I had always heard that river cruising was for the 60+ group, however, that is NOT the case at all. The Uniworld SS Antoinette passengers ran the gamut in ages from late 20's all the way up to our charming new friend, 92 year old Phillip. What I will say is that river cruising on this ship is an adult vacation. It would not be an appropriate vacation for people who wish to bring young children along. The cabins really can only fit 2 people maximum.
We had a Suite on this ship - 401 - and it was just fantastic. The suites are all individually decorated and this room was spacious with a desk area, refrigerator, coffee maker, room for 2 lounge chairs, plus 3 TV's (one over the desk, one at the foot of the bed, one in the conservatory.) The bathroom had two sinks and a large walk-in shower. There were 3 closets and several drawers - definitely enough space for our things.
What is different about river cruising than ocean cruising is that you get to know most of the people onboard. For the crew, there is a real family atmosphere and there were several couples who live and work on this ship, including the Captain and his beautiful wife who is the hotel director. You had the sense of being welcomed into their home! I noticed that the Captain is a foodie and would often be seen in the dining room at lunch time. It was so nice to see him and the other officers around the ship during the cruise. They were professional, but friendly, as was the rest of the crew. The chef was nice and liked to joke and present beautiful food to the guests. For the passengers, there is open seating at dinner so you make friends and may change tables from night to night or hang out with the same people every night and often during the day. The waiters worked hard to please us and were friendly and fun.
Uniworld includes most tours in the price of the cruise and also wine with dinner - literally all the wine you can drink. Consequently at the end of the cruise our bill was around $300 which included all 3 additional cost tours and a couple of cocktails. Now about those additional tours...our cruise was Castles Along the Rhine. There were only 3 optional tours that cost extra. All of the tours were good, but really, the ONLY one we should definitely have taken was the one to the Black Forest which was so scenic - it was like the opening scene from the Sound of Music - and we had fun at the Cuckoo Clock Store and the Black Forest village. The ONLY reason I say we should have only taken that one optional excursion is because with all the regular tours, taking these additional tours was too exhausting! LOL! Next time, I will know not to book every single tour but to pick out the one that is most appealing. The day we cruised the most scenic part of the Rhine, it was cool, overcast and a bit rainy - which actually made for some very dramatic photos of the castles. We had overslept that morning and missed breakfast, but we needn't worry - Uniworld put out a huge German Feast in the Orangery on the top deck about 10:30am. There were 4 kinds of German sausages, soft pretezels, German salads of every description. It was fantastic! Then 1 hour later we had lunch! LOL!
All of the tours were great. The ship was terrific, loved the food, loved the wine, loved the accomodations and the wonderful people we met - both employees and other passengers. Even though there are not mega shows at night, there is a lounge act and dancing and between that and the scenery along the river, it's enough.
What is different from a large ship cruise, is that the food we had was appropriate for the area we were in! That has always been a major disconnect from me - come back to the ship from Naples, Italy and have...Indian curry??? But this ship had food that matched our location and it was good to great food at every meal with a substantial selection.
We did walk through some other river cruise ships to get on the SS Antoinette. Our ship was larger and prettier. The design is more old world and more fitting for a European river cruise, IMO. I did talk to others who had sailed on Avalon and Viking and they said the food was similar but the cabins were far nicer on Uniworld. Uniworld has definitely tried to make the cabins very luxurious. Our ship did have a nice movie theater - that we never got to because we took all the additional tours. There is a laundry on the lower deck for passengers to use, there is also a gym and a pool. We didn't get to use any of these because we took too many tours. Some of the passengers who were older, stayed onboard most of the time and enjoyed these amenities.
It is hard to say which day of this trip I enjoyed the most. Shopping in Rudesheim and then the Castle Vollrad's tour definitely stands out as outstanding. The day cruising the Castles along the Rhine was magical and I absolutely adored the tour to the Black Forest...but then there was the magical day we spent on the French Alsation wine road...
As information, men did wear suit and tie for dinner on formal nights and ladies wore cocktail attire. The rest of the nights, men wore shirts with collars and long pants and ladies wore resort attire. Even for tours, people were generally dressed better than I have seen on, for example, Mediteranean cruises and also, unlike excursions on ocean cruises, people did not keep the bus waiting ever. Everyone seemed to be very polite and very conscientious about getting back to the bus on time, which was wonderful!
I cannot say enough good things about the crew, about the ship, about our suite and about the service. From the first day, when the butlers came with a tray of fancy soaps for us to choose from, we were treated extra special. We had little butter cookies in the morning and other snacks in the evening in our suite. There were tea items and all sorts of other things available in the lounge. Our butlers even bought us a present - something we never expected in a million years! From the food to the ship to the tours to the personnel, Uniworld is a first class operation in every way possible and I cannot recommend them highly enough. If you are wondering if you would like a Uniworld cruise, don't hesitate. Book it and I know you will be absolutely thrilled by the fantastic trip. I can't wait to do another river cruise! Thanks Uniworld for being such a great company!