S.S. Catherine -- Uniworld's new SuperShip in France

Uniworld's S.S. Catherine on the Rhone river in France

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, in our view, is the most luxurious of river cruise lines. I felt that way experiencing the S.S. Antoinette on her inaugural, and now on the inaugural of the S.S. Catherine, christened by Catherine Deneuve, cruising in southern France on the Rhone River.

As a vacation getaway, cruising the Rhone, an oenophile's nirvana, is an experience in sumptuous cuisine including, of course, le vin, as well as legendary history, with castles and cobblestone villages, and miles of nature and multiple locks to traverse.

And with the launch of Uniworld's latest ship, one can now cruise the Rhone on one of the finest river cruise ships afloat. It's obvious the company has designed this vessel with passion and a fine eye for detail, from the Murano chandelier and sculpture in the reception area, to mirrored walls with sculpted glass detail work, to the padded walls in staterooms, the plush upholstery and elegant curtains. There's also the tasteful collection of art gracing the walls, starting with the nine lovely signed Miro prints in the Van Gogh Lounge.

The Savoir of England hotel-style beds  really are a  joy to sleep on, covered in 100% Egyptian cotton linens. Not to mention the terry/cotton bathrobes. Bathrooms feature heated floors and towel racks, as well as wonderfully designed to provide a large walk-in shower and plenty of storage in a compact space. Double sockets in staterooms enable use of both 220v and 100v appliances and chargers -- no converter required. There's a pillow menu including neck and lumbar support cushions for your personal comfort. Should it rain -- no worries -- there's an umbrella in each stateroom. The large interactive flat screen TV offers free in room movies and music.

The cuisine on board was exceptional on the inaugural. Buffet breakfast and lunches, and sit-down dinners. The choices are vast and splendid, the quality exceptional. A cheese spread is always available, featuring delectable choices from Lyon's finest cheese maker, Richard's. Breads and pastries were always fresh and exquisite. Salads, fruits and hot dishes scrumptiuous.

The energetic and polished staff enrich the vacation experience. Excellent multi-speed bikes and Nordic walking sticks are available for those choosing to be more active.
There isn't just one  coffee and tea station onboard, but three -- one on each of the three decks.

A small fitness center and pool add to the amenities.

There are a growing number of choices of river cruise lines and diverse ships on Europe's rivers. While most products are of satisfactory quality and deliver good vacations, there are quality differences among the ships, and choices to be made, just as there is between choosing a Sheraton Hotel or a Ritz Carlton.  The difference is in quality, and readily noticed once onboard.