RIVERBOAT REVIEW: OUR 18-DAY VIENNA TO PARIS RIVER CRUISE ON UNIWORLD’S RIVER PRINCESS:
Our Uniworld Vienna to Paris River Cruise in June 2013 was on the River Princess. This cruise started from Vienna, but due to the severe flooding of the Danube, the River Princess was not able to make it back to Vienna in time for the start of our cruise. So for the first two nights of the cruise itinerary, we were accommodated on the River Duchess, our floating hotel in Vienna. We then joined the River Princess in Krems on Day 3.
Sister Ship of the River Duchess
The River Princess is a sister ship of the River Duchess so apart from the very different decor and some minor differences, the size of the staterooms and layout of the two ships are the same. Some didn’t like the bolder green and black decor of the River Princess but I quite liked the green, black and leopard-skin colour scheme.
Facts about the River Princess:
The River Princess is a couple of years older than the River Duchess, having been launched in 2001. It went through a major refurbishment in 2011. There are three passenger decks (the Rhine, Danube and Moselle) and it can accommodate 132 guests in its 4 suits and 62 staterooms. But regardless of which of the five stateroom categories you book, the rooms are all the same size (151 sq ft). There is a sundeck and when the weather’s fine, that’s the best place to be to enjoy the views when cruising.
Staterooms – At 151 sq. ft, the staterooms are small – as you can see from the image above, there’s just enough room to wheel your case in front of the bed. But the rooms are very well designed and there’s plenty of storage space. There are gaps under each side of the bed to store our cases so once we unpacked we really did not need to access our cases again until the end of the cruise.
All staterooms are finely furnished to the same standard and enjoy the same amenities irrespective of the category. The hotel-style Savoir® of England bed is very comfortable, the bathrobe is luxurious and the L’Occitane en Provence toiletries I enjoyed very much.
For those who want extra pampering, the suites come with additional luxuries like a bottle of wine upon arrival, daily fruit and a plate of cookies and an evening amuse-bouche (bite-sized hors d’œuvre), slippers, private DVD, iPod® docking station, Nespresso coffee machine, refrigerator, morning coffee and tea, continental breakfast, shoe shine, and free laundry service. The suites are also larger in size at 214 sq. ft.
Balconies – The River Princess does not offer rooms with external balconies. Instead, French balconies can be found in all the staterooms on the Rhine Deck (top deck).
Category 2 and 3 staterooms have half windows that come down to the desk level. We were in a Category 3 stateroom (room 209), the same room as on the River Duchess, and found the half window was acceptable as it allows you to enjoy the sights from your desk or bed. Initially, it took a little getting used to as the window is at the river level and it was a little disconcerting seeing the river wash by outside our window. Category 4 and 5 staterooms however only have narrow windows that require you to stand if you want to look out. We don’t recommend such rooms as you will not be able to enjoy the passing views from the comfort of your stateroom.
Note: If you prefer more room space, Uniworld’s S.S. Antoinette and S.S. Catherine offer bigger staterooms.
Restaurant – The River Princess has only one restaurant, the Colony Restaurant, and all meals are served here. Breakfast and lunch are buffet style. Dinner is a three-course meal and there are usually three choices for entrees and the main meals. Dinner is usually served at 7:00 pm and it is free-seating. This means that you can arrange to sit with whomever you like, or sit with someone new each evening. We mentioned to the Hotel Manager that it would be nice to have some tables for two if you wanted to have a quiet dinner on some evenings.
Food – The German chef on our cruise tended to cook meals that were on the heavy and creamy side and the salads were very basic. The marketing hype says that the meals will exceed every guest’s river cruise dining experience, but unfortunately for us, they fell short of expectations. We would also have liked to see healthier options and more use of local ingredients.
There is also a 24-hour coffee station where you can help yourself to various hot beverages and biscuits throughout the day. In the main lounge at the front of the ship you can buy drinks and snacks from the bar, but in 2014 Uniworld cruise packages will be all-inclusive, i.e. all drinks will be included.
Dress Code is Casual during the day and Smart Casual for evening meals. For special events and the Captain’s Gala dinner it is appropriate for men to wear jackets and the ladies are usually glad to dress up.
Entertainment – Fredy the onboard musician entertains with piano music most evenings in the Piano Bar. On a couple of evenings, there were guest entertainers on board.
Laundry – There are two washing machines and two dryers and there was usually quite a queue of people waiting to use them. If you are a Heritage Club member, you have access to free laundry service once a week. I found this to be invaluable as I didn’t have to waste holiday time waiting for the washing machine to become available.
Other Facilities – The small gym was not used much but the on-board bicycles were popular. There is an elevator, but this was mostly used by the cleaning staff and for transporting heavy baggage.
Free Internet and Wi-Fi – There are two computers for use by guests and free Wi-Fi is available from the lounge. Although they said that the free Wi-Fi was not available in the rooms, we were able to get access from our room. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi service was quite unrealiable and would drop out whenever we went into a lock. The Hotel Manager acknowledged that the Wi-Fi service needed improvement.
The River Princess is an older boat and although it does not have external balconies, the staterooms are finely decorated and we found our room very comfortable for our two-week cruise. The boat is very quiet and a few mornings we woke up to find that we were already in port without realizing that we had arrived.
There are no intercom announcements in your room or in the corridors which makes for a peaceful time on board.
The crew were very friendly and everyone, from the room attendant to the Restaurant Manager and Hotel Manager were truly professional and they all worked very hard to make sure that passengers had an enjoyable holiday. We would have no hesitation in cruising with the River Princess again.What about you? What do you think?