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7 Uniworld France Cruise Reviews

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 ... Read More
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. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
My husband booked this river cruise from Lyon to Arles in honor of my birthday, so I was expecting the best and was not disappointed! The S.S.Catherine is an elegant ship with Venetian glass fixtures, original artwork on all of the walls, ... Read More
My husband booked this river cruise from Lyon to Arles in honor of my birthday, so I was expecting the best and was not disappointed! The S.S.Catherine is an elegant ship with Venetian glass fixtures, original artwork on all of the walls, good-sized staterooms and L'Occitane amenities. The food was always prepared to perfection for ALL meals and finished by delicious desserts prepared by two pastry chefs! Each evening before dinner, everyone would meet for cocktails and information regarding the next day's activities. The tours and activities are geared for the sedentary up to "Go Active." We did two "Go Active" tours: a bike ride of Lyon and a hike up into the vineyards of Burgundy. We also did one special excision for an additional charge to the castle of a French Count who saved us wine and lunch. Well worth the extra money! UniWorld's guides were excellent in both their presentation and knowledge. UniWorld has their own fleet of tour buses, too. Our cabin was the perfect size with a little sitting area off to the side so we could watch the countryside or the many locks we went through. We did enjoy the entertainment in the bar area after dinner. Embarkation and disembarkation were a non-event - they were so easy. We decided that the staff must be trained to never use the word "No" as everything was wonderful. We would recommend UniWorld in a heartbeat and hope to enjoy one of their other ships in the future! Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Just returned from Riverboat Cruise on SS Catherine. First time on a river boat. My husband’s special birthday. He is a foodie and loves French food and wine so we selected this itinerary which was in Burgundy and Provence (From Lyon to ... Read More
Just returned from Riverboat Cruise on SS Catherine. First time on a river boat. My husband’s special birthday. He is a foodie and loves French food and wine so we selected this itinerary which was in Burgundy and Provence (From Lyon to Avignon). Generally, he does not like cruising preferring to be able to dine in actual restaurants on land which he feels he misses out on during a cruise. However, he was pleasantly surprised….. the ship is brand new this season and is gorgeous and spectacular – even better in person than in photos –t he food, service, staff were all excellent – the ship is beautiful – we loved the small size and ease of getting around – forget something in your cabin? – no sweat – it’s a one minute walk not a twenty minute hike as on a huge mega ship. We arrived the day ahead into Lyon and stayed at Sofitel – across the river from ship and you can literally walk to the ship and will not need a taxi. Strongly suggest you come in the day before the cruise – the jet lag will be killer otherwise imho. I was ill from long flight and layover to Lyon and needed to just sleep for a day. Also, the curried chicken on British airways served at midnight home time did not do wonders for the GI situation. So, yeah, don’t plan on flying over and going right to the ship. On this particular cruise (cant speak for other dates) the age group was significantly senior – we are in early sixties and were among the youngest. We “closed down the joint” in the evenings and that was before 10 PM! LOL. Also, would agree with another poster that this itinerary was somewhat disappointing as we could not sail at all the first few days due to high water level – we went by bus to Beaune (in Burgundy) skipping the sail on Saone River. There was very minimal actual sailing the entire cruise. Also, while docked (Stateroom 422) we either faced a wall and the land side, another ship like Viking, or in Avignon, a huge ugly cement piling smack in the middle of our balcony - twice. Therefore, I question the value of paying for an upgraded room with balcony with so little to see out the window. As far as the land tours, the first two guides (to Beaune and city walking tour of Lyon) were disappointing – their English was very poor and they spoke at about a third grade level. However, the other tour guides were excellent and much more professional – night tour of Lyon was fantastic – walking tour of Tournon and Tain L’Hermitage was great. Also liked our tour guide for Viviers. She lived there and was British and was very informative. We loved the wine tastings and we loved the tour to truffle farm – I do not feel it was a “ripoff” as other poster stated. I do kind of object to all of the “optional tours”. We are already paying a ton of money on Uniworld – they advertise that it is all inclusive but it really is not. Our only other recent tour experience was with Tauck on the Amalfi coast – truly fantastic tour and amazing, intelligent, fantastic tour guide who stays with you the entire time. No extra charges for anything from Tauck. So, on principle – we really did not sign up for more than one of the optional tours with Uniworld. It was a lot of walking and cobblestones and I was disappointed that the tours took up so much time in the towns that we had no time to shop. (my husband was not upset by this at all) but seriously, would have preferred more time to explore. Overall, though, Uniworld did a great job and we would consider sailing with them again. We most likely would never take a tour for longer than seven days though…..too much regimentation, too much great food and weight gain!, too many early mornings with no chance to sleep in….and no real opportunity to be immersed in the culture and meet the people of the place you are travelling to. For example, except for one person, Emmanuelle, no one on the ship was French, the staff is mainly Eastern European. All of your fellow passengers will be either American, or Aussie or Canadian. Therefore, at end of cruise, we rented a car in Avignon and drove through southern France to Nice to explore French Riviera and walk and do things at our own pace… This creates a nice mix on your vacation. We also did not get to go to Pont Du Garde on the cruise so did this on our own (not to be missed).   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
This was our second Uniworld cruise, the first being the Castles on the Rhine last year. We were delighted with our tour on the S.S. Antoinette and were anxious to experience the new sister ship in an area we had never been before. Some ... Read More
This was our second Uniworld cruise, the first being the Castles on the Rhine last year. We were delighted with our tour on the S.S. Antoinette and were anxious to experience the new sister ship in an area we had never been before. Some of the similarities were immediately obvious: The upscale decor in the common areas, the comfort of the cabins and the attention and courtesy of the staff. We continue to be amazed at how well the cabin space has been designed. Meals were very good, as we expected. We are not wine experts so the nightly presentation of the wine pairings by the shipboard sommelier was mostly wasted on us. The Rhone is trickier to navigate than the Rhine with more locks to go through and lower bridges to travel under. Consequently, the upper deck was inaccessible much of the time. Cruising had to be abandoned on the first day because of high water and a bus excursion was substituted. The tour was enjoyable, but its length due to busing was a let down. The excursions were a mixed bag. My wife and adult daughter greatly enjoyed the optional cooking lesson with an authentic Five Star French chef. Although pricey (152 euros each) and a big time commitment (six hours to buy the food and prepare it), the experience turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. On the other hand, a visit to a truffle farm was disappointing and bit of a rip-off (59 euros each). It ended in ANOTHER wine tasting, the third or fourth of the trip. We didn't realize when booking this trip that this cruise is an extension of the Grand France tour. It was difficult for us to get to know the other passengers, since friendships had already been formed before we arrived. We have enjoyed getting to know other passengers on previous cruises. That didn't happen here. Tour guides were inconsistent. Some were quite good, entertaining and informative, others not so much. The small towns did not afford many tourist attractions other than the age of the city. It appeared the tours were trying to fill time with a local organ concert and a visit to a private home. In tans L'Hermitage a visit to the Valhrona Chocolate Factory was merely suggested as a "do it on your own" but was a wonderful highlight. Some tour guides didn't mention it at all. It would have been fun to tour it more fully. There was little time to visit local shops. Avignon has many "chain" and designer stores, but little local flavor. Most of the ladies valuable shopping time in that city was taken up by the optional tour, the 6-hour French cooking class. Arles combined both local flavor and shopping, but our guide spent too much time taking us past places there was no time to visit. At one point he led us to believe a cafe was the actual one appearing in the Van Gogh painting. Only after everyone had taken pictures did he reveal the cafe was painted two years ago and only patterned to look like the one in Van Gogh's masterpiece. It was a cruel trick. There was no emphasis on lavender fields, production or visits. Sunflower farms were noted just in passing on the bus. This is definitely a tour for wine enthusiasts, but not much else. We still love Uniworld and will likely cruise with them again, but we will be careful to find a cruise with a more accessible river and larger cities (other passengers have told us the Danube is a must-see.) We've had our fill of sleepy towns, cobblestone streets and churches.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
This was my second Uniworld cruise and it was as perfect as the last. The ship was beautiful, the food was great and the staff was professional and attentive. The excursions were well planned and all of the guides were both knowledgeable ... Read More
This was my second Uniworld cruise and it was as perfect as the last. The ship was beautiful, the food was great and the staff was professional and attentive. The excursions were well planned and all of the guides were both knowledgeable and professional. After I climbed the many steep and winding stairs to the top of the castle of the Duke of Anjou in Tarascon and then down again my knee was officially wrecked. But Uniworld has a program called "gentile walking" tours and for that I was grateful. In essence they are slower and avoids steep stair cases. When some attraction has to be eliminated, due to its strenuous nature (steep stairs) another is added to complete the experience. I rather preferred it, the groups were smaller and the guides very attentive to our needs. We opted for the extension to Paris at the end of our cruise. An Uniworld agent escorted us to the train station and remained with us until we arrived and were situated at the hotel in Paris where another Uniworld rep/guide took over. Now she was amazing. One of the most adorable, conscientious, attentive person's I have ever met. Whatever you asked she tired to make it happen. In all a wonderful trip. I am already planning another Uniworld cruise for next year. I also liked that there was no "nickel and diming" everything was included even all tips, water bottles and liquor on the ship.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We are experienced cruisers but this is only our 2nd River cruise. The new SS Catherine is beautiful...a little over the top in decor but the quality is staggering! Murano glass everywhere, original artwork, embroidered wallpaper and ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers but this is only our 2nd River cruise. The new SS Catherine is beautiful...a little over the top in decor but the quality is staggering! Murano glass everywhere, original artwork, embroidered wallpaper and draperies, comfortable beds with great linens. Sumptuous. Every member of the staff was professional and approachable and very helpful. Laurentia, the sommelier, was a standout. Our wine and food organization nearly took over the boat and Laurentia was just exceptional with her depth of knowledge, professional service and kindness to a group of very demanding winos! The kitchen also needs to be commended as they produced fabulous food all the time. Breakfast and lunch buffets had a wide variety of foods that were often replenished and always delicious. Our dinners had been pre-planned to go with our own organizations' wines but a vegetarian menu was always offered and several standard dishes, like a steak, could be substituted. The service was impeccable and the food beyond compare with any other cruise line. (Even Oceania and Seabourne) The rooms seemed a bit cramped at first but there is really a lot of storage and once we had fully unpacked (we are on a month long European vacation and had a lot of luggage) there was room to spare. The bathrooms are spacious for a ship and well appointed. We only did a few of the included excursions but 2 of 3 were exceptional, Avignon with Marie and Arles with Frances, the other was forgettable because of the guide. It was wonderful to just spend time on the boat. Wish we were on a longer cruise and would definitely sail on the Catherine again. The only real problem was that the dining room seemed to have really hot zones but the crew responded quickly and brought on extra air conditioners to help solve that problem. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
River Cruise from Avignon to Lyon aboard the SS Catherine. 4/6/2014-4/13/2014. Summary: We would do it again. Uniworld cannot be beat. Service: 5/5 stars. Shore tours: 5 stars. Food quality and presentation: 5 stars. Room (Suite) design ... Read More
River Cruise from Avignon to Lyon aboard the SS Catherine. 4/6/2014-4/13/2014. Summary: We would do it again. Uniworld cannot be beat. Service: 5/5 stars. Shore tours: 5 stars. Food quality and presentation: 5 stars. Room (Suite) design and dockage: 3.5 stars. Program: 4 stars. Our credentials: this was our first ever river cruise. We have been on 5 ocean cruises on different lines. Of those we found Celebrity to be the top, Carnival the bottom. Princess and RCL were the others. We are in our early 70s. We have experienced a range of hotels from Red Roof Inns to the Marriott Marquis on Times Square. Similar dining experience. Background: This was the first commercial cruise for this ship. Our Travel agent recommended Uniworld over Viking because of service and passenger/size ratio. For virtually the same size ship Uniworld books a max of 160 passengers and Viking is closer to 200. Also, Uniworld fares include tips, most shore tours, and bar….including most spirits. The complimentary mini bar and carafes of spirits in your room are tailored to your preferences. Uniworld also includes transfers even if you book alternate transportation. The only requirement is that you meet up with their “standard” transfer points; usually an airport, or possibly a hotel on their pre-post stay itineraries. Passenger demographics: On this cruise they told us there were 114 passengers. We are not sure if that included the several Uniworld “suits” on board to check out cruise #1. Of the “paying” passengers about 30? were travel agents. They pretty much hung together and did not want to talk about their jobs or what special accommodation was made to have them on board. These were mostly women in their 40s. Of the remainder most passengers were couples between 50 and 60. No children. Service: Simply the best we could ever ask for. Each individual—whether one of the 2 butlers assigned to the 6 suites, a server, a housekeeper, or a sailing crew member—always had a smile and a greeting. Every one was willing to help in whatever way they could. As an example of their care, there was even a Uniworld rep at the departure airport. She greeted us as the transfer bus unloaded us at the airport, offering whatever assistance we might need to complete our departing flight arrangements. Food: The menus and presentation were simply top notch. Breakfast and Lunch were mostly buffets. Thankful for these; we could measure our portions to accommodate our senior stomach capacities. Dinner was served with several options for appetizers and main course. The cuisine competes with the finest of any shore restaurant. As an example: the breakfast buffet was more than a buffet. One could also order from the galley any form of eggs cooked to order; including eggs benedict. Room design: We were booked in a regular suite. On board there is one level higher—Royal Suite. There was ample room to move around. The negatives with regard to design are two: First, the outboard horizontal up/down half of the window was clever (the upper half was powered up and down) but the horizontal frame was about at eye level when sitting in the “full” balcony. Call “full” maybe 2’X8’? Second, there are sliding glass doors inboard of the balcony. These doors separate the balcony from the inboard sitting area of the wuite. So picture a balcony 8’ wide with 4 2’ sliding sections. The maximum opening is now 4’. Very annoying to squeeze past them to sit on the balcony. We used the balcony rarely due to the obstructed view. Fortunately the weather was unexpectedly warm and sunny so the outside decks—esp the sun deck—were totally acceptable. Dockage: For 2 of our 7 days/nights there was another ship docked against ours, on our side. Thus for privacy reasons we had the curtains closed, making for a virtual inside cabin. And since the curtains are on the inboard side of the “full” balcony its square footage was not usable. Shore Tours: These were well organized and guided by true professionals. Our Shore Tour Director, Emmanuelle, was a vivacious bundle of energy and information. She handled the stress of the first set of tours for the season with cool and entertaining professionalism. Every night she gave a talk about what to expect on the next day’s tour, including some local sayings/language. Our guide in Viviers ended our tour at her home, where she and a neighbor friend served bread, wine, and cheese! Be sure to try to get on Frances’ tour in Viviers! Shore Tours: Gentle Walking: One of the attractions of Uniworld was its offering of Gentle Walking for its shore tours. On some tours Gentle Walking was treated very well……taxis available to meet at intermediate stops for instance. On other tours Gentle Walking appeared to be an after thought. Some tours had no accommodation for Gentle Walking from the general tour. For example, Emmanuelle described the general tour as “level, with few steps”. But level cobblestone is not the same as level concrete. We rate their Gentle Walking as a nice thought but needs more attention. Program: To our mind the most negative aspect of the cruise was Uniworld’s decision to have unannounced, private, invitation-only parties most nights in the most intimate bar—the Bar du Leopard. This usually included dinner for a dozen or two. It virtually closed that bar/lounge—and thus the general access to the indoor swimming pool—between 7 and 9 each night. Unknowingly, we received this “special” honor one night (This night was for Suite occupants.). We feel guilty because we thought it was a one night only event but now realize that 90 % of the paying passengers were excluded each night. When we complained to the Cruise Director she told us we could use the lounge because “there were only 14 in tonight’s party”. But who wants to be a party crasher? The whole approach just seemed contrary to one of the guiding principles of France: Egalité. As far as we know not everyone was included in one of these soirees. We even know of some who got invitations to more than one. This was the only situation where we felt unwelcome and Uniworld appeared to us to be inhospitable. It is actually sad that the hospitality offered by every Uniworld individual gets tarnished by such an organizational decision. Tips: Even knowing tips were included we did leave some tips for the people who helped us personally the most: the butlers and the housekeeper. Certainly these were nowhere near the amounts one would leave if tips were not included. We never felt the slightest pressure to enhance the included tip schedule.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
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