This week I have been cruising on the S.S. Maria Theresa, by Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. Ten days on board has been enough to see that Uniworld operates a nearly flawless product, offering what may just be the highest standard of luxury possible on a river cruiser.
Service reminds me of what you might find on Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, or Silversea.
- White-gloved butlers serve the suites and they double during dinner as waiters for elegant private dinners in The Leopard Bar.
- The aft-situated bar transforms into a private-dining restaurant capable of serving up to 20 guests on select evenings during each sailing.
- Dinner in the Leopard Bar is complimentary, though reservations-only.
- The main restaurant, which also offers excellent an dining experience during dinner (as well as breakfast and lunch), is open-seating.
Also, like the small luxury ships, Uniworld’s S.S. Maria Theresa is all-inclusive, even including laundry service (one bag per week) for River Heritage Club members, a distinction achieved on your second Uniworld cruise.
Step Into My Stateroom
My category 1 stateroom measures 194 square feet and is situated on deck four, port-side aft, a few steps away from the Leopard Bar, a convenience that I appreciate whenever I am parched for a complimentary glass of champagne or a cocktail — or an afternoon tea.
Stateroom 425, as all staterooms on S.S. Maria Theresa, features sumptuous fabric-wall coverings combined with rich-handmade carpets, antique furnishings, original art and, behind a mirror, a flatscreen TV with infotainment center.
The king-sized handcrafted canopy Savoir of England bed is among the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept on, with crisp high-thread-count Egyptian linens that are a delight to sandwich in between.
The stateroom’s marble bathroom has a large shower and single sink with L’Occitane en Provence products, lighted magnifying mirror, hair dryer, thick towels and soft robes. There’s plenty of storage, so don’t be shy about bringing along your entire toiletry kit.
I enjoy the stateroom’s open-air balcony.
Elegant sliding glass doors separate the balcony from the bedroom. With the glass doors closed, you have a cozy bedroom. With the glass doors open, the room becomes a large living space with a separate sitting area. Sheer curtains and/or heavy drapes can be drawn across the doors, either closed, or open, the way I have preferred them to be for the duration of my voyage so far.
Step across the “threshold” onto the balcony, and you’ll find an elegant table complemented by two antique chairs, with white frames and blue upholstery.
A floor-to-ceiling window forms the exterior wall. The window is divided horizontally. With the push of a button, the upper section lowers so that it is flush with the lower section of glass. The result is an open-air balcony.
Check out the video below to see how it functions.
A Floating 18th-Century Palace
Named for the Archduchess of Austria and the Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, the new river cruiser features classical Baroque interiors. Royal blue, antique golds, shades of white, and soft gray colors that were popular during the 18th century dominate the design elements.
- mirrored or silk-clad walls
- antique white wood paneling
- carved twisted columns
- Habsburg coronets hand-painted with 22-carat gold leaf
- custom furniture pieces, made by master craftsmen
This intricate handiwork has been painstakingly accomplished by a team of skilled artisans from around the world, including ceramicists and specialist painters who were commissioned to ensure the period was recreated with authenticity, luxury, passion, and detail.
The tiered lobby is dominated by a sweeping marble staircase with a wrought-iron, hand-gilded balustrade, and royal crown detailing. The focal point of the grand entrance way is a regal ten-foot high original oil on canvas painting of the beloved ruler of the Habsburg Empire, who reigned as the only female ruler of the dynasty from 1740 to 1780.
Staff is exceptionally friendly and professional. They are definitely anticipatory of guest needs, always there to serve you what you need before you ask for it.
Bikes, Fitness, Movies & More
Uniworld’s bikes are some of the best, if not the best, bikes I have ridden on the rivers.
The bikes have 20-inch wheels, with fat tires that can roll over cobblestone streets. With eight speeds, the bikes are good at climbing steep hills or ripping along the flat paths of the river banks. The seats and handlebars can be adjusted so that even someone 6’5″ (me) can fit comfortably.
Add to that Europe’s well-thought-out bicycling infrastructure, and you have a match made in heaven, with daily opportunities to explore fairy-tale villages and beautiful countryside on two wheels.
That Uniworld has bikes raises an interesting point. All too often, river cruising is portrayed as being a passive experience for old people. That’s simply not true. River cruising (with the right companies) can be an active experience.
This week on S.S. Maria Theresa, for example, there are several organized group bike trips ranging from 30 kilometers to 40 kilometers with participants ranging in age from their early 50s to early 70s. Those who aren’t using the bikes are using the gym on deck 2, with a variety of cardio machines. Others are walking laps on the sun deck or into the city centers when we’re docked.
S.S. Maria Theresa features a fitness center, with cardiovascular machines such as treadmills and bikes, and dumbbells and more.
There is also a self-service launderette with three sets of washers and dryers, and a cinema, with movies shown morning, afternoon and evening — complete with popcorn. Nearby is the Viennese Cafe, open 24/7 for teas, coffee, snacks and more.
With a capacity of up to 150 guests served by 60 staff, Uniworld’s S.S. Maria Theresa has one of river cruising’s highest staff-to-guest ratios, and every single staff member that I encountered exceeded expectations in both friendliness and professionalism. Even if you’re not an empress, on the S.S. Maria Theresa, you’re treated as royalty, and who could ask for better than that?