As a travel agent, I get asked a lot about river cruises, what makes them special, are they boring, are there enough things to do onboard the ship, have you been on one, etc. Finally I can tell my clients that YES I have been on a river cruise and I loved it! Some of you may be thinking that of course I have to say I loved it because I'm a travel agent and I sell them. However, I can honestly say that I really enjoyed the trip and I absolutely would go on another river cruise.
My husband and I had the opportunity to go on a Uniworld Boutique River Cruise a few weeks ago. I have to say that I was a bit hesitant at first since the typical age demographic is older than we are but after the first day onboard I was a believer that river cruises are absolutely for our age demographic as well. With many different river cruise operators available, Uniworld was the one that I have been drawn to for many reasons which I will discuss in this blog series.
Since this is a two part blog series, I'll start with the basics of river cruising and why Uniworld was a great option for our cruise. There are numerous river cruise companies and itineraries to choose from. Most focus on Europe and this is where you will find most of the itineraries. However, some operators also have itineraries for China, Vietnam and Cambodia, Russia, Egypt and India. Then you have the option of specialized itineraries for families, holidays and themes. Since there are so many options, finding a good travel agent will help you select the perfect River Cruise company and itinerary to fit your personal preference and what is important for you while on your trip. Once you select the company and itinerary, you are on your way to a great trip.
Onboard Uniworld's River Royale
We selected the Bordeaux, Vineyards and Chateaux itinerary because it really appealed to what we like. This itinerary focuses on French wine and beautiful chateaux's which is exactly what we wanted. I will discuss the itinerary in full detail in my second blog about river cruises.
Uniworld really made our trip special. Their tagline is "luxurious floating boutique hotels" and they really do live up to that statement. Our cruise took place on Uniword's River Royale which sets sail weekly from Bordeaux, France.. They are known for all-inclusive cruising and it really is true. Our cruise included 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners plus mid-day snacks, welcome and farewell receptions, unlimited beverages onboard including local and international wine, beer and spirits. All taxes and gratuities are also included in the price for Uniworld so you will not be hit with additional charges for these items while onboard.
Six days of excursions are also included hosted by local English speaking experts. The excursions are designed to accommodate all ages and mobilities. For instance, there are gentle walking excursions for those who want a slower pace and go active excursions for those who want a faster pace or biking tour. Of course there are excursions for those who do no want active or gentle as well. They truly try to accommodate everyone onboard.
River Royale Accommodations
Uniworld River Royale has three main stateroom categories and one suite available. Category 2 and 3 are the same size (151 square feet) with the window size and deck location being the only difference. Category 1 includes a French balcony and located on the top passenger deck (141 square feet). The price range for Category 3 is the least expensive option and Category 1 is the most expensive with the exception of the one suite located onboard. This suite also has a French balcony and a much larger stateroom size of 217 square feet. You might not think that 217 square feet is very large for a suite but keep in mind that staterooms on river cruises are small in nature. We were in a Category 1 stateroom located on the La Gironde Deck stateroom 305. This was a perfect location for us and I really enjoy being able to get fresh air by opening up the French balcony.
Top Deck Cruising
One of my favorite parts of the River Royale is the top deck of the ship. This is designed to be an open space for guests to be able to go on top of the ship, have a beverage and watch the beautiful scenery pass by while the ship is moving or while it is docked in one of the quant villages or towns that it docks in. When the weather is good, this is the best place to be in my opinion. They also have a hot tub which is a wonderful place to enjoy a glass of local wine and look at the landscape surrounding the top deck of the ship.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon snacks are served onboard the River Royale and are all included in your cruise price. I have a few favorite dining moments from our trip onboard. The first is the local oyster tasting that they offer in the main lounge called Salon Gascogne. These local oysters are extremely sweet compared to the oysters we tend to get in the United States. They served them with the normal accompaniments but one unique addition was a red wine vinegar and shallot sauce which cut the sweetness of the oysters and was a perfect finishing touch. The head chef and food and beverage manager serve them during the tasting and answer any questions that you have about the oysters; and of course the bartenders serve the perfect wine to accompany the oysters.
A special dining opportunity takes place on the top deck of the River Royal at the Blue Fox Cafe. This is an all glass enclosure which offers perfect viewing of the surrounding scenery. They served my favorite meal in the Blue Fox Cafe which was consisted of an appetizer sampling which had the best tuna tar tar and then Beef Wellington for the main course. The meal was amazing and the views superb!
Here are a few other dining highlights from the trip.
Upon our return from our river cruise I have had many family, friends and clients ask if I will take another in the near future. The answer is hands down YES! We absolutely enjoyed Uniworld, the food and staff onboard River Royale and the beautiful towns and villages that we visited. Stay tuned to see what my next river cruise itinerary will be. I'm pretty sure that once the next opportunity arrises for me to take another river cruise, I do hope it is along the Rhine River with ports in Amsterdam and Basel.
I hope that you will also consider taking a river cruise for your next vacation. Happy travels!
Don't forget to check out the second blog in this river cruise series with an in-depth look at Uniworld's Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateau itinerary and my review here: