my husband and i chose this, our first river cruise, with some concern. u river cruises, a fairly new cruise line, targeting millennials, was initially restricted to passengers between 21 and 45 years of age. when the ship could not be filled, the age restriction was lifted. and we booked, but we worried that, because of our age (we are both in our 60s), we might not fit in or feel welcomed on The A. that fear, thankfully, was unfounded. about half the passengers on the ship fell in the target age range, and the other half were older, like we are. regardless of age, passengers interacted with each other easily and comfortably.
the ship has a youthful vibe. the experience, while high in quality, is not formal, but casual in dress and presentation dinners on our cruise were most often served buffet style at shared tables, but two nights of our 7-day itinerary, dinner was presented family-style. the food was varied, fresh, and quite good. the wine list, while short, offers a nice variety. having access to a free laundry room was great!
staterooms are very small. unless you are booked in a suite, the stateroom is not a place in which you would choose to hang out. but, the rooms were attractive, clean, thoughtfully laid out and quiet. we had a french balcony, which really is not a balcony at all, but a full length window which opens, having a bar across the middle so you can stand IN your room and look out and feel the weather. something i did not know about river cruises, is that the river cruise ships park on the banks of the river, side by side, sometimes three-deep. it is a good thing that windows have privacy shutters, because when the ships are in port, your stateroom window can be only inches away from a neighboring ship's stateroom window. another thing that i did not know is that when you exit your ship, it may mean passing through several other ships as you make your way to shore.
service at the dinner hour was always excellent! service at the U lounge, less so. the ice bar lounge was non-functional most of the cruise. stateroom attendants were efficient and always friendly.
our september sailing of "the danube flow" did not get off to a good start. there was an accident on the danube between regensburg and passau, and all river traffic was shut down. we had only barely gotten underway, when the ship turned around and anchored in deggendorf, where we stayed for three days. this was, of course, extremely disappointing to passengers who had looked forward to scenic views while gliding on the river. this river accident was outside the control of U River Cruises, but i felt that communication during this event could have been better. and i also felt that a gesture of understanding, such as free drink, two-for-one drink, happy hours specials, would have helped to offset the disappointment. no such gesture was made. being stuck on the ship is not a good thing, because the ship offers little in the way of entertainment. there are board games, cards, and jigsaw puzzles in the u-lounge, but that is about it for entertainment. and while the online website for U River Cruises states that cruise fare includes three meals a day, it does not include lunch.---the three meals are 1)very limited continental breakfast for early risers. 2 breakfast. 3)dinner. a menu with very limited options is offered in the U Lounge for a fee...if you can find a server in the U Lounge!
here is a day-by-day-rundown of our experience:
september 7 - it was a rainy day. we had spent the previous two days in regensburg, a completely charming little town. between rain showers we walked our bags to the ship around 11:30am. our bags were marked with our stateroom number, and we were told to come back around 3:00pm when the staterooms would be ready, which is what we did. we unpacked in our tiny little stateroom and then headed to the U Lounge, eager to greet other passengers, expecting some sort of welcome aboard festivities. but NOTHING!. no bar server was in the lounge. just nothing. we sat awhile, just kind of this creepy quietness, so we decided to get off the ship and explore the gardens of regensburg near the port. reboarded the vessel a couple of hours later. welcome announcements and a glass of champagne were given in the U Lounge before we made our way downstairs to a buffet dinner. after dinner my husband and i went to regensburg after dark to go a local german festival called "dult", a suggestion made by U Host Boris. it was like a county fair with little oktoberfest-like tents of revelers. it was quite fun.
september 8 - during the night, the ship had sailed, but by morning it had turned around and we were anchored at deggendorf because the river was closed because of accident. the scheduled tours had to be reworked. we were taken off the ship and brought by bus to passau, where we did the included excursion "scenic passau" with a hike up to the hilltop veste oberhaus fortress. the U Host led us through the town at a swift, but comfortable pace, pointing out possible spots in town where we could have drink post-hike (because it was sunday, many places were not open) and then up the hill to the fortress. once we got to the top, he said we could go to the little museum there, or have a snack at the hilltop cafe, or head back down had visit a pub or cafe in town, but none of these things were included in the tour, but would be at our own expense.. we explored a bit at the hilltop, then headed down into the town and had a german beer and bavarian snacks at a little cafe. then we were bused back to the ship. dinner that night was served family style. very generous portions! we enjoyed the excursions and the dinner.
september 9 - the ship is still not moving. all the regular tours were canceled. we were brought by bus to a schnapps factory for schnapps sampling and then taken to a national park for a hike in the rain. there was no charge for this tour. it was okay. the schnapps factory was generous with the samples. sales were brisk. the national park was just okay. there was the possibility of seeing some wildlife, but we saw none that day. prior to the cruise, we had booked "look at linz past" a U TIME tour for which we were charged. because i had bought the excursions from home, i could not receive credit for the cancelled tour onboard, but i was told that a credit would be issued to my credit card after sailing. so far, (6 weeks post sailing and three phone calls later) no credit has appeared.
september 10 - the ship is finally moving! the ship was not going to stop at the places we missed, but head directly to durnstein. we were told to be on the top deck for the beautiful scenic views,and to wear the headsets because U Host would be offering commentary on the sights. this was an extremely disappointing experience. finally we are moving, and there is a reason to sit on the top deck and enjoy the scenery and the sunshine, and perhaps a drink? but no. the ice bar, which services the top deck is broken. it did not open the entire cruise! i went down the two flights of stairs to buy a drink at the U Lounge, and i suggested that a server come up top with a tray of drinks of the day, saying that sales would be brisk, but i was told that the ship did not have the personnel for that. the commentary coming through the headsets was complete static. the U Host offering the commentary was sitting right in the path of the wind, and that interfered with the reception in passengers' headsets. when made aware of the issue, the U Host seemed completely indifferent to the issue and did nothing to rectify. what should have been a great experience was a complete dud. in the afternoon, we were taken by bus from durnstein to melk, where we headed up the hill to melk abbey. this was an included tour. our time at the abbey was very short. once we got up the hill, we were told we would have to pay for a ticket to enter the abbey. there was a great deal of frustration with this. we were two busloads of people all entering the ticket queue at the same time. with so little time, and the long queue, it seemed like an ill thought-out plan. most of the people at the end of the line, abandoned the plan to enter the abbey and just walked around in the courtyard. there must be a better way to design this tour. in the evening we did U TIME excursions "wine through the wachua". i thought it was a very good tour. the town of durnstein is absolutely charming.
september 11 - the ship was in vienna. we did U Time excursion "taste of vienna". the seven people who had signed up for the tour were taken with a local guide by huge full-size bus to the historic center of vienna for a walking tour. then we met another local guide, reboarded the bus and went up the hill into the vienna woods to a scenic overlook for photos, and then to a restaurant for an included lunch which featured austrian cuisine and wine. it was a well executed tour. in the evening we did another tour "after hours at schonbrunn palace". the palace and the grounds were not crowded and this tour was also very enjoyable.
september 12 - in bratislava the A docked close to the "ufo bridge". we met our local tour guides for the U Time "retro-bratislava" right near the port. it was a most enjoyable and educational tour led by two very likeable young guys. they own the little tour company, and to lend authenticity to the experience, they insist on doing the tour with retro vehicles...our small group was divided between a VW van and an old Skoda car. we enjoyed the ordinary sights, because of the extraordinary history they hold. we enjoyed the communist era snacks that were offered. and the surprise picnic that was set up near an old german bunker at the old border between east and west. this was probably my favorite tour of the trip. we had another family style dinner on the ship that night, made a little more special because of the dessert demonstration or demolition. around midnight the ship was nearing budapest, with a full moon and the dazzling display of light, this arrival was absolutely stunning.
september 13 - in budapest we took the included tour of the rock hospital. it also included a very informative walk through the old town with a local guide. the rock hospital tour was very interesting. later that day we took the U Time tour to the gellert baths. this, too, was great! in the evening the ship had to move to another dock. this was supposed to take about 45 minutes, but instead it took about two hours! i think that there were some angry passengers who had gone ashore and had to wait and wait to reboard the ship because the repositioning took so long.
in summary, i would say that there were many things that i truly enjoyed about our first river cruise experience. but there also were significant issues.
-communication prior to the cruise was poor. the website had lots of conflicting info regarding the different excursions in ports. there were two places on the site to access the information, and each place listed different options. prices for the U Time excursions are not listed on the website, and it is not possible to book the excursions on the website.
-the ice bar was broken nearly the entire trip
-service in the U Lounge was often poor, and sometimes not too friendly. servers do not come tableside to offer drinks, but most often you have to go to get yourself a drink. though the ship is paperless, all drinks require a signature on a receipt. it would be a big improvement to have the drinks charged by tapping the wristband that opens stateroom doors.
-there is no way to access your shipboard account on your own. the only way is to ask at the reception desk. i think that many who had received shipboard credit as a booking perk, had no idea that it was there because of this.
very tiny. clean. nice to have fresh water daily
regensburg is a lovely town to walk around in. there are not a lot of big name sights to see, but it is great just being there.
hiked up to veste oberhaus, stopping for views along the way.
went after hours, so the palace and the gardens were not at all busy. we had a guided tour of the interior. it was interesting, and not overly long. then we walked through the gardens at our leisure as the sun was setting.View All 179 Schonbrunn Palace Reviews
had a walking tour of the old town, and then went into the vienna woods by bus for views and for austrian lunch which included austrian wine and wiener schnitzelView All 183 Walking Tour Reviews
retro bratislava - a most enjoyable tour in skoda car seeing some of the old communist sights. educational and enjoyable, made more so by the two young men who led the tour, surprising us with communist era snacks on the way, and a picnic near the old border fence, which separated east from west.
ROCK HOSPITAL TOUR - after a city walking tour, we ended up at the rock hospital, a series of underground caves that were used as a hospital and later as bomb shelter and decontamination area in case of nuclear attack.View All 70 The Castle District Reviews
GELLERT BATHS - in the afternoon we were guided to the gellert baths, where we had the option to hike up gellert hill and then do the baths, or do only the baths. we did only the baths. the guide purchased the tickets for us, and explained how the baths worked, showing maps where all of the eight pools, some indoor, some outdors, available to us were, and how to find changing rooms and lockers in the labyrinth-like hallways of the facilities. it was a very joyous experience, seeing all nationalities, old and young alike, enjoying the simple pleasure of getting wet.View All undefined undefined Reviews