My husband and I chose this as a vacation in honor of our 35th anniversary. It did not disappoint! This was our first experience with river cruising. We were boarding in Amsterdam and arranged three days of our own visit to Amsterdam prior to arriving at the ship. (This was not a Uniworld "extension," just our own trip.)
Uniworld lived up to its reviews and reputation and gave us a great time. We had been on ocean cruises before, but due to the small size of ship and crew and just 109 guests this week, river cruising was a more relaxed experience. Guests got to know each other and made friends, which made all activities and meals very pleasant. Every time there was getting on or off the ship for any reason, it was fast and simple. A benefit of river cruising is that there is never any tendering. You step straight off the ship. It never took more than 15 minutes from announced boarding time to sailing time each afternoon or evening.
Cruise Manager Tomas was an outstanding personality in his role of keeping everything organized and keeping guests informed of each day's activities.
The food on board ship was very good and the dining room staff were always attentive and eager to ensure an enjoyable experience. I have lactose intolerance and the staff worked very hard to make sure my needs were covered. Dining room design (on both ships) was adequate at dinner, when diners were seated. However, space for the breakfast and lunch buffets, when people needed to move around, was too tight. My husband felt that large, noisy groups got more attention from the wait staff. Since we were usually just two of us at the table, we waited a long time for some of the basic services (e.g., refilling water or wine glasses).
The daily excursions were very worthwhile and there were always choices. Most of the tour guides were outstanding, especially in the northern and central stops in Germany.
The excursions included lots of walking and biking and that had to be our exercise for the trip. The fitness facilities on board are tiny and there is no pool. There is theoretically a place to walk on the top deck, but for about a week of our trip the top deck was closed due to many low bridges and other technical issues.
We used and paid for the ship's laundry service and this was worth the fees, which seemed reasonable give experience with other cruise lines. I don't think anyone should have to spend vacation time doing laundry! As we learned, returning guests to Uniworld get free laundry services on their cruise.
The "regular" onboard entertainer was not exciting, but the visiting musicians gave great concerts. My favorite was the oompah band in Regensberg, Germany. They were as good as any professional band or orchestra to be found anywhere.
The bends in the river in the title of this review had mostly to do with low water problems on the Danube. Although we expected to board the River Princess, it was stuck in Austria due to a low water point and could not sail to Amsterdam. As a result, we boarded the River Duchess (a virtually identical ship) and sailed on the Duchess for most of our cruise. Only the last three days were we able to sail on the Princess.
Uniworld did a nearly seamless job in transferring us between the ships (made easier due to the identical layout and stateroom availability). There were small changes in the itinerary on the day before and the day of the actual transfer, and a few passengers grumbled, but it was a reasonable facilitation of the switch and we still had multiple excursions even if not the initially expected ones.
Our only struggle with setting up our trip was booking our airline tickets. These are handled through a contractor. We had a great amount of difficulty getting seat assignments and ordering special meals -- on line, on the phone, and at airports. (These would have been very east to do if we had been booking our own tickets.) Uniworld was unable to help with any of this, but apologized and offered an onboard credit of $50 US for each of us in exchange for our trouble. This was certainly appreciated, but Uniworld should look at the kind of service that its guests are getting in working with airline plans.
Note that if you want to arrive or depart on dates not in line with your cruise schedule (we arrived early), you pay a fee for each passenger.
The staterooms were kept immaculately clean at all times. We had the unique experience of sailing on two ships. Though overall room and bathroom size were the same, the River Princess had inferior closet design and a bathroom design that made the amount of usable space smaller. It was very difficult to get in and out of the shower and there was not enough room to get the towel around the body to dry off.
I should note at this point that the river cruise ships would be a real challenge for any very large or tall person.