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Uniworld versus Viking - a subjective comparison

Posted by HughesTravel on July 6, 2015 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (47)

Uniworld versus Viking River Cruise

In short, we liked Uniworld much better. Admittedly, we have only been on two river cruises – Grand European Tour (Amsterdam to Budapest) on the LIF with Viking in 2014 and Venice and the Gems of Northern Italy on the River Countess with Uniworld in 2015. This is a somewhat subjective comparison based on two quite different cruises. However, I believe that it still has validity.

On Uniworld, the staff and crew were a very happy bunch, which was different than the crew on the Viking as they were not very happy and it showed. Several Uniworld staff told us they loved the company. The chef on Viking told us that kitchen employees often stayed only 2-4 weeks.

On the River Countess, the Captain and his staff were visible often and very friendly. They ate in the dining room with the rest of us. Our ship would hold 136 but only 58 people were on board so they did not bring on their full staff. The chef, Daniel, won best chef in the company for two years in a row. The food was all absolutely fresh and delicious all of the time and there were tons of local dishes. The LIF held 190 people and was almost full. The food was sometimes good, and sometimes quite bad. There was almost no local food. When we asked about that, we were told that the company had a policy of using the same menu choices on all ships worldwide.

On Uniworld, beverages in the bar, or dining room were all you could drink any time of day free of charge, with a large selection of different cocktails. On Viking that was extra as only wine or beer with lunch and dinner were included.

On the River Countess, there were two different evenings where we had really great local entertainment that came on board. We had an onboard slide show showing Venice underwater - which happens with the full moon and the tides at certain times of the year. There was also a private tour of St. Mark’s Basilica just for us. We had no such perks on the Viking LIF.

The River Countess had a washer, dryer, iron and ironing board free to use for all passengers or if you wanted, they would do your laundry for a fee. The LIF only had the fee option. Also, there was no tipping with Uniworld.  While Viking requests substantial tips for staff and crew at the end of the voyage, all gratuities were included with Uniworld.  One could give a particular person extra cash if you chose to do so.  However, it was not requested, not required and there was not even a general mechanism to do so.

We really liked Uniworld so much better than Viking. It could have been the location or the lower age of the people on board. Viking LIF ages were mostly 75 to 95, while on the Uniworld River Countess ages ranged from one newlywed couple to many between 50 and 75. There was one man aged 91 but you would never know it as he looked 70. I know this is entirely subjective but on the River Countess, everyone seemed friendlier. There was lots of laughter at meals and on the sundeck and on the bus tours. Almost every day we went off on a bus tour or a walking tour. We had onboard commentary when sailing. We had an onboard wine tasting with appetizers. We had a welcome dinner and a gala farewell.

Both ships were clean, comfortable and beautifully decorated. The rooms were lovely. The staff on both treated us well and both cruises were good. Both had good to great tours and we saw lots of interesting things. Both are good companies.   However, there was a subtle difference. On the LIF, as good as the trip was, we were just a bit bored. On the River Countess, we were always engaged. I will travel with Uniworld in the future.

One further thing:  Viking prefers to sell direct, although they do work with travel agents.  Uniworld sells almost exclusively through travel agents.  As a travel agent, I appreciate that. And that is another reason that we will use Uniworld.