The Royal Treatment With Uniworld
After a 30-minute walk from my hotel in the drizzle along Leystapel to Konrad Adenauer Ufer alongside a flotilla of other Rhine River cruise brands, I arrive at my ship, Uniworld's SS Antionette. It is a vision in white and tasteful blue neon.
I am greeted by elaborate Christmas decorations and Peter at check-in. The swift, seamless passage on board only requires a sighting of my passport.
After a few more welcomes by the staff, Anastaysia walks me to my balcony cabin, while outlining everything I need to know. All staff seem friendly and I sense a genuineness in their positive demeanours.
Having made sure my bag reached my opulent French baroque-styled cabin, I head out to explore the rest of the ship.
First stop: the bar. I'm not inspired by the sparkling Riesling that's included in the package, but I do adore the bar staff Diana (Romanian) and Deysana (Hungarian). Diana doesn't drink, but knows her way around the cocktail station. She practically rules the Leopard Lounge, which is itself an amazing feature of the ship.
However, that first night is all about Denes, a talented and receptive Bar Manager who concocts everyone's drinks to order. He insists on using Cointreau with a dash of Grand Marnier instead of Triple Sec for the margaritas. I'm convinced he's a cocktail genius.
The food on our first night is made up of scallops, steak and two salads, Caesar and noodle. Wine at dinner changes with the region we are cruising through, with German wines showcased during the first night.
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Breakfast the next morning is lovely with incredible service. I pop into the gym afterwards for about 40 minutes to use the equipment, which is basic and functional. I survive the sweat-out happy to have staved off the cruising kilos for one more day.
I then manage a few laps in the glass-roofed pool, before using the jet-powered resistance machine to give myself a much-need challenge. There is a secret rectangular window below the water surface, which allows me to see the rear of the ship.
I make use of the self-service laundry on Deck 2, which has all modern Meile machines along with ironing facilities. Laundry bags were also available for those who prefer to venture than remain tied to laundry duties.
The second night revolves around the welcome gala ball, which is a fun and entertaining affair with everyone dressed smartly, but not too formally.
The shore excursions are very well organised, which is just another area where the staff perform higher than any standard I have ever encountered. Back on board, the entertainment is primarily duets and piano tunes. One night involves 80s music, which gets everyone dancing. In keeping with the season, the staff also perform Christmas carols.
Strasbourg as a destination is the highlight, followed closely by Heidelberg, which is a worthwhile day trip from the port.
Morning stretch classes, yoga and Aqua aerobics are for the keen with a 7.30am start. I manage to get there five out of the seven mornings, much to the delight of the instructor, Ionela.
It is difficult to leave SS Antionette after being treated like a queen. I wish for reality to wait just a little longer and to someday return to one of Uniworld's ships.
Words: Michael Davis-Smith, Assistant Manager, Cruiseabout Rose Bay, NSW
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