ARRIVING IN VIENNA AND BOARDING OUR RIVER BOAT – BOARDING PROCEDURE:
Paris and The Heart of Europe – Uniworld River Cruise – Day 1:
In spite of having done a few river cruises, and any other cruises for that matter, embarkation day always causes little jitters. Will our booked airport transfer be there when we arrive, will we make embarkation time, will we like our stateroom, what are the crew and fellow passengers really like, and so on?
Transfer from Vienna Airport to Cruise Terminal
Our flight was slightly delayed in Paris, but in spite of this we arrived at Vienna International Airport at 4:30 pm and we had relatively quick clearances through immigration and customs. Vienna Airport had morphed into this huge and busy state-of-the-art airport which we no longer recognized. Luckily I found the Uniworld representative quite easily. We had to wait for two more passengers and then we were on our way to the river cruise terminal. Having an included transfer was very convenient. After a long flight we didn’t have to find our own way to the cruise terminal or to find out where our river boat was moored.
Tip: If your river cruise is setting sail on embarkation day, be sure to arrive well before their stated “latest embarkation time” as the boat cannot wait for late passengers.
Boarding the River Duchess
The drive from Vienna International Airport to the Handelskai LP4 river cruise terminal took about 20 minutes on a Sunday afternoon. We were welcomed on board the River Duchess, our temporary home for the next two nights. It was a ‘temporary home’ because our river boat, the River Princess was moored in Krems, about 70 km from Vienna. Due to the recent Danube floods it was not able to make it back to Vienna in time for the start of our cruise .
While we enjoyed a welcome drink, checked in for our cruise and had our photos taken for our ID card, our cases had already been taken to our stateroom. The ID card is swiped each time passengers leave or return to the ship so that they can check if all passengers are on board before the ship sails.
Tip: Whenever you leave the boat to do your own excursions, always take note of the latest boarding time. If you are seriously late, the boat is not able to wait for you and you may need to bear the cost of your travel to the next port of call.
Our Stateroom – What was it Like
A staff member accompanied us to our stateroom 209 and pointed out what all the various room switches were. He also reminded us that there was an Emergency Drill at 5:45 pm and pointed out where our assembly area was in the event of an emergency.
My first impression was that the room was quite small. However, I was able to wheel my case across the front of the bed – this is my test of whether a room is really too small. This one just made it. There was good cupboard space to unpack all our gear and underneath each side of the bed there was a gap where we could store your cases. The River Duchess is a sister ship of the River Princess and has pretty much the same layout and so this gave us an indication of what our room size would be when we transferred to the River Princess.
Welcome and Emergency Drill
We didn’t have time to unpack as at 5:45 pm we had our emergency drill and Welcome briefing by the Captain of the River Duchess. Uniworld appears to take its emergency drill very seriously. One lady told me that although she did attend the emergency briefing, she didn’t go to her designated area to be checked off. That evening, she had a letter from the Captain noting her absence from the drill.
After the Captain’s session, the Cruise Manager introduced the various lead members of the riverboat and gave an explanation about the three types of activities:
- classic activities – regular sightseeing which is free and included for everyone
- choice activities – which is free, but you do have to sign up as numbers may be limited
- optionals – which you have to sign up for, and for which you have to pay
We were told about the various tours for the next two days and then asked to sign up for these. Being Day 1, it was a bit confusing for most people. The Cruise Manager was available after dinner to take bookings and answer questions about the sightseeing tours. Naturally, there was a long queue of people after dinner, all wanting to book activities and ask questions. It might have been easier to provide passengers with a list of the tours, timing and price if any, and allowed people to digest the information over dinner.
Tip: Don’t worry if things are a bit confusing on Day 1 as there tends to be an overload of information presented. The routine gets clearer by Day 3.
Meeting the Crew
The briefing went on for a bit too long and at 7:30 pm the Restaurant Manager called the guests to dinner. We got to meet some of the restaurant staff and they all seemed to be really friendly and nice.
A Hassle-free Embarkation Day
There was after-dinner music in the Blue Danube Lounge, but after all the excitement of arriving in Vienna, checking in for our cruise, seeing our fellow travellers and getting to know the crew of the River Duchess, we were happy to call it a day. Embarkation day went very smoothly, but we had yet to unpack and prepare for the 9:00 am Vienna sightseeing the next morning.