Water way to cruise Danube
Luxury is taken to another level on board the River Beatrice, from the staterooms to tours and food travel2011
AS WE set sail from the small town of Passau in Germany on an icy November afternoon, the butlers offered us mugs of hot chocolate up on deck. Wrapped in warm blankets, we were gently swept away for a week’s exploration and adventure on the Danube in a style and comfort you would be hard pressed to beat.
Ahead of us were stops at Linz, Melk, Durnstein, Vienna, in Austria, and Budapest in Hungary.
A wonderfully appointed stateroom became my retreat for seven nights and, on Day 2, after Stefaniya, my appointed housekeeper, had met me and quietly assessed my height, I stepped into the shower to find it had been lowered overnight for me. I did not even have to tweak the hot/cold setting. Just turn on the flow.
The luxury of the ship, with its high-end panache epitomised by the 2-metre hand-crafted Murano glass chandelier that hangs in the two-deck marble lobby, is repeated in every detail. Plush upholstered silk panels line the corridors and staterooms or suites (they are not called cabins here). All staterooms/suites are stocked with L’OCcitane en Provence toiletries, except for the smarter suites where the products are from Molton Brown.
Staterooms of all categories are laid out in identical fashion, with twin beds that can be made up together to become an extremely comfortable queen (fabulous linen and each passenger gets to use one of those lovely fluffy big white towelling robes), but those on the two upper decks are distinguished by having French balconies with sliding windows that can be opened in summer and even in the wintry temperatures at this time of year (ranging from -4°C to a maximum on one day of 7°C), were wonderful to have for the views of passing landscapes, and occasionally to open for a bracing dose of crisp air. On the lower deck, the staterooms are set largely below the waterline, so windows there give just a view of the water surface, and a glimpse of the shoreline.
The River Beatrice has been one of the jewels in the crown for the Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. Among numerous other awards, it was voted, in an international travel survey, best new ship of 2009. It is now one of the older ships in the Uniworld river fleet, the SS Antoinette being Beatrice’s newer and flashier sister, which plies the Rhine. (It has a pool, which the River Beatrice does not. Probably great in summer, but on this trip I struggled to imagine when there would have been time for swimming.) The names of the ships will ring a bell for anyone who knows the Tollman family which owns the brand: Beatrice and Stanley Tollman, founders and owners of Travel Corporation, which owns Uniworld Boutique River Cruises Collection, are South Africans (remember the Tollman Towers in downtown Johannesburg?) who expanded their empire to become big players in the global travel industry. The River Beatrice is named for Mrs B, as she is known within the company, and the SS Antoinette is named for daughter Toni who designs the ship interiors.
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LUXURY ON THE RIVER: The River Beatrice, moored at Durnstein.
COLD COMFORT: Passengers wrapped in blankets against the cold take in the wintry sights of the banks of the Danube as the ship sets sail from Passau.