By Bob Hoelscher
Having now taken more than 80 varied cruises and toured countless other ships in port, I can almost always find something about a vessel or an itinerary that doesn’t quite measure up, despite a very positive evaluation overall. However, the unseasonably cold and blustery weather encountered during Uniworld‘s Tulips and Windmills cruise aboard the River Duchess in late March was about the only major inclusion I could have done without.
Although there are several fine operators of European river cruises with English-speaking staffs that merit the attention of group travel planners, not including Uniworld on that list would be a serious mistake.
The River Duchess is an elegant ship, decorated in handsome French provincial style. Now 10 years old, the vessel is spotless. The only clue to the vessel’s age is the lack of French balconies on the lower-level cabins. However, my stateroom had a large window for viewing the passing scenery, which was just fine considering the temperatures outdoors. All standard staterooms aboard, at 151 square feet, are well designed, well appointed and very comfortable.
The River Duchess, which accommodates up to 134, and with just 89 guests on our sailing, gave the impression of being very spacious in comparison with the newer, higher-capacity vessels, some of which are more than 80 feet longer. Virtually all such ships are similar in width due to the size of locks on European waterways.
The itinerary of this 10-day cruise from Amsterdam to Antwerp, Belgium, included stops in Zaandam, for the magnificent Keukenhof Gardens; charming Hoorn, Enkhuizen and Arnhem; Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port city; Kinderdik, home to Holland’s most renowned windmill group; Veere, for the massive Delta Works; and Ghent, for the medieval city of Bruges.