It seems right now that everyone is talking about river cruises – but which one to choose? If you're looking for all-inclusive luxury, writes Catherine McGregor, Uniworld is hard to beat.
1. You'll never eat better on a cruise
Like to be overwhelmed by choice? You'll get just that at breakfast and lunch, where the buffets feature a huge array of ever-changing choices, plus daily treats for dessert. On my south of France cruise onboard Uniworld's S.S. Catherine, one day it was a (house made) ice cream stand; another, that Masterchef finale favourite, a towering profiterole croquembouche. At dinner, the a-la-carte menu includes regional dishes, plenty of vegetarian and lighter options, and wines and cheeses from the areas you're travelling through.
2. The décor is happily showy
You'll know when you step aboard a Uniworld ship; opulence, extravagance and European grandeur are the order of the day. While no two ships in the fleet are alike, they all share a distinct Uniworld character, which expresses itself in quirky design details like leopardskin-print furnishings, huge Murano glass chandeliers and oodles of modern art on the walls.
3. They're a great fit for people who like to stay active
Whether your exercise of choice is yoga, swimming or weight training, there's no excuse for not being active on a Uniworld cruise (unless that's what you're aiming for). And that's all before you set foot on land. The company seems to really understand that many of us want more from our shore excursions than just a gentle stroll around a pretty town centre. On my cruise down the Rhône in southern France, I joined a bike tour of Lyon, hiked the steep hills of the Hermitage wine region, and kayaked under an ancient Roman aqueduct near Avignon. Other Uniworld cruises offer excursions as varied as golf days and expert-guided nature walks.
4. They take service seriously
Talking to fellow guests on the SS Catherine, Uniworld's Rhône river cruise ship, I was struck by how many told me they were repeat guests. One American couple took a minute and, counting on their fingers, announced this was their eleventh cruise with the company. The reason for that loyalty? Service. Uniworld's really is second to none and they pride themselves on never saying 'no' (within reason, of course). With the highest staff to guest ratio in the river cruise industry, they quickly get to know your preferences. “I like a particular brand of rum in my rum and coke, and they remember,” a fellow guest tells me. “I don't like swizzle sticks, so my drink never comes with those.”
5. They're properly all-inclusive
It's standard for all meals to be included on a cruise, but on Uniworld the all-inclusive policy extends to beer, wine, soft drinks and spirits (except top shelf liquor) as well. You can sit on deck all day drinking cocktails, or party the night away in the lounge bar, without spending a cent extra. It's the same with excursions. Whereas on some cruises the walking tours are included but you'll pay for other outings, on Uniworld everything is included, from bike tours to cooking classes to music recitals. Note: on each cruise there are a couple of extra-special excursions that do have fees attached. They're a nice add-on, but there are so many other activities on offer you won't miss out at all by not taking part.