River Cruise Review: Uniworld
Uniworld offers boutique, "six-star" luxury with its plush ships, discreet and personalized service (thanks to an exceptionally high staff-to-passenger ratio of 1:3), and Zagat-rated cuisine.
With an average capacity of just 130 passengers on its ships, which boast lavish interiors complete with gilt mirrors, padded silk wallpaper and hand-selected antiques, Uniworld takes much of its hospitality expertise from sister company Red Carnation Hotels.
Virtually all Uniworld ships offer a spa, an elegantly appointed sun deck (typically featuring a swimming pool) and a number of spacious suites, which come complete with balconies and butler service, but the SS Antoinette and River Beatrice are currently the jewels in the cruise line's crown (soon to be eclipsed by the impressive SS Catherine, launching on French waterways in 2014).
Luxury touches pervade the Uniworld experience, with excellent food and a distinctive wine program, complemented by a dedicated Epicurean Adventurer Program for gastronomes.
In a nod to the relatively wide age range of its passengers, the Uniworld shore excursion program includes Go Active options for fleet-of-foot guests and The Choice Is Yours options for visitors already familiar with destinations.
Selling point: Uniworld is the cruise line for those looking to travel in the lap of luxury. The intimate nature of the boutique ships encourages passengers to mingle yet the choice of dining venues (rare on these ships) prevents boredom or claustrophobia, and the quality of service and cuisine is second to none.
Keep in mind: The sumptuous décor of Uniworld's European river ships can prove excessive for some tastes, and the more formal nature of the cruises (guests tend to dress for dinner each evening, not just on dedicated formal nights) isn't for everybody.
Operating since: 2006 (the company's history dates back to 1976, but it was acquired by The Travel Corporation in 2006)
Number of ships: 18 ships, plus one new ship to be launched in 2014.
- Europe: Danube, Douro, Moselle, Po, Rhine, Rhône, Saône, Seine
- Russia: Neva, Svir, Volga
- Asia: Mekong, Yangzte
- Africa: Nile
Most popular route: Week-long voyages along the Rhine between Amsterdam and Basel (March to November, from $2849 per person).
What's included: Cruise fares include full board with unlimited regional wines, beer, soft drinks and bottled water; shore excursions; airport transfers; use of bicycles; and gratuities.
Contact: 800-555-8333; www.uniworld.com
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