Uniworld Boutique River Cruises named its river ship the "Super Ship" Antoinette, and the design and luxurious decor of the S.S. Antoinette demonstrate that its name is not just hyperbole. This gorgeous river boat has features not found on any other river vessel such as a swimming pool and top deck bar and dining area that retract into the boat to allow it to pass under low bridges. It also has absolutely spectacular interiors, and if the 10-foot Baccarat chandelier in the lobby doesn't make you say "wow", the swimming pool or the mosaics and other artwork will.
The innovations seen on the S.S. Antoinette are somewhat surprising, given the size constrictions that European river boats have. Although ocean-bound cruise ships have much latitude in size and configuration, the width and length of locks on the European rivers dictates the size of European river boats. Moreover, their height is constrained by the low bridges that river boats must pass under. So, the exterior of all European river ships looks much the same—narrow, long, and low, with usually only three interior passenger decks and a sun deck. It's the interior decor and innovative features that make the S.S. Antoinette special.
The S.S. Antoinette is named for Antoinette (Toni) Tollman, daughter of the founders of the Travel Corporation and owners of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. Ms. Tollman was the visionary of the ship's interiors, and she and lead designer Brian Brennan primarily used an 18th century theme reminiscent of a more famous Antoinette—Queen Marie Antoinette of France. The ship's ornate, formal decor looks much like a French chateau.
Tour of the S.S. Antoinette Common Areas
Entering the S.S. Antoinette on deck three, the two-deck marble lobby is dominated by a 10-foot Baccarat crystal and sapphire blue chandelier that once hung at the Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York City's Central Park. In the corner of the reception area is the elevator, and forward is the main restaurant, aptly named the Restaurant de Versailles.
Aft on deck three are cabins, a 24-hour coffee station, and the well-equipped fitness center. The machines in the fitness center are straight from the 21st century, not the 18th.
Down the steps to deck two are more cabins, a boutique, passenger laundry room (no charge), and the movie theater, Le Cinema Pigalle. This 20-seat cinema features comfortable chairs, a lovely carpet, large flat screen, and Dolby surround sound. It will be perfect for watching movies with a bag of popcorn!
Going back upstairs past the reception desk and chandelier to deck four forward, you will find the magnificent Salon du Grand Trianon Bar. The carpet, draperies, numerous mirrors, and furnishings definitely reflect the 18th century French decor. The muted green colors are relaxing, the upholstery and furniture expensive, and the atmosphere elegant.
Moving past the 24-hour coffee station on deck four, be sure to note the interesting artwork that adorns the hallways. The Tollman family enjoys collecting art and furniture, and they incorporate many of these pieces into their boutique ships and hotels. I love the muted pastel colors used on each row of passenger cabins and suites. After you pass the massage room and juice bar, you will find the swimming pool.
Adding this pool was a great challenge to the shipbuilders. Just think of all that extra weight over the engines! The pool is heated, has a depth of five feet, and has water jets allowing those who like to swim for exercise to do by using the strong current. The pool is lined with blue tile, and has underwater music piped in. The indoor pool area is surrounded by large windows on three sides and has a sun roof and very comfortable lounges. The aft wall of windows opens to the outdoors, providing fresh air in addition to the wonderful views of the river scenery. The two back walls feature expensive mosaics done by the same artist as those in the Versailles Restaurant.
The sun deck is atop the S.S. Antoinette. Unlike most other river boats, this one has a second dining area/lounge called L'Orangerie. It is done in black and white, with wicker furniture, and will be used for alternative dining experiences. The sun deck also has an intimate bar called the Bar du Leopard. This lounge is dominated by a huge leopard statue and its decor is modern. This same leopard theme is used in bars in the Red Carnation Hotels also owned by the Travel Corporation. Both the bar and the dining area retract into the ship, just like the navigation bridge does.
Outside on the top deck are padded lounge chairs, among the most comfortable I've seen on any ship or luxury hotel. Passengers will love relaxing in these lounges while watching the magnificent European river scenery slip by during the day, and enjoying music or a quiet drink in the Bar du Leopard at night.
Cabins and Suites on the S.S. Antoinette
The S.S. Antoinette has 82 luxurious cabins and suites. All the cabins and suites have extremely comfortable beds, closets, cabin thermostat, flat-screen TV, marble bath with shower and L'Occitane en Provence bath and body products, and waffle bathrobes and slippers. The suites have additional amenities and services, plus butler services. The ship provides free Internet services with public use computers, and WiFi access for those who carry along their own computers.
Deck four has a 391-square-foot Royal Suite and eight 294-square-foot other suites. All of the suites have full balconies with innovative retractable glass walls, making the balconies useful in both warm and cooler weather. With the glass wall closed, the balcony is transformed into a glass conservatory.
Deck three has 53 cabins in categories 1,2, and 3. Each S.S. Antoinette cabin measures 196 square feet and has a French balcony, also with a large, electric, retractable glass wall.
Deck two has 18 cabins, each measuring 163 square feet. These cabins are similar in layout to those on deck three, except they do not have a French balcony or even a large picture window since they are on a lower deck.
Dining on the S.S. Antoinette
The decor of the Restaurant de Versailles on the S.S. Antoinette was inspired by the ornamental gardens of Versailles Palace near Paris. The grass green and white colors are both lively and elegant. The highlight of the room are the mosaics on the two back walls. They were done by the same South African artist responsible for those next to the pool.
One nice touch on the Uniworld menus are menu items from the kitchen of Mrs. Beatrice Tollman, the founder and president of the company. The passion and commitment of the Tollman family seen in the design and decor of the S.S. Antoinette are also reflected in its cuisine.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.