• David Natale

It's Simply Better All Around

Updated: Jun 14

I just returned from a fantastic journey with Uniworld and can't wait to tell you about it!


As some of you know, I have been extremely disappointed over the past 9 months with the line I had formerly dedicated myself to which prompted me to announce an end to my "exclusive" cooperation with them and start bringing my groups and guests to some of the great lines that are out there.


As a result, I not only joined a fantastic travel consortium that grants my guests spectacular access to the world's best travel providers at extraordinary rates and with lots of special extras, but some of the best lines in the world have been beating down my door to get me and the Royal Court to come on their ships.


One of the first was Uniworld, who invited me to sail with them this past April in a "blind test" and no one on board knew who I was or that I had already cruised their competitor some 50+ times. Truly.


Starting out with a Thank You


Now I could not begin this review without sending out a very special thanks to one of the Princes of the Waterways... Rik, cruise manager extraordinaire who not only let the powers that be at Uniworld know about me, but was instrumental in creating this great new partnership! He even took the time out of his busy sailing (and wedding planning) schedule to come and welcome me onto the River Princess even though he wasn't working my sailing. His great instagram feed is also one of the things that attracted my attention to what we were missing out on... so Rik.. THANK YOU! (Uniworld should thank you, too, since I am already selling guests on your wonderful trips thanks to you!)


No One Leaves or Arrives Hungry

Whereas some lines have gotten rid of welcome food or snacks entirely (or reduced them to embarrassingly bad packaged cookies or soggy white bread sandwiches) Uniworld impressed the HELL out of me from the very first moments. I had boarded early with the intention of getting some work done while waiting for my traveling friends to arrive.


I had no sooner met two nice Australian gents who were departing that day when my butler came into the lounge to escort me... and them... to the dining room for a welcome lunch.


Welcome Lunch? What???? Goodbye lunch? What what???

It seems Uniworld has a motto, "no one stays or leaves hungry" and they have a welcome/ goodbye lunch to nourish weary travelers who have just arrived or those who have still yet to depart. My new Australian friends had a later pick-up and it seems lunch was for everyone! That was an unexpected and welcome touch.


The Ship Decor


Now a lot has been said about Uniworld decor... and while the over the top, fun, and completely unique ship designs might lead people to think that Uniworld is a stuffy atmosphere, all I could think when I got on board was HOW FUN IS THIS?


Each ship is designed for the rivers they sail, the thing that struck me most about being onboard was that "THIS FEELS LIKE VACATION". There is nothing ordinary or boring on the Uniworld ships, you do not see the same repetitive pieces of art on the wall, and the goal of the interiors is to mimic the welcoming feel of luxurious boutique hotels. Sure, it might not be what you'd do in your living room at home, but it sure felt FUN walking around the ship looking at all the pieces including an original Picasso and featured piece by Julian Schnabel (which strongly influences this ship's black and white art deco meets Classic Hollywood decor).


Now I will be honest and tell you I was a little concerned with that green lounge when I saw the brochure, but it was stunning and pretty in person. The whole ship has wonderful places to sit and relax, quiet corners and little escapes.. and yet everywhere you go there was a feeling of warmth and class. I really, really liked it for my stay on board.


Of all the things that I liked the most was the placement of the dining room! Instead of sitting in dungeon-like darkness with the curtains often pulled closed, Uniworld places its restaurants on the top deck, ensuring that the majority of tables are directly up against windows so that you KNOW you are on a river cruise and you can actually enjoy the sites you came to see.


It was bright, open, and airy, and even the few tables in the middle of the restaurant had plenty of space and great views. I also enjoyed not feeling crammed like sardines and the servers could reach each guest to serve properly. As a result, each meal felt calm, special, and like being in a high-end restaurant.

I travelled with two travel agent friends who shared the same opinions... it was a night and day difference and we couldn't wait to get to the dining room each day to choose a different spot to see how it felt, if one area was better than the other, etc. In the end, we all agreed there is not a bad seat in the house... which is great because the food and service deserve a spotlight!


The Rooms


The first and MOST important thing to say about Uniworld rooms is that they have the most comfortable beds I have ever experienced on a cruise. Now a friend of mine wrote me after I had posted a picture of one of the rooms to ask if the beds were lumpy or sagging because it appeared so in the photo? NOPE! Those are just the super snuggly duvets with their ample plush. The beds (and pillow menus that go along with them) were a dream to sleep in each night: literally.


All of the rooms are comfortable and well laid out with original art and color coordination that matches the category booked. Suites are each unique and extremely well appointed.


Not only did my suite come with a butler who did EVERYTHING for me from polishing my shoes, unpacking and ironing my clothes (per guest wishes), bringing me morning coffee and pre-breakfast in bed, snacks in the afternoon, and making sure that I had anything and everything I might need, the suite itself was packed: a stocked fridge with juices, soft drinks mixers, and a variety of spirits (gin, vodka, rum, etc.), glass jars full of freshly baked cookies, gummy bears, a fruit plate (changed twice per day), a private coffee maker with a dozen or so capsules, a box of high quality tea, crystal decanters with scotch, gin, and brandy and every day a special treat was brought at 4pm. It made me kind of embarrassed to have ever used the word "suite" on former trips when compared to what Uniworld provides in theirs.



One of the things I had noticed from the very beginning when I first started looking at Uniworld was that they only have French balconies instead of step out balconies. Then I remembered that so far in all of my 50+ former cruises the only time I ever actually used my balcony was for an average of 5-10 minutes per cruise since most of the times we are either docked right up against another ship (making it a wasted, unused expense) or out exploring. I very, very rarely sat on my balcony to watch the world go by when we were sailing and quite frankly, I can do that just as easily with a french balcony. So I did not miss it one iota. I actually appreciated how Uniworld incorporated the space into things that I actually could enjoy every day, all day.


Now I do realize that not everyone can or will take a suite on their sailing, but what makes me very happy to know is that when you do treat yourself with that extra upgrade, Uniworld will make sure that you are treated like KINGS & QUEENS as you should be!


The service was also impeccable!

Perhaps you have heard that many cruise lines are having trouble re-hiring staff since the placement companies and outsourcing employment agencies let so many go during Covid.

On my recent cruises since July so many people were new and with such a low level of English or training that I observed guests who gave up waiting for simple requests like another tea or coffee and could only look on in wonder as basic requests went awry.


Well, Uniworld does not have that problem. Uniworld employees work directly for Uniworld and most have been there for years and years / unlike those lines that contract workers and shuffle them between different lines. It makes such a difference.


On my recent Uniworld Princess cruise, the contrast to the other ship I had been on the week before was glaringly apparent... and I was not the only guest who had been on both vessels and we shared the opinion. The Uniworld staff were world class. 5 star. As close to perfect as it gets. We had to ask them to stop brining us things on Uniworld whereas the week prior was an exercise in patience and forgiveness: not something someone should have to do when paying a lot of money for a great vacation!



Food Porn... served with delicious signature cocktails.

Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words I am going to simply let you know that it was even BETTER than it looks and it was nice to not have to make excuses for the quality- It was consistently amazing and I can not give them high enough marks for the fabulous dining experiences we had every time we entered the restaurant. It was what one expects and hopes for when taking such a trip.


Atmosphere

Some of my guests have written to ask "Uniworld looks fancy, will I be comfortable? Is it stuffy?"


Those are honest and appropriate questions. I know that a large number of my guests don't want to have to dress up or bring a lot of extra things that they will only wear once.

So my answer is... "You can be you on Uniworld with no apology or explanation needed".

As I watched the guests during the week I had my eye open for a couple of things: dress and behaviour... and never once did I feel like my guests who have travelled with me all these years would be anything but welcomed and made to feel at ease. The same relaxed atmosphere in regards to dress code existed on Uniworld that I have always enjoyed anywhere else.

Sure, some folks dressed up a little for the Captain's party... a few gents even had coats and we saw a few ties. Yet we also saw jeans and khakis and the comfort basics mixed among them and no one raised an eyebrow or said/did anything to make anyone else feel singled out. It is your vacation after all... so just scan this video to get a feel for it.


Also, everyone was friendly, open and welcoming. Uniworld has a pretty big past passenger following and they actually LOVED that there were new faces. I heard so many different people saying "Oh wow, welcome! This is our XXth Uniworld cruise and you are going to really enjoy it. Come sit with us".


Truly... we also felt a little bad that we declined so many invitations because literally everyone we met asked us to sit with them for a drink or to dine with them that there just weren't enough meals or happy hours to say yes to everyone.



I could go on and on about my experience... but why not just come with me next year and find out for yourself!??


I am thrilled that my 29 Day German Adventure is using Uniworld Queen and Princess for this bucket list adventure on the Rhine, Main & Moselle! You can do the 12 Day Rhine & Moselle leg from Frankfurt to Baden Baden, the 12 Day Rhine & Holland Jewish Heritage sailing or all 29 Days and see for yourself!



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