On even the most sumptuous ships, the crew will make all the difference in whether or not you have a five-star experience. We’ve enjoyed a few cruises in the recent past, but in our experience, the crew on the River Empress is head and shoulders (and in the case of our captain and hotel manager, I mean this literally) above the rest. Travel industry executives, take note: you should beg, borrow or steal the training regimen of the Uniworld organization. The staff is the perfect blend of focused professionalism and reserved humor; able to anticipate needs before a passenger even realizes that she has one. We were made so comfortable, it was almost surprising that no one came to tuck us in at night (although the featherbeds and fluffy pillows made you feel like they had).
Above, from left: Jan, our hotel manager; Claudia, our cruise director and Hendrik, our captain. These people are so much fun and so talented, they (along with Roberto, god of all things culinary, below) should be cloned for every cruise. And also for our homes. They, and the other 38 crew members, will be missed when this little slice of paradise ends in Budapest.