My wife and I decided to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary by going on our first cruise somewhere in Europe, as we have never been on a cruise or to Europe. We first looked at small cruises in the Mediterranean Sea, something between Spain and Turkey. But after doing a exhaustive searches we did near it down to a couple of the small cruises with no more then 1000 people on a ship. I thought this was still too large for my liking. My wife suggest that we look into River boat cruises in Europe. I thought what a great ideas, not only is the ship is small with small crew and passengers, but at least there was scenery to be looked at as cruise along the river, instead of looking at the open sea.
So, we narrowed down the competition to Avalon, Viking and Uniworld. After spending a long time looking at reviews and comparing cruise lines we picked Uniworld and we decided to do the Castles along the Rhine trip. We booked our trip late February of 2012, through AAA, looking for Category 2 room. But this level had sold out, so we went with a Category 1 room, which was fine with us, we would have the French balcony to be used, as my wife would be able to enjoy her coffee on the balcony.
We flew from Boston to Zurich to Amsterdam via Swiss Air, very nice flight with no problems. We arrived a day early so we could tour the City of Amsterdam.
The S.S. Antoinette is one of the newer ships that Uniworld has, started sailing last year. The ship has nicely decorated rooms, that are a bit cozy but very functional. The bed was very comfortable, the shower stall has plenty of room. The hot water is controlled in the shower so that someone doesn't get scalded as it is very hot water that comes out of the sink. The dining room and the main bar salon are very elegant. The food was excellent we tried different foods related to the region we were cruising through, that we have never had before. There is free beer and wine during lunch and dinner service. There was just so many choices for food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The crew were top notch from the housekeeping to the waiters, very friendly and seem to enjoy their jobs. We spoke to several of the crew who have come from big ship cruises to the small river boat cruise and they all said the very much enjoy the smaller cruise ship compared to the big cruise ship. The ratio of crew to passengers on this crew was something like 62 crew to 135 passengers.
We did all the included excursions, including the optional pay excursions as well. Beware, you will be feeling tired when finished each day, since during our week long cruise the temperatures was around 95F/35C or higher each day. But a short nap before dinner would recharge our batteries. The only thing I would do different with the excursions is to leave the tour group earlier and do our own exploring, since time is limited on the excursion. We did do this the last few days.
I ended up with over 2000 photos of the landscape, cities, local homes and people, very beautiful country side. This was our first cruise and don't see how we can top this on our next cruise, which we would like to go with Uniworld again along the Danube River. Glad we picked Uniworld and can't wait to do our next river boat cruise with them.