We received details of a half price offer on this cruise from an agent but decided to book direct with APT. We booked it about 5 months out which is unusual for us as we normally wait till nearer the departure date for a better price. This seemed like a good deal however so we booked up. We had a previous holiday with APT to China and had a welcome home voucher worth £100 each but it wasn't valid on this special offer. We also had to pay the full amount on booking but that was OK. Around 3weeks out we received an email containing our flight e ticket, taxi transfer voucher and itinerary. I emailed APT to see if they would be sending us a paper copy but apparently they wouldn't for this special offer. They also decided that no promotional merchandise would be supplied for this trip either. All a bit mean for a £200+ per night trip.
We met the APT rep at Budapest airport and were quickly on our way to the ship. Cabins are available from 15.00 but a fair selection of sandwiches soup and cakes are available in the lounge before then. The bar was also open for drinks! We paid extra for a double balcony cabin one deck up and were glad we did as it is slightly larger. The cabins are a bit on the small side compared to ocean cruise ships we have used before. Even with this larger cabin there is a shower and no bath and the wardrobe and bathroom doors all clash.
The cabins and common areas are all kept very clean and well maintained although I did find a book under our bed and we ran out of toilet roll one day. There is always plenty of water left in the cabin and coffee and tea (good selection) are available all day from a machine in the lounge but the coffee wasn't the best. It was good in the restaurant for breakfast . Drinks are included from the bar but not all. There is a menu which details which drinks you have to pay for which includes most cocktails. Wine flows freely with lunch and dinner but the only choice is red rose or white. The mini bar only has water. There is a reasonable choice at all meals but one day everything was pork based which wasn't good for my wife who can't eat pork. The chairs in the main dining room are very close together and the waiters struggle to serve those sitting near the window. The main restaurant was supposed to be divided for dinner giving an Italian option on one side but that didn't happen on this cruise. The Chef’s table taster menu restaurant was good but the booking system was a bit haphazard. The head waiter came round on the first afternoon with a clipboard and took the bookings but not all passengers were on board. At lunch and dinner you are requested to be seated within 20 mins of the restaurant opening so it is effectively a fixed meal time. Breakfast is a buffet (with an egg station) as is most of lunch. Soups and main courses are served. The fresh fruit available for breakfast was disappointing as most of it was obviously tinned fruit. Dinner is full service. We felt that dinner took a long time as most nights it was around 2.5 hours. We had to leave our first dinner almost as soon as we finished desert as the ship set sail for an after dark cruise through the city lights of Budapest and we almost missed them. The kitchen seems to be the problem as the waiter made a point of coming to tell us several times that the food is on its way. Portion sizes are not large and the vegetables tended to come up to 5 minutes after the meat was served. Some of the excursions waste a lot of time especially the Melk Abbey trip. There was complete confusion between the guides who came with us from the ship to the Abbey and the guides who took us round the Abbey. The tour of Durnstein was good but the wine tasting at the end was a complete waste of time as it included a long lecture on wine and minute samples. Likewise the three hours spent on the coach to and from Regensburg wasn't really worth the effort. The radio receivers supplied in your cabin do make the excursions better as you can always hear the guide. The wifi worked well in all the common areas and in our cabin and there was a free electronic safe in the cabin. This ship being the oldest in the fleet could do with a few of the modifications we saw on Amareina which was tied up alongside us in Passau. Wind breaks along the sundeck, reclining chairs and a screen for the pool and swim up bar.
The lounge gets very busy and noisy with entertainment and no other quiet space is available except your cabin. There were several complaints (including ours) about noise and vibration from the engines overnight. Some couples paid to upgrade to move forward on the ship. Earplugs are essential as if the engine doesn’t wake you the transit through the locks will. There is lots of hot water and the shower is good but the bathroom feels cramped. All the staff were friendly and did a good job. Security is not to the same standard as on ocean cruise ships. The card supplied on check in is only used to open your cabin door. When you leave the ship you collect a cardboard card with your cabin number and you hand it back when you return. The main purpose of this is to check who is back on board. If you forget to hand it in they make announcements asking you to bring your card to reception. You don't have your photo taken and checked as you leave and enter. The final night parading of the crew goes on forever and I think is just as embarrassing for the crew as it is for the passengers. We heard that the average age of the passengers on this cruise was 64 (which of course should be confidential) but I think that the average was slued by several younger people who worked for travel agencies including APT. There was one lady of 94 who spent a lot of time in the lounge and was doing a wonderful job of sewing bags of lavender for her charity work We did enjoy our week but I think we will stick to mid size ocean ships. P.s. APT please note I am not wasting my holiday filling in a large questionnaire most of which is to gain marketing information.