This was my first River Cruise and all I can say is "Wow!" While I had read all of the information about what to expect, in no way can words fully express the experience I enjoyed. Upon arrival at the airport, we were met by a Uniworld representative who was so organized and prepared, that the thought didn't even cross my mind to be concerned about any detail. The signage was clear, he was waiting right at the exit door in plain view and was actively seeking any Uniworld passengers who were exiting to ensure that he missed no one. There was a group of about 8 of us who were transferred at the same time and immediately, conversations were engaged in about the excitement of the trip we were all about to embark on. The short transfer to the ship was great and though we arrived later in the day, our first sights of Basel were very pretty.
Once on board, we were greeted by our Captain and crew and shown our room. Our luggage was delivered promptly and the check in process was simple and clear - very important for tired guests who have just gotten off a very long plane ride.
Our meals were everything we imagined them to be and more - since Food Network Television is one of our favorite stations to watch, we went in with high expectations of the food and service. We were not disappointed. The breakfast and lunch buffets offered great variety. If there would be one thing I would add, it would be more options for the salad bar selections. We thoroughly enjoyed being able to have something different each day to choose from and yet have some of the basics available all the time as well. Dinners were outstanding and we really enjoyed being able to select from a variety of items off the menu each night. The presentation of the food and the service of the waitstaff was impeccable. From day one, they knew our names and remembered them. They were prompt and efficient and had a great rapport with all of the guests. We enjoyed the choice of being able to sit with people or alone.
Our daily excursions were well planned and incorporated some great highlights during our travels. Being this was the first time we were in Europe, we had done our research and knew what was there to visit and learn about. We did not feel as if we missed out on anything. We had a great variety of ages in the mix of our fellow travelers from as young as 16 to people in their 90's. It made for a lot of fun as we explored together. The options for different walking abilities allowed all of us to enjoy the sites. Our local tour guides were very good and personable. While I did hear one or two comments about tour guides from other guests that indicated their guide was not as good as one they had been with a day or two before, overall - everyone enjoyed their guides, they were very knowledgeable and friendly, and definitely made our excursions something to remember. The ability to have local people who live and function in the cities and towns we visited put a personal face on everywhere we visited and brought to life the places and history most of us only understand through the pages of history books. Their personal touch was invaluable.
The onboard entertainment was very nice. The couple we had most evenings was talented and offered a good variety of music in which the guests on board felt comfortable to enjoy and interact with. The two nights we had specials guests come on board were also very good.
Our cabin was decorated beautifully and functioned well. The space was good and we really enjoyed the window being able to lower so we could experience the fresh air from outside. Because we had very good weather, we took advantage of the balcony and window quite a bit. The sun deck was also very enjoyable. The afternoon we sailed through the Rhine Valley and experienced all of the castles on the hills was great fun. The interaction between the guests and the staff (including the captain) was enjoyed by all of us. The warm blankets available, the drinks served, and the beautiful weather made our "castles" experience one we won't soon forget.
At a couple of our ports, we had to pass through other ships we were docked against. The first one was a Viking ship and as we walked through, we immediately observed two things: first, the decor and luxury of the ship was far below the SS Antoinette and second, the staff who greeted guests at the door was not nearly as attentive to us, asking how our excursion had been, etc. and it was only the regular staff. As we entered our own ship, we were greeted by our captain and our cruise manager, as well as other staff, we were each asked about our time out and each time we were offered warm washcloths and a warm drink as we came back on board. To have our captain greet us each time was just an added touch of special for us.
The second ship we were docked against and had to pass through was an A-ROSA ship. All I can say is "ugly." Whoever thought that orange was an appropriate color to decorate with must certainly love Halloween - and not just one color of orange, a variety of orange colors was used. Also, to have great bit red lips painted on the ship was just odd in my opinion. No one was even there to greet people as they passed through - we were basically ignored.
Overall - we had the experience of a lifetime and we can't wait until our next cruise with Uniworld. From the ship itself, to the staff, to the food, to the places we were able to visit - all of these things combined for a lifelong memory for us and we look forward to exploring another great part of the world with Uniworld in the near future.