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ketelhut

Viking or Uniworld for the Danube

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We're thinking of doing our first river cruise.  We're looking at the Danube from Budapest to Passau/Nuremberg in Sept. 2020.  I have looked online at Viking (direct) & Uniworld (through a big box store TA).  Just starting this research.  First numbers I come up with show Uniworld about $1,800 more then Viking (about a 25% premium over Uniworld).  I know I can shrink this difference a little by booking Viking through a TA. 

 

Having not used either company in the past I'm hoping to get information that might explain some of this difference.  One example, I see Viking's price includes drinks only during a meal.  Uniworld's price includes drinks during the entire voyage.  It seems Viking has some "special" excursions that they charge extra for.  Does Uniworld also charge for special excursions?  I know this question is completely subjective but does Uniworld have better cabins, food, staff tours, etc?  We would appreciate any information this forum can give us.     

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We loved our Uniworld Danube cruise in 2016. I have a lot of info in my trip log posted here on CC.

 

 

Can't compare to Viking as we'we never sailed them, but we like the local wines that they brought on board Uniworld, the great food, and their excursions. Uniworld does have a few extra excursions that they charge for. Sometimes we take one of the extra excursions but don't always.

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1 hour ago, ketelhut said:

We're thinking of doing our first river cruise.  We're looking at the Danube from Budapest to Passau/Nuremberg in Sept. 2020.  I have looked online at Viking (direct) & Uniworld (through a big box store TA).  Just starting this research.  First numbers I come up with show Uniworld about $1,800 more then Viking (about a 25% premium over Uniworld).  I know I can shrink this difference a little by booking Viking through a TA. 

 

Having not used either company in the past I'm hoping to get information that might explain some of this difference.  One example, I see Viking's price includes drinks only during a meal.  Uniworld's price includes drinks during the entire voyage.  It seems Viking has some "special" excursions that they charge extra for.  Does Uniworld also charge for special excursions?  I know this question is completely subjective but does Uniworld have better cabins, food, staff tours, etc?  We would appreciate any information this forum can give us.     

We always compare several river cruise companies when we book.  We usually find that Vantage World Travel is the cheapest, but Viking is usually far closer  than Uniworld, Avalon and AMA.  I would never pay $1800 more just to do Uniworld.  Viking has a very good product.  We have found the having drinks with the meal covers a lot of our drinking on the ship.  We are usually off the ship during the day and the small amount for an after dinner drink is not much cost.  Usually Vantage and Viking might have one or two extra excursions that no were near put Uniworld as the best deal.

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Loved our Viking cruise. We sailed with my in laws that are used to luxury travel and staying at 5 star hotels and they were really impressed. Especially with the tours and food. We had a french chef on our cruise and the food was excellent. If our cruise wasn't up to par believe me I would have heard about it from my in laws. Viking is a well oiled machine with excellent training of their staff. I would recommend staying a few days in Prague and Budapest before and after the cruise. After our first cruise with Viking I booked two more trips with them. Viking has a loyal following for good reason.

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We have travelled with both...  If money was no object, I would choose Uniworld --> they have an attention to detail that I have not experienced with other companies.  However, when they made the decision to go "all inclusive" a number of years ago, they priced themselves out of my financial level. 

 

Uniworld does include gratuities, and includes airport transfers on day of embarkation/disembarkation even if you don't book air with them. They also don't ask for full payment months in advance, as Viking does. 

 

The open bar is wonderful for some --> not much of an incentive for us.  Wine/beer is pretty free-flowing during lunch & dinner on many lines - so even buying the odd drink off hours doesn't run up much of a bar tab. 

 

I do find it interesting that Uniworld - even when calling themselves "all inclusive" - still charges for some excursions.  Scenic is all inclusive - and there ae *no* extra costs. 

 

As far as cabins go, look at sizes & configurations closely.  Viking's French Balcony cabins are actually smaller that their Aquarium Class cabins on their longships…  We almost always travel lowest category, so costs of upgrades don't affect us.  Viking does have, however, the best staircase to the lower level of any ship we have been on - and we have travelled on most of major lines (AMA, Avalon, Viking, Uniworld, Scenic & Emerald....).

 

Enjoy your planning!!

 

Fran

 

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I've done 3 cruises with Uniworld, but have never paid extra for an excursion.  I was fine with the included tours.

 

Roz

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Uniworld is now all inclusive....and sometimes have great air deals....If you can take over the top decor.......Only beer and wine is included with Viking during meals...and you are still tipping on Viking....We always do a comparison before we book...Most of the river cruise lines have a few up charges for excursions.....May I also make another suggestion, if it does not matter which direction you start and finish....Coming into Budapest at night is not to be missed!!  ENJOY

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I don't find the décor on Uniworld to be over the top, but I guess we all have different tastes.

 

Roz

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We were on two river cruises with Uniworld, then gave Viking a try. After that trip, we subsequently went on three more Uniworld cruises. Maybe our experience with Viking was a fluke, but it didn't compare with the customer service, staff, food, drink, shore excursions, etc. that we have experienced on all of our trips with Uniworld. 

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We've done the Danube with Uniworld twice (2016 and 2018) and wouldn't hesitate to book with them again. Both cruises were outstanding.

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Is there a reason you are limiting your search to just Viking and Uniworld?  There are several other cruise lines that may offer more of what you want, once you figure out what that is.  If it's all-out luxury, there are choices above Uniworld in the pecking order.  If it's low cost, there are choices below Viking.  It it's value, there are still other choices that offer various combinations of luxury and cost.  Check out of the stickies at the top of this forum [especially New to RIVER CRUISING??? START HERE!!! and River CRUISE LINE articles on Cruise Critic, also Berlitz River Cruising in Europe [probably available through your local library].

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Thanks for all the feedback.  I guess I should go back & read some of the stickies Jazzbeau mentioned because we're still trying to determine what it is that we want.   We've done a few ocean cruises where the number of sea days, & amount of time on the ship, might make the cabin selection & amenities more important.   We will be making a decision in the next few weeks so keep those responses coming in.     

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10 hours ago, Roz said:

I've done 3 cruises with Uniworld, but have never paid extra for an excursion.  I was fine with the included tours.

 

Roz

We've had the same experience on our 3 Uniworld cruises.  I would also point out that the sizes of the excursion groups on all our cruises were no more than 20, and often closer to 10, people per tour guide.  We noticed the Viking groups were much, much larger but they all seemed to be enjoying themselves so maybe that wasn't an issue for them (it would be for us).

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have you done ocean cruises?  The choice of what you like on the ocean may give us an idea what what your expectations are

 

there are a few to choose from and i think that you have to look at the actual total cost including tips and any other tag on charges.  Those extras can add up quickly.  None of the rivers are cheap, but make sure you know everything that you are paying for

 

The excursions are a major part of a river cruise - not so much on ocean.  River cruises generally park in (or very near) town and seeing that town is the primary reason why you are there.  Ocean cruises certainly have excursions, but much of the experience there is shopping based.  River excursions are more historical based and you have to be able to listen to the guide.  Big crowds would make the experience less personal 

 

we did Crystal river last year and it was fantastic.  Small excursions with excellent guides.  Food was exceptional.  Great service.  i would price them as well 

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On our ocean cruises we have never taken a cruise line excursion.  We always do our own thing.  Sometimes research on Cruise Critics has given us information on great local tour guides in specific ports.  Other times we would leave the ship & talk to (interview) the local cabbies & private car drivers that are usually lined up waiting dockside.  Find one we think would be a good guide & use them for the day. 

 

Am I right in thinking tips on an 8 day cruise could add a few hundred dollars to total cost if not included in the initial pricing?  In reading some Danube river cruise reviews it appears several people pay for extra/better excursions that cost around $100 - $150 per couple.  So is there any river cruise line that is truly "all inclusive"?   Not that this makes or breaks any deal, it's just nice to have a better understanding of what my total cost will be at the end of the trip.    

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10 minutes ago, ketelhut said:

On our ocean cruises we have never taken a cruise line excursion.  We always do our own thing.  Sometimes research on Cruise Critics has given us information on great local tour guides in specific ports.  Other times we would leave the ship & talk to (interview) the local cabbies & private car drivers that are usually lined up waiting dockside.  Find one we think would be a good guide & use them for the day. 

 

Am I right in thinking tips on an 8 day cruise could add a few hundred dollars to total cost if not included in the initial pricing?  In reading some Danube river cruise reviews it appears several people pay for extra/better excursions that cost around $100 - $150 per couple.  So is there any river cruise line that is truly "all inclusive"?   Not that this makes or breaks any deal, it's just nice to have a better understanding of what my total cost will be at the end of the trip.    

River cruising is a totally different animal than ocean cruising. The included excursions are, for the most part, very good. We have cruised with Uniworld four times and Avalon once. If you want to get a feel for Uniworld's excursions, go to their website and click on "already booked," you can view their cruise companion online for their various cruises. Most recently, we did the Paris-Normandy route. The only excursion we paid extra for (and it was our choice, there was a full day of included tours on the same day) was Mont St. Michel. Most of the cruise companies seem to use the same guides, with the only differences being the size of the group and length of the tour.

 

At times, schedules change on river cruises, and you may arrive later, or leave earlier, than the itinerary states, due to lock schedules, river traffic, etc. For this reason, it makes any extensive DIY or privately arranged touring a risk, unless the ship is scheduled to remain in port overnight.

 

Tauck seems to be the most inclusive, though, IIRC, laundry isn't included. Scenic is also up there. Crystal and Uniworld both are, for the most part, all-inclusive, though both have optional excursions for an extra charge (but these are in place of an included excursion)

 

With the exception of Mont St Michel, our cruise was covered 100% last year (and we did that because it was a bucket list item)

 

Robin

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looking at the Viking site they recommend $34/day for two people in on board gratuities - about $225 extra.  Certainly not a deal breaker

 

Viking is pretty good  but not luxury (from friends that have sailed) but Uni and Crystal are a cut above.  Crystal (which we sailed on) seems to be in the same price range as Uni.  I think that you will get pretty good value from Viking and not be disappointed if that is your price point

 

i would agree on the post by acwmom as well.  

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Sailed on Uniworld & Viking.

Uniworld $

vs

 Viking $ + ~$38/day (tips for both) + optional ~ $24/day per person BOTH must pay (cocktails & more different wines)  This Silver Spirits cocktail/specialty wine program = $0 if you just drink included wine & beer at mealtimes

Viking a la carte cocktails are so cheap including the automatic 15% tip that my several martinis and wife's special glasses of wine make for tiny under $100 bar bills, usually ~$50 week long cruise.  Trivial.

Sometimes Viking offers big airfare savings that need to be factored in. Could be the biggest difference. Or not.

Unless the cost difference is large, I would decide based on itinerary, duration, etc. 

Our Uniworld cruise was on sale @ much less $ than Viking.

 Uniworld included booze not important to us.  Prefer light open Viking decor.  Found U lounge & room dark.

Enjoyed both cruise lines.  Would book with either any time depending on specifics.

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We have cruised with both Viking and Uniworld and would choose Uniworld for all the reasons others have mentioned. We never paid for any excursions, and their crews are incomparable, even though, unlike Viking, they are not working for tips as all gratuities are included. We found that the majority of the staff are employees of many years standing on Uniworld cruises, and have truly mastered the art of taking care of their visitors.

 

Furthermore, we had serious problems with the “package “ we purchased from Viking for a Mekong river cruise in 2016. Their agent was confused by the International Date Line, got it backwards, and scheduled our air travel to have us arriving in Vietnam an hour before sailing when we had paid to arrive two days before sailing. He then tried to get us to forgo those two days of hotel, tours and meals we had paid for.

 

When we complained, we were treated as “difficult customers” and though they did finally rearrange the air travel, they booked us on 4 flights coming and going, some requiring us to sit in an empty airport all night. And we live on the west coast! 

 

We would NEVER travel with Viking again. And we are older, very experienced travelers,  this was probably our 20th cruise, and we NEVER before were subjected to the uncaring, shift the blame to the customer treatment we experienced with Viking. If you choose Viking, book your own air! 

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On 2/11/2019 at 1:06 PM, Roz said:

I don't find the décor on Uniworld to be over the top, but I guess we all have different tastes.

 

Roz

I like Roz 's comment. I wouldn't decorate my home in Uniworld's style cabins but do appreciate that it is all 1st class and well done. It is probably a bit over the top for my taste but I enjoy the room none the less. Couldn't ask for a more comfortable bed. It is a great line to sail on!

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14 hours ago, luv2travel90266 said:

I like Roz 's comment. I wouldn't decorate my home in Uniworld's style cabins but do appreciate that it is all 1st class and well done. It is probably a bit over the top for my taste but I enjoy the room none the less. Couldn't ask for a more comfortable bed. It is a great line to sail on!

 

Agree.  When I'm on vacation, I want to experience something different.  If I want dull, :classic_laugh: I can stay at home and sit in my living room.  I joked that my cabin on River Beatrice looked like Marie Antoinette had exploded in it. :classic_biggrin:

 

Roz

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