How Good is Your River Cruise Company?

How Well Your River Cruise Operator Handles a Crisis is a Mark of the Company’s Reputation:

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Uniworld River Duchess

Our Uniworld Paris & the Heart of Europe Cruise was supposed to be on the River Princess starting in Vienna on June 23rd. The early June flooding of the Danube  and other European rivers caused havoc to all European river cruising companies. Moorings were damaged, towns along the Danube such as Passau, Deggendorf and Budapest were partially submerged underwater and the river level was too high for the river boats to pass under. Cruising companies had boats were stranded in various locations and Uniworld’s River Princess was not able to make its way back to Vienna in time for our cruise.

Mark of a Good River Cruising Company

Low river level, high water, frozen waterways and floods are nothing new to river cruise operators as they face these situations every season.  But the river levels can disrupt a river cruise itinerary substantially. This year’s Danube river reached heights not seen in Passau in over 500 years and caused untold damage to many German towns along the Danube. The River Princess was not able to make it back to Vienna on time, and as such we were accommodated on the River Duchess in Vienna for the first two days of our trip. The mark of a good river cruise operator is how well it manages a crisis and our impressions were that Uniworld did a stellar job in making sure that clients were inconvenienced as little as possible.

Danube River Flooding

We were working in Paris when we saw the news of the Danube flooding on television. Many river cruises up to the weekend of June 16th were being cancelled and we anxiously awaited news of our June 23rd cruise. We were relieved to receive an email from our travel agent advising that our cruise would go ahead, but that our first two nights in Vienna would be on the River Duchess. I did wonder how they were going to allocate staterooms on a different boat, but we were advised that the River Duchess is a sister ship of the River Princess and so the layout of the two ships are very similar. Passengers did not have to change room numbers as the layout in both ships are the same and we all had the same cabin number on the two ships.

On Day 3, we had to leave our luggage outside our cabin at 7 a.m. for them to be transferred to the River Princess. This was too early for Tony’s liking and he felt that they could at least have left it till after breakfast when we were all going out on sightseeing excursions anyway. We opted for the excursion to Bratislava and after the day’s sightseeing we were taken straight to Krems where the River Princess was docked.

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Boarding the River Princess at Krems

The decor of the River Duchess and River Princess are completely different, but after our two days on the River Duchess, we were all familiar with the general layout of the River Princess when we checked into our stateroom.

Our’s was one of the earliest cruises to operate after the Danube flooding and it was reassuring to see various head office managers on board to monitor cruising conditions. It was all very low-keyed and you just notice these different faces at the captain’s table at meal-time. Michael, one of the management staff, said that his role was to go from ship to ship to oversee the cruises, but he stayed with the River Princess for most of its journey.

Accolade to the River Duchess Crew

During the two days that we were temporarily accommodated in the River Duchess, we got to know the ship and its crew quite well. The River Duchess had been kept in Vienna to temporarily host passengers from other Uniworld cruises affected by the floods. The crew must have been driven stark crazy not being able to sail, but we were very impressed by how well they performed their temporary ‘hotel’ function. They were not going to see us again after our two days’ stay, but no effort was spared in making sure that we were looked after well.

Richard, the Restaurant Manager, and his restaurant team were exceptional. You only have to mention once that you wanted a double-espresso at breakfast or sparkling water at lunch and the whole team cottoned on to the little details of your preferences and you never had to mention them again. The service was like that of a five-star restaurant. No matter how busy they were, they always provided service with a smile, especially Debo the friendly giant. We were quite sad when we had to leave them at the end of the two days.

Even the stateroom attendants and cleaners of the River Duchess were very well trained. They may be busy cleaning a room or passageway, but they would always stop to greet you as you made your way to the dining room.

A Great Job by Uniworld

Floods and low river waters are unavoidable but how well a river cruise operator handles these natural disasters is a mark of how good your river cruise company is. You read of complaints by cruise passengers who have been holed up in cheap hotels or received poor service when the boats are not able to sail, and as mentioned above, the Danube flood was one of the worst in history and we thought that Uniworld looked after us extremely well during this crisis.

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