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I Took a Budget River Cruise and It Wasn’t What I Expected (TUI)

I’ve just disembarked a European river cruise on a cruise line that cost around 1/3rd of most other river cruise lines, it was a very eventful cruise in lots of ways and a few very odd things did happen.

Normally if you want to take a European river cruise you’re looking at £300, £400 per night.

Some cost £1000 per night but I paid less than that for an entire week, including flights, cruising on the Danube with TUI staying in a superior balcony cabin. 

Why Did I Book a TUI River Cruise?

I’ve taken river cruises in the past on the more luxurious lines but when TUI announced that they were starting river cruising I hoped that TUI would be the answer to river cruising on a budget. 

For that price though, I didn’t know what to expect and I was wondering what they’d have to cut compared to other lines.

I figured there must be a reason why the other cruise lines charge so much.  

We did have quite a few issues on the cruise, more than on most other cruises I’ve taken, but we were on the first sailing of the season, so didn’t expect everything to go perfectly, the main thing for me was would I get what I paid for, this is the cheapest I’ve ever seen a river cruise so I didn’t expect much.

tui river cruise top deck danube

My Pre-Cruise Expectations

Lots of people had told me pre-cruise that I’d be bored on a river cruise, I’d been told quite often that I should expect to be the youngest person on board and I’d heard that TUI’s food wasn’t the best.

For under £1000 for a week though, I wanted to give it a go for myself.  

What Did Our Cruise Include?

Our cruise included flights from London and we set sail from Budapest.

When we arrived, we were met by a TUI rep and taken on a TUI transfer to our ship the TUI Skyla. It is possible to book a TUI river cruise alone but most people onboard booked as a package with flights and transfers.

TUI river cruises also include excursion credit and drinks with meals, so I was hoping not to spend much extra during the cruise. 

Check-in Was Easy

When we arrived and boarded the TUI Skyla, I was amazed not only by how amazing the little atrium was but also by how easy the check-in process was.

tui skyla atrium river cruise

We showed the person at reception our passports, were given our cruise cards and that was it!

Our room was already ready and we could start enjoying the ship straight away.

We were meant to be boarding the ship earlier but our flight was delayed by a couple of hours which meant that we didn’t get there until almost 5pm. 

The TUI Skyla, although she is new to TUI, isn’t actually a new river ship, she’s about 10 years old.

Looking at her, she looked very modern and I didn’t realise at that time that she was as old as she was, a few things did happen later on the cruise that reminded me of the ship’s age but the design of the ship was very modern and I liked it.

What is Onboard The TUI Skyla?

Like most river ships, the TUI Skyla is made up of 4 main decks, a top deck with lots of seating, deck 3 with the main restaurant and lounges on it and decks 2 and 1 which are mostly cabins.

The little atrium area in the middle spans decks 2 and 3.

There wasn’t a swimming pool on board but there was a little wellness area that could be booked. There was a sauna, a hot tub and a few little chairs here. 

tui river cruise skyla wellness area hot tub spa

Quite a few people had told me that I’d be bored on the river cruise ,so I was looking forward to seeing what would happen in the lounges.

There were actually two lounges onboard which I’d not seen on a river ship before. 

What is in The Atrium?

In the atrium, there is the reception desk, the cruise director’s desk and also a coffee machine that was available to use 24 hours a day.

By the coffee machine, there were a couple of cookie jars that were constantly refilled with different types of little cookies which were good, they did often trick me though when I thought they’d be chocolate chip and turn out to be raisins, but still, a good effort.

From here you could also go up to the top deck or down to the cabins on deck 1. 

tui river cruise coffee machine and cookies

Are TUI River Cruises Wheelchair Accessible?

TUI river cruises aren’t wheelchair accessible. There wasn’t any elevator or lifts on board their ships and on TUI’s website, it says that TUI river cruises aren’t wheelchair friendly.

Most river cruise ships won’t have a lift to the top deck but they’ll still have one within the ship but the TUI Skyla doesn’t have any lift at all. 

River Cruise Ships Dock Side by Side

Interestedly sometimes river cruise ships will dock side by side so you might find guests from other ships walking through your ship’s atrium to get to the next ship over.

It is really odd to have the cabin of another ship directly facing yours if you’re not expecting it, and I did see a lady completely naked at one point but it is fun to get to have a sneaky peak into other ships as you walk over or through them.

We Had Booked a Superior Deck 2 Cabin

As soon as we got on board we headed to our cabins. I was taking this cruise with my brother and parents and between us, we had one cabin on deck 1 and one on deck 2. Usually, me and my brother are in the cheapest cabin on the ship but the tables had turned on this cruise, we were actually the ones on deck 2! 

I wouldn’t normally pay more than I have to for a cabin but pre-cruise I had found out that the cabin that I had booked, a standard cabin, had a fixed double bed and cruising with my brother that was not going to work. 

I had to phone TUI pre-cruise to upgrade my cabin.

I paid £59 to upgrade my cabin so that I didn’t have to share a bed with my brother and that was well worth it. 

tui river cruise balcony cabin superior deck 2

We ended up in a superior deck 2 cabin while my parents were downstairs in a superior deck 1.

I do wish this had popped up at the time of originally booking but the lady I spoke to at TUI was very helpful and it didn’t take long to fix. I might have missed it because I was too busy trying to get cash back and use discount codes.

I found a £400 discount code and got 10% cashback though so I wasn’t going to miss that. 

To learn how to find cashback and discounts when you cruise, check out my How to Cruise For Less cruise course.

Some Cabins Are Below The Waterline

I’ve been on river cruises before but haven’t ever stayed in a cabin below the waterline.

We didn’t know at this point just how little time my parents would spend in the room before getting an upgrade due to a rather strange problem but it was long enough for us to experience what it was like overnight and while sailing. 

The cabin was the same size as the superior cabins on other decks and our initial impressions were good. The cabin was a good size and seeing the water rush by the windows was really cool.

tui river cruise superior deck 1 cabin with windows

I wouldn’t recommend a cabin like this to somebody that gets claustrophobic, because you are under the water but overall, we thought that it was a nice cabin.

The bed was big and comfy, there was plenty of storage and it all felt very new. 

The Bathroom Doors Were Made of Glass…

I didn’t really pay much attention to the glass bathroom doors at this point but this would start to become a problem quite soon and it was one of my least favourite things about the ship, it’s just a terrible design.

tui river cruise bathroom design

Another thing to note here is that there were only two plug sockets in the cabin, both European sockets.

It was okay, but more would have been appreciated as one socket was used to charge our excursion packs (an audio device that lets you listen to your guide) and also to boil the kettle, which we did quite a lot during the cruise. 

Dining Times on River Cruises Can be Quite Fixed – But we Were Hungry!

By this point we were very hungry, we’d been travelling since early morning and apart from a sandwich in the airport for breakfast and a rice crispy bar on the plane, we hadn’t had anything to eat.

I knew though that usually river cruise lines are quite regimented when it comes to mealtimes, due to the smaller kitchens and kitchen teams usually if you miss a meal that’s it until the next meal.

We had missed lunch but I really hoped that we wouldn’t have to wait until 7pm for dinner. 

TUI Provided a Light Lunch, Phew!

Luckily we found that TUI had put on a light lunch of sandwiches and cake in the main lounge which was much appreciated. We never saw any light lunch or snack options like this again on the cruise though, which was a shame.

The dining times did feel quite fixed compared to other river cruise lines but I liked the fact that when it was meal times, we could just go and sit down in the restaurant.

On some cruise lines, you’ll have a fixed table and a fixed time, but that wasn’t the case with TUI. We could eat dinner anytime between 7-9 and usually lunch between 12-2. 

tui river cruise main restaurant dining tables

Most days breakfast finished at 9am which was an issue for me, on a cruise I don’t like to get up that early unless, of course, I have a reason to get up early, some of our excursions met before 9am which is pretty common on river cruises. 

tui river cruise breakfast buffet

Our bags arrived in our cabins shortly after we did, we unpacked and it was time to go to a welcome talk in the main lounge.

The Crew Are Always Available

One of the best things about river cruising is that you really get to know the crew, they do have time off but it doesn’t feel like they ever do.

If you need somebody or something you can always find them. 

The captain was lovely and said that if we had any questions at any time we could just pop by the wheelhouse and ask him.

He showed us what he was doing and how the equipment worked. I can’t imagine being able to do that on an ocean cruise. 

tui river cruise captain wheelhouse

Most people who work on river cruise ships have multiple jobs, our cruise director team Suzy and Sonia would not only do the normal cruise director duties like hosting the welcome talk but they were also both brilliant singers who would sing for us in the evenings and would do things like making sure we all went on the right excursions.

They literally picked us up from the airport and would wave us goodbye as we went on the excursions and were both really friendly and lovely. 

It felt like if we ever had any issues they were there to help and if you are somebody who is nervous travelling, I think that’s very important. 

I Would Get Static Shocks CONSTANTLY!

It was around this point that I got the first static shock from the ship, I’m pretty used to getting static shocks on cruises but this was something different entirely, the ship was supercharged with electric.

I later found out that the carpets were made of recycled fishing nets and being nylon, is why it happened.

It wasn’t even just when I’d touch things that I’d get a shock, I’d be walking down the corridor and it would jump onto me and electric shock my elbow or whatever was closest.

It wasn’t a problem and was actually quite funny. 

Our Danube Itinerary

The cruise that we had booked was a 7-night cruise visiting Germany, Austria and Slovakia on the river Danube.

Check out TUI river cruises on the Danube on their website here: TUI River (affiliate link).

There was £120 per person of excursion credit included in what we paid and some of the tours like the walking tours only cost £15 per person so we were able to book an excursion almost every day with our credit.

Below is a photo of us on a Bavarian beer and boat tour.

We did buy a couple of more expensive excursions but nothing compared to the prices of the excursions on the big US ocean cruise lines.

Drinks Were Included With Meals

Dinner was served from 7-9 pm and we were very hungry by this point.

We went to the main restaurant and sat at a table for 4 at exactly 7pm.

There were tables for 2, 4 and 6 and each were just first come first sit.

As with most river cruises, drinks were included with meals. Wine was offered to us but I don’t really drink wine so I asked for a soft drink, I knew that it was a coke ship so I asked for a Coke Zero and my dad had a beer as he prefers beer to wine. 

Wine refills were continually offered throughout meal times but we almost always had to ask if we wanted another refill of anything else.

The Coke was served in tiny glasses so I usually made sure that I got at least one refill. I am addicted to every type of diet cola though. 

To learn more about what is included on a TUI river cruise, check out this post next: Are TUI River Cruises All-Inclusive?  Your Guide to What is Included.

This Was The First Sailing of The Season

It was quite interesting to see how the dining played out as the cruise progressed.

At the start, I think that the crew had to walk all the way to the bar to get any drinks that weren’t wine but by the end of the cruise, they had bottles of Coke Zero lined up on the side ready for us.

The crew were all very friendly and helpful but we did feel that they were busy and were running around working very hard.

This was the first sailing of the season so everybody was kind of learning how things worked and the best way to do things. Turns out the best way to serve lunch is with some form of diet cola on tap for me. 

We Sailed Away From Budapest at Night

After dinner we sailed away from Budapest, most of the guests headed to the top deck and we set sail down The Blue Danube, which really wasn’t very blue, sorry to burst that bubble.

It was amazing to see all of the sparkly lights and bridges, Budapest’s parliament building was lit up and it was beautiful.

We didn’t get to spend as much time on the top deck on this cruise as we would have liked, due to the weather but this was an experience that I won’t forget. 

Our Glass Bathroom Door Did Become a Problem

After dinner, we were tired from our long day travelling so we had another drink in the lounge and then decided to call it a night. It was at this point that we discovered the problem with having a glass shower door.

I don’t know about you but if I was designing the walls of a bathroom the last material on my list would be glass. Looking at it, it looked as though it was frosted and so we assumed this meant that we wouldn’t be able to see through it. 

As soon as we used the bathroom in the evening though we realise that this wasn’t the case. The below is a photo of me pretending to sit on the toilet, taken from the main cabin.

If we used the bathroom with the lights on at night you could see EVERYTHING that the person was doing.

During the day if the lights weren’t on it wasn’t too bad, you could see if somebody was sat on the toilet or standing but you couldn’t see every single movement in the same way that you could at night.

The actual bathroom was nicely designed, the shower was big and powerful and there were Molton Brown toiletries which were nice.

It’s just a shame that there really was no privacy. 

I shared a photo when I was onboard and had quite a few comments that said:

“Just make your brother leave the room when you want to use the bathroom”.

Now I don’t know about you but I usually like to shower in the evening or morning, it seems very mean to wake up, make my brother get fully dressed to go and sit down the corridor while I shower, if he wanted to shower too he’d have to come back and then I’d switch places I suppose? Not ideal. 

It wasn’t a huge problem we just showered in the dark and told each other when we were showering so we could look the other way but I’d still like to sign a petition to ban the use of glass in bathroom doors.

There wasn’t a lock on the door either and the toilet was within a metre of my brother’s sleeping head.

Thankfully it was just my brother and if I woke him up by going to the toilet in the night, well that’s just tough but I wouldn’t have liked to share this room with friends. 

Our First Stop Was Bratislava in Slovakia

Our first stop on our cruise was Bratislava and we didn’t dock until the afternoon.

emma cruises bratislava

The weather was actually quite warm at the start of our cruise, I made the mistake of only looking at the start of the week when I was packing and that meant I wasn’t really prepared for how the week would end up, that was totally my mistake.

I wish I packed a hat and gloves. 

Our Air Conditioning Didn’t Work

Our cabin was really really warm at the start of our cruise, the type of heavy warmth where the sun had been coming into the ship and our air conditioning didn’t seem to do anything.

It made the right noises but honestly was like an old man blowing warm air into the room. 

I went to reception and the lady working there was very happy to help, she came straight to our cabin to have a look and called maintenance for us.

They said that the air conditioning was working as well as it could and that they couldn’t do anymore. 

The weather got colder and colder as our cruise went on so it didn’t affect us but I’m glad we reported it to the reception, because if I was cruising in warmer weather without working air conditioning I’d not have been happy, I spoke to quite a few other guests onboard who said the same thing.

This was the first sailing of the season though, so this is the type of thing I expect they’ll fix as the season progresses, it’s probably just because the air conditioning hadn’t been used for so long. 

The lady who was working at the reception desk said that I was good at feedback, I’m taking that as a compliment! 

River Ships Usually Dock in The Middle of a Town or City

Bratislava was the only port where we didn’t have an excursion booked, so we just wandered up the hill and took in the amazing views.

On river cruises, you dock right in the middle of the town or city and it’s unbelievably easy to just wander off. There’s no queueing or security like you’d find on a big ocean ship you just come and go as you please.

Towards the end of the cruise, we wandered off to go to Aldi to buy a chocolate bunny just because we felt like we wanted a snack. 

tui skyla tui river cruise ship

Disembarking Was so Easy

When getting off of the ship we had to hand in our room keys, which were just these white reprogrammable cards and we would be given a shore card with our room number on it.

tui river cruise keycards

This is how they knew who was on the ship and who was on land. I’ve also taken river cruises with other lines that have had a similar method but some do have a process more similar to ocean cruises where you scan your own cruise card. 

The good thing about river cruises is that because there are so few guests they’re able to be more accommodating, if there’s a tour that goes out early or gets back late they can move events or things like dinner so that people don’t miss out.

They did move afternoon tea to a time when I was on an excursion though, so I missed out on that sadly. I love afternoon tea! 

We Would Often Arrive in The Afternoon and Stay Late

On a river cruise, you’ll sometimes arrive into port early in the morning, sometimes you’ll arrive in the afternoon.

You might leave in the afternoon or not until late at night, it just depends on how far the ship has to go. We were docked in Bratislava until the evening but came back onboard for dinner.

Dinner was served from 7-9 pm and after this, there wasn’t any more food on the ship, apart from the cookies of course. 

Do TUI River Cruises Have Dress Codes?

The only dress code in place on TUI River Cruises is that guests cannot wear beachwear in the main lounge or restaurant. Guests are encouraged to wear trousers, a dress or ‘smart’ shorts. TUI do have one gala night per week but the dress code is entirely optional.

tui river cruise budapest emma cruises on top deck

I had got changed into a dress for dinner but as the cruise went on I did this less and less, mostly because it was so cold on the cruise but also because there really aren’t any dress codes onboard.

Most of the time I just was wearing leggings and a jumper/hoodie. 

Our Cabin on Deck 1 Had a Very Strange Problem…

It was around now that mum and dad started to have issues with their cabin on deck 1.

You really could feel the vibrations in the cabin when the ship was sailing and you could hear the water going by which wasn’t something that I had really understood before this cruise. That wasn’t the problem though and is to be expected when cruising on deck 1.

tui skyla deck 1 superior cabin

What wasn’t expected was that the door of the cabin kept randomly opening. It happened once when I was taking photos for my cabin review.

For more details about the cabins check out this post: TUI River Cruise Cabin Review – (Photos, Deck 1 & 2 Superior Cabins)

I thought maybe my parents had come back, or that housekeeping were coming into the room but there was nobody there. 

This would happen quite often so my mum went to reception to report it.

They sent a maintenance man to look at the door but the next night it kept happening again. Mum and dad had to literally barricade their door with all the spare furniture that they had because their door just wouldn’t stay closed even if it was locked. I’m sure something electrical had broken but either way, it wasn’t fixed.

The next day my parents were upgraded to a cabin on deck 2.

Luckily the ship wasn’t at full capacity so they were able to do that.

The TUI Skyla has a capacity of 150 and we only had 94 guests onboard. Typically, there are 40 crew onboard.

The Scenery When Sailing Was Incredible

Sailing from Bratislava in Slovakia, to Krems in Austria was the first time on the trip that we really experienced the traditional river cruising scenery that you see on the river cruise adverts.

You know the ones, people sunbathing on the top deck with a glass of champagne.

It wasn’t quite like that for us but I did have a cup of tea and managed to take my jumper off briefly which was amazing.

tui river cruise on the danube germany and austria

We passed under multiple bridges and for one bridge we were told that we had to sit down and couldn’t stand up.

The wheelhouse where the captain sails the ship dropped down to half height and even the crew ducked as we went under.

When you’re going under a bridge like that you know that it’ll fit, you trust the captain completely but it still doesn’t stop you from flinching as the bridge zooms closer!

On some river cruises, they’ll close the top deck completely when going under bridges.

We Enjoyed Our Walking Tours – and They Were Cheap!

In our port stops of Krems and Linz, we had a walking tour with a local guide.

Each walking tour only cost £15 and lasted around an hour and a half.

These tours gave us a great overview of the area and we were able to explore more afterwards if we wanted to. We learnt a lot about the history of the places that we visited and it was great to visit places that I’d never considered before.

That’s one of the great things about river cruising, you find all kinds of new places to visit. 

When going on excursions we had to use these VOX boxes.

They allowed us to tune into a channel which our guide was on so we could hear them in our ear. This meant that we could wander off slightly to look at things without being left behind.

This usually worked well but when we were in Linz our group got split into two and I was in the second group who couldn’t get in through a door.

We could all hear our guide in our ears who was stuck further ahead saying ‘where are they? Oh no we’ve lost half the group’.

Thankfully she came back to get us. 

tui river cruise linz walking tour in the rain emma cruises

We Had 4G Most of The Time and Free WiFi!

Another massive pro of river cruising is that because you’re so close to land at all times you almost always have phone signal and I used 4G for most of my cruise.

It was even good enough to do my normal weekly live stream so thank you to everybody who came to that one.

I propped up my laptop on a bin on my bed and I think it worked quite well until we sailed away without me noticing and I lost signal.

That just shows how smooth river cruise ships are though, I didn’t even notice. 

Make sure you don’t miss out on my live streams by subscribing to my YouTube channel here: Emma Cruises.

Your comments and questions really help me to form these videos, I had questions about the ages of the other passengers, the evening entertainment and at this point, I said that we hadn’t docked side by side with another ship, but that was to change soon, hence me seeing a random lady naked. 

The TUI Navigate App Was Great

Most river cruise lines do also include WiFi but I usually found that my 4G was faster.

The one thing that the WiFi was really good for though was using the TUI navigate app.

It isn’t actually an app it’s a web page you load when on the cruise but it had lots of useful information in it.

To access it visit Navigate.Tui when connected to the ship’s WiFi.

tui river cruise navigate app

Here was the daily schedule and this could be updated at last minute if it needed to be.

There weren’t any paper versions of the daily schedule available so if you are taking a TUI river cruise, it’s important that somebody has a tablet or phone or laptop.

I don’t doubt that they’d print you one if you asked for it, but the app was good. 

As well as the daily schedule, there was also information about our itinerary and our ship.

We would use this to check our onboard spend although it didn’t always correlate with what we actually had bought. At the end of the cruise, our bill on paper was more than it had been on the app but we knew that a few drinks were missing from the app so it was okay.

What Was on The Daily Schedule?

Before taking this river cruise I had a LOT of people tell me that I would be bored.

The impression that a lot of people have is that there’s nothing happening actually on the ship but that really wasn’t the case.

Sure it’s not like ocean cruises where there are 5 things going on at once but there was usually something happening somewhere and definitely in the evenings.

During the day they might have yoga or a light stretch on the top deck, they did a few games here too but it really was too cold most of the time. We also had port talks most days and even had a very interesting lecture about the history of the Danube. 

In the evenings we had live music from Suzie and Sonia, a guest singer, a couple of quizzes, a comedian and we even had a German band who had really got the audience involved. 

tui river cruise evening entertainment

They handed out instruments for some people to play and even made a couple of people dance including my friend Steve. Well done Steve!

If you wanted it there was entertainment most evenings until around midnight. I have to admit I was rarely awake that late as we had to get up early most days. 

In Passau, We Took a Beer and Boat Excursion

When we visited Passau in Germany we went on what I think was my favourite excursion, it was a Bavarian beer and boat excursion and we tried lots of different types of beer on this amazing boat.

We sailed from Germany across the border into Austria and back.

We also had a walking tour and a tour on the bus.

Our guide Eva was the best, she was so enthusiastic and happy and always laughing to herself, her laugh was infectious and we all came away from that tour very happy, possibly partly because of the beer.

During the walking part of the tour, we saw lots of very colourful houses and flood markers marked on the side of a house.

tui river cruise excursion

We Passed Through 22 Locks!

During our journey toward Vienna, we went through multiple locks.

The captain said that on our cruise we would pass through 22 locks in total. I’ve been through locks on river ships before but never as many as 22! 

tui river cruise ship in lock on danube with viking river cruise ship

It was really creepy but cool to be inside our cabin when we went through a lock. It would get darker and darker until the view would just be of a dripping wet concrete wall.

It was like being in a cave.

We did go through locks at night and sometimes you would feel the ship bump a little, but it never woke me up. 

In some locks we would be able to go out to the top deck when passing through the lock, the water level would either be dropped down or raised up. We would often have another ship in the lock with us too, so we would wave at each other and check out each other’s ships.

tui river cruise in lock with viking river ship on the danube from the top deck

This would normally be a Viking ship, before this I knew that Viking were the most popular river cruise company but I had no idea just how many river cruise ships they have.

They have 76!

The Viking ships were everywhere and it definitely made me curious as to what a Viking river cruise would be like.

Everywhere we went we would see the Viking river cruisers with their Viking umbrellas. I did use one of these umbrellas in Norway during 2018 and can confirm it’s a great umbrella.

I did look up how much it would have cost me to pick Viking instead of TUI and it was around 3x the price. 

What is The Food Like on a TUI River Cruise?

The food was always well cooked and I think that the kitchen team did a great job with what they were given but it was obvious that they were on a budget.

tui river cruise food examples

The sizes of the meals were really inconsistent and sometimes I’d end up with a main course like the below which were absolutely tiny, I felt like I was being put on a diet.

tui river cruise food examples

Of course you can ask for more food and I’m sure this is something that they’ll work out as time goes on.


tui river cruise food examples
tui river cruise food options

We did try a couple of local dishes onboard like Austrian pancakes which were nice and they always had multiple vegetarian options. I did find the labelling of the menu to be strange though.

The below symbol, which usually means vegetarian or vegan actually meant ‘vegetarian or can be made vegetarian’.

I’m vegetarian so I always had to check when ordering one of these dishes that it didn’t include meat and if it did, I had to ask for it without. 

On what is called ‘Gala night’ we had a 7-course meal but the menu was fixed. I explained along with lots of other people, that I was vegetarian and they were able to provide vegetarian options with no problem. 

My main was some sort of cheesy eggplant dish which was tasty. Eggplant is what we would call an Aubergine in the UK.

If you are vegan or have some sort of food intolerance or requirements, you will meet with the maitre d’ and they’ll work with you to plan your meals ahead of time.

There weren’t any food labels on the foods when it was a buffet, so sometimes I did just take a lucky guess. 

Some of the dishes that we had were really tasty and nothing was ever wrong with it but it definitely isn’t the type of gourmet food that you’d get on other cruise lines. If you’re a real foodie, I’d suggest another river cruise line.

If you’re like me though and just happy to have somebody else cook your dinner and do the washing up, you’ll be happy. 

There is a ‘Bistro’ Area Beyond The Main Dining Room

TUI advertised the fact that they had two restaurants onboard but in reality it wasn’t really two restaurants.

There was the main restaurant and then slightly down a level was an area called The Bistro, this was a more relaxed area where you could grab a couple of things to eat, but it really was just grabbing a couple of things. 

tui river cruise main dining room bistro

You couldn’t get to the bistro area without going through the main dining room, so I don’t think I’d class it as a separate restaurant and it wasn’t always open.

That might be to do with the reduced capacity though.

The area down here was really nice with glass on three sides but we never had a reason to sit down here during our cruise as we always ate from the main dining room. 

tui river cruise bistro dining room

Who Was on The Cruise?

Another thing that I was told pre-cruise is that I should expect to be the youngest person onboard.

River cruising has this reputation of being for older people, even more than ocean cruising is.

I do understand where that stereotype comes from as on my last two river cruises I was definitely the youngest person on there by a long way.

On our cruise, there were a few other people my kind of age but the majority was older. This cruise was an adult only cruise so there were never going to be families onboard.

tui skyla top deck emma cruises

When the passengers for the cruise after ours came on though, there were a couple who I think might have been younger than me.

There were people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and probably 90s on this cruise. 

The average age was probably somewhere around 50. I don’t know I’m really not good at guessing peoples ages just by looking at them, but I never felt out of place on the cruise. Nobody assumed that I worked there or anything like that. 

We Were Docked Overnight in Budapest

We were able to see the next guests coming on because we actually spent two days in Budapest at the end of the cruise and our flight wasn’t until quite late the second day.

budapest chain bridge under construction

For a while there was pretty much double the amount of people on the ship which was pretty hectic. Budapest is lovely though and I’d definitely recommend a visit, there is so much to see and do and it’s very walkable. 

We Had a Half Day Tour in Vienna

Another place that we visited on our cruise was Vienna.

We had a city tour which lasted around half a day and it was so cold, I think I’ve just about got back the feeling in my hands and face now.

We didn’t have to wear face masks on the ship but I wore them most of the time when outside just to keep my nose from falling off. I’d definitely like to come back to Vienna. 

I Talked to Lots of Other Guests About Their Experiences

On a river cruise you do get to know your fellow guests much better than on ocean cruises. I chatted to many people about their experience and heard the same kind of feedback from most. 

Most said that they enjoyed the cruise and for the money that they paid they felt that it was good value.

I didn’t meet anybody who said that they hadn’t enjoyed the cruise even if some had things go wrong like lost luggage, broken toilets or doors opening themselves, most of us agreed that we could tell that the staff were working very hard and we hoped that a few of the teething issues that our ship experienced would be fixed as time went on. 

Be Careful if You’re Docked Next to Another Ship!

I knew that I’d get to know my fellow guests on this cruise but I didn’t expect to get to know a guest on the ship nextdoor in quite so much detail.

When we came back from a walk around Budapest I saw that we were still docked next to another ship so I decided ‘oh this will be a cool thing to show on my YouTube channel’ I’ll film as I walk into the cabin. Luckily I didn’t pick up my camera for some reason and I saw across and into the next cabin somebody in their bathroom.

I couldn’t really make out who or what it was, so I went for a closer look and that’s when a lady walked out of the bathroom and into her cabin completely naked!

Bear in mind that this was only a couple of meters ahead of me and the only thing separating us was two glass balcony doors. She never saw me, or if she did she wasn’t bothered at all.

My brother was saying:

Emma, close the curtains, close the curtains!

which I did and I don’t think I opened them again until that ship was gone. 

Would I recommend a TUI River Cruise?

If you’re somebody who’s never taken a river cruise I think TUI are a great place to start.

You’ll definitely know if river cruising is for you after a week or so onboard without paying the normal river cruise prices. If you’ve cruised before with another river cruise line like Amawaterways or Viking you’ll definitely notice the difference. 

Check out TUI river cruises on their website here: TUI River (affiliate link).

To find out how my first ever river cruise went, including the onboard swimming pool that turns into a cinema, check out this video which now has over a million views.

This is my most watched video on the channel so make sure you check it out:

TUI have a £300 discount running at the moment for next year and theres no minimum spend, check them out: TUI Discount. (Affiliate link).

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