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Cruise Ship Information
Onboard the S.S. Antoinette—one of Uniworld's beautiful Super Ships—guests immediately feel as if they've stepped into France's 18th-century Palace of Versailles. The luxurious surroundings feature unique decorative elements and a warm and welcoming ambiance. Fine Brazilian marble adorns the walls and floors and a sparkling 19th-century Venetian glass mirror rests high above the reception desk. The two-story foyer boasts a 10-foot blue Strauss Baccarat chandelier with huge sapphires, a stunning piece that once hung in New York's famous Tavern on the Green.
A collection of carefully selected original artwork can be found throughout this spectacular vessel—including black and white sketches, color lithographs, and oil paintings—created by such acclaimed artists as Humphrey Jennings, John Bellany, and Russian painters Yuri Matushevski and Viktor Templi. Click here to access an online gallery of the art and antiques onboard the S.S. Antoinette.
Atmosphere on board
S.S. Antoinette, river cruise line Uniworld's first-ever new-build, launched in March 2011. The 164-passenger vessel, built at Holland's Shipyard De Hoop, is one of the most innovative ships sailing on Europe's rivers today.
Uniworld's penchant for whimsical and daring interior design (Antoinette, for instance, is based on an interpretation of Marie Antoinette's France), lush cabin appointments, and superb service and cuisine is apparent on all the company's vessels. But creating its first ship from scratch offered the line a chance to innovate, and did it ever.
The Rhine River-based S.S. Antoinette offers a serious wow factor with its new unique-to-river-cruising features, including suites with alcoves that can be converted from glassed-in conservatories to open-air balconies by pushing a switch.
There's also a beautiful 22-seat cinema with Dolby Surround Sound that's atmospherically housed in a room adorned with vintage movie posters. (The requisite popcorn cart is also included in the mix.)
In addition, the vessel's top deck showcases several novel twists. Traditionally, riverboats use their upper decks as observation areas in good weather only; height-wise, they contain no furnishings taller than a chaise lounge so that the vessels can fit under low-slung bridges. For Antoinette, Uniworld has constructed a pair of all-weather rooms: the South Beach-like Leopard Bar (which is a classic lounge tradition in many Red Carnation hotels, a sister company) and the elegant L'Orangerie, an indoor/outdoor dining venue. Both have air conditioning and heating. The reason that Uniworld can build such structures: Their ceilings and windows can collapse on demand if the ship needs to pass under a low bridge.
Another twist: Few riverboats have swimming pools; on Antoinette, there's a glassed-in facility with gorgeous mosaic tiling, a wall of windows and an adjacent spa. Interestingly, the pool serves in another capacity. The few riverboats that have one typically locate them in their midsections, said Patrick Janssens, owner of Shipyard De Hoop, which has been building vessels for more than a century. In Antoinette's case, placing the pool in the rear gives it an operational advantage. With its heavy weight, it creates mass where vibration tends to be a problem, helping to ensure an extra-quiet ride.
Fitness And Spa
As on most Europe riverboats, River Ambassador's gym facilities are token and compact, featuring a couple of machines and a fitball. Yoga was offered each morning on the sun deck.
The ship has a tiny spa, in a converted cabin, offering surprisingly adventurous treatments; a display in the reception promised massages using chocolate or honey products, for example. A 50-minute massage costs €60. 
The ship carries a fleet of bicycles which are lined up in port for individual use; on one occasion, a guided bike tour was offered and was quickly over-subscribed, so more bikes were quickly hauled in from a local rental shop. There are Nordic poles, too, for keen walkers.
Food & Dining
All meals take place in the Restaurant, forward on Moselle deck. It's an elegant room, all done in white and flooded with light. All meals are open seating, although people tended to head for the same places every evening. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style. 
Breakfast, served from 7 to 9 a.m., is an impressive spread, with eggs cooked to order, as well as egg and bacon on the buffet, fresh fruit, cheeses, cereals, pancakes, waffles and juices. Coffee comes from espresso machines; there's one in the lounge, too, with a regular supply of mini-muffins and doughnuts.
Lunch was always a reflection on the region in which we were sailing, in my case, the Rhine, with assorted sausages, German-influenced salads featuring potato and cabbage, schnitzels, black breads and hearty soups. This was presented alongside lighter dishes of salads, pasta, cheeses and cold cuts, as well as a hot dish of the day with vegetables. There's a choice of desserts, as well as fruit and a cheeseboard.
Tea (and pastries) is served midafternoon (usually around 3:30 p.m., depending on the day's tour schedule) in the lounge. 
Dinner is usually at 7 p.m. and goes on till 9, although in reality, most people go to eat as soon as the cruise manager has finished their presentation of the following day's events. In Europe, the food has Mediterranean influences; chicken wrapped in prosciutto, or fish with a cheese risotto. There was a vegetarian dish every night, as well as some always-available items, chicken or steak, for those who prefer their food plainer. Because my cruise was a special family departure, the chef had drawn up a healthy children's menu, with some genuinely creative dishes on it; child-friendly crab cakes, and vegetable tempura, for example.
Waiters pour wine from the region with lunch and dinner and on one night, there was a superb wine-pairing dinner which really showcased the diversity of German wines, from delicate, spicy whites to punchy reds and a magnificent dessert wine. Uniworld's wine buyer was on board and delivered a short presentation about each wine before we tasted it.
Beer and sodas are also offered complimentary for those who don't drink the wine.
Room service is offered only as continental breakfast in the suites; the cabins don't have suitable space for dining.
Entertainment
Almost all shore excursions are included in the price and sometimes there's a choice, so the ship empties during the day. Uniworld uses the Quietvox portable lightweight audio headset system, through which the tour guide communicates via microphone to individual headphones, which means you can wander around and still hear. The excursions were of excellent quality and often included extra treats –- ice creams in Koblenz, a tasting in a local sausage shop, a wine tasting in a winery attached to a castle.
Every evening, the cruise manager gave a talk about the following day and took the time to make sure everybody was happy with their plans. One day, we had a trio come onboard to play light classical tunes after dinner, which was well attended – the only evening people really stayed up.
During the day as the ship was sailing, various events were laid on; informal German lessons one day, and a kaiserschmarrndemonstration on another, the chef assembling a vast pan of pancake pieces fried in butter, tossed in icing sugar and served with plum jam. It's a classic dessert in Germany and Austria. One cabin had been turned into a Wii room for the children on board, with a steady supply of chocolate bars and fruit. On the sundeck, people played giant chess and shuffleboard and on one cloudy afternoon, we lounged in our cabin watching movies from a vast selection.
Staterooms
Cabins come in three categories, and there are four suites. Categories 2 and 3 are on the lower deck (Moselle) and have a picture window, while category 1 cabins are on the upper deck (Rhine) and like the suites, have French balconies. Regardless of category, all accommodation has Savoir of England beds, Egyptian cotton sheets, pillow menu, built-in closets, hair dryer, individual climate-control thermostat, direct-dial telephone, ‘infotainment' centre with flat-screen TV and complimentary movies, bathrobes, bottled water, and safe. Marble-lined bathrooms have power showers with L'Occitane en Provence products.
Additional goodies in the suites include a daily fruit and cookie plate, evening canape; slippers; DVD; iPod docking station; Nespresso coffee machine; bathroom towel warmers; refrigerator; bottle of wine upon arrival; morning coffee and tea; continental breakfast; shoe shine; and free laundry service. 
Furnishings in all cabins are bold and lavishly luxurious, mixing textures and rich, jewel-like colours of scarlets and turquoises with more subtle bronze and grey. The result is stunning. But there were some elements of style over substance. In my suite, there was no wardrobe space to hang a dress (with an upper and lower rail, the lower one got in the way). So I hung my dress inside the bathroom door on a hook helpfully attached to the full-length mirror. There was no soap dish in the shower, either. 
There are no extra berths; although the staterooms are in no way lacking in facilities, there isn't room for a third bed in any. Bring luggage that fits under the bed, as there isn't much spare space unless you opt for a suite.
Tipping
Tips and gratuities including the customary end of trip gratuities/tip for the cruise/tour manager, crew onboard and local guides for the included shore excurions are included in the price of your trip (excluding Optional Extensions)
Fellow Passenger
Passengers are mainly North American with a handful of Brits and Antipodeans. Most were well-travelled and many had never cruised but were regulars on the escorted tour circuit. Uniworld does a couple of family-friendly cruises every year and I was on one of these, so there were a lot of families on board.
Our recommendation
Cruised from Yichang to Chongqing so spent 4 nights on the ship. The ship was new (a year old) so expectedly - everything on board was clean and in good condition. The room was a good size with comfortable beds, a small couch and a balcony. The bathroom was large by cruise ship standard and even had a small tub. Good water pressure too. Room had all the usual amenities except no free wifi. Paid wifi is very slow so just plan on having no wifi and you will be fine.