Uniworld’s all-inclusive, luxurious and effortless style of river cruising will win over even the most stalwart landlubber. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t considered river cruising as a travel option before my seven-night Uniworld Castles Along the Rhine cruise through Germany and France. After all, isn’t one of the most rewarding aspects of travelling being able to successfully navigate foreign public transport and illogically planned neighbourhoods independently?
It didn’t take long for Uniworld to convince me otherwise.
With a smooth check-in process in Amsterdam, I didn’t touch my suitcase until disembarkation in Basel, nor worry about finding local transport, as the River Empress docked in the heart of a new place each day. The appeal of only having to unpack once is reason alone to consider a Uniworld river cruise – but it’s only the beginning.
I woke up and walked off right into waterfront neighbourhoods abuzz with activity, from the convivial atmosphere of Cologne on a sunny public holiday to the quaint and charming laneways of Rüdesheim in the Rhine Valley. Uniworld ships act as your boutique hotel and transport in one, with a host of added luxuries. The River Empress is no exception; equipped for 130 guests and 41 staff members, the ship is furnished with luxurious staterooms and suites; considered spaces to unwind, including a lounge and restaurant; striking collection of fine art throughout; a small yet well-equipped gym; and a sunny deck in which to enjoy the passing scenery.
I suspected every passenger was up on this sun-drenched platform as we passed the ‘romantic Rhine’, a languid stretch of the river between Koblenz and Rüdesheim studded with castles, fortresses and half-timbered villages on steep mountains and among fields of wine-producing grapes. For those interested in an educational element to the journey, earpieces are provided to enjoy commentary of the history and legends forged along this scenic part of the Rhine.
On board, a high staff-to-guest ratio ensured there was always someone to lend a hand. Uniworld’s endearing staff has an average tenure of 9.5 years, and because they’re truly part of the family, you are welcomed as such, too. Broad smiles, inside jokes and pre-empting your needs daily are all part of the package. Remembering drink orders certainly comes in handy with all-inclusive cruising. Included top-shelf spirits, local wine, and cocktails elevate meals and your cruising experience to new heights of deliciousness. Breakfast mimosa, anyone? How about an Aperol spritz to enjoy in the lounge after a day of sightseeing?
In fact, one of the most anticipated parts of the day was cocktail hour in the lounge, where the cruise manager debriefed on the day’s highlights and the sommelier ran through the evening’s menu and wine pairing. Although judging by the giggles around me, perhaps it was the jokes that were the real highlight here. Cocktail hour rolls into dinner, and with no set mealtimes or seating arrangements, it’s a relaxed affair. Uniworld’s onboard chefs source in-season ingredients to create memorable menus that highlight regional specialities, healthy choices and more.
There’s something new to try every day, from lavish lunch spreads where healthy DIY salads sit alongside local specialities, such as pretzels and bratwurst, to alfresco meals and five-course tasting menus during the captain’s gala dinners. Plus, if there’s something that you really love (Bea Tollman’s sesame chicken and cobb salads are standouts), you can purchase her cookbook to recreate many of the beloved onboard dishes back home. If you’re the type to overindulge (and you likely will with all the delicious temptations on offer), Uniworld’s included excursions and complimentary use of bicycles will help you work off any extra cheese and dessert courses.
From city sightseeing to leisurely bike rides along the river and wine tasting in castles, a curated lineup of included excursions showcase each destination in a very Uniworld way. I supplemented the included excursions with my own leisurely discoveries; for me, there’s no better way to explore a city than on a bicycle, and I made great use of the Uniworld bikes to explore Boppard, Rüdesheim, Speyer and Strasbourg.
Back on board, once I had wined, dined and caught up with my fellow guests, I was all but fast asleep before my head hit the pillow in my cosy Savoir bed. Now that’s what I call a successful travel experience.
Uniworld is now on sale at Escape Travel. For information on the latest deals and to book, visit your local Escape Travel store or call 1300 273 482.