This was our first river cruise, although we had been on a number of ocean cruises. We chose Gate1 because of the value and great reviews for their land tours, but there was little or nothing to be found about their river cruises. We hit a great sale and could not resist. We booked directly with Gate1, and it was super easy. We were not disappointed in the least, and pleasantly surprised overall. In fact, it was the most relaxing trip because I did not have to do any research to determine where to go or how to get there because Gate1 had done all the legwork. There were about 120+ passengers, generally American, Australian and Canadian. The flights and transfers were included and Gate1 handled these seamlessly. Check in and out were the easiest ever.
The ship was clean and well appointed, the cabin size and layout comparable to most non-suite ocean cabins. We had a french balcony on the middle deck, and could just almost reach out and touch the water. There was sufficient room for clothing (for a 14 day cruise, including winter clothing) and toiletries, and the room was serviced and supplied with water and chocolates daily. Service on the ship was wonderful, from the cabin stewards to the dining staff, kitchen and waitstaff.
There was one seating in the dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner, usually about 7pm, and seating was always open. This seemed to encourage lots of intermingling of passengers, sharing experiences and lively discussions. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style with good selections of hot and cold items; certainly enough for anyone to get their fill. Dinner was a more formal affair, though casual attire was always appropriate. There was a set appetizer, 4-5 choices of entree, and dessert (which were wonderful and all prepared from scratch on board), as well as beer and wine (rotating selection of each white and red to complement the meals) included with dinner. I had an allergy issue which was accommodated very nicely by the kitchen and waitstaff.
Entertainment is not like on an ocean liner, but fun, appropriate and fairly low-key. There was a lounge large enough to accommodate all passengers. There was evening trivia with prizes (chocolates or sometimes bottles of wine), followed by music, drinking and occasional dancing. On several nights there were local groups on board: one evening an Oompa band (very good); Hungarian folklore dancers with strings and drums; a passenger talent show; and, wait for it, a Zither player. Refreshments in the lounge were very reasonably priced and there was a good selection. (Note that there was no objection to passengers bringing their own refreshments on board, and no one said a word even if we brought a glass to the dining room or lounge.) There were morning stretches, Zumba, and walks for those so inclined, led by our bubbly Activities Director, Laura.
During our 14 night cruise I think we visited 14 cities/towns, multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites, cruised 3 European rivers, and went through about 67 locks (mostly at night). We had local tour guides in all of the towns and an included tour in each stop. For the most part, the guides were very good, and you could tell they all loved their towns. Most of the stops were such that we could walk right into town, and if it was more than a 10 minute walk, clean, private motor coaches were provided to take us on a tour and/or drop us right in the heart of the city, as well as pick us up to take us back to the ship.
The cruise director, Mik, was very knowledgeable about all of the ports, went on excursions to make sure the guides were good and a quality experience was provided. He briefed us each evening before dinner on the next port and tours, as well as providing a map of the next town and suggested places to visit in our free time (usually after the tour and/or in the afternoon before sailing). Mik also provided wonderful commentary about the castles and sites of the Romantic Rhine, and later, the Wachau Valley. There were several optional tours, most of which we went on, but all at a very reasonable price.
We would sail with Gate1 again, and have recommended it to friends already. I truly think if we had just done a 7 night, we would have wanted more; the 14 night was a trip of a lifetime.