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River Royale
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River Royale
Reviewed by Kathy Hanser
A cruise review of Uniworld River Royale in Europe
 
 
 
Uniworld Review  
My Uniworld Cruise  

 
by Kathy Hanser
May 2012
 
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I traveled solo on Uniworld's River Royale ship to Provence and Burgundy in May 2012. The trip could not have been better.

The ship is beautiful -- very elegant decor and all brand-new this cruise season (2012). In the lobby, there is a striking mosaic of Provence scenes behind the reception desk, lots of mirrors that make everything seem larger, and a golden chandelier. The Cezanne Dining Room is lovely, with a blue and white color scheme, more mirrors, and large picture windows. It has large round tables for six or eight, and tables for four along the edges, so you can be sociable at a big table or sit at a table for 2-4. The lounge/bar is plush with love seats and chairs. There is a piano there, and the pianist played during 4:00 tea time and in the evening after dinner. Anything you order in the lounge you pay extra for, so be careful. Everything elsewhere is included in the cruise cost, including wine with meals, which flowed freely.

My room (107) was small, with tone-on-tone decor, and a very plush bed. It was very comfortable. Tiny rooms are to be expected on a river cruise, so I'm not complaining. There was plenty of storage space though: two big drawers under the bed, a large closet with at least five shelves and space for hanging items on good wooden hangers, and a large drawer under the bathroom sink. There is an umbrella, a hair dryer, plenty of high quality L'Occitane toiletries, and a safe.

My room was on the Champagne Deck. It's actually the bottom deck, but the rooms are exactly like the ones mid-deck only with two portholes instead of a picture window. I never found myself feeling claustrophobic without the picture window, and felt enough light came in. I can't see paying $500 more for a big window. There was no noise from the engines, which I worried about beforehand.

The people at the front desk are a mixture of nationalities, the captain is French, and the rest of the staff are mostly from Eastern Europe. Everyone spoke English well. They were a terrific group -- unfailingly polite and friendly. It doesn't seem forced or unnatural. I think they enjoy their jobs. One waiter I had the most is from Poland; his name is Jakub. He had a wry, low-key sense of humor and gave great service. The maitre d', Marius, is a real riot and full of personality, very cheerful, and hysterically funny. No task was beneath him. Our hotel manager, Aniko, was in training but did an outstanding job. Our tour manager, Alexandra, was very efficient and knowledgeable. Nothing ever went wrong.

Passengers were from all over -- South Africa, Australia, the UK, Japan, and lots of Canadians and Americans. There were two other solo women travelers at my table the first night, so I wasn't the only one. I made friends with all the passengers easily and never felt alone. I think 99% of the passengers were over 40, which is not a bad thing, since I'm over 40 myself. Many people were confirmed river-cruise lovers and repeat Uniworld customers.

The local tour guides were fantastic -- the complete package. Uniworld provides listening devices on the tours. They are great; you don't have to stay right next to the guide but can wander through a church, for instance, and still hear the guide.

The food was fabulous. The breakfast buffet offers everything anyone could want, hot or cold, including an omelet station. Lunch was also buffet style and equally good. Dinner was always a four-course delight, with a good selection to choose from. If you don't like the offerings, you can get a plain steak or chicken. One night there was an Epicurean Delight with special wines for each course.

The destination -- Provence and Burgundy -- was wonderful to me. I saw small towns I never would visit on my own. I loved the Van Gogh sites in Arles, being a fan of him. I highly recommend the optional tour to the olive farm and Les Baux.  Les Baux is a town perched on a rock and was a unique, interesting experience with good shopping and views. It is the only optional tour I took. Besides Arles, Beaune was another highlight for me.

All in all, a terrific time!

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