Drawing on the Court of Versailles as inspiration, Antoinette sets new standards of luxury and comfort in river cruising
With a name like Antoinette, Uniworld’s newest river boat could only look like something out of the Court of Versailles.And it does. The thick drapes, chintzy furnishings and period chairs propel you straight back to late 18th-century France and pre-revolutionary times.The vessel is a true work of art, love and dedication by the designer, who gave her name – Antoinette – to the vessel, and also happens to be the daughter of Uniworld’s owners Stanley and Beatrice Tollman.
I never thought I’d say “wow” about a river cruise boat, but I did on Antoinette.
From the spectacular chandelier in the atrium (it used to be in the Tavern on the Green in New York’s Central Park) to the lavish furnishings, the mosaics, the sheer attention to detail, it really does make you stop in your tracks.
Check in was super fast. I gave my name at reception, they gave me a key and a steward showed me my cabin.
All cabins have the Louis Quinze look, with varying degrees of chintz. Mine was resplendent with drapes; others were more restrained. Suites have an unusual indoor balcony, with veranda-style seating by floor-to-ceiling
windows that open halfway at the touch of a switch, but from the top down rather than side to side.
My cabin was one category below the suites, but an OK size nonetheless. It had the same opening window, but no faux balcony. It was fine, but I prefer traditional French windows that open from side to side onto a railing – the so-called Juliette balconies – and allow you to lean out.
Top marks go to the bed, which was über-comfy, and the spacious marble-finished bathrooms with luxurious L’Occitane toiletries.
Crew were polite, effi cient and smiling, and greeted passengers by name. They went out of their way to be helpful, even going in search of my favourite white wine when it wasn’t on offer at dinner (Uniworld serves free wine with evening meals).
Many of the dishes on the menu came from Beatrice Tollman’s recipe book and were excellent – not gourmet fussy but very tasty. Bea’s Summer Lodge Sheppard’s Pie one dinner and chicken pies one lunchtime were to die for. 8/10
Vary by cruise but might include history lectures and evening shows with local dancers or musicians.
All river cruise boats have a dining room and lounge, and many have a massage room too. Antoinette goes several steps further with a funky leopard-look top-deck nightclub, a gorgeous indoor spa pool with floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, two massage rooms and a cinema, adorned with film posters, where they even serve popcorn when the flicks are on.
One excursion a day is included in the cruise price. The cruise manager outlines the itinerary the evening before,
detailing toilet stops and any difficult walking. Guides use a Quietvox system, so passengers don’t have to push close to hear what’s being said.
Antoinette certainly lifts the bar in terms of river cruising, bringing exciting new features that I reckon folk in their 40s, as well as the river cruise norm of 60-plus, will love. The décor is a bit over the top,but love it or hate it, you have to admire it and the fact that they have dared to be so different. From my experience, Americans love it, the British tolerate it.
FINAL VERDICT: 79%
★ Tonnage Not registered
★ Length 135 m
★ Beam 11.4 m
★ On-board currency Euro
★ Passenger decks Three plus sun deck
★ Passengers 164
★ Crew 56
★ Cabins 70
★ Suites 9
★ Disabled access Lift
★ Contact Tel: 0845 678 8558, uniworldrivercruises.co.uk