MS Johann Strauss
The Johann Strauss, a 144-passenger river ship, cruises the Rhine and Danube rivers on charter for several smaller river cruise companies, including U.S.-based newcomer Teeming River Cruises. Constructed in 2006 (it was formerly known as The Sound of Music) and last refurbished in 2017, the ship is comfortable and well maintained, with six categories of cabins and suites, a restaurant, a lounge, and a sun deck. It wasn’t designed to dazzle, but pleasant décor in shades of blue and beige (the dated musical motifs that are a carryover from its former life notwithstanding) create an inviting setting for Teeming’s value-focused cruises.
What We Love
The Less-is-More Philosophy: With its casual ambience and Teeming’s just-the-basics philosophy (no included port excursions, no open bar, and none of the usual all-inclusive pampering), Johann Strauss is like that simple black knit dress that costs $29.99 at The Gap and looks great as it is — but can also be dressed up at additional cost if that’s your style. If you want to book a bus tour offered by a local operator, you can. Want unlimited wine beer and soft drinks included with your lunch and dinner? A Beverage Package can be pre-paid in U.S. dollars.
The Multi-Course, Multiple Choice Menus: When it comes to culinary offerings, Teeming isn’t Uniworld, AmaWaterways, or Crystal — and it doesn’t try to be. But for what you pay for a weeklong sailing aboard Johann Strauss, the small kitchen team turns out hearty breakfast and lunch buffets and respectable multi-course dinners with two or three menu options per course (including a vegetarian, but not always vegan, choice). The food won’t necessarily win any awards — some fish dishes and vegetable sides were bland at times and overly salty at others; some soups missed the mark — but most appetizers and the pan-seared trout, orange-glazed duck, and rack of lamb entrees were quite good. That said, the house wines were a mixed bag, with the rosé the most pleasing, the white a bit astringent, and the red almost undrinkable.
The Comfortable Beds: Crisp sheets, two pillows, and downy duvets create a cushy place to recover after all the miles you’ll log walking while in port.
Best Known For
Offering No-Nonsense Value: River cruises have a reputation for being fancy and even a bit uppity. Not Johann Strauss when Teeming is in command. The onboard vibe is casual and relaxed and there’s no pressure to spend additional money (aside from crew gratuities and onboard beverages). Teeming’s owners, Jeff and Gina Paglialonga, believe the new river cruisers they’re attracting “don’t want to be dictated to,” so the directive to the ship’s crew is to go with the flow of each cruise and its passengers.
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Who It's Best For
Independent, Budget-Conscious Cruisers: Teeming’s philosophy is most obvious in its complete lack of ship-provided transfers and included excursions by tour bus (the front desk will order taxis for you). Thus, passengers need to be independent types who don’t mind being on their own in every port, whether the opt to use the POPGuide app to follow a walking route to major sights or book independent excursions via a third-party operator.
Smartphone or Tablet Devotees: When cruising with Teeming it helps to love (and know the workings of) your smartphone or tablet. The POPGuide app will be your de-facto guide while in port, using GPS to lead you from one sight to the next and back to the ship. Tip: Don’t listen to the voiced instructions (they were often wrong). Just follow the blue dots on your screen and you’ll quickly notice if you’re headed the wrong way.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Lower-Deck Cabins Have Immovable Twin Beds: Designed for single travelers or two friends, the 10 Moselle Deck Standard Cabins are not only the smallest at 128-square-feet, but they also have twin beds by default. All other cabins (which measure 165 square feet) and the four suites (which are 195 to 210 square feet) have a two twin or one-king option, but as some couples have discovered, these don’t — resulting in separate beds or a tight squeeze to snuggle.
Good Mobility is Required: The Johann Strauss is a three-deck ship (plus a sun deck) without an elevator and access to all cabins requires being able to navigate at least one set of stairs. If you require a motorized scooter or wheelchair part of the time, check with Teeming about specifications and the most convenient cabin locations (likely on the Danube Deck, which is on the same level as the restaurant and one flight up from the lobby, lounge and gangway).
Don’t Rely on the Wifi: Forget late-night web surfing in bed — the wifi might be free, but the signal only works in the lobby and lounge. And even there, it’s spotty and can’t handle large uploads and downloads. If you need constant connectivity, arrange for an international data plan with your mobile carrier.
If You’re Under 60, the Rhythm Isn’t Gonna Get You: The one-man band who performed nightly on a recent Rhine River itinerary (the only entertainment onboard) had a playlist that seemed perpetually stuck on songs by three artists: Elvis, Roy Orbison, and The Beatles. Younger passengers encouraged him to play more recent music (disco, 80s) to liven things up as the night wore on — to no avail. It’s something easily fixed with the right entertainer, and hopefully it will be (John McEuen and John Cable of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were entertainers on a cruise a few weeks later).
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.
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MS Johann Strauss at a Glance
- Line: Teeming River Cruises
- Number of Passengers: 144
- Ship Size: Small
- Launch Date: 2006
- Refurbish Date: 2017