For our first river cruise, we select U by Uniworld (now U River Cruises) specifically to cruise with a younger demographic, as we are in our late 30's and enjoy a fun atmosphere. I was a little concerned about the very little I could find online about the newish offshoot of regular Uniworld, but we figured we would give it a try. It was a little cheaper than Viking for a week on the Danube.
First, we had an unexpected delay when a ship ran aground (not ours, but ahead on the Danube) on the morning of the second day, when we had only been sailing a few hours. We had left Regensburg and not yet arrived in Linz when we docked unexpectedly in Deggendorf as we were not allowed to continue on the river. Although this was my first river cruise, I understood going in that the rivers are unpredictable and our itinerary might change. The weird thing was the complete lack of communication during this time. We had a WhatsApp group that would send notifications of schedules, events, etc and nobody from the staff ever said anything about what had happened. They seemed scared to death to admit anything had gone "wrong" and were very defensive. We only learned what had happened from people docked on a neighboring Viking ship. During this time, the passengers became increasingly irate, threatening to leave, worried that we would spend the week docked in Deggendorf. After two days, we were cleared to leave again and continued on, missing only one port (although we had to be bussed to some because of the schedule change).
This weird, defensive service was sort of the theme of the week. We joked that their customer service philosophy was to start every conversation by telling the guest that they shouldn't be mad. I can only assume that they have had a lot of angry people in the past with the various challenges of the river, and the Danube being impassable was certainly out of their control (many other river cruise ships were with us at Deggendorf) but an apology for the inconvenience and some small offering would have been nice. I think a single free drink might have mollified me at that point.
The boat itself was lovely. I understand it is a rehabbed older ship, and it didn't have some of the amenities we saw on our parked neighbors, like pools. However, it had a fun trendy design and I always had what I needed - which was a dining room, a top deck for watching the sights roll by, and a lounge for an evening drink. I don't think I would have used a pool anyway!
Our room, while very small, was well appointed and the bed was comfortable. The assortment of plug styles was appreciated with our many devices and single European adapter. We seemed to find a place for everything despite the small size, and the tiny bathroom was also laid out well. I also appreciated that the river cruise boat never had a sewer smell, something I have begun to associate with almost all ocean cruise lines. I had a balcony room and between the lost days at Deggendorf and our other port times, we were almost always sandwiched between other ships, rendering the balcony (or any window) totally pointless.
The dining room food was fine. It had a focus on fresh/regional ingredients and recipes, which makes sense, but since I don't care too much for the German/Austrian cuisine, I wasn't too impressed. My husband did like it. I felt like breakfast was pretty repetitive, but also fine. I was aware going in that we only got 2 meals a day, breakfast/brunch and then dinner, with the idea that we would eat at our daily port stop. Well, that would have worked out fine had our itinerary gone as expected, but we were stuck on the ship in Deggendorf for 9 or 10 hours with no meals. We finally trekked into town and ate at a fast food restaurant. There is a limited bar menu (fries, etc) for an extra charge between meals, but I really think they should offer some sort of light snacks for those days with 10 hours between meals, especially when we are stuck at a port or at a sea day.
There was also a mix of dining styles - some nights it was buffet, and other nights it was served family style at the table. As there were only 2 of us, the family style was weird and very wasteful - we would be delivered a container of, for example, vegetable curry whether we were going to eat it or not.
The clientele of the ship was what I had hoped for - an assortment of ages, but skewing younger. Compared to our Viking and similar ship neighbors, the demographic on ours was much younger, and we had some fun bar nights. However, in chatting with fellow guests, I was interested to see how many people were in the travel industry. After awhile, I was wondering if I was the only person who had paid retail to be there. Bar drinks were on the expensive side, at 7 euro for the drink of the day and 9 euro for everything else, including single glasses of wine. We saw very few people with the drink package (they were identified with different color wristbands) which did not seem to be a great value at 300 euro per person per week. There was no security as you board, unlike ocean cruises that I'm used to, so most people just brought alcohol back with them from the ports and carried it around. I wish I had known in advance to do that!
Our port stops (Regensburg to embark, then a couple days lost to Deggendorf/river problems, then Durnstein, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest) were all pretty interesting, and were the highlight of the cruise. The included excursions were a mixed bag. Sometimes they were totally worthless ("walk in that direction and you'll find an event, good luck"), sometimes they were okay ("here is a train ticket, enjoy Vienna") and sometimes they were great (like our 3 hour walking tour of Budapest). There was a constant and annoying push for the paid excursions, which seemed to be minimally used. There were also several available bike tours, which we did not utilize. With our port interruptions, we were frequently bussed to port stops, which I found convenient (at least we were seeing the missed ports) but many of my fellow passengers seemed to find annoying.
Once our anger at the total lack of communication over the itinerary change faded, we just found ourselves underwhelmed with the whole experience. At the price point, we could have toured those cities in style ourselves. We might try another line someday, but I think U River Cruises needs to overhaul their model if they hope to continue, with an emphasis on better (or really any) service.
The room was small, but had everything we needed. The bed was comfortable. The balcony was a waste as we spent almost all waking hours sandwiched between other ships. We were almost at the very end of the hallway, but the ship was so small it hardly mattered. I thought the second floor was the best place to be, for proximity to all other spaces.
Regensburg was very cute and easily walkable from where the ship docked. We ate at the famous sausage restaurant there (expensive, but good) then took a nighttime walk to a nearby Oktoberfest-like celebration.
What a beautiful town with so many great sights! The train system was easy to navigate and we saw so much in a day. I would go back to just Vienna.
We had to be bussed to Passau due to our river problems, and we arrived late on Sunday, when basically everything was closed. We had a friendly tour guide who did his best with the circumstances, but there wasn't much to see on a Sunday.View All 218 Walking Tour Reviews
We had only a few hours in Bratislava and didn't make it much past the area right near where we docked, which was mostly souvenir junk shops and restaurants. It was just okay. It did not have the personality of our other port stops.
What an amazing town! We were blown away by the historical buildings, shops, restaurants and general fun vibe of this city. Our favorite port stop.View All 353 City Tour Reviews