After checking the water levels on the Danube religiously (still low) and expecting to hear that our August 24th cruise on the Maria Theresa was cancelled yet again. we heard from our travel agent that the cruise was a go.
My thoughts on this were that our large ship, the Maria Theresa is as big as they can build for European rivers, was stuck on the Amsterdam side of the voyage. The Danube low spot seemed to be between Regensburg and Passau in Bavaria, close to the Austrian border. When the MT got to Regensburg towards the end of the cruise, Uniworld was hoping that the water level would be deep enough to let them through.
The August 24th cruise would start in Amsterdam and our flight details had changed. This time we were flying out from Atlanta to Frankfort with a connector to Amsterdam and home from Budapest, with a connecting flight to Frankfort again and then home to Atlanta. All the flights were on Lufthansa and a much better route than we had had before. That is the one problem with getting your airfare from the cruise company; you have no choice over the airline or the connecting flights, if any. We had no complaints with what we got, as we enjoyed our travel on Lufthansa.
Again we hoped to add premium economy seats to our long flights as we had last December. However, when I checked on the Lufthansa website a few days before we were to leave, there seemed to be no Premium Economy seats available on our plane. Undaunted, I called Lufthansa and explained what I was trying to do. What I found out was that Lufthansa was adding Premium Economy seats to all its big Airbus long-haul planes, but there was a caveat. The upgrade would not be completed on all of their planes until October and until then, the seats were blacked out on the computer. The agent suggested that we get to the airport early and try to book the upgrade there. That was disappointing, but these days, one has to get to the airport early for international flights, so there was still a chance we could get them. However, we resigned ourselves to being crammed into the regular economy seats for 9 hours.
AS it turned out, we got through security quite easily and arrived at our gate with plenty of time to spare. There we found a very helpful Lufthansa agent who knew all about the upgraded economy seats. She praised them highly saying they were almost like business class, and yes, they were available for our flight.
Here is a link to Lufthansa’s snappy new commercial promoting Premium Economy. Kind of cute.
Lufthansa Premium Economy is more expensive, around $300 per person, as compared to Delta and United, but to us it was well worth it. The seats were larger, new and quite comfortable, the meals were quite good, and bottled water was waiting for us by our seats. There was only one fly in our ointment, a poorly behaved toddler who fussed and cried loudly a good bit of the time. Of course he and his mother were also in Premium Economy and even in our row, but thankfully on the other side of the plane.
After an uneventful flight across the Atlantic, our gate wasn’t ready. We had to get out of the plane in the runway and board busses which took us to the Frankfort terminal. There wasn’t a lot of time between flights and we were worried that if our trans-Atlantic flight was late, we might miss the connector. No worries though, our flight was early, and even with the hassle of getting bussed to the terminal, we were fine.
After another uneventful flight, we again found ourselves in the extremely long corridors of Schipol. There were no little carts to lug senior citizens across its vast expanse, and this time we had our luggage. Naturally we were at the opposite end from where we were to meet the Uniworld representative. It was a warm afternoon and by the time we got to the exit we were hot and sweaty. We finally spotted a Viking representative waving her characteristic red sign near the exit, but not the blue and white of Uniworld. I asked the Viking lady if she had seen the Uniworld folks and she replied that they usually waited outside for their people. The Ramblers hesitated for a moment, because it was an exit only and we wouldn’t be able to get back if she was wrong. Fortunately, she was right. We finally located our guide and were directed to the bus, which, of course, was a fair distance away. We were very glad to clamber aboard and were handed bottles of water by the driver. By this time, we really needed them.
After all the Uniworld passengers had been collected, our guide told us that we would be traveling to Utrecht, where the Maria Teresa was docked. Evidently because of the Amsterdam Sail 2015 festival, traffic was so bad in the city, that they had decided to tie up in Utrecht instead. Otherwise it might have taken us quite a while to get to the ship.
This part of the Rhine is fairly commercial and there is much barge traffic, and no so much quaint scenery, so according to our Captain, we weren’t missing much, scenery wise. However, we were docked alongside a paved walkway with
apartments in the background. Those who wanted, could stretch their legs walking along the Rhine. Carla, the hotel manager and Captain Richard Martin graciously welcomed us aboard. We were happy to get to our beautiful and comfortable cabin, and wash up before we began our exploration of this amazing ship.