If you’ve been following the blog, you know that Tom and I went on a Bordeaux river cruise aboard the Uniworld River Royale back in May and had a spectacular time discovering all that the Bordeaux area had to offer. Put simply, the boat was like a luxurious boutique hotel on the water complete with top-notch staff, food and activities. But what surprised me about our France river cruise?
7 Surprising things about our Uniworld France river cruise
If you asked me about river cruising a couple of years ago back when I lived in New York, I’d think you were talking about Hudson River dinner cruises or some other type of tourist experience that lasts a couple of hours. Or maybe in Paris, a Seine wine and cheese ride. I didn’t know that luxury river cruises aboard vessels that’ll become your home for the week even existed until a friend went on one and raved about it. Put simply a Uniworld river cruise is an experience like no other. A five-star hotel on water complete with awesome service and food and a front row seat to some of the best views of the world’s favorite cities.
Want to know more about our France river cruise experience? You can see what we did on our Bordeaux France river cruise here. >>
So let’s get to it…
Here are 7 things that surprised me on our France river cruise:
1. Uniworld provides a truly all-inclusive experience.
All food and drinks are included, as well as gratuities. I repeat, tips are included! No one wants to hassle with tips on vacation, right? And no pesky extra charges either. Forget about paying more for top shelf alcohol or specialty food options. Any cocktail, wine, soft drink or meal on the menu is included in the price of your cruise. This takes the guesswork out of things and allows you to enjoy your vacation worry free.
The all-inclusive experience was especially appreciated by Tom, who finds the whole process of tipping in the US a tad bewildering. The price you pay for the cruise is all-inclusive and that really does mean that everything is included. Forget about setting aside a few hundred euros in tips or to settle your bill for the end of your cruise.
2. The service is impeccable.
From the details in the stateroom to dietary restrictions to the staff’s expertise and willingness to go the extra mile, you know from the moment you step on the ship that this is a luxury experience. Uniworld’s six-star river cruising experience is deserving of every star. I expected the service to be great but great is an understatement. The staff even sought out fragrance-free bath products from a local French shop off the boat for me due to an allergy I have — and not just one little soap but a body wash, two bars of soap and shampoo. The level of service surprised me in the best possible way!
3. Internet on board was free.
A major perk was that the internet on board including Wi-Fi in the staterooms was free of charge. It came in handy for keeping in touch with friends and family and posting pics on Instagram and Facebook, and I never had any connectivity issues. For internet obsessives such as myself, it was nice to take a load off in your stateroom while surfing the web or in a comfy lounge seat with a view. And the snacks and beautiful decor were a nice added touch.
4. The staff will know your name and use it often.
Every time I heard a staff member interact with a guest, it was by name. Whether you were returning from an excursion or sitting down to eat, the staff knew your name and greeted you with a smile. You’ll be one of only 150 guests so you’ll get personalized attention. The dining room staff was particularly good at knowing everyone’s names and it really made you feel like a valued guest just cruising and eating among friends.
5. The food was absolutely spectacular.
Uniworld is all about providing guests with a world-class dining experience and they wholeheartedly delivered. Before cruising, I’d heard about how great the food is aboard Uniworld river cruises and they really nailed it when it came to dining. We were treated to fine dining nightly complete with an impressive wine list and even the more casual options at lunch were outstanding. Not only was the presentation worthy of a Michelin-starred restaurant, but the quality of the food made with locally-sourced ingredients and menu selection never disappointed. Our nightly dinner was something we looked forward to and left our taste buds and stomachs more than satisfied. The menus featured local, regional and seasonal specialties that always included a meat, fish and vegetarian option. I unfortunately don’t have many great pictures of the food because the lighting wasn’t great in the dining room but wow is all I can say.
6. We weren’t the youngest on board.
River cruises tend to attract cruisers who are my parents’ age and older. I knew this beforehand and that was a positive for me, but as it turns out we weren’t the youngest on the ship! There were actually a handful of us in the under-40 crowd. We befriended a woman cruising with her stepmom, another girl in her 20s who was traveling with her grandma and a young travel agent who was learning the family business. The other guests were so much fun and age didn’t stop us from socializing with the 60+ crowd nor did it stop them from interacting with us. Many of our dining companions each evening were all around 70 years old and we laughed and enjoyed ourselves despite the age difference. Many of them stayed up later (and drank more) than we did. Age truly is just a number.
7. The other passengers were really social and outgoing.
We talked to just about everyone! It’s not that I thought everyone would stick to themselves, but I figured we’d meet a few groups of people and socialize here and there. Of course all the passengers on board were polite and said hi to each other but it went beyond that and we socialized with most of the ship — sometimes until well after midnight up on the sundeck with a cocktail in hand! Tom was kind of like a celebrity in that he was the only French passenger and would answer passengers’ questions on all things French that might have come up on a tour. He was a total hit and many of the older ladies got a kick out of him. 😉 In our down time, we’d walk around, chat up fellow guests and found that people came from far and wide and were happy to get to know us. By the time our river cruise was over, I think I knew the names of at least 70% of the ship’s passengers, where they were from, what they did for work, etc. Memories of our river cruise will stay with me for life.
For more, check out a day-by-day look at our Bordeaux, France river cruise here. >>