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Cruise Ship Information

Uniworld proudly welcomes the stunningly sophisticated S.S. Catherine to its award-winning collection of boutique river cruise ships, a vessel fittingly named in honor of the beautiful and legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve. Designed with the unique signature touches for which Uniworld is known, this ultra-luxurious Super Ship marks the debut of an entirely new category of river cruising.
The magnificent 443-foot, 159-passenger S.S. Catherine was many years in the making, meticulously engineered and lavishly decorated with exquisitely crafted furnishings, hand-selected antiques, original paintings, and an indoor swimming pool with an intricate mosaic tile backsplash. The S.S. Catherine also showcases an extensive art collection and many other opulent touches, including a hand blown Murano glass chandelier and life-size glass horse that were specially commissioned for the ship.
Please visit the Media Articles section of this website to read about S.S. Catherine's star-studded christening ceremony with the ship's honorary godmother, French actress Catherine Deneuve, and her inaugural 2014 cruise.
Atmosphere on board
S.S. Catherine, the latest new-build to join Uniworld's fleet, is absolutely unique, which is exactly what the company intends. Unlike river cruise companies that emphasize identical vessels, Uniworld takes the opposite approach to decor and design, ensuring that all ships have individual personalities. For S.S. Catherine, which was christened by Catherine Deneuve, the image is elegant, comfortable, colorful and whimsical.
From its home port in Lyon, the 159-passenger ship travels to Burgundy and through Provence on France's Rhone River. The second new-build for Uniworld (though the line is constantly refurbishing ships), S.S. Catherine has some similarities in layout and decor to S.S. Antoinette, which debuted in 2012. In both cases, a unique-to-Uniworld cabin design means that some staterooms have private balconies and French verandahs (one nifty new touch on S.S. Catherine is the addition of a screen to keep flies away). The ships' art collections are stellar, and they each have a real swimming pool, which is fairly unusual on the rivers.
Uniworld is part of the family-owned Travel Corporation, which operates 24 different travel companies, ranging from Trafalgar to Contiki Holidays to Red Carnation Hotels. The Tollman family is very hands on in terms of creating the unique ambiences onboard its ships; S.S. Catherine's designers were Mrs. Beatrice Tollman, the family matriarch, her daughter Toni Tollman, and Brian Brennan. The ambience reminds us of a super-luxurious country house hotel. No costs were spared in outfitting it with silk wall coverings, lavish furnishings, and a compelling and beautifully curated art collection (don't miss the contrasting green Murano chandelier or the fabulous waterfall that encircles the glass elevator).
Also unforgettable on S.S. Catherine is the Bar du Leopard. Taking multi-functional to a new level, the lounge serves as the ship's secondary eatery, dance venue and chill-out space. It is clubby and yet also funky, thanks to the leopard-print fabrics, elephant-head bar rails and other safari-themed fixtures.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Bar du Leopard is its glassed-in swimming pool. Because low-slung bridges on the Rhone River limit sun deck features, S.S. Catherine's pool has been spared nothing, and the result is a gorgeous space. In keeping with the lounge's jungle theme, it has a lush, garden-esque mosaic tile mural.
Uniworld also considers creature comforts as important as design. Cabins, in particular, are reminiscent of top-notch hotels, with custom-made Savoir of London beds, fabric-covered walls, and marble bathrooms with heated floors and towel racks, and really roomy showers.
The 80 cabins, in eight categories, are situated on three decks. The majority of staterooms measure between 162 and 194 square feet. There are five suites forward on the upper Camargue Deck that measure 305 square feet. The Royal Suite, on the same deck, measures 410 square feet. The largest suite has a separate living room and a bathroom with a rain shower and bathtub.
All the suites and Category One cabins, also on the upper deck, have balconies. The two Category Two staterooms here have French balconies. Cabins on the middle Avignon Deck feature French balconies. The 13 cabins on the lower Saint Remy Deck, which include one single cabin, have fixed windows.
Standard cabin amenities include a marble bathroom with L'Occitane products, towel warmer, bathrobe and slippers, hair dryer, safe, flat-screen TV and complimentary bottled water. Additional amenities in each suite include butler service, room service breakfast, daily fruit and cookie plates and evening canapes, DVD player, iPod dock, tea- and coffeemaker, refrigerator, bottle of wine on arrival and free laundry service.
The Cezanne Restaurant is forward on the Avignon Deck and is the main dining venue for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are two options: A lavish buffet with stations for hot food and cold salads (or, at breakfast, eggs prepared to order and yogurts, fruits and pastries) and also a menu for a la carte fare. At dinner, the restaurant is menu service only. The cuisine onboard is continental, with a contemporary flair.
Other public areas include the lavish and sprawling Van Gogh Lounge, which is the primary gathering space onboard; there's a bar and tables both inside and outdoors. Enrichment and other entertainment activities take place in the lounge. There's also the Matisse Terrace, the ship's top deck sun lounge that has chess and shuffleboard in addition to comfortably padded chaise loungers.
S.S. Catherine has a gift shop that incorporates a 24-hour coffee station and cafe tables, serving as an additional place to gather. There's free Wi-Fi and a well-stocked laundry room with complimentary washers and dryers.
Two other aspects of our S.S. Catherine cruise stood out for us. Crew – from butlers who serve the suites to waitstaff – are superbly trained, efficient and cheerful. It's the kind of ship where, after the first day, you're commonly greeted by name.
The shore excursion offerings are also superb and varied. On a typical seven-night Burgundy/Provence cruise, tour options will either allow you to see a port's marquee attraction – or, for those who are veteran travelers – visit something more offbeat. Uniworld's Go Active program emphasizes use of the ship's bicycles and Nordic walking sticks (which are also available to all passengers, free of charge, when not in use for tours) as well as hiking and kayaking (for passengers who prefer to move more slowly, there's also complimentary Gentle Walking Tours).  Uniworld's Do As The Locals Do tours, typically offered at an extra charge, include activities such as a guided visit of Lyon's world-famous food market.
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.