Cruising the Danube with U by Uniworld

Last month we had an epic holiday cruising the Danube with U by Uniworld.  Originally this cruise line was launched for the 18 to 45 crowd but for those of us who aren’t ready to sit back and let the kids have all the fun it is a perfect fit.

The Ship

The ship itself is very sleek and modern looking for a river cruise ship.  We sailed on “the  A” and we loved the cool vibe it gave off as soon as we saw her.  Black and white with touches of chrome and glass in the interior and just a tiny bit of neon just for good measure.  We arrived a bit later than we expected so we dumped our bags and headed off to the dining room to have a quick bite before they whisked away the food.  In retrospect that was the worst thing that happened on our cruise so it was pretty close to being perfect.

TheA

The Food

For us it is all about the food. Honestly as food tour owners we travel to eat so this is really important.  The thing that drew us to U was that they offered two meals instead of three. The first was a later breakfast/brunch and the second was dinner.  I have been on ocean cruises where it is an all you can eat situation and the mentality of many is that you need to eat as much as you can and you shouldn’t miss a meal because you paid for it.  The days of rushing back to the ship for lunch in the middle of exploring a new destination are over. It was fantastic having the opportunity to eat in place.

In Vienna we found ourselves eating with our new shipboard friends at the market.  In Budapest we went on a fabulous, leisurely food tour. In Bratislava we found a gorgeous sidewalk cafe and watched the world go by. We would enjoy our day and then return to the ship to eat dinner a little later.

For U cruises, alcoholic drinks are not included.  That of course did not deter me from having a glass of wine with dinner or enjoying a mojito or Aperol spritz on the rooftop deck. There is juice with breakfast, water poured constantly and there is a coffee/tea station called “Mugs” that is on the lower deck and is self serve and available 24/7. I had withdrawals when we got home and I could no longer have an Earl Grey latte every night.  Our bar bill was significantly less than our previous ocean cruises so we were pretty pleased with that.

Dinners were not quite what we had expected.  The original marketing suggested we would have family style and tapas type dining with table mates but there was a buffet every night but one.  The food was excellent but we would have preferred the original dining concept over the dinner buffets.  I imagine that they will tweak things as this is a new cruise line and they may mix it up a bit.  The staff were attentive but fun and it felt more informal which made us feel very at ease and relaxed, just like a cruise should be.

The Food2

The Cruise

The Danube Flow goes from Regensburg, Germany to Budapest, Hungary or in reverse on certain dates.   Each port has something different to offer.  In Regensburg there is the oldest wurst house where we enjoyed some Bratwurst and a pint while sitting along the Danube. In Budapest we spent time in Pest on a food tour and then went to Buda to the castle district. In Austria we spent a steamy evening sipping wine and eating gourmet appetizers in a vineyard in the Wachau Valley. There was also a morning spent wandering the streets of Bratislava, one of the smallest capital cities in Europe.

The greatest thing about a river cruise is that you dock in the centre of it all.  You walk off the ship and there it all is just waiting for you to discover!  On U there are included excursions available that are often walks with the U Hosts with a bit of history and lots of suggestions about where to go and what to do for the day.  We did a few paid excursions because the bus ride sure beat the walk up the hill to Melk Abbey.  We also had a guided tour in Vienna which was worth every penny and we love wine so in Wachau Valley we spent time exploring a local vineyard.

If you cycle there are bikes to borrow or you can head out with the group on a paid excursion on the trail beside the Danube. Everyone works hard on the ship and pitches in. At the end of a cycling trip they hand the bikes back up onto the ship. We got a great shot of the captain riding one of the bikes back to its storage spot on the top deck.

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We never ran out of things to do on the ship because there were onboard activities too.  There was yoga in the morning on the top deck, a beer mixology class and drumming lessons in the Ice Bar.  I managed to fit in a couple of reflexology treatments to sooth my aching feet.  My fitness tracker tells me we walked 200 km in 2 weeks and my feet appreciated the treatments!

The Cruise

If I were to talk about the highlight of the cruise I would have to say it was the evening we sailed into Budapest with the sounds of a jazz saxophonist and a dj.  In the dark night passing under the first bridge, only the sounds of awe and wonderment could be heard as we saw the spectacular lights of the Parliament buildings and the chain bridge.  I have seen Paris at night too but Budapest surprised me with its old world beauty and charm.  We didn’t know where to look as we were surrounded on both sides with an incredible light show.

Lightshow

I could talk about this cruise forever because there were so many high points. In short I would do this all again in a heartbeat and so Niagara Culinary Tours and Plan a Culinary Vacation are planning a return trip as we escort a group on the Danube Flow in May 2019.  If you would like to join us spots are still available.

TRAVEL TIP

On this blog I make it my mission to share a tip that I have learned the hard way. Think before you pack!  It always seems like a good idea to have outfits for dinner and alternatives in case it gets cold.  Everything adds to the weight in your suitcase so you have to be selective. This trip I used a rolling rack and created outfit pairings.  If it couldn’t create more than one look then it was gone.  I still ended up with too much but at least I didn’t have to pay a luggage overage fee this time!

Photos and story by: Kimberley Gunning, Plan A Culinary Vacation

For travel inquiries: kimberley@planaculinaryvacation.ca or 1-905-353-5343

Kimberley Gunning, Plan A Culinary Vacation and Niagara Culinary Tours

 

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Paris in only 36 hours

The first thing to say is that 36 hours is just not enough time for Paris. The second is, if it’s all you’ve got, then make the most of it!

We found ourselves in Paris enroute to Germany to catch a river cruise.

Choose your hotel wisely

If you want to be in the centre of it all, it can be costly. Save a little and use the metro or Uber to get around and discover a new neighbourhood. Our hotel the Phileas was just slightly off the beaten track located in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but we were able to get to where we wanted to go within 10-15 minutes using various modes of transportation.

Do a food tour.

We are both foodies and food tour owners so this is something we do every time we travel. It is a fantastic way to learn about a new destination and have some lunch while doing it. We chose Secret Food Tour’s , Paris Montmartre tour. Our guide Claire took us to places that we would not have seen or experienced if we were on our own.  The group size was perfect and we covered a lot of ground.

Chocolates from a world class class chef, macarons without the ridiculous line ups, crepes from a tiny store front we would have missed and cheese well there was so much cheese…it made my knees weak.  Of course there is the secret part but we can’t share that but it was delightful.

Secret Food Tours Paris

Go for a walk

Pick a neighbourhood or district and go for a walk. We chose the 6 th arrondissement of Paris, home to the beautiful Jardins du Luxembourg .  As soon as we stepped out of the Uber we saw cafes, so many perfectly French sidewalk cafes that it was hard to choose. We chose based entirely on aesthetics and it did not disappoint. Our breakfast was exactly what we needed after a long day of travel the day before. A little protein, a little carbs and something healthy. The juice of the day that accompanied our French breakfast was spicy carrot juice. The orange carrot gave it a depth of colour and the flavours were of carrot, pepper and ginger. The cafe itself was picture perfect and the staff very helpful.  It is a new cafe and does not have a website yet, so look for 13 Au Jardins on Rue de Medisis.

Sit and watch the world go by.

We kind of wish we had listened to this one. We found ourselves wanting to soak up every moment and managed to get in over 30,000 steps in 36 hours but we were pretty exhausted. The late Anthony Bourdain had the right idea when he said when in Paris, eat, drink, sit in a park and eat and drink some more. There are parks everywhere and it is easy to find a spot to perch and enjoy that pain au chocolat.

wander

Avoid line ups

We just didn’t have time for line ups so we took our own advice on this one. Ironically, we had already made the decision that we wouldn’t go up the Eiffel Tower because it would take too much time but when we got there they were on strike so any temptation to do it anyway was taken away.  There are other places in Paris that have views and they are less hectic. We chose the rooftop view from Printemps department store. We had a birds eye view of Paris and we stopped at their restaurant one floor down for a burger and frites. It was exactly how we wanted to end our trip to Paris. Our walk back to collect our bags gave us a chance to pick up that much desired pain au chocolate. We packed a lot in but we both agree we can’t wait to do it again. We are already thinking about our group river cruise in May 2019 and hoping we can pass through this beautiful city once again.

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Travel Tip

On this blog I make it my mission to share a tip that I have learned the hard way. Check your travel adaptors. Make sure they are current. Sometimes countries change and France is apparently one of them. Our fancy Coach adaptor just didn’t cut it so we had to rely on the kindness of front desk so we could charge our phones.

Photos and story by: Kimberley Gunning, Plan A Culinary Vacation

For travel inquiries: kimberley@planaculinaryvacation.ca

#NOTYOURMOTHERSCRUISE

Now let’s be honest, a number of months ago when I was clicking through my email newsletters and I saw this ship I was more than a tiny bit jealous. I was thinking how incredibly unfair it was that this gorgeous sleek river cruise vessel was only for the under 45!

Fast forward to this spring and U by Uniworld has actually lifted their age limit to include those of us with a few more miles on us but certainly we are still young at heart. I want the morning yoga, the drumming, the mixology class, the silent disco, paint and wine class and the interesting culinary options. I love the fact that alcohol is by choice and not included in package or that brunch and dinner are your meals for the day, leaving you to wander and explore new destinations and taste in place.

I don’t know what could beat eating chicken paprikash or goulash right in the heart of Budapest or street food lunch of currywurst in a village in Germany. As a foodie traveller I plan my vacations around food and this new river cruise option really hits the mark for me. I look forward to sharing my experiences and will share with you my travel stories as my Aussie wine geek better half and I celebrate a special milestone together on this summer adventure.

We have planned a layover in Paris and Lisbon with a food tour in Montmartre on the bucket list. Searching for luggage and working on packing tips. I am excited and determined that this bucket list trip will be amazing.

Travelling tips

Trip lesson, number one learned. Always check luggage fees before booking a flight. A total rookie mistake was made when I booked our flights less than 60 days out and found the prices very high and the options diminished. I pieced together what I thought was the perfect itinerary but sadly for our flight from Budapest to Toronto the luggage fee is $112 per bag. Never assume that distance is an indicator for free baggage inclusion. I will definitely ensure due diligence in the future!

If you are are looking to book travel or have any questions please contact me at kimberley@planavacation.ca

written by: Kimberley Gunning