Uniworld’s New "Super Ship" Antoinette

The S.S. Antoinette—certainly Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s newest ship and arguably its most elegant—has set sail on its 2011 cruise itinerary along the Rhine on 7-night sailings from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland on its Castles Along the Rhine itinerary.

The ship will sail through Germany’s Upper Middle Rhine Valley, spanning approximately 40 miles between Rudesheim and Koblenz, an area that’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site with more than 40 castles perched alongside the river, with vineyard-terraced landscapes vying for attention alongside picture-perfect countryside, as well as the Alsatian Wine Road where passengers will enjoy Rheingau Rieslings at Castle Vollrads, and visit the fairytale city of Strasbourg and tour the majestic cathedral in Cologne.

There’s still another unique offering on the itinerary—the Epicurean Adventure program where the focus is on the food and culinary offerings, as well as the wines. There’s wine tasting, a chocolate cake baking demonstration and some special food and wine pairings at dinner.

But it’s the S.S. Antoinette itself that takes center stage and it’s easy to see why Uniworld executives have taken to calling it the “Super Ship” Antoinette, with its aspirations of a river cruising Versailles, an effort they pretty much hit right on the mark. We’re talking luxurious elegance here with no pretensions, just beautiful design with elements like a blue Strauss 10-ft. Baccarat chandelier with huge sapphires—originally hung in New York’s famed Tavern on the Green—dominating the 2-story lobby, all enhanced by elegant Brazilian marble dressing up the walls and floors and reflected in a 19th century Venetian glass mirror standing guard over the reception desk. And that’s just what you see when you walk in the front door.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the S.S. Antoinette will be the most spectacular river cruise ship in Europe,” Guy Young, president & CEO of Uniworld, promised. “We are very fortunate to have owners who are so invested, personally and financially, in making Uniworld the very best river cruise company.”

And there’s no doubt that this beautiful ship that seems to be sailing straight out of royal French history has some serious investment in it, because it’s Uniworld’s largest and most luxurious ship at 443 ft. long and 37.5 ft. wide. The extra space was created to allow for more spacious staterooms and suites, and at the same time, there will only be a minimal increase in passengers. And it’s easy to see why, with the majority of the 73 staterooms measuring 196 sq. ft., and with 20 staterooms at 163 sq. ft. of space. Eight suites run 294 sq. ft. with one double room Owner’s Suite at 391 sq. ft. Deck 4 suites and stateroom have a really unique feature—you flip a switch, and the suite’s window lowers to a rail level, giving you a balcony within a stateroom, so to speak. Suites on Deck 3 also feature French balconies, which also have windows that can be raised or lowered.

The lavishly appointed riverview staterooms boast made-to-order, handcrafted Savoir of England beds draped in fine linens, a vanity, built-in closets, hair dryer, safe, individual climate-control thermostat, direct-dial telephone, flat-screen TV with satellite, a safe, and bottled water. The marble bathrooms are stocked with L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, backlit magnifying mirrors, plush towels from Christy of England, and cozy waffle bathrobes.

All suites have additional amenities with special butler service, including packing and unpacking assistance, free laundry service, in-room breakfast, daily fruit and cookie plate, slippers, flat-screen TVs with DVD player, Nespresso coffee machine, refrigerator, shoe shine service, bottle of wine upon arrival, and a special dinner in the Bar du Leopard. The Royal Suite offers extra benefits, including an entertainment system and flat-screen TV with satellite. The bathroom has a separate rainshower and tub, a secluded toilet and bidet area, and towel warmer.

There’s a whole list of truly unique features you’re not going to see on other river cruise ships—at least not for awhile. Think indoor heated swimming pool—the first on a river boat, complete with a swimming resistance jet. One of the nicest new features on the ship’s top deck is the enclosed Bar du Leopard, a hot nightspot with a South Africa touch, kind of a sister offering from its Red Carnation Hotels Leopard Lounge and the oh so French L’Orangerie conservatory with its wrought iron tables and chairs, both of which will be serving light breakfast and lunch, and both be retracted into the ship when it passes under low bridges. The top deck also features metal lounging furniture with plush pillows and umbrellas.