Many of the advertised facilities and amenities on the Lyon to Avignon cruise on Uniworld's SS Catherine were not provided. When I embarked on the cruise, the suites and staterooms were not ready until 3.00pm and the only toilet/washroom facilities were those located adjacent to the ship's reception area. The washroom and its two toilets were filthy with wet floors, no toilet paper and towels, and with dirty refuse strewn around. I was obliged to go to the reception desk and request that the facilities be cleaned - and this is not something that a passenger/guest should be required to do on a cruise ship touted as a "luxury floating hotel".
The heated swimming pool was closed for the entire cruise, the Bar du Leopard (purportedly a full service bar) and its bistro were closed on a daily basis until the evening and not open/staffed during the day - so, there was no advertised "light lunch" bistro alternative to the crowded buffet lunch in the large, main dining room. The advertised daily afternoon tea was non-existent and the "early riser" breakfast in the Coffee Shop consisted of only croissants and overly-sweet biscuits - no fresh fruit, yoghurt or other light breakfast foodstuffs. Very few passengers/guests want to consume unhealthy, sweet biscuits for an early breakfast. Coffee and tea were via a self-serve machine sans fresh milk. I had to request fresh milk and a small, single-use jug of milk was provided. There was no pillow menu in my cabin as promoted and the overly-soft pillows provided resulted in a sleepless night, plus the heavy, winter-weight duvet was ridiculous in 31 degree late-summer heat. The wait staff closed off all of the small tables for two in the main dining room, which forced guests to sit at large tables. I requested a table for two and one was set, but it was then frequented by other guests who also did not wish to sit at large, crowded tables. Only the one table for two was provided for the duration of the cruise, despite many guests preferring not to sit at tables in large groups. Uniworld advertises and describes it river cruises in superlatives: "6 star experience" / "no request too large, no detail too small" / "every detail of your time with us is flawlessly executed" / "truly exceptional travel experience" / "our guests deserve the absolute best of everything and the difference is truly in the details". The nightly on-board entertainment was ordinary, apart from one female entertainer (whilst docked in Lyon) with a very good singing voice and a large repertoire of songs. The excursions were largely walking tours with the exception of one interesting visit to peruse the interior of a local house in Viviers. An excursion to a truffle farm was a disgrace with only a handful of chairs provided for over 20 passengers/guests, which left a number of elderly and infirm persons standing in 30 degree heat in the farm driveway for over an hour - and, as the truffle season had finished, the promised display of truffle-hunting by truffle dogs did not eventuate.
At the culmination of this cruise, I was not provided with any assistance to disembark and was instead told by the crew member staffing the reception desk to locate and retrieve my suitcase from the large volume of guests' luggage stacked in the ship's foyer - and to make my own way down a less-than-stable gang plank. No consideration for guest's safety was apparent and (as an older guest aged 70 years) this was a concern. Apart from the staff disinterest in ensuring my safe disembarkation, the crew overall were excellent and were very helpful and kind. At best, this cruise was a 3 star experience, largely due to the failure of Uniworld to provide facilities and amenities for which I had paid just under $5,000 ($700 per night). I enjoyed the cruise only because it was in France and the Rhone was devoid of the multitude of deep concrete locks located in the northern European rivers. When I wrote a letter of complaint post-cruise to Uniworld requesting a partial refund, I was offered only a Uniworld Cruise Credit of $350 towards a future cruise. I declined the offer as given what I believe to be a very substandard cruise on the SS Catherine, I do not intend to take any further cruises with Uniworld. Uniworld provided a number of justifications for its failure to provide the advertised facilities and amenities, including that the cruise suffered from "strict labour laws in France" that resulted in "restricted working hours" for the ship's crew. However, cruise passengers are entitled to be provided with the advertised and promoted facilities and amenities for which they pay a significant amount of money in advance. The cruise was not a "luxury cruise" and I consider it to be highly misleading, false and exploitative for any company to make superlative promises in print and online and then fail to live up to and/or fulfill those promises.
Cabin 212 was very plainly decorated with a simple black and white theme. It lacked the ornate décor and splendour of the much-photographed staterooms and suites on the upper decks. The window was narrow and located high up on the wall, so any passing scenery could only be viewed by standing at the window.
Avignon was very enjoyable. I did not join a Uniworld tour of Avignon and upon disembarking from the cruise I stayed in Avignon for a few days. I particularly liked the lively outdoor square Place D'Horlage with its carousel. I walked around Avignon, visited the Palais des Papes, viewed the UNESCO World Heritage remnant of the Pont d'Avignon (Saint Benezet Bridge) and the town's churches and shopping streets. The Musee Calvet is Avignon's main museum located in an 18th century mansion and holds a very good collection of marble statues, paintings and archeology from ancient Rome and Egypt. If you're feeling tired, there is a small tourist train that travels around the narrow streets.
I took the Uniworld excursion bus into Arles but upon arrival decided to set off on my own. I visited the usual tourist sites: the Arles Ampitheatre (Roman Arena) and the busy Place de la Republique. It was a market day also. Be prepared for all things Van Gogh, including T.Shirts and other tacky memorabilia.