Castles on the Rhine

Written by  Sue Shapiro

EUROPE Castles
Recently, I had the opportunity to cruise the Rhine River onboard Uniworld’s river boat, the Antoinette. Like so many of you, I’ve been on lots of cruises, both ocean and river. I knew my travel agent friends would expect me to tell them what I thought about the experience, so for all seven days I ate, drank, went sightseeing, mingled with other guests and participated in the activities. It was Uniworld’s attention to detail made this cruise exceptional.
What does “Attention To Detail” mean? What does such attention mean to a passenger’s enjoyment of the trip? How does Uniworld stand out in this category? Let’s take a look....

Yes, I know you’re wondering why start at the end instead of the beginning? Because passengers remember what happens near the end of a trip more than at the beginning. Unlike a large cruise ship, leaving the Antoinette in Amsterdam was as smooth as glass, and I believe it was because Uniworld paid attention to detail. My favorite part of departure was not having to pack my suitcase and leave it outside the cabin the night before. They collect your luggage at your convenience, not theirs. Breakfast wasn’t a scaled down rushed version at 4am, but was the regular delicious fare, at your convenience. You didn’t have to lug your bags off the ship. The entire crew was enlisted to help and they were cheerful about it.

Your Home Away From Home
Lots of ships do the Rhine River Cruise so how does Uniworld differ and demonstrate it’s celebrated attention to detail on the Antoinette? The one word that applies to staterooms and suites is comfort. Everything is geared to making your stay in the room as, if not more, comfortable than your home.
The queen-sized bed (or convertible twin) is covered with a beautiful spread made of the finest fabric, and the most luxurious sheets are used. Towels in the bathroom are fluffy and plush and changed multiple times a day. There, you will also enjoy the finest of toiletries. The large TV offers CNN and other channels that make Americans abroad feel comfortable. And the floor-to-ceiling windows onto the river create unforgettable frames for castles and villages along the Rhine as the Antoinette quietly and calmly passes scene after scene.

The Antoinette as a Five-Star Boutique Hotel
Boutique hotels are defined as small properties with exceptional service (attention to detail) and high-end amenities. The Antoinette exceeds these standards with choices. With a small swimming pool and a well-equipped gym, guests have a variety of ways to spend their time onboard. With two bars, a lounge for entertainment and two restaurants, you might wonder how this can all fit so well on a ship with fewer than 150 passengers.
Options are the key to not just satisfying, but making mealtimes on the Antoinette an unforgettable experience. Uniworld’s attention to detail means that the chefs go shopping in the nearby markets nearly every day for local products. Farms along the riverbanks supply the boat with the freshest of ingredients, ensuring the tastiest selections. Wines served on board are sourced at local vineyards (including organic choices), meaning guests get the benefits of local and continental options.
Breakfast and lunch are a combination of buffet items with delicious dishes and sit down service...a lot of options. For a gourmet five-course pre-set dining degustation, make reservations in the sun deck dining room (no extra charge) for superb food and 6-star service.
Meeting new people is always a highlight of any trip, especially a cruise. But how do you handle the awkward situation as to who’s turn it is to buy drinks for the table or bar before or after dinner? It’s a problem on most ships, but not on Uniworld. A Uniworld cruise covers that problem: 99% of the beverages, soft and hard, are included. No one has to say, “It’s my turn to pay,” because it never is.

the Sites Along The Rhine
How does the Antoinette distinguish herself when the Rhine itinerary for most riverboats turn out to be quite similar? Again, it is Uniworld’s attention to detail. A good guide can make or break a tour. When you employ only the best, chances are the guest’s experience will be better. Not only do they split the sightseeing passengers into manageable groups, but each person has their own listening device so you can be 20 feet away and still hear the guide perfectly. Every day, one or two sightseeing excursions are included (no extra cost). Want to do more? There are several trips on the daily menu giving passengers more options for carefully crafted destination adventures.

Uniworld’s Staff
Starting with the reservation agents, travel advisors will find Uniworld’s staff to be knowledgeable and willing to go out of their way to be helpful. The ground personnel at the airport and people who manage the hotel transfers ensure that passengers are looked after and made to feel welcome and assured. Onboard, the Hotel Manager, the Cruise Director and Food and Beverage Manager are always in view, making sure every passenger has what he or she needs. They interact with passengers, and handle  any potential problems before they occur. Housekeepers keep the staterooms spotless, greeting guests with a smile and a “How can I help you?” attitude.
As I emphasized to my travel agent colleagues, I maintain that your clients will come away from a Uniworld Cruise appreciating all facets of the trip, but remembering most the attention to detail they experienced, and will credit you for recommending the Uniworld experience.

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