Orange County, CA
CruiseClout score: 20.0
Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette: Haute design, yet comfortable
Cruising on Uniworld River Cruises' S.S. Antoinette during a Christmas Markets cruise on the Rhine River still stands out as one of my favorite cruise experiences. What impressed me most was the seamless delivery of service that started at embarkation and ended when I said farewell on the last morning of the cruise.
Some river cruise ships are modestly decorated and some are not. Antoinette is definitely not a plain-Jane river cruise boat. She is elegantly appointed with over the top interiors designed to look like France's Chateau de Versailles during the late 18th century.
Immediately upon embarking the ship I was impressed by the the focal point of the lobby, which is a blue Strauss 10-foot Baccarat chandelier with huge sapphires, originally hung in New York's famed Tavern on the Green. All the public spaces have been thoughtfully designed and feature comfortable overstuffed chairs and a nice collection of art that hep set the vibe that this is not your ordinary river cruise.
As Travel + Leisure writes in its October 2016 issue: "Inside you’ll find Brazilian marble floors, a 19th-century Venetian glass mirror, and a 10-foot sapphire-studded Strauss Baccarat chandelier that once hung in New York City's Tavern on the Green. Even the cabins (which have 100 percent Egyptian cotton sheets and European-style feather-filled duvets) are lined with French toile fabric."
Who will like sailing on S.S. Antoinette
River cruising appeals to mature cruisers (although the general age is dropping). People who like a slow pace, all-inclusive pricing, and paying for luxury touches are in for a real treat sailing on S.S. Antoinette.
Where S.S. Antoinette sails
S.S. Antoinette sails to the storybook towns along the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland to Cologne, Germany. Enjoy a scenic cruise through the romantic Rhine to see the famous castles, the picturesque town of Koblenz and historic Cologne.
All-inclusive river cruising, your way
Like other river cruise companies, Uniworld offers complimentary fine European wines, draft beers and soft drinks during dinner, a 24-hour specialty coffee and tea bar, shore excursions, Signature Lectures and onboard local entertainment, and airport transfers on arrival and departure days.
Where Uniworld does it differently is in the delivery of their onboard service. With roots in the hospitality industry, it's easy to see the touches that Beatrice Tollman, godmother and namesake of Uniworld's River Beatrice, and President of Uniworld's sister company the Red Carnation Hotel Collection has left on S.S. Antoinette. Staff is trained in the art of service standards found in the best hotels in Europe, and her influence on the menu is hard to miss (she has a cookbook) and guests can sample her recipes while dining on the ship.
Be on the lookout for her signature dishes on the menu. I can still taste her mouthwatering cookies that were modestly displayed on a lunch buffet table one day.
Signature lectures & onboard entertainment
Part of the river cruise experience is enjoying the tours that are included with the price of the cruise. The cruise manger on board is responsible for coordinating shore trips, motor coach transportation, herding guests on tours, and conducting nightly briefings describing the highlights of the next port of call. Our guide was part concierge and a huge asset — his recommendations for places to eat in town or worthwhile tips to enjoy the markets was invaluable.
My favorite onboard features
For some reason I really loved the idea that there was a swimming pool on this river cruise ship. I used it a couple times, and it was clean, warm, and a great way to unwind after a workout in the well-appointed gym.
Also, unlike most river ships, S.S. Antoinette offers an indoor movie theater on board, which can be a life-saver on rainy days.
While cruising on S.S. Antoinette I sampled a variety of river cruise dining experiences: al fresco dining "under the stars" and light-lunch dining — both on the sun deck — as well as Captain's Welcome Gala and Farewell dinners, early-riser breakfast and afternoon tea.
Art in all the right places
Arranged throughout the ship, is a collection of carefully selected original fine artwork from personal collections. Sketches in black and white, color lithographs, and oil on canvas paintings from a range of great artists, including Humphrey Jennings and John Bellany, and an extensive selection of work by Russian painters Yuri Matushevski and Viktor Templi are perfectly placed for guests' enjoyment.
Staterooms — nice digs!
Lavishly appointed river view staterooms and suites have handcrafted Savoir of England beds draped in 100 percent Egyptian cotton linens and a menu of pillow choices. Staterooms and suites on the La Princesse Deck have full balconies and staterooms on the La Duchesse Deck have French balconies.
S.S. Antoinette features generous built-in closets, a hair dryer, individual climate-control thermostat, direct-dial telephone, infotainment center with flat-screen TV and complimentary movie and entertainment options, bottled water and marble bathrooms where you'll find L'Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, special towel warmers, backlit magnifying mirror and cozy waffle bathrobes. Staterooms on La Duchesse deck have French balconies with floor-to-ceiling windows that can be raised or lowered with the touch of a button.
Don't miss the Salon du Grand Trianon with full-service bar and dance floor, Le Cinema Pigalle movie theater, sun deck with the Bar du Leopard and L'Orangerie, Restaurant de Versailles, a mosaic-tiled and heated swimming pool designed by the famous South African mosaic tile artist, Jane du Rand; Serenity River Spa, boutique, guest laundry and elevator.
Carrie Finley-Bajak sailed on S.S. Antoinette on a press/blogger trip as a guest of Uniworld. See Cruiseable's Ethics & Disclosure policy.
Have you cruised on Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette? What was the highlight? I'd love to hear about your experience. Please share a photo below.
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Top highlights on this ship
- 24-hour reception service
- 24-hour specialty coffee and tea bar
- Free Internet and wi-fi access
- Complimentary use of bicycles and Nordic walking sticks
- All meals on board have prepared ingredients often purchased from local farmers markets.
“This top-range river ship has some state-of the-art features and its ornate décor pays homage to its elegant namesake, Marie Antoinette. There’s a heated indoor pool-cum-cinema, good food and service, and a neat Leopard Bar.”