When I booked this cruise I was very hesitant, I had never heard of the company, had never been on a river cruise (though I had always wanted to) and was not sure about the price. But I have been on over 20 ocean cruises so I knew it would not be completely different, and it turned out to be just different enough to be highly entertaining. I found this cruise as part of an alert from one of the general travel sites – they find the deals and pass the info along to you. The Gate 1 cruise was at least half of what Viking and the others were charging, the itinerary fit my needs, and after checking out cruise critic I decided to take a chance. A few reviews on cruise critic had given Gate 1 the thumbs up, so I booked for myself and my Mom – it was an early birthday gift for her. Since DH was not traveling with us we signed up for almost everything including airport transfers, additional excursions and two extra days in Budapest post cruise. Everything went like clockwork.
We were notified in advance that there was a chance that water levels would not allow us to make the whole trip on the ship. It was August and not a shock to us – we are very easy going on natural mishaps and they do not affect our trip. So we were not surprised that we were unable to travel by ship during the last leg from Slovakia to Budapest. The captain did an excellent job getting us down river as far as he did. As informed the night before (we had daily meetings before dinner with the cruise director on what to expect each day), we were put on comfortable buses, given money for lunch, taken to a place for eating and shopping including handcrafts, and enjoyed the sites. We were then checked into the Doubletree in Budapest (our luggage went ahead of us and our room was assigned and ready when we arrived) and provided a lovely dinner buffet and local entertainment) They could not have been more accommodating, organized and just genuinely nice about the whole thing. A true class act.
Our rooms on the ship were adequate, with a decent size bathroom, shower, and comfortable beds. It was kept clean and all requests were quickly responded to. Dinner was a set time at night, but you could sit where you pleased, and for most nights we ate with the same people as we enjoyed their company. As these are small ships, you get to know the other passengers fairly well, at least to smile and nod. Dinner was delicious – and we were given 3 choices every night for appetizers, soup, main course, and dessert. Beer, wine and soft drinks were included with dinner, but not lunch. This was not a problem for us.
There was entertainment offered in the lounge every night, but we were usually so tired after dinner that we went to bed ready for the next round of fun the next day.
The extra excursions offered at a reasonable cost (around $60-$80 per person) were excellent. We went to Salzburg, visited Shonbrunn Palace and attended a concert performance in Vienna (yes, they always play the Blue Danube). The concert was geared to tourist which was fine with us as the playing was excellent and the singers and dancers very talented. All around, we got our monies worth. The ship included excursions were mostly town tours (which we enjoyed) and we had no complaints.
After the one night in the Doubletree we were moved to the Hilton which was also an excellent hotel just down the street for our included post visit (again the price was excellent for what was included). The city tour was really good (extra) and the dinner (extra) in the woods was fun although the dessert was not to my taste. You could spend your time completely on your own if you liked, but as this was our first visit, we opted for the extra tours – best decision we made. The guides provided were excellent and just plain nice – everyone was just so nice, it was amazing.
All in all we had a great time and I would not hesitate for a moment to book any tour with Gate 1 again. We talked with several Viking customers who complained that they had to be lifted off of sandbars – our captain was too good to get trapped into trying to go all the way to Budapest and we were grateful. You should give Gate 1 a try.