This was our second Uniworld cruise and it was even better than the first (which we LOVED). The SS Catherine is a beautiful ship, every detail has been considered. The public spaces are very impressive with works of art, chandeliers and a two-story water feature.
Uniworld has collected an all-star staff. Everyone - from our butler, Valentina, to our housekeeper Daniella, and our waiter Ivan, our bartenders Emil, Christian and Ariella and wine steward Laurentia and restaurant manager Tihomir - they were all fantastic. Personable, interesting and engaging while providing superior service. We felt very fortunate to have met them all.
We enjoyed the ports and regular tours and took advantage of some of the optional excursions as well. The Paul Bocuse Institute cooking demonstration and lunch was memorable - not to mention delicious. We also enjoyed the Truffle Farm visit and Chateau-Neuf du Pape wine tasting. We did hear from others that the Olive Farm visit was too commercial for their taste.
The tour guides were generally informative and engaging - Jean being our favorite who did tours of Lyon and Tain-L'Hermitage.
Our cabin was a Suite which we can highly recommend if the extra cost is within your budget. The extra space is very nice and the butler service is definitely special. Your every need is met and extras abound. The suite has 3 tv's - one viewable from the bed, one in the large mirror in the seating area and one in the mirror in the bathroom - yes - the tv comes on inside the mirror. Lots of channels (mostly international news) and lots of movies (if you find time.)
The "balcony" with retractable window was very nice - even though the weather was cold-ish. The bathroom was very large - double sinks and huge shower. Mini fridge which was restocked daily and Nespresso machine (a must!). The laundry was another big plus. There is a self-service laundry but Suite residents get complimentary laundry service which was a great surprise. There are also niceties such as cookies every day and an evening snack before dinner provided by our Wonderful Valentina.
The food and wine on the ship were excellent. There were interesting selections in the main dining room every night and on the nights we had dinner in the Leopard Bar, the menu was the same both nights, but very good. Our only regret was missing the Rack of Lamb in the main dining room one night. (Next time!) And every evening Laurentia provided lovely wines to accompany the meals. Breakfasts and lunches were very nice buffets with a huge variety of offerings. How do you ever get hungry on such a ship?
The entertainment was similar to our previous cruise. There was one entertainer we missed - to my regret - who was only there one evening. The lectures that we attended were reasonably interesting.
Leaving the ship fairly late on the disembarkation day, we were able to stay in the lounge which was comfortable. We were offered lunch, but after having another huge breakfast - it wasn't necessary. However, it was very nice that it was offered.
Our single criticism is that the suites offer sleeping space for a 3rd person - i.e. a small sleeper sofa. That, in itself, is good idea. The problem is that the sofa sits against the wall where the tv is in the mirror. That means you have nowhere to sit to watch the big tv - except on the bed - or to drag the chairs off the balcony into the room. It's a bit awkward. From the website - all the suites on the Catherine have the same configuration - 3rd person option. It would be far preferable to have two chairs that would face the tv. (we even tried to turn the couch around - it's too big to make that work). So - that's my only complaint. And it didn't detract from our overall enjoyment of the cruise. Next time I'll ask for a suite that does not accommodate a 3rd person.
One other comment - we went on the first cruise of the season - which means the weather can be less than spectacular. We encountered the Mistral - the cold wind of Provence - four days in a row. It's unpredictable and can be pretty daunting - but it didn't diminish our experience. It did stir up some white caps on the river - but our Captain somehow was able to navigate into the locks VERY smoothly in spite of the wind. Other than seeing the white caps out the window - we would hardly have known the difference.
So - YES , YES, YES - We LOVED it!!! And we can't wait for our next cruise!!!
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