When my daughter asked my opinion of a Uniworld Europe river cruise from Nuremburg to Paris, I did some hasty research. Strong selling points were an elevator, included shore excursions, a complimentary launderette and wine with dinner. I had already told her about the relaxed river cruise experience where one unpacks once and watches the pretty scenery glide by. Husband Rob and I soon booked our own Uniworld cruise from Amsterdam to Vienna.
The Uniworld River Duchess crew welcomed us with German wine and fresh fruit. Embarkation was swift, and cabins were ready at noon on the 134-passenger ship. During the 900-mile voyage on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers, the ship traversed 66 locks.
As we cruised through Germany’s Rhine River Valley, each bend and twist brought new visual delights. Steep hillsides blanketed in lush foliage were interspersed with medieval castles. Vineyards clung to nearly vertical cliffs. Autumn foliage splashed the banks with red and gold.
Sailing on the busy Rhine River, we passed lovely Dutch pastoral scenes of cattle and horses grazing in lush green pastures.
Meals were served in a single open seating, and every table had a water view. Romanian chefs delighted us with imaginative dinner creations. Waiters poured (included) red and white wines. Breakfast was a lavish buffet with fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, cereal, pastry and eggs-to-order. Lunch featured a salad bar, soup, sandwiches, pasta, hot entrees and decadent desserts.
All cabins were outside with windows. Space was well utilized with ample closets and nice bathrooms. There were no dress codes.
Most of the 12 shore excursions were walking tours with local guides on cobblestone streets meandering through centers of German towns. Some included visits to churches, castles and cathedrals with historical significance.
In Cologne, we toured the cathedral where the Three Kings of Magi are entombed—and observed Germans enjoying Octoberfest at outdoor cafes. At Rudesheim a mini-train took us to Siegfried’s Museum to see and hear antique musical instruments play familiar tunes.
We visited an upscale shopping area in the contemporary section of Frankfort. Many German cities have broad river walks for strolling, walking or biking. In Miltenberg, a medieval town right out of a German fairytale, we snapped pictures of crooked cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses.
The best part of river cruises is gliding past spectacular scenery. With less commercial traffic than the Rhine, the Main River passes rich farmland where houses and barns are clustered in tiny hamlets surrounded by massive fields of sugar beets, turnips and corn.
The 19-mile scenic Wachau Valley along the Danube River is dotted with charming small wine- making towns. Some of Vienna’s finest white wines are produced from grapes ripened on terraces clinging to steep slopes.
World renowned as Europe’s music capital, Vienna is cosmopolitan city with a convoluted history and a symphony of architectural styles. This beautiful city with broad flat boulevards intermingled with narrow cobblestone streets reverberates with memorable music, romance and culture.
Renowned composers Schubert, Strauss, Schoenberg and Berg were born here. Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms and Mahler chose to live in Vienna. Besides giving birth to the waltz, Vienna maintains a link with the past in architecture, interior decor and attitude.
The highlight of the Vienna city tour was Mozart’s House, where we learned the child protégée became ill traveling to winter concerts throughout Europe in horse-drawn carriages. An optional classical concert in famous Musikverein was well worth the extra charge. Whenever I hear a Viennese waltz, I remember that magical night in Vienna.
Spending an extra day in Vienna, we stayed at the Hotel Radisson Blu Style. This contemporary hotel (which appears old on the outside) is just around the corner from the renowned Central Cafe, an informal meeting place for politicians, musicians and writers. Nearby are St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the State Opera and the Imperial Hofburg Palace, as well as Vienna’s principle shopping streets. Besides comfy rooms with contemporary design, Radisson Blu Style offers a delightful free minibar.
Throughout the cruise we were entertained by an onboard musician as well as a men’s chorus, German oompah band and a versatile folk singer. River Duchess guests came from throughout the U.S. and Canada as well as Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
The hard-working, English-speaking crew hailed from Eastern Europe, the Netherlands and Germany. Debarkation was like a carefully choreographed ballet with tour manager and ship’s officers loading luggage in vehicles.
Because most Europe shore excursions are walking tours on uneven cobblestone streets (some uphill), bring study walking shoes. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection operates river cruises in Europe, Egypt and China.
An avid cruiser, CruisinGal Pat Woods says embarking on a ship makes her happy to be alive.