Recently the www.CRUISE.co.uk team were lucky enough to attend a River Cruise Conference hosted in Amsterdam, where celebrated river cruise lines including Emerald Waterways, Croisi Europe, Uniworld, Arosa, Shearings and others attended, hoping to impress with their beautiful ships and incredible levels of service (spoiler alert: they did!).
One of the ships we were lucky enough to be staying aboard was the stylishly modern Emerald Sky, where chrome, black, white and silver highlights created an elegant yet luxurious atmosphere that permeated through the entire vessel.
Everything felt and looked very new and very high quality with an exceptional crew on hand who were more than happy to assist in anything you could desire.
The next night, after staying aboard Emerald Sky, we moved onto Uniworld’s Antoinette, a ship that was so intensely glamourous it made us realise how very contrasting the two vessels were.
The Antoinette has gorgeous chandeliers of crystal in several key areas of the ship and gold was a colour we saw often and everything aboard felt tailored to give the feeling of true high-class luxury, almost royalty.
When trying to decide which our favourite was though we were torn!
We adored the Emerald Sky and it’s ultra-modern atmosphere that we found around the ship. It was welcoming whilst still managing to maintain an aura of luxury and sophistication. Conversely, Uniworld’s Antoinette was so very classy that we felt out of place.
It felt very much like a ship built with Royalty in mind, where mere commoners such as ourselves would need to puff out our chests and speak with more articulacy than usual.
It was an unusual feeling. Aboard Emerald Sky we settled in quickly and enjoyed a nice drink in the bar, it was all very comfortable and the gentle sounds emanating from the ship’s pianist created an atmosphere that one would happily stay in all evening, whereas aboard the Antoinette the glitzy décor and very hands-on waiting staff made us feel, welcome yes, but almost as if we lacked the breathing room that was so plentiful aboard Emerald Sky.
To put it as simply as possible, aboard both ships if you looked lost then a crew member would ask if you would like assistance but only aboard the Antoinette would crew members approach you if you were merely just walking between rooms, always checking that your experience was to your liking and that you wanted for nothing.
This incredible level of service is something that we can’t complain about ,even for a second but on the other hand, we felt like the frequent questions and assurances were unwarranted.
We wanted for nothing but didn’t require anything and at times we wished the attentive and polite staff would just serve someone else.
The reception areas of both ships seemingly summed up our feelings to a tee.
Whilst Emerald Sky had a wide open area with modern displays flicking through inspiring photo albums, Uniworld’s Antoinette had a large and incredibly grand staircase, crystal chandelier hanging overhead and usually several crew members waiting to greet and welcome you.
High quality of service?
Much room to move about?
Not really – instead, a bit cramped.
It’s these differences that continued throughout our stay.
This feeling of being out of place and somewhat claustrophobic aboard the majestic Uniworld Antoinette continued when dinner arrived.
It was very structured, with not much option to deviate from the menu unless you wished for a vegetarian option.
Instead the choice of main course was given and a selection between red or white wine.
Don’t misunderstand, the five-course meal was superb, with the tenderloin steak melting in the mouth and tasting heavenly but the strict structure of the meal absolutely contrasts with Emerald Sky where the high-quality buffet was incredible.
We found ourselves happily indulging in fish and other foods we’re not necessarily fond of, simply because they were cooked to perfection. All the food was delicious and most importantly, the selection and variety was grand indeed – as were the flavours!
For us this little anecdote that summaries our feelings on the two ships. Aboard Uniworld’s Antoinette we felt confined and that we had to adhere to quite a strict schedule, whereas aboard Emerald Sky we felt free to pick and choose which parts of the experience best appealed to us.
It truly was a war of modern freedoms and traditional sensibilities but despite all this it should be remembered, our gripes are minor – both vessels are utterly gorgeous, stunning ships with comfortable cabins, delicious meals, gracious crew and comfortable public rooms to top it all off.
We recommend them both highly and your preference between the two we do believe will be a matter of personal taste alone.
Regardless of your tastes, you will indeed enjoy a bon voyage aboard either of these two impeccable ships.