Uniworld’s River Royale Sailing In France In The Lap Of Luxury
by Vanessa Lee
Enjoying River Royale's Blue Fox Café in Bordeaux.
Uniworld's River Royale
Wine tasting in the Claret Room
Doru, River Royale's Maitre d' preparing our selection of luncheon beverages
I recently had the distinct
pleasure of sailing on Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection's River
Royale, a ship I knew, but on an itinerary that was a first for me. We cruised
round-trip from Bordeaux through the area's wine region on 3 rivers, the
Gironne, Dordogne and Garonde. This itinerary covers such storied regions and
vineyards as Margaux, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau d'Yquem, Pauillac,
Sauternes and more. It was a decadent week of many wine tastings,
savouring fine vintages, eating far too much fois gras and other regional
delicacies and being utterly spoiled by Uniworld.
I absolutely love this river
line, rank it as one of the best in class and would compare it to
Seabourn (another brand I adore) in the ocean cruising category. Their name is a bit of a
mouthful but it sums up what Uniworld is bent on achieving as a company – that of a
small, fabulous boutique offering their "Collection" of exquisite and
stunning river ships - some new and some very beautifully refurbished.
This is a company at the top of
their game offering an impeccable experience and here are just some of my
perceived reasons why.
All of their staff are
long-standing employees of the company who have received the finest training in
hotel and shipboard services and management. Their collective desire is to
offer superb and intuitive service –
which is also anticipatory, kind and friendly. The
attention to detail is impressive as are the furnishings, the decor, the well-chosen objets d'art, the lighting, flowers (everywhere and always white) art, use of mirrors and more.
However, as for any intimate
ship or hotel experience it is the small, thoughtful touches that combine to
make the difference and raise the bar - thus creating a great brand.
Uniworld is not an inexpensive
proposition and is all-inclusive so the price of entry may seem high to some,
but it is more than worth the price. I love the all-inclusive concept overall
and find the onboard experience is seamless and just better. One added factor was that gratuities are not just
included for onboard staff but also to the drivers and guides for the shore
excursions – a nice touch.
The River Royale accommodates
130 very happy guests but with just one
drawback - the staterooms although well-designed and comfy are small in
size. They do have all the amenities and I
particularly like the pull out drawers in the bathrooms but it's a bit of a
The ship itself was totally
refurbished before moving to Bordeaux and one of its best features is the
unique Blue Fox Café for dinners and the occasional light lunch. This is a glass-enclosed spot on deck (also with daytime
al fresco seating) and we enjoyed a casual buffet lunch where I picked my own
basil for my freshly-made Margarita pizza. It was here, that Doru the
impressive Maitre d' made us all tasty, summer cocktails after returning from a
winery visit. It seemed incongruous at the time but it was lovely to have a
blender drink and a pizza on deck in the spring sunshine.
On another day we had a really
excellent dinner in the Blue Fox which holds about 30 people and which must be
reserved ahead of time. A chef and several servers take care of all needs and
dining on the top deck watching the sun set was delightful.
The food overall is delicious,
beautifully presented and top-notch in quality (the executive chef on the ship
is from Bordeaux) and the wide-ranging menu choices, along with the lunch
buffets are outstanding. We had 3 dining choices – Le Bordelais main
restaurant; the reservations only Claret Room (also used for wine-tastings) and
the Blue Fox. One can also enjoy small lunchtime bites in the Gascogne Lounge.
Here are some small touches
which resonated with me and which I note as “ the boutique difference". There
were 3 electrical outlets in each stateroom – British, U.S. and European, water
served in a carafe and changed twice daily and each guest was given a metal
water bottle also to be refilled for daily outings (no plastic bottles to be
recycled) and there was a delightful dish of tasty bonbons – again replenished
and noted as to one's preferences.
A daily lemonade was always
available in the lounge – with mint, strawberry, rosemary, ginger and cucumber
flavours – all delicious - plus unsweetened ice tea, freshly squeezed OJ and
small cloth napkins to accompany the drinks and sweet treats or cookies always
In the future I will write more
about this Bordeaux itinerary and how to sell it along with more
thoughts on this fabulous river brand. I am off on a Windstar cruise next week
to visit Malta (my 90
th country – finally!) along with stops in
Sicily and the Amalfi. I return to Rome - one of my favourite cities - and will
dine at San'gallo – my restaurant of choice there. Stay tuned…