Last month I had the unique opportunity to experience a first-class river cruise on UniWorld. I have experienced a number of different river cruise lines, but I have to say UniWorld sets itself apart. I went on the Burgundy and Lyon cruise, a 7-night sailing that started in Avignon and ended in Lyon, France aboard the SS Catherine.
The cruise took us up the Rhône and Saône rivers, reveling in the region’s outstanding wine and cuisine, and visiting some amazing treasures, including the UNESCO-designated Avignon, the beautiful village of Arles and the history of Van Gogh, and the culinary capital of Lyon and all its splendor.
What set apart UniWorld from other river cruise lines was first and foremost its ships. The SS Catherine was exquisitely decorated, each room with a unique theme. Our room was a French Balcony room – it was spacious, beautifully decorated with (as the name implies, a wonderful French balcony overlooking the river. The bed was incredibly comfortable, and the bathroom was surprisingly roomy given this was a river cruise ship.
The food was exquisite – each night’s dinner had dishes that were specialties of the region we were in and all of the ingredients were fresh and sourced from local farmers markets. And the on-board Sommelier made sure all of the featured wines of the evening were typical to each specific port of call. You have your choice of eating in the ships main dining room, or making reservations at the Chef’s table – a small, intimate restaurant on the top deck at the front of the ship. There you will experience an unforgettable dinner with a pre-set menu of the chef’s specialties – definitely worth experiencing.
Some of the highlights included a tour of the Palace of the Popes and a self-guided tour of the Pont du Gard Aqueduct in Avignon; a hike through the vineyards in Hermitage accompanied by a wine tasting, followed by indulging in the high-end chocolates of Valrhona; a beautiful tour through some of the vineyards of Burgundy, Beane and Les Hospices; and a gastronomic city tour in Lyon ending with an afternoon in the Hales de Paul Bocuse , a bucket list item for any food lover where you can sample some of the freshest local produce, pate, cheeses, cakes, breads, chocolates, sausages, charcuterie, meats, fish, shellfish – your selection is endless.
The size of the ship, only 150 passengers, afforded us the unique opportunity to meet many new people and make new friends – friends that we continue to keep in touch with. The intimacy of the vessel, luxury accommodations, top-notch itinerary, and the care and dedication of the Cruise Director and the entire crew made this a truly unforgettable experience. And what’s even better is that other than surcharges for a few of the higher end excursions, everything is included in the cost of your room – cruise, drinks, tips. You will be at ease knowing when you disembark, you won’t be faced with a huge bill.