I’m in Amsterdam for the inaugural of Uniworld’s new river cruise ship, the super ship Antoinette. These are heady times for river cruise companies, because demand is high and there are a few players in the market that are committed to make the investment to produce incredible new products for travelers from around the world to enjoy. Uniworld is certainly one such company.
With the firm commitment and creative talents of its parent company, Uniworld will inaugurate three new ships this year, beginning with the Antoinette. (Soon to follow will be the Princess Victoria in Russia, and Douro Spirit in Portugal.) What makes Uniworld’s ships noteworthy is that the unique vision of its designers and decorators, who bring their hotel experience to river ships, designing what they aptly refer to as ‘boatels’.
The Antoinette, the largest river cruise ship yet, is testimony to their passion and vision. With Versailles in mind, the ship is designed to be a 21st century French palace in miniature. Perhaps the first indication is the chandelier hanging in the two-story atrium (yes, it takes up a good amount of space), that is none other than the very same chandelier from the famed Tavern on the Green restaurant, purchased when the restaurant closed. The hallways are lined with mirrors, framed art, painted trim and embellishments that provide the ship a high quality feel. Throughout the Antoinette, it’s evident that the curtains, wall fabrics, bedding, upholstery and furniture was carefully selected.
In addition to standard lounges, bars, and staterooms, the pool is located aft on deck 2, offering a sublime glass-enclosed space in which to relax. The Antoinette features a small spa area with two treatment rooms, and a fitness area that’s larger than some I’ve seen in hotels on land. Another first is a 20-seat movie theatre.
In the staterooms, the marble bathrooms, with plenty of mirrors, are more than adequate, with lots of storage space and adjustable rain shower heads. Heated racks keep towels warm and dry (though they also tend to heat up the bathroom). Flat screen tv’s offer documentaries, movies and more. The beds are extremely comfortable. Each stateroom has a sitting area with two chairs and small table, and counter space (which varies by stateroom category). Except in the lowest category, most staterooms feature electronically-powered windows that can be lowered halfway. Suites and upper category staterooms also have enclosed balconies, with their own second flat screen TV on the wall. Some feature king beds that face the window, allowing one to literally watch Europe go by while lying in bed.
While the mark of a high-end river cruise ship must be the comfort provided to guests, another hallmark is the quality of the cuisine. In this regard Uniworld does not disappoint. Breakfast buffets offered more selections one can possibly ask for — even bacon cooked two ways: crispy or not. Lunch buffets were an array of choices as well. The bakers do a wonderful job with breads.
What many want from a vacation is the opportunity to catch their breath and relax, while at the same time be enriched visiting new places and having new experiences. A river cruise is unique in providing this balance, and a Uniworld river cruise is in the forefront of the pack.