Ports of Call: Regensburg, Germany; Passau, Germany; Melk, Austria; Vienna, Austria; Bratislava, Slovakia; Budapest, Hungary
Our “Dashing Through the Danube” itinerary aboard U River Cruises’ The A was due to arrive in Regensburg, Germany, on Dec. 27; however, river conditions meant the boat could not dock there, so our itinerary changed slightly, instead spending two days in Passau, with a daytrip by bus to Regensburg. As a result, U River Cruises offered complimentary bus transfers from Munich Airport to the port in Passau, and made the appropriate arrangements for transfers and activities in Regensburg. What could have been a hectic, last-minute change (beyond the cruise line’s control) was instead a minor change with minimal headache.
Upon arrival in Passau, check-in was as easy as could be. Within minutes, we were unpacking in our cabin. An early-morning flight home from Budapest meant we departed the ship rather early and the crew laid out breakfast boxes for us and arranged for a taxi to the airport. The manager on duty even waited street-side in the bitter cold of a January morning for the taxi while we waited in a slightly less windy area.
Our cabin was small, as can be expected on a river cruise, but efficient. It’s amazing how many space-saving tricks and added storage areas can be utilized to make these cabins functional. Upon entry, a closet stood to the right and the bathroom, with marble accents, to the left. The bathroom boasted a sink and counter, toilet and a stall shower. As you entered the room, a desk was tucked into a corner, and a TV lived inside a mirrored wall opposite the king-sized bed. On the desk were the handheld audio guides, one per passenger, we’d use on the various excursions. Each side of the bed was flanked by hybrid closets/nightstands, and space under the bed held all of our unpacked suitcases. A French balcony with cantilevered shutters was the final touch.
River cruising is truly like a floating boutique hotel. We covered four countries in eight days and unpacked once. The boats dock right in the heart of cities, and you walk right off and into the action. Overnights and late departures in the cities allowed people to experience the nightlife and more fully immerse in a destination.
Each cruise has two U Hosts who lead included activities and communications. You won’t find paper itineraries; everything is handled electronically, with the days’ schedules on the in-room TV and group announcements and chats via a What’s App group. I found the included group walks and tours a great way to orient ourselves with the cities.
Dining flip-flopped between buffets and plated dinners nightly, and all the food was delicious. We didn’t opt for a beverage package, but options are available. The epic dessert presentation on the last night was a delicious send-off. Dining is available during two-hour timeframes, but passengers can come and go as they please within those hours. There’s also always access to hot beverages and water, spa services and laundry.
A lounge remains open all day long, with a bar and menu as well as snacks. Board games, foosball and more are available to guests, and the windows make this a great spot to lounge while sailing picturesque spots like the Wachau Valley. In the warmer weather, there’s an upstairs indoor/outdoor deck and bar. Ship activities include guest DJs, karaoke, paint nights, fitness activities and more on a daily basis.
We also chose to do some of the for-purchase excursions, our favorite a wintertime tour in Passau that meandered along the Danube into small German villages where we were greeted by singing and other local delicacies. We had a great time exploring each city along the way, but wish our time in Bratislava hadn’t coincided with morning on New Year’s Day as most shops were closed and the city quiet. One of the best decisions we made was to avoid the throngs of people in downtown Vienna on New Year’s Eve and stay on board to celebrate from The A’s roof deck. We saw 360-degree fireworks, enjoyed free-flowing Champagne, mingled with the friendly and fun crew and had an amazing time. Another must is to go to the upper deck as you sail into Budapest at night, even in cold temperatures, because it’s a spectacular setting.
U River Cruises
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