Plumie did a great detailed review, so I will just use hers as a guide. I agree with most everything and she had so much information that doesn't need repeating.
We did this cruise because friends found it and it was a great deal for what was the first river cruise for most of us. Until Plumie's review, information on the Gate 1 river cruises was scarce. Information on river cruises in general is not as abundant as that on ocean cruises. Is this because not as many people are river cruising?
Plumie's description was right on. My only addition is that we used the back lounge a lot for morning coffee before yoga. The coffee machine provided much better coffee than the dining room. THE CABINS Again, Plumie's review has a great description. Honestly we couldn't find much of anything on the television, but it was also right before elections at home, so we were trying to avoid the news at the time.
Even though we requested one bed, our cabin was set up with two twins. After the first night, Mara, our steward, changed the bed from two twins to a king. We found the bed very, very comfortable. The shower was a bit small, even for not-very-big me, but entirely workable. The Juliette balconies are great, about half the time. When you are on the view side, it is wonderful, but sometimes you are on the wall or tie-up side, when you need to keep your curtains closed for privacy. We were lucky enough to be on the river side when we docked in Prague and left the curtains wide open while we slept. We had a beautiful sunrise view of the Liberty Bridge and the Danube in the morning. THE FOOD Here is where there is a difference of opinion with Plumie. Unfortunately, we didn’t like the food as much and thought that the quality left much to be desired. Breakfast was probably best and the lunch salads were always acceptable. Often at dinner, though, I just ordered the Caesar salad and skipped the protein with the main course. There was always enough but the quality and preparation weren't great. The best meals were the Bavarian lunch after the Melk Abbey excursion and the Captain’s Dinner with the Baked Alaska dessert. The wines were not very good, and my husband usually had the beer which was better. ENTERTAINMENT Yep, as Plumie points out, most people on our cruise were on the older side, and not many people participated in the evening activities with Armin. We went a few times because we felt badly for him. It was the usual bingo, name that tune, family feud, etc., fun when you did it, but nothing you would regret missing. Our keyboard player was Jozsef, but he sounds identical to Attila. Maybe it isn’t their fault, but what the cruise line makes them do/play. Everyone went to the crew talent show to support the people who had cared for us so well during the previous week, but Gate 1 should find some other way to do this. I had expected crew members to show unexpected talents, like singing or playing instruments, but these were summer camp skits that were embarrassing and not well done. The crew obviously had fun doing them, but most of the skits would not pass muster in the US during these days of gender equality and the #MeToo movement. EXCURSIONS
Again Plumie's experience was just like ours and we even had some of the same guides. I will just post our personal takes here.
Passau: There was some cute shopping here and we were able to have a nice coffee and pastry with friends in a café. I think all the tour guides were university students because there is a new college there. Regensburg: We had Daniel too and liked him. The free restrooms made Sabi’s point that it is very worthwhile to pay a few crowns/Euros for a clean restroom instead of using a free one. Linz/Salzburg: Someone (Plumie or Claudia) had suggested skipping the lunch in Salzburg at St Peters Stiftskulinarium. The schnitzel lunch was bad, but the inside of the restaurant was gorgeous and lovely to see. ONE glass of wine or beer was included. The dessert was an odd meringue dish. I think it was worth it to sit for lunch with fellow travelers in a beautiful setting and then hightailing it out of there. I think we had more time, a couple of hours, to wander Salzburg, buy the silver Mozart ball candies only sold there and then have a coffee. However we ended up visiting Mozart’s birthplace museum which was fine, but after seeing the original manuscripts in Prague, the facsimiles were uninspiring. We spent too much time looking for the Café Tomselli and ended up without enough time to go there. We could definitely go again and spend more time there, maybe in the less touristy areas. Luckily, the shops were closed because it was a holiday (All Saint’s Day). Vienna: Evidently, all the ships dock outside the city center because that’s where the docks are. There is a historical reason for this, but I don't remember what it is. We had a good local tour guide who was very helpful, helping us with directions at the end when she released us in town. Once on our own, we started with delicious strudel, cake and coffee at the Demel. Our friends who had tried the Sachertorte in Salzburg said this pastry was much better. Then we wandered a bit and went for a great schnitzel lunch at Figlmuller. Friends had recommended this. MAKE A RESERVATION! We were able to bypass a long line and walk right in, much to the dismay of tourists who had evidently been waiting quite awhile. Our group shared a schnitzel per couple and ordered the potato salad and green salad to share. Everyone LOVED the potato salad so much that we asked for the recipe. We walked around and shopped more and by the time we headed back for the 4:30pm shuttle, we were done. We had thought of staying the evening to find a concert but that proved to be more than we wanted to figure out.
Szentendre: This is an additional to Plumie's review, but I think Claudia mentions it in hers. Claudia had recommended skipping this and going straight into Budapest, because it is just a little tourist town that they took us to because our rooms at the hotel would not be ready, and Sabi freely admitted this. However we went because it was easier to go with the flow and most everyone else in our group. Claudia was right in that it is really just set up for tourist shopping and that there really isn’t anything else to do, but we had a nice time because it was a low-key day among many busy days, we were with friends and the weather was lovely, after such gloom early on in the trip. We definitely don’t need to go again. MY FINAL THOUGHTS
WE WERE SO FORTUNATE! Alex, the hotel manager, said we were the first of their cruises in 65 days to make it all the way down to Budapest and he didn’t think the next ship was going to make it. Those first few days of rain in Prague were a drag, but well worth it if that was the reason we were able to sail into Budapest and dock there. Sailing in was stunningly beautiful.
Overall, I would definitely travel with Gate 1 again, especially for the value. I think a land package might also provide better meals without a central kitchen providing everything.
I would probably opt for a higher-end river cruise next time, hoping for better food and more experienced service, but we had a great time and I think the staff did their best. They were a bit uneven with incredible service from some and questionable service from others, but I think that may have been more of a training and experience issue. It makes sense that a lower-cost company uses less experienced staff. Each crew member was friendly and as helpful as possible though. Sabi was efficient at handling the guests and had us all trained to be early for everything. He did an incredible job all by himself.
- If anyone is interested, I can scan all my daily schedules and add them to this thread later.
- We had an extended package with a couple of nights in Prague on the front and in Budapest on the end. The hotels were great and I can provide more info if anyone wants it.
- If you are spending any time in Prague, get to a bank and change your Czech korunas into small change as soon as you can. It will make your life easier. You will need these for restrooms.
- COBBLESTONES, especially Prague. We were on the younger side for this cruise, but after a couple of days in Prague, my knees were feeling it. Prague has more cobblestones than anyone else we have visited in Europe. If they are wet at all, they are even more difficult to walk on. Hiking boots aren't the best here. Softer shoes, like sneakers, seem to accommodate the terrain better.
- There are always a lot of questions about timing, because so many people opt for their own activities and tours on cruises, ocean cruises especially. We decided not to schedule any private tours, except during our land portions, and this turned out to be a wise decision. It seems that river cruises are more susceptible to schedule changes than ocean cruises, because of water levels, docking decisions, etc. One day, members of our group were very late in meeting their private tour guide, because our morning excursion ran late.
Hope this helps. I'll keep an eye on the thread for a few weeks in case anyone has questions.