Uniworld has unveiled its latest "super ship," S.S.Beatrice -- the new and improved version of River Beatrice -- after a bow-to-stern makeover. We sailed on the original seven years ago, and have since cruised on all of the line's Super Ships, so it's been a treat to witness the transformation. Here's what we think of the changes.
What a difference a decade makes. River Beatrice's 2009 decor had become dated, compared to Uniworld's latest masterpieces. The carpets were old-fashioned, the furniture more antique than boutique and the all-white dining room looked like a wedding reception. After its 2018 revamp, S.S. Beatrice is almost unrecognizable. The new lobby welcomes passengers with marble floors and a grander staircase (upgraded from timber and steel to nickel and black iron). Cute blue lightshades have refreshed the Murano chandelier. The nautical blue theme spreads shipwide, replacing the previous mishmash of red, pink, green and brown. New floors, sofas, tables, chairs, blinds and upholstered ceilings have smartened up the public rooms. The overall appearance is elegant but subtler than the other Super Ships, which suits Beatrice's Eastern European location.
Another Owner's Suite (390 square feet) and two Grand Suites (310 square feet) have been added to the ship. These bigger rooms replace smaller cabins, which means the total passenger capacity has reduced from 156 to 152. Also, two sets of neighboring cabins have been turned into connecting rooms, designed for families. (S.S. Beatrice offers dedicated family cruises on select dates with activities, excursions and dining tailored for kids.) All staterooms have been refurbished and received new Savoir beds that are exceptionally comfortable. There are now two bedside USB ports and another two on the dresser, as well as international electrical outlets, allowing passengers to easily charge their phones and iPads. Televisions, built into mirrors on the wall, are equipped with 40 channels (such as CNN, BBC, MTV), movies, radio, information and Bluetooth connectivity so you can connect your device to play your own music.
Double the Dining
In addition to the existing restaurant and lounge are Schubert's café and Max's. The 18-seat café takes over most of the former outdoor deck at the bow. At midday, a table is laid with soup, fruit, salad, pretzels and cold cuts of meat for passengers to help themselves. In the evening, waiters serve the complimentary menu of European specialties such as Austrian beef bouillon, Hungarian chicken, Weiner Schnitzel and Sacher cake.
Max's is a stylish space that occupies the old Captain's Lounge. Hardly used on our cruise, it has a small bar and a table for 8 to 10 passengers to cook with the chef. The truth is we only chopped vegetables and then watched him prepare the dishes. Three courses with matching wines costs 90 euros, which we (and our fellow diners) found expensive, especially when the feasts in the main dining room are fabulous and free. But the exclusive experience did feel special and the staff were outstanding. It's something that might appeal to a group wanting to book it out for a private party with a fun activity on the side.
We are loving the peaceful end of Danube between Bucharest and Budapest. (S.S. Beatrice also cruises from Budapest to Nuremberg with a land-based extension in Prague). A highlight of the Eastern Europe itinerary is the Iron Gates, a narrow stretch of gorges on one of the most beautiful sections of the river, dividing Serbia and Romania. In between two locks, the ship passes villages, caves and a huge face of Romanian hero Decebalus carved into rock. Another landmark to spot is the plaque laid by Roman emperor Trajan more than 2,000 years ago; although it was moved to its current, higher site in 1972 when the local dam construction caused the water level to rise. Commentary is provided via the QuietVox system so you can listen through your earpiece or switch off and relax on the sun deck while the scenery looms above you.
Most of the crew have been moved over from other Uniworld ships. Everyone is thoroughly professional, attentive and delightful. On a couple of occasions the service has slipped but only because we have such high expectations of this luxury brand. The Beatrice team sets the bar high for a wonderful cruise and the ship is sure to become a fleet favorite.
--By Louise Goldsbury, Managing Editor, Australia