Top 10 Reasons We Loved Our Uniworld European River Cruise
Uniworld is renowned as the world’s only authentic boutique river cruise line as the company was born out of a collection of 17 luxury boutique hotels in five countries owned by Beatrice Tollman. Mrs. Tollman has many years experience as a chef, cookbook author, and hotelier in South Africa, Europe, and the U.S., and in 2012 was named Hotelier of the Year at the European Hospitality Awards in 2012.
Carol and I have become fans of luxury boutique hotels over the years as they generally exude a personal destination-specific décor, exemplary service, and quite often a more comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. We found all of that aboard Uniworld’s River Royale.
Top 10 Reasons We Loved Our Uniworld Bordeaux, Vineyards, & Chateaux River Cruise
- First Impressions – our expectations were very high. After all, Uniworld bills themselves as a six-star river cruise line with a long list of best-of-the best awards from the likes of Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and a Cruise International Award for Best Luxury River Cruise Line. Carol and I walked aboard the ship with our observation antennae on high alert as we took in our surroundings. First impression? The staff was very helpful and friendly. And the surroundings were luxurious, not pretentious, and comfortable. After a refreshing towel, and a little something to whet our whistle, we were ushered to our stateroom while the staff followed quickly behind with our luggage.
- Our Stateroom – generally speaking, and with very few exceptions in the industry, river cruise ship staterooms tend to be rather small. The river cruise lines need to carefully balance the number of passengers on board for their profitability, against the comfort of the passengers and the demands of the rivers and locks they must sail through. The Uniworld River Royale carries a maximum of 130 passengers in 1 suite (217 sq ft), 26 category 1 staterooms (140 sq ft), and 38 category 2-3 staterooms (151 sq ft). We enjoyed one of the category 1 staterooms on the highest passenger deck. As you can see in our photo above, we enjoyed a floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass door which walked out to a standing-room-only deck to take in the great outdoors. While we found our stateroom to be small, we did enjoy all of the luxurious touches in our room. For example, we enjoyed a handcrafted and comfortable bed by Savoir® of England with high quality linens and pillows; a nice flatscreen television with loads of complimentary movies, English speaking stations, and music, plus a beautiful, albeit tiny, marble bathroom with plush towels, robes, slippers, and L’Occitane bath products. We spent very little time in our room, but in spite of the small space, we found ourselves comfortable and with all of the amenities that a luxury traveler would expect to have available.
Dining – we found the dining experiences aboard the Uniworld River Royale to be quite extraordinary. The dining room was large enough to accommodate all of the ships guests with a welcomed sit-where-you-like atmosphere. In the kitchen was a classically-trained culinary team offering beautifully prepared, locally sourced entrées. Available to us was a light, early-riser breakfast, a fabulous breakfast buffet, Al fresco dining, health-conscious “traveling-lite” menus, vegetarian options, all-day bistro menu, Captain’s Welcome and Farewell Receptions, Welcome and Farewell Gala Dinners, afternoon tea, and even a chef’s table that you could reserve free of charge to celebrate with new friends.
Beverages – uncommon to many river cruise lines, we enjoyed unlimited beverages onboard, including distinctive wines, craft beers, spirits, soft drinks, specialty teas and coffees, and more. It was very nice to enjoy an included evening cocktail before dinner each night after a long day of touring. Plus, it made for a fabulous opportunity to recount stories of the day’s travel.
- The Lounge – we heard from other passengers on board that many river cruise ship’s lounges were not big enough to accommodate all of their guests. It would be frustrating to me to have to be holed up in my stateroom because I couldn’t find a comfortable place to sit in the lounge and relax after a day of exploration. Our ship featured very comfortable couches, and tables with comfy leather chairs. And best of all, there was room for each of us to have a comfortable seat. Nearly every night, you would find all of the ship’s passengers enjoying the space, a cocktail, and reveling in the day’s conquests.
A truly all-inclusive experience – when we left the ship, our bill was zero. We didn’t find ourselves constantly signing onboard bills, and having to settle up when our river cruise experience was over. Our all-inclusive experience included all gratuities onboard and onshore, all meals onboard, unlimited beverages onboard, all shore excursions, all airport transfers, all entertainment, and even free Wi-Fi access onboard. We greatly enjoyed that!
- Privately-owned luxury coaches – when necessary, to get us all to a particular destination for our day’s activities, we found beautiful appointed Mercedes-Benz luxury coaches awaiting us at the dock. They’re owned by Uniworld, they were very comfortable, and a real treat. In fact, with Uniworld, there is absolutely no outsourcing. All nautical, culinary, hospitality, and onshore activities are owned and operated by Uniworld.
Fabulous shore excursions – while all of the above mentioned items were appreciated, we came all this distance to see the vineyards, taste the wine, feast our eyes on fabulous French chateaus, and explore the wonderful cobblestone streets of centuries-old villages and towns. Without reciting our entire itinerary for you, you should know that Uniworld created absolutely fabulous experiences for us each day. We explored castles, chateaus, wineries, enjoyed a wine-pairing lunch in a centuries-old winery; and tasted fabulous wines, cheeses, olives, pastries, chocolates, and so much more. The most frustrating part was the small taste we got of each area which left us all with a deep desire to come back for more.
Effortless Travel – one of the great reasons that river cruising is so fabulously popular is that you only unpack once. Our Uniworld River Royale was a floating hotel that smoothly sailed us from port to port. No worries about sea sickness, and unlike a large ocean-going vessel, each day we docked in the very heart of fabulous cities and fairytale villages.
- It’s Addicting – now that we’ve got a river cruise under our belt, we find that our desire to go on another river cruise is perhaps greater than our initial desire. It’s a very easy way to enjoy a fabulous destination, our every desire was taken care of, and once again Carol and I had the opportunity to explore a new area, make new friends, and experience a different culture. Oh what fun it was … really!
Now, having said all of that, we have so much more to share with you from our wonderful Uniworld river cruise in the Bordeaux region of France. The area is absolutely enchanting, and a must-see destination for foodies and wine lovers. So, stay tuned for much more over the coming weeks and months.
If you enjoyed this article, sign up for our monthly newsletter to keep abreast of our best travel tips, on-location reviews, exclusive travel offers, group travel events, and much more.
Disclosure: our river cruise experience was provided by the kind folks at the Uniworld. The Roaming Boomers maintains all publishing control and we’re happy to share our experiences with you without interference. We call ’em as we see ‘em. Note: all photography by David A. Porter.