It has taken me more than 12 months to compose this review, mainly due to my bitter disappointment with Uniworld.My husband and I did the Grand France river cruise and before that had been big fans of Uniworld. We had previously done the Christmas markets from Vienna to Nuremberg on the SS Maria Theresa, but after our Grand France tour would not recommend Uniworld and we are planning an Amsterdam to Budapest with another cruise line.Admittedly the Maria Theresa is a hard act to follow, but the first half of the Grand France cruise from Avignon to Lyon on the SS Catherine was wonderful and all that we expected. Service was great,food was delicious and staff were attentive and responsive.However that all changed when we boarded the SS Joie de Vivre from Paris to Normandy.I will deal with the boat first and how the layout and omissions have affected the quality of the experience.. We had a French Balcony cabin on the Balzac deck. No complaints with that,the usual high quality linens and cabin we had come to expect from Uniworld. The bathroom layout was a little cramped and not as comfortable as the Catherine and Maria Theresa but I acknowledge that is trivial and hardly worth mentioning! Uniworld promotes this boat as a luxury ship and that description beggars belief! Uniworld have tinkered with the design of the ships in an effort to squeeze more dollars from cruisers and that was quite obvious on the ship.On both the SS Maria Theresa and the SS Catherine the Bar du Leopard was located at the rear of the ship with a 24 horu tea and coffee station and swimming pool. For the Joie de Vivre Uniworld has dumped the Bar du Leopard and instead has Club L'Esprit and Claude's and a swimming pool instead,as well as an ambitiously named 24 hour coffee station (cupboard would have been a more accurate description) The layout suffered from an alternate drinking and lounging place like the Bar du Leopard.
Both the Maria Theresa and Catherine and a coffee "shop" or room where one could partake of a hot drink and cookie. This was absent in the layout of the Joie de Vivre where the La Cave des Vins replaced the coffee shop. The cover charge for eating in that venue was 90 Euros and a cynical interpretion is that Uniworld were hoping to gouge an extra fee from their cruisers.I will deal with the tea and coffee stations.The deck plans of the Joie de Vivre show a 24 hour tea and coffee station on the Victor Hugo deck in Salon Toulouse (the main salon). I could not find the 24 hour tea and coffee station. In the rare event that a waiter did serve us when we sat in the salon we were brought a coffee or tea with a tiny cookie resting on the saucer.Otherwise we would approach the bar and ask for tea and coffee only to be told that the waiter would serve us,so we scurried back to our seats for the waiter to appear. Our other alternative was to hit the self serve tea and coffee station/cupboard at the rear of the ship next to Club L'Esprit. A complaint I have is that there were no cookies at the self serve cupboard. There were cookies on both the Maria Theresa and Catherine tea and coffee "shops." This sounds trivial but when you awaken at five am and want a coffee and one plain cookie it would be nice to have access to them, and quite frankly for the money uniworld charges passengers it is not too much to askfor a cookie to be provided.
I completed the mid cruise review and suggested cookies could be placed in the 24 tea and coffee station and the crew responded by placing a jar of homemade cookies in our cabin. I know this will come across as fussy but the response missed the point. I wanted everyone to have access to the cookies (delicious by the way) by having them available at the 24 hour tea and coffee station. Cheap penny pinching by Uniworld.