Q – We have friends, he’s a lawyer and overly critical, who just got off a Uniworld Cruise. We’ve been waiting for their comments as we’re planning our first riverboat trip next August which we hope we can do through you. They really loved their Danube experience but they said we might find the design of the ships “over the top”. Our home in Boulder is rather contemporary and we don’t want to spend two weeks sailing on “my grandmother’s” home. Should we be looking at other lines?
A – Scenic and AMA will give you a sleeker, more urbane look. But Uniworld may be the world’s most underrated river boat line at the moment. The company is based in southern California and has a string following on the west coast. They are partners with British Hotel Group Red Carnation, and their boats are pretty much designed to remind guests of Art Deco chic, with some aspects of baroque opulence. Unlike some of their competitors, Uniworld does not cookie-cut its interior designs. No two boats are the same and we have several favorites within the fleet
The River Empress, Princess, Dutchess, and Royale are classic boats launched between 2001-2006. The Royale is the newest, and the most deluxe of the four. In 2009, Uniworld launched the 162-guest Beatrice, considered a major hardware improvement for the line. We love the Antoinette, launched in 2011. This has been designated an “SS” ship, initials that have nothing to do with German military nomenclature. It stands for “Super Ship” and that has something to do with the fact that she sports a lovely indoor swimming pool, a movie theater, and the over-the-top Salon du Grand Trianon. All of the cabins on her La Princess deck have open-air balconies that can be opened with the touch of a switch.
The S.S. Catherine was launched in March of 2014 and the S.S. Maria Theresa set sail last year. She has ten suites that are 305 sq. ft. and a Royal Suite at 410 sq. ft.. Both of these new boats have gilded mirrors in great profusion so don;t sail with them if you don’t enjoy looking at your spouse.
While the decor is a bit over-the-top for some, Uniworld’s claim to fame is its lovely cabin space, good food, and the inclusive nature of its overall product. The most contemporary boats belong to Scenic – the most traditionally elegant belong to Uniworld. They each set design trends – in their own way.