Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Glorious Danube - Part 3

Continuing our epic river-cruise along the Danube on the River Duchess of Uniworld, from Romania to Austria...

On Board A Riverboat

Those more familiar with ocean-going cruise-ships than classic European riverboats will surely want to know how they differ – and what the appeal is of a much smaller vessel.

Holding just 132 passengers when full (and only 82 on our cruise), the River Duchess basically consists of just three decks and minimal onboard facilities. There is just ONE lounge, ONE restaurant, ONE bar and ONE shop.

There is NO casino, NO show-lounge, NO swimming pool and NO alternative restaurant (or six). It is a quiet, refined and totally old fashioned atmosphere, leisurely, relaxed and dependent primarily on the crew for smooth service and the passengers for genuine camaraderie.

The three decks consist of two decks of cabins, plus one deck that provides the restaurant, front desk and the bar/lounge. There is then a top/observation deck, largely open to the elements, and replete with sun loungers, tables and chairs, plus a covered area with a sliding glass roof.

The ‘shop’ is basically a corner boutique kiosk, while the ’fitness centre’ offers four main pieces of equipment and a few free weights. There is a small laundry and a library/reading room, but there IS a masseuse aboard for massage and yoga classes.

Those looking for non-stop entertainment and revelry should look elsewhere. Here, instead of a Cruise Director there is a Cruise Manager who organizes the inclusive shore excursions, port talks and river narrative at points of interest. Instead of a theatre group, there are talks from visiting lecturers and folk troupes.

The only other frills are provided by the resident pianist/musician, and that’s the sum total of the entertainment.

What there IS, though, is great food, the kind of white-glove service usually found only in Europe’s top hotels, and a general sense of bonhomie and well-travelled conviviality. Many people on board are return Uniworld guests with a good knowledge of the area already, savvy people who fit the mood like a well-worn glove.

In short, it is cruising for the more laid-back and cerebral voyager, where the object is to see and learn rather than dash hither and thither in search of instant gratification.

Yes, the age range is 50-plus (60-plus in many cases), but this is also journeying in high style, with a great sense of ‘travelling’ rather than ‘cruising.’ Uniworld also pride themselves on the whole ‘boutique’ experience and, so far, they are 100% on the mark.

In addition, there is a strong element of cruise-touring, leaving the boat behind and venturing off on coach tours that explore the immediate hinterland of the voyage. As we soon discovered….

This ‘Imperial Capitals of Europe’ can be booked at www.uniworldrivercruises.co.uk, with Titan Travel (in the UK only) at www.titantravel.co.uk or, for more on river-cruising in general, seek out the cruise-agent specialists of The Cruise Line Ltd on this link.

PS: I am going to continue without photos for now as the Blogger format won't seem to upload any photos without trying 5 or 6 times!