Along Ancient Highways: Rediscovering History with Uniworld

May 26, 2015 Avatar Hilton Smith Hilton Smith

There is never an end to discovering the wonders of our planet. The methods we use to do it are more numerous than ever.

After exploring Europe many times, I elected this trip to see it the way it was done for centuries before trains, planes and automobiles. At one time, the Seine, Rhine and Danube and other rivers were the sole transportation arteries of Europe. On this European river cruise, part of the Danube would be my superhighway to the past.

Getting there turned out to be a bit of a challenge even before I left LAX on Lufthansa. The new electronic Global Upgrade system from United to Lufthansa for 1K Flyers did not work as promised. It was almost an hour before I had my Business Class boarding pass. The blame game went on for that long, but in the end I had my Business Class seat to Munich on LH 453.

Once on board, it was smooth flying on LH both going and coming back. Service and comfort were up to expectations. On the way back I sampled Lufthansa’s new Premium Economy class on their A380 from Frankfurt. I felt it was a very good value in comfort and space between economy and Business Class.

Once in Munich I was met by an airport host for my home for the week, the Uniworld River Beatrice, sailing from Passau to Budapest along the historic Danube.

First I and others took a 1 1/2 hour bus ride to Passau to meet the riverboat. A warm greeting awaited us and we were quick to settle in.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises was running the show with a very experienced and engaging crew, a beautiful and elegant ship sleeping about 150 passengers, the freshest food (much of it locally sourced), beverages all included in the fare. As typical on river cruises, breakfast and lunch are buffet style, while dinner is a more formal sit-down affair. There also were a large variety of shore excursions included.

There are some limitations to river cruising, however. The average cabins on this particular river ship are small (starting at (about 150 Square feet) as the ship can only be so wide due to the locks along the river.

You also have limited time in each port. That said, the all inclusive nature of Uniworld, even with ship and local guide gratuities, meant that passengers could sleep, eat, drink, experience shore excursions and travel through four countries in a full week all for one fare. Over half of the 109 passengers were repeat Uniworld guests. Everyone I spoke to was positive of the experience and I could see why.

Other than a bit too chatty cruise director who liked to do running commentary of the river scenes, and an older skew to the passengers, I was very pleased with the experience.

Uniworld did not disappoint on the inclusions as we were treated to an organ concert at the 17th Century Sr. Stephens Church in Passau, a full-day excursion to Salzburg with guide, going to Melk in the scenic Wachau Valley and visiting the 900-year old Melk Abby with one of the most ornate and beautiful churches I have even seen, a Village day in Durnstein with an exclusive wine tasting at Nikolaihof Wine Estate, a Vienna City Tour with the Winter Palace of Prince Eugene, an exclusive Mozart and Strauss concert at a Viennese concert hall, a 1/2 day in very surprising and delightful Bratislava, Slovakia with guide — it has a very compelling old town. ln Budapest, I was pleasantly surprised with the changes since my last visit 23 years ago. There are many more food options and the choices so much better now.

All this was included in the one price for this Uniworld river cruise, well organized and very satisfying. I can see the popularity of river cruising as a way to explore without the normal hassles of travel. Uniworld has taken it seriously and can easily be a successful piece in your travel portfolio.

There are many river cruise options. Let us show you the way.

Hilton Smith