like cole slaw and the like.
  • The front area of the buffet had the omelet chef from breakfast working 3 jobs - a pasta of the day or carving station, pressed sandwiches, and dishing up ice cream! This extremely hard-working chef always had a smile and warmly greeted us each day and it was disappointing to see passengers not even bother to make eye contact with him and just demand food. The head chef usually was present at lunchtime to serve a daily soup and there was a variety of cheeses as well.
  • Then there was a dessert table each day, with no less than 3 different desserts and fresh sliced fruits.
  • At lunch, you could order any water, tea/coffee, soda, or beer from the waiters.


Example lunch menus








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  #19  
Old May 29th, 2013, 10:27 PM
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AttilaTheFun AttilaTheFun is offline
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I didn't take many pictures of the lunch buffet, but here's the front section where you can see the pasta of the day, ice cream, and cheeses




Dessert table




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Upcoming:
Norwegian Getaway - Mar 2014, E. Caribbean
HAL Eurodam
- Jun 2014, Baltics

Sailed:
Norwegian Getaway - Inaugural CTN (Pics)
Celebrity Reflection - E. Caribbean
Uniworld SS Antoinette - Rhine Christmas Markets
NCL Breakaway
- Bermuda
NCL Breakaway - Inaugural CTN (Review w/ pics)
Uniworld River Beatrice - Danube (Review w/ pics)
NCL Epic
- E. Caribbean
NCL Star - Bermuda
Ruby Princess - Grand Mediterranean
(Review w/ pics)
NCL Epic
- W. Mediterranean (Review w/ pics)
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NCL Gem - Bahamas (Review w/ pics)
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  #20  
Old May 29th, 2013, 10:43 PM
pully8 pully8 is offline
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wonderful pictures. thank you. sometimes better than words. appreciate your details too.

have not tried uniworld despite 6 river cruises. might consider them.
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