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Cruise & Rail: Enchanting Danube & the Castles of Transylvania (2022) tour
Budapest Romania Cruise & Rail: Enchanting Danube & the Castles of Transylvania (2022) Trip

Cruise & Rail: Enchanting Danube & the Castles of Transylvania (2022)

Uniworld
4.9 . Excellent
96%
Travel Style: N/A
Physical Level: Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment. Easy
Lodging Level: 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Comfort (4*)
12 days
From: $ 12,399 $ 1,033 / day
Checking price

Overview

Short Description

Experience the highlights of Eastern and Western Europe, then dive into the mystique of the Dracula myth on a private train journey through Romania.

Style River cruise
Array
Itinerary Focus N/A
3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Lodging Level Comfort (4*)
Flight & Transport Inclusions N/A
Start City Passau
End City Budapest

Destinations

Germany Hungary

Attractions & Cities Visited

Budapest Romania Vienna

Activities & Interests

Culture Historic sightseeing River cruise

N/A
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Itinerary

2019 version

Passau to Budapest


Day 1 - Passau (Embark)

Port - Passau

Arrive at Munich Airport. If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship.


Day 2 - Passau

Port - Passau

Passau is a crossroads in more ways than one, as three rivers meet here and three nations nearly do, making for a fascinating cultural mosaic. Get to know the town and its main claim to fame—Europe’s largest pipe organ—or “Let’s Go” with an invigorating riverside hike or bike ride.

In the evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.

Excursion(s) - Passau three rivers
Excursion Price - $70
Excursion(s) - “Let's Go” bicycle ride along the Inn River
Excursion Price - $70

The Inn River rises in the Alps, near Innsbruck (hence the name of the famous Swiss ski resort) and flows through three nations (Switzerland, Austria and Germany) on its way to Passau, where it joins the Danube. While the Danube bike path may be Europe’s best-known route for bicyclists, the Inn River bike path, which follows the river from Innsbruck to Passau, has plenty of fans. The route through the Inn River valley outside Passau is an especially attractive stretch, with great views of the lovely countryside, picturesque villages and the sparkling clear river itself. Your guide will make sure you know the local traffic and safety rules before you and your group set out along the partly flat and paved path. You’ll be traveling on both sides of the river, crossing between Germany and Austria as you cross the Inn, and your journey will include a comfort stop before returning to the ship. All in all, it’s an idyllic way to enjoy the scenery and get some exercise at the same time.

Excursion(s) - “Let's Go” hike along the Ilz River
Excursion Price - $70

Put on your hiking boots, grab a windbreaker and a bottle of water, and head out with a local hiking guide and nature expert to explore the banks of the Ilz River. This small but rushing tributary of the Danube originates deep in the Bavarian Forest, near the Czech border, and is just 40 miles (65 kilometers) long. Its upper stretch is a premier whitewater rafting location, but you’ll be hiking along the lower, serene end of the river. Your starting point is Hals-Hochstein, where you’ll pick up a nature trail that follows a curve of the river and then climbs a steep hill, where you have a great view of the river and woodlands. You will cross the river repeatedly, once by way of a dam and again toward the end of your four-mile (6.5-kilometer) hike, as you loop back to the Hals. 


Day 3 - Linz (Salzburg)

Port - Linz

Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg is nestled in a glorious alpine setting that sparkles like a winter wonderland. Linz may be best known for its famous Linzer torte, but it’s also a hotbed for the arts. See the sights with a local expert and visit a family at their farm in the countryside. Austria’s third-largest city, Linz boasts a long history of trading and textile manufacturing, but these days it is perhaps best known for its electronic arts and annual festival.

Excursion(s) - Full-day in Salzburg with Sound of Music
Excursion Price - $70
Excursion(s) - Linz town and country: Linzertorte and cider farm visit
Excursion Price - $70

Get to know Linz on foot with a local expert who will take you by all the major sites in town, from Mozart’s apartment to the old Jesuit Cathedral. You’ll stop for a bite at Konditorei Jindrak, home of the Original Linzer Torte. Enjoy a cup of coffee alongside this thin, buttery pastry made with ground nuts, filled with fruit preserves and topped with a lattice crust.

Next, the group will split in two, each half heading out to a countryside cider farm. There, you’ll be treated to a lunch of local specialties and house-made cider—an excellent way to immerse yourself in rural Austrian life and scenery, while also supporting local farmers. Both farms are entirely organic and give special care to the quality of the ingredients they produce, from the careful cultivation of their bountiful orchards to the livestock they keep in large grazing pastures. This type of farming produces less waste and—as you’ll see during your lunch there—better food.

This MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience supports Global Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.


Day 4 - Melk, Dürnstein

Port - Dürnstein

This morning, visit the 900-year-old Melk Abbey and its extraordinary baroque-style library.  Later, you will head to Dürnstein, one of our favorite towns along the Danube, a lovely place to wander cobblestone lanes, browse quaint shops and maybe hike up to a ruined castle (with an intriguing tale all its own). You can also opt for a tasting or learn all about the world’s costliest spice from the Wachau Valley’s only saffron grower. You have two ports of call in the incredibly scenic valley, Dürnstein and Melk, and an assortment of delightful ways to explore this lovely region.

Excursion(s) - Melk Abbey with library visit
Excursion Price - $70

The Babenbergs, a great medieval ducal family that controlled a wide swath of Austria before yielding to the Habsburgs, were the first to erect a castle on the hill above Melk, which they subsequently gave to Benedictine monks. These monks, some 900 years ago, turned it into a fortified abbey—and the greatest center of learning in Central Europe. Their library was celebrated far and wide (and still is; Umberto Eco paid tribute to it in his best-selling novel The Name of the Rose). Medieval monks there created more than 1,200 manuscripts, sometimes spending an entire lifetime hand-lettering a single volume. Today the library contains some 100,000 volumes, among them more than 80,000 works printed before 1800. This beautiful complex, completely redone in the early 18th century, is a wonderful example of baroque art and architecture, and the views from its terrace are spectacular. As you walk through the abbey’s Marble Hall with your guide, look up at the ceiling fresco painted by Paul Troger: Those classical gods and goddesses represent Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, allegorically bringing his people from dark to light and demonstrating the link he claimed to the original Roman Empire.

After your tour of the abbey, you’ll have time to explore Melk on your own, or you can take the motorcoach back to the ship.

Excursion(s) - Dürnstein wine estate visit with tasting
Excursion Price - $70

There’s no better way to conclude your visit to the Wachau Valley than with a special tasting of organic wines at Nikolaihof, perhaps the oldest winery in Austria. The location itself is fascinating: One may encounter remnants of the first buildings on the site—an ancient Roman fort—and taste wines in a deconsecrated 15th-century chapel. Owned by the Saahs family, Nikolaihof produces some of the world’s best Riesling and Veltliner varietals; in fact, the 1995 Riesling Vinothek, bottled in 2012, actually scored 100 points in The Wine Advocate, the first Austrian wine ever to rank that highly. It is also one of the first wineries in the world to produce biodynamically certified wines. No herbicides, fertilizers, pesticides, or synthetic sprays are used in the vineyards. The grapes are harvested by hand, fermented without artificial yeast and stored in Austrian oak casks for up to 20 years.

After your visit, discover Dürnstein on a stroll through town before returning to the ship. Considering its diminutive size, the village of Dürnstein offers much to explore. The famous blue baroque tower of the abbey church is doubtless its best-known landmark, but the ruined castle above the town provides its most romantic tale. There Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned until he was found by his faithful bard, Blondel, and ransom could be raised—or so the legend goes. Walk along the town’s narrow streets, past 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century houses; it’s an up-close look at over 300 years of architecture.

This MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience supports Global Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.

Excursion(s) - Dürnstein village and saffron workshop
Excursion Price - $70

Educate your taste buds with flavorful delicacies as you taste red-wine-and-saffron chocolate and saffron-seasoned jams, vinegars and honey. Crusaders planted the first saffron crocuses in the Wachau Valley at the end of the 12th century, making saffron a valued crop for 700 years—but it disappeared from the terraced hillsides early in the 20th century. It wasn’t until 2007 that an ecologist found mention of it in an 18th-century document at Melk Abbey’s celebrated library. Bernard Kaar, who spent years researching the history of saffron and still more years cultivating the world’s only biodynamically certified saffron, is one of the Wachau’s most important producers. Meet Bernard and his wife, Alexandra, for a fascinating introduction to saffron—the plant, the spice, its cultural significance and their farm’s uniquely sustainable methods of producing it.

Later walk along the town’s narrow streets, past 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century houses; it’s an up-close look at over 300 years of architecture. Considering its diminutive size, the village of Dürnstein offers much to explore. The famous blue baroque tower of the abbey church is doubtless its best-known landmark, but the ruined castle above the town provides its most romantic tale. There Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned until he was found by his faithful bard, Blondel, and ransom could be raised—or so the legend goes.

This MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience supports Global Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.


Day 5 - Vienna

Port - Vienna

Vienna is a cultural treasure trove revered for its art and music (and sinfully rich pastries). Experience the “City of Waltzes” with your choice of tours, as well as an expertly led tour of an extraordinary collection of art at the renowned Vienna Art History Museum.

You have leisure time after your tour to explore Vienna on your own. You might wish to visit the Albertina Museum, which houses one million old-master prints and an impressive collection of works by 19th- and 20th-century painters, ranging from Renoir to Rothko.If you’d like to get a little exercise and see a completely different side of Vienna, borrow a bike from the ship and explore Danube Island and Prater Park. (For a wonderful view of the region, ride the Ferris wheel in Prater Park.)

Excursion(s) - “Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History Museum
Excursion Price - $70

The Habsburgs assembled an astonishing collection of artistic treasures over the centuries, which formed the basis for the works now on display at the Vienna Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches). The doors open early especially for you as you join an art historian for a tour of some of the masterpieces gathered here: View a unique group of works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Vermeer’s Allegory of Painting, Raphael’s Madonna in the Meadow, and portraits by Rembrandt, Velazquez, Rubens, Titian, Tintoretto and Van Eyck, among others, in the Picture Gallery. Then move onto the Kunstkammer galleries, where you can see Benvenuto Cellini’s legendary salt cellar (the only gold sculpture he created that has survived to the present day) and hear its remarkable story. Your tour ends in the magnificent Cupola Hall, perhaps the architectural highlight of the splendid building.

Excursion(s) - Night Out: Private Mozart and Strauss concert
Excursion Price - $70

Vienna is linked inextricably with music, as so many great composers lived and worked here: Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss, Schubert, Mahler, Brahms—the list is as long as it is glorious. Enjoy an evening of chamber music performed by some of Vienna’s world-class professionals in a historic and intimate concert venue.

Excursion(s) - Schönbrunn Palace
$70
Excursion(s) - Vienna - Imperial City highlights
Excursion Price - $70

Ring Street, the great horseshoe-shaped boulevard lined with many of the city’s major landmarks—Parliament, City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, glorious palaces and museums—is a mere 150 years old, practically an infant for a city of Vienna’s age. It replaced the walls and fortifications that had protected the city for centuries. Its construction was a testament to confidence, forward-thinking and grand urban planning, and it resulted in a 50-year building spree. You’ll pass most of these opulent landmarks on your way to the older section of the city, the area the walls once enclosed.

Later, you’ll walk along Kärntner Street, the celebrated pedestrian boulevard that links the State Opera with St. Stephen’s Cathedral, past the elegant shops on the Graben and the Kohlmarkt. The neighborhood offers a lively combination of historic architecture, street performances, shoppers’ delights and true Viennese atmosphere. 

Excursion(s) - Vienna's music and composers
Excursion Price - $70

Take a walk through Vienna’s musical history, starting with the present-day artists keeping the legacy alive. We’ll first visit the House of Music (Haus der Musik), where you’ll learn about the future of computer music and observe great composers at work. From there, we’ll walk through town towards St. Stephen’s Cathedral, passing the musical theatre. Enter the cathedral to see its musical architecture and a recently discovered altar painting by Albrecht Dürer. Next, we’ll walk to the only surviving residence of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We’ll stroll around the large Mozarthaus apartment, where he created some of his most famous compositions.


Day 6 - Vienna, Bratislava

Port - Bratislava

Your ship sets sail from Vienna and heads for Bratislava today. You may relax onboard all day, perhaps enjoying a drink on the Sun Deck and taking in the scenery as the ship wends its way along the Austrian Danube toward Bratislava. Although it’s not a large city, Bratislava has played a leading role in the politics and culture of the region for many centuries, and it is well worth a visit.

Excursion(s) - Bratislava - small but precious walking tour
Excursion Price - $70

Walk through the loveliest part of Bratislava with your local guide. Starting on the Danube promenade, you’ll cross the former Coronation Square, pass the Slovak National Theater and St. Martin’s Cathedral. This Gothic church was built into the medieval city’s fortifications, and 19 Habsburg rulers were crowned inside it, including Empress Maria Theresa. That’s because Bratislava, then known as Pressburg, became the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary after the Ottomans conquered Budapest in 1536, a status it retained until the middle of the 19th-century.

Close to the cathedral you’ll find Michael’s Gate, the last remaining portal of the medieval wall—and your entryway into Bratislava’s Old Town, which blends Gothic, baroque and art deco structures with some less graceful reminders of the Communist era. The stately 18th-century Primatial Palace, in the center of Old Town, was the site where the Pressburg peace treaty was signed in 1805, in which Austria ceded a great deal of territory to Napoleon. Another 18th-century palace, Grassalkovich, is now the president of Slovakia’s official residence.

Take some time after the tour to browse through the attractive shops in the lovely art deco buildings that line the squares; you can find a wide selection of traditional folk items at the ÚĽUV (Slovak Folk Culture) shop. And you’ll definitely want to sample some of the local delicacies.

Excursion(s) - "Let's Go" hike to Bratislava Castle
Excursion Price - $70

This brilliantly white, enormous square building takes over the skyline of Bratislava, and from its grounds you’ll find incredible views of the city below.

After your hike to the castle, you’ll stroll through the most beautiful part of Bratislava with the local guide. You will be introduced to the Capital of Slovakia, seeing sites like the Presidential Palace and the unique bridge colloquially known as UFO Bridge (you’ll understand when you see it).

Passing through the historic Old Town, we’ll see the charming House of the Good Shepherd, the pastel tower of the Old Town Hall and statues like Čumil, the sewage worker leaning out of a manhole in the street to smile at passersby.


Day 7 - Budapest

Port - Budapest

Budapest is an enchanting city that presents a vibrant mix of medieval and modern.

In the evening, a special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.

Excursion(s) - Budapest walk with local treats
Excursion Price - $70

One of the best ways to get to know Budapest is through its cuisine, in no small part because many of its unique culinary treats can be found inside famous architectural sites and other must-see hotspots.

Today we’ll start off at the Jewish District where we’ll visit the Klauzál Square Market Hall, a food bazaar that has been running on the grounds of a burned-down theater since 1897. Here you’ll try specialty meats before heading to a ruin pub. We’ll grab a beer and some langos, a Hungarian fried bread snack, and take in the eclectic atmosphere. Our last stop is the Great Market Hall, the largest in the city, where you’ll enjoy some delicious strudel for a sweet end to your tour.

Excursion(s) - Budapest panoramic highlights with Opera House visit
Excursion Price - $70

Enjoy a panoramic drive by the neo-Renaissance buildings of Andrassy Avenue, passing Heroes' Square, the Franz Liszt Memorial House, the House of Terror, City Park and, of course, the Castle District.

You’ll get to see the old hidden villas and embassies of the Jewish district before stepping off the bus and heading on to the Opera House. The building’s architecture alone is worth a visit, its gilded ceilings and marble columns making the interior even more striking than its beautiful facade. It’s also famous for its great acoustics, which you will get to appreciate during a private concert, just for Uniworld guests.

Excursion(s) - Jewish Budapest
$105

On your way into the Jewish Quarter, take a panoramic drive along the UNESCO-designated Andrassy Avenue. Among its beautiful neo-Renaissance architecture are such sites as Heroes’ Square, the Franz Liszt Memorial House, the House of Terror, and the Castle District.

You will get off the coach near the Dohány Synagogue. The Great Synagogue of Budapest (also known as the Central Synagogue) on Dohány Street is a good starting point to learn about Jewish Budapest. The Dohány Synagogue is the largest in Europe and the 2nd largest Synagogue in the world.


Day 8 - Budapest (Disembark), Transfer to Train (Embark), Lajosmizse, Kecskemet

Port - Budapest

Transfer from the ship to Budapest Nyugati station, where you can enjoy a morning drinks reception in the impressive Royal Waiting Room before boarding the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Settle into your cabin and later enjoy lunch as the train heads to Lajosmizse for a spectacular ‘Puszta’ horse show. Afterwards there is time to explore Kecskemét, a fascinating city at the geographical center of Hungary. Back on board, enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the Bar Lounge Car as the train continues across the Great Hungarian Plain and dine as you head towards Romania and Transylvania.


Day 9 - Sibiu, Sighișoara

Port - Sibiu

After breakfast onboard, your train will arrive in the 13th-century town of Sibiu, Romania, where you will spend the morning touring the area. Reboard for lunch as your train travels to Sighișoara for a guided walking tour of the town’s main highlights. A World Heritage Site and the rumored birthplace of Dracula, it is one of the best-preserved fortified medieval towns in Europe. Burgher houses and ornate churches line its cobbled streets. Dinner is served onboard as your train departs for Brasov and its castles in the Carpathian Mountains.


Day 10 - Sinaia, Brasov

Port - Sinaia

Early morning will find you at Sinaia, where you’ll detrain after breakfast and travel the short distance to the stunning neo-Renaissance Peles Castle. Stop for lunch on the train before moving on to Brasov for a tour of the medieval Old Town, then head out to the Rasnov Citadel and Castle. Late in the afternoon, you’ll visit Bran Castle, popularly known as Dracula’s Castle, due to it being the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The beautiful 14th-century building is situated amongst stunning mountain scenery. The castle will be exclusively for you and your fellow passengers in the early evening and, following a tour of the castle, there will be a Gala Dinner.


Day 11 - Cluj-Napoca

Port - Cluj-Napoca

Arrive in Cluj-Napoca in the early morning. An 800 year-old city that was the capital of Transylvania during its independence, Cluj-Napoca became an “unofficial capital” when Transylvania was annexed into Romania. The city is built on the banks of the Somesul river at the edge of the Apuseni Mountains. Spend the morning touring the city before rejoining the train for lunch as you head back towards Hungary and across the Hungarian Plain to Budapest, where you’ll arrive in the Budapest Railway Museum during the farewell dinner onboard. Your final night onboard will be spent parked in the museum.


Day 12 - Budapest (Disembark)

Port - Budapest

Disembark the train and transfer to Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport for your flight home.

Availability

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Price From $ 12,399
Price Per Day: $ 1,033 per day
Checking price
Start DateFinish DateCategory 5Category 4SuiteCruise DirectionAvailability 
Oct-09-2022Oct-21-2022$ 13,599NA$ 16,899Passau to BudapestAvailable Reserve
Oct-23-2022Nov-04-2022$ 12,399NA$ 15,699Passau to BudapestAvailable Reserve

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26 Uniworld Travel Reviews & Ratings

96%
4.9 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 24
Great 2
Average 0
Disappointing 0
Terrible 0
Value
4.8
Guide
4.8
Activities
4.8
Lodging
4.9
Transportation
4.8
Meals
4.9

Cruise & Rail: Enchanting Danube & the Castles of Transylvania (2022)

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Company Reviews

better the second time around?

5.0
Details
Value4.0
Guide4.0
Activities4.0
Lodging4.0
Transportation4.0
Meals5.0
This was our 6th Uniworld and 2nd time down part of the Danube.

local guides very good; better than last time. food remains excellent; lunch food choices in particular are better than before. service, in particular Dining room, remains excellent. servers really attempt to learn food and drink preferences. front desk service is excellent. small improvements in room (chocolate jar; audio box chargers in closet; closet hanger rods more like home than ship) appreciated.

the ship is starting to need updating; our shower stall needed to be re-grouted; deck might need to be refinished in areas. elevator never worked during cruise; 24 hr. coffee machine malfunctioned for 3 days. the itinerary itself isn't full of "must-sees" but has has sights and experiences that might be hard for you to do on your own with just a guidebook.

While cruise wasn't perfect, we would travel with Uniworld again; possibly even down the Danube a 3rd time, but on a newer ship.
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Pros, cons and tips

4.0
Details
Value4.0
Guide3.0
Activities3.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation3.0
Meals4.0
This is a review of the Uniworld China + Tibet + Yangtze tour in June, 2019, taken by my wife (80) and me (77). Since knowledge of a reviewer helps readers to judge the applicability to themselves: we are both former academics, normally spry and immersed in cultural, political, and healthful life activities, but we sometimes found the trip daunting, as discussed below. We resist aging, but not always with full success.

The tour had pluses and minuses.

The biggest minuses:
• My wife’s breathing difficulty in our 3-night stay in Lhasa, Tibet (she spent the whole time breathing oxygen and couldn't go on any outings)
• The (inevitable) problem of touring a totalitarian country where citizens are intimidated from talking honestly about the full scope of their lives

The biggest pluses:
• Our guide, Kevin, who was outstandingly attentive, helpful, supportive and patient. He went out of his way to help in difficult situations (like my wife’s breathing problems in Lhasa).
• We were also quite appreciative of Tiger’s brief stint with us.
• With a few exceptions, our baggage was always handled by others. And the exceptions weren’t overwhelming. Apparently for a group, the weight of any individual bag just gets averaged in with all the other group bags being checked. (Some travelers handled their own carry-ons.)

Most of the other people on the tour were quite amiable and unassuming—not always the case when you travel with people whose financial position has to be pretty good to afford this kind of trip (that financial position too often drives unwarranted expectations of privilege and reverence [if that’s not redundant…]).

The accommodations and included breakfasts (and many other meals) were luxurious, though we ourselves didn’t need them to be THAT nice (in this we’re probably exceptions from other travelers—and in this case, a number of our co-tourists had taken multiple Uniworld tours, so they knew and liked what they'd be getting); indeed, we had to learn to stop tanking up at breakfast just because so many goodies were offered, buffet-style. Had we realized those luxuries were part of what we were paying for (and in retrospect we SHOULD have realized), we might have taken a different, cheaper tour. Ironically, what most drew us to the Uniworld trip were the chance to visit Tibet and the expectation that at such a high cost we’d always be getting outstanding, highly informed guides (which wasn’t always the case; as retired academics, we’re unusually demanding in the critical analysis of what we want to hear).

GENERAL NOTES:

We spent several days on our own before the tour (in Beijing) and at its end (in Shanghai). These were quite valuable to us. Perhaps because of time, the Uniworld tour took us to few museums. We are museum junkies, and visited several during our non-tour times. Among other things, Beijing has a terrific national museum, an interesting (partly because of its political subtext) museum about women and children, and an extensive arts district. Shanghai has its own major museum and a tour of the city’s past relationship with Judaism that gives you a more general sense of the troubling antithesis of glitzy life highlighted elsewhere.

I’ve traveled to many parts of the world, and I’ve always been able to learn at least local alphabets and some minimal language skills. China is the first place I’ve gone where I could do none of the first and only a few words (probably wrongly intoned) of the latter. This was extremely frustrating, especially when we toured on our own. Few people outside the major international emporia (I never quite got used to how many upscale stores were in all places we visited) speak English (why should they?). The one ameliorating factor was that many people (especially store employees) had phone apps that did good to excellent translations between spoken English and spoken Chinese. You should have one for your own use.

In major cities, signs quite often include English, so that you can at least know where to shop and what you're looking at. Prices (which you can often negotiate) are typically typed into a calculator.

Perhaps even more than in the West, people are glued to smart phones. Pretty much everyone, it seems, uses an app that includes texts, phone use, and a payment facility, so that people seem to may carry little or no cash or credit cards. No one seems to care—or maybe everyone is just resigned to—that the government can monitor this app and know a ton of stuff about you. As a foreigner, however, you are unlikely to be able to use this app because you need to have a compatible bank account (probably meaning from a Chinese bank).

No matter how you travel in China, you'll see the amazing efforts to accommodate the expansion cities, so that a “town” of which you've never heard might have a million or more people. On the tour, you'll see almost only architectural and shop glitz that the government and cities bask in. You might get very brief glimpses of poverty.

While on the one hand the Chinese government talks a good game and takes some important steps vis-à-vis the climate crisis, on the other hand they still use an enormous amount of fossil fuel for electricity generation. I was also struck—dismayed—by the fact that from all appearances, people only drink bottled water (Westerners are warned against tap water, but I don’t know if local people build up an immuinity to its problems). Especially in warm weather, I can only guess at the billions of single-use plastic bottles that are used every day by the population of 1.4 billion (plus large numbers of visitors). On rare occasions, like at an airport, you might see a place to refill a water bottle (I assume that water is safe).

Please note that in criticisms like the previous paragraph, I do not intend a holier-than-thou American attitude. I am even more critical of what our government does—or more importantly, doesn’t—do vis-à-vis the climate crisis.

THE PEOPLE

Almost everyone was pleasant and upbeat. We mostly moved among middle- (and presumably upper-)class people; we encountered many others, but they were kind of in the background (just as in capitalist countries), and while we made it a point to notice their existence, we had no meaningful interactions with them.

The westernization of outward behavior was almost palpable. My wife had visited 10 years ago and regularly commented on the difference. My impression is that the young (teen-agers, young adults) are especially into western fashion and culture—and to what to me was a surprising extent, seemed to be able to afford indulging that taste.

For what it’s worth, my observation was that people are quite materialistic, focus their lives on that, and increasingly able to afford to indulge themselves. Outwardly, at least, they have little concern with the strictures of their government. Tiananmen Square seems to be in the distant past. Treatment of Moslems and Uighurs (not unlike our current treatment of immigrants and Moslems or our like history of racial and ethnic conflicts) was far away. So far as I could tell, people like Americans (though we’re also bizarre outsiders—there are occasional instances of Chinese people, especially ones who live far from the cities we visited, walking up to a foreigner and asking to take a photo together (this happened to me on the Great Wall, with some pretty young guys).

SECURITY

This abounds. You need to carry your passport everywhere. You'll encounter frequent security checks where you have to put whatever you're carrying through a scanner and show official IDs. In Lhasa, these checks were even present as you wove your way through street markets.

At every airport check-in, you not only go through a security scanner, but you then step up on s short stool so that someone with a hand scanner can go over every inch of your body. (I have sometimes wondered whether proliferation of security folk, including regular police, in nations like this is a clever device for combining meaningful security with full employment.)

The government must have an incredible volume of disk space and incredibly fast computer programs to be able quickly to access information about any given citizen or visitor. Check-in at airports always includes a live photo of you. I’m sure if anyone in the security services had wanted to track me down at any time, it wouldn't have taken more than a few seconds. (For each accommodation where you stay, you have to register with the police. Hotels typically do that for you.)

IN-COUNTRY TRAVEL

We had 4 in-country flights (part of the reason for what Uniworld charges), and much as we wanted to visit the places to which we flew, the time and effort involved in getting from to shuttle bus (then sometimes a long walk) to hotel to airport to check-in to security to boarding to flying to disembarking to shuttle bus to the next hotel became overwhelming.

The tour included 3 nights in a luxury boat on the Yangtze River. This was quite pleasant and included a night’s visit to a show (I don’t remember exactly which one, but when on our own my wife and I went to a couple of shows in Beijing—well worth it even if they're not something to your normal taste). Here, we had some down time. At our ages, we needed more of that. I got sick while on the boat and got what seemed like pretty good medical care.

(By American standards, medicals for my wife in Lhasa and for me on the Yangtze boat were low but not miniscule.)

By American standards, taxis are cheap. They were pretty easy to find in Beijing. (The “universal” app includes signups with services like Uber.) But in Shanghai, they were extremely rare, and we had to get help from strangers to order one. As you would expect, this is especially hard when it’s raining and you're a very long walk from your hotel. Among maybe a dozen or two cab rides during our entire stay, we had two bad experiences with cabbies; I advise photographing the driver’s information and the meter area. I found that this significantly mitigated the problems.

We took the metro in Beijing. After brief adjustment, it was very easy to use. The main difficulty is that stations are far apart, so on (say) a rainy night, you will still need an umbrella and endurance. Shanghai seems to have an equivalent subway system, but we never used it there.

LHASA

Part of the altitude problem my wife (and a few of our fellow travellers) had appears to be the flight’s forcing a lack of transition from sea level to an altitude over 2 miles. (On the other hand, a slower, staged transfer probably would have added cost to an already expensive trip—and maybe loss of a day’s touring.) Especially for older folk, however, I think this is a relevant concern.

I don’t know why, but although I could feel very mild pressure in my breathing, I was fine for the entire Lhasa visit. I had a different disappointment (perhaps idiosyncratic to myself, an academic and non-religious person): if I remember correctly, our entire stay involved visiting Tibetan religious locations. I quite support SOME such visits—religious history is central to human existence—but I would have liked to see aspects of other Tibetan cultural history.

Because of Beijing political issues with Tibet, filing out your Chinese visa involves the charade of not mentioning you're going there (if you do mention it, your visa apparently will be denied).

And a warning re Lhasa (and at least the Great Wall): there can invite lots of climbing, and a number of us, especially some of the older people (even when altitude wasn’t an issue), chose to climb minimally (just enough to get a sense of where steps were going and what the resulting view would be). Kevin and other guides were totally understanding—indeed, we were offered climbing options.
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Highly recommend

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
Me and Nena are in cruise business more than 38 years and booked so many river cruises in Europe and charter ships in Russia, India, Egypt and Ukraine. Uniworld offer excellent cruise and we highly recommend this great company.
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Fantastic

4.0
Details
Value4.0
Guide4.0
Activities4.0
Lodging4.0
Transportation4.0
Meals4.0
Fantastic cruising the Nile on MS River Tosca, spacious rooms, super crew, delicious meals, fantastic service, awesome waiters, knowledgeable tour guide Marwa! Would love to go back!
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Professioal, friendly and unforgetable experience for the cruise

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
The facility on ship was good. Staff servicing us were very professionally good. For the meals it was indeed very nice especially the kitchen was able to provide some Asian dishes that is fantastically great.
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Amazing time, Amazing ship

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
I had never been on a river cruise before and did not know what to expect. After this cruise, I was ready to sail right back with Uniworld. Everything on the ship, from the food and amenities, to the excursions and especially the crew, made the week one of the best I've had.
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Details

Ship Name

S.S. Maria Theresa

Deck & Cabin Plans

S.S. Maria Theresa


Trip ID#:

Uniworld-268

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