When we started planning our 30th Anniversary trip, and The Hubs suggested a European river cruise, I looked at him slack jawed and said, “Why would you want to do that?! You hate cruises!” We had been on a few ocean cruises and he said he felt “trapped” and really didn’t enjoy the food (I agree), the entertainment (I agree), the other people and their kids or anything about it, so I was beside myself wondering why he thought he’d enjoy a river cruise. Apparently he’d done some research behind my back and hit me with the details.
He had checked out a few different routes, cruise lines and options and had decided on Uniworld’s European Jewels 15 day river cruise over the others for various reasons:
- Unlike Viking, because Uniworld is a “boutique” cruise line that specializes in river cruises, there was a significant price difference, so the chance that there would be families with young kids was reduced. In fact we anticipated being among the youngest on our ship and we are.
- All of our meals, snacks and beverages (including alcohol) are included all day long. Many of the other cruise lines had upcharges for beverage packages, just like the ocean cruises.
- All tips and shore excursions are included on Uniworld. Each city offers multiple excursions, and of course there are options for “bespoke” tours that are exclusive to each ship and itinerary at an upcharge. That was not the case with the other lines. On other river cruise lines the options for shore excursions were limited and all were at an additional fee; just like an ocean cruise.
- Each ship has less than 200 passenger occupancy. Our cruise has 63 passengers (half capacity).
- While we had lived in Europe at the beginning of our marriage, each of the cities on this cruise would be new to us.
When it comes to the excursions, Uniworld provides a small “QuietVox” unit and earpiece to help you hear your tour guide in even the noisiest of conditions. The Vox unit also works while you are sailing to indicate and explain points of interest on the banks of the rivers. Everything from castles and ruins to modern architectural marvels and small towns are explained.
Make No Mistake, This is NOT a Budget Trip
Make no mistake, this is NOT a budget trip and it is one you should plan well in advance and be prepared for a bit of sticker shock if you are used to ocean cruises and their pricing. The bonus with THIS type of all-inclusive service is that are really no financial surprises. You can leave your wallet in the safe until it is time to go on an excursion, and sometimes even then.
Our ship is the River Princess and while our cabin is smaller than I imagined, it is outfitted with luxurious linens both on the bed and in the bathroom. It is beautifully appointed in an “old world” style in keeping with the locales we’ll be visiting. Our stateroom attendant offers turndown service and handles special requests of course.
Regionally Influenced Wine Pairings
And let’s talk for just a sec about the food and beverage. SOOOO much better than I could have hoped for! Our welcome gala dinner on this river cruise was beautifully plated and included regional cuisine from the area of Europe we were travelling through at the time. Spot on flavors, regionally influenced wine pairings, with excellent preparation and attention to detail from kitchen to service. After speaking at some length with the Chef (did you think I wouldn’t?), Chef Daniel informed me he shops the markets at each port so all the ingredients are the freshest possible.
River Cruise Welcome Dinner
The following pics are from our welcome dinner. A set menu with the entree as the only option. It was truly fantastic!