Maureen Jones is a traveler and a travel agent with over 30 years of experience. She is the president of the Los Altos, CA-based All Horizons Travel, Inc., a member of the Signature Travel Network.
I have taken over eighty cruises, and in December, I went for the first time on a river cruise down the Rhine River to visit Christmas Markets in Switzerland, France and Germany. I have been to the Christmas Markets many times since it was a yearly adventure with my parents growing up in Europe. After a wonderful eight days on Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette, I enjoyed it more than going on a big ship with thousands of passengers. I am already planning my next river trip.
Uniworld has been voted No.l. by readers of Conde Nast and Travel & Leisure magazines. It was also voted No.l. for the best dining and cabins by Zagat.
They only market through travel agents, and what I liked was the wide range of ages on board, and with people from Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain, it made a wonderful cosmopolitan group.
It was like staying in a lovely London hotel suite, since the Red Carnation Hotel group is a sister company and the same interior designer does all their vessels. I loved the heated mirrors and towel racks in the marble bathroom, and the glass covered balcony with comfortable armchairs and a television was out of the ordinary. There is no comparison between the other cruise lines I have been on and Uniworld. It was luxury, holds only 164 passengers, fantastic service, gourmet food, with wonderful entertainment and lectures. I was impressed with the movie theatre, the pool, gym and spa.
Choose from twelve different boutique vessels, and thirty seven wonderful itineraries in Europe, Russia, and Asia at www.uniworld.com. Select from an 8, l0, 15, 27 and 32 day cruise. Go from Amsterdam, Holland to Istanbul, Turkey and see the best parts of Europe in style.
Normally, after a cruise no matter where it goes to, I come home exhausted. So much walking on the ship, miles of corridors, stairs, lifts, keeping a busy schedule with lectures, classes, shore excursions, movies, shows as I don’t like to miss anything. Plus taking a tender ashore if you have to anchor in the bay, and then board a bus to take what turns out to be an expensive excursion. Just planning on which restaurant you were going to eat at each night and making a reservation was an added task.
|The S.S. Antoinette// Photo courtesy Uniworld River Cruises|
The river boat was so compact it took a minute to leave your cabin and go into the dining room. There was no reserved seating. What I particularly liked was the buffet counters they had set up so no matter what time of day or night it was, you could get coffee, tea, hot chocolate, sandwiches, cookies and pastries. I was amazed that they had eleven chefs on board, and on the last night the captain introduced them all which I thought was a classy thing to do.
The wine, beer and soft drinks were all free with meals, and the menu was outstanding.
This ship was the utmost in luxury. Magnificent art work, lamps, flowers, and the lounge was marvelous. I have never been on a vessel which had such comfortable couches and chairs you didn’t want to leave. It was such a pleasure to sit and listen to the wonderful artists and craftsmen they brought on board at various stops to entertain the passengers. One chap was the most outstanding glass blower I have ever seen. The vases and jewelry he made was top quality and very reasonably priced. We had everything from jazz, to opera, to a delightful German lady tell us about the history of Christmas family customs.
They have cruises which are suitable for multi-generational families. The various itineraries are great value, when you consider what items are free, such as excursions, use of laundry room, wine and beer, free internet and Wi-Fi, and a very important item, free transportation to and from the airport. On a cruise last summer I had to pay $125.00 each to take us to Rome airport.
Next week in Part 2, I will go over the places we stopped at on this wonderful experience. It was bliss.