|Staterooms Aboard Antoinette feature huge windows that open at the touch of a button.|
Diversity reigns in the design, feel and offerings of two of the world’s newest river cruise vessels, Avalon Waterways’ Panorama and the Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s Antoinette, both of which launched this spring in Europe. Luxury Travel Advisor was there for both christenings and reports back on the luxury lowdown.
Panorama has a modern, inspired design from top to bottom, with vibrant color schemes that include orange, grey and black for one lounge and red, white and black in some staterooms. Furniture and high-quality appointments have a clean, crisp look. On the other hand, Antoinette exudes French Provincial glamour that would make Marie Antoinette proud. Not that everything is old-fashioned: The ship has plenty of contemporary amenities. Toni Tollman, the ship’s godmother, designed the vessel to gush ambiance and luxury with rich tapestries and fine furnishings.
Entering the atrium of Uniworld’s Antoinette is a definite “wow” experience. Hovering over all is a blue sapphire Baccarat chandelier, which previously hung in New York’s Tavern on the Green restaurant. Staircases wrap around the chandelier and a small purser’s desk is set into one side of the lower wall. Panorama’s atrium has a large round skylight and an upscale hotel lobby-style feel. The purser’s desk is an inviting L-shaped area that encourages staff-guest interaction; the cruise director’s desk extends out from the main desk. Nearby is a cozy Internet café with two computer terminals.
|Uniworld’s Antoinette entered service in March and has such touches as an indoor/outdoor swimming pool.|
The accommodations are no slouch, either. On the all-suite Panorama, we loved the Panorama Suites, which are more than 30 percent larger than industry standard. Design Touch: The wall behind the bed is on a bit of a slant to add more space to the upscale bathroom. But what’s most unique about the Panorama Suites are the 11-foot walls of glass divided into three sections; two doors slide away to create a seven-foot “open” section that’s essentially a balcony. Guests are protected by widely spaced horizontal rails on the bottom half of that opening. Panorama’s larger Royal Suites also have this feature, as well as a separate living room with a large flat-screen TV that can play a nifty fireplace video.
|Avalon Panorama’s Royal Suite has a balcony with room for six.|
Not to be outdone, La Duchesse deck on Antoinette has French balconies with a fun, techno-twist. Guests can lower the upper glass with the touch of a button, converting the floor-to-ceiling windows to a balcony on demand. Adjacent to the glass are two upholstered chairs and a table to sit, converse and enjoy the fresh air and soak in the scenic views. Tip: Better yet, book Antoinette’s La Princesse deck accommodations with actual walk-out private balconies with upholstered furniture. The balconies easily convert to glass-enclosed conservatories—again, at the simple push of a button. Antoinette also has several larger, more luxurious suites that field the same technology.
When it's time to explore, check out either ship’s large forward lounge. Both sport a full-service bar, comfortable seating areas, dance floor and massive glass windows. Panorama’s lounge has modern, crisply edged furniture. Hint: Order the signature Champavalon drink, a smooth concoction comprising Riesling wine, club soda, mint and cucumber. Or head outside, take a seat, or move from side to side for great photos as each grand castle or cityscape comes into view.
|Antoinette also has conservatory balconies in its top deck suites and staterooms.|
Antoinette’s main lounge, Salon du Grand Trianon, oozes quality: it’s decorated in shades of seafoam green accompanied by silk taffeta window treatments, custom-designed carpets and two types of French sofas. Nice Touch: Guests can peruse the lounge’s coffee table books and learn about the art and architecture of Europe or the famous people who have shaped the continent.
For those seeking a more intimate spot to relax, Panorama’s Club Lounge is fully aft and is a lovely place to enjoy an “early riser” continental breakfast, board games, a small library of books and a massive flat-screen TV. In contrast, think “heart of the jungle” when entering the Leopard Lounge on Antoinette’s Sun Deck; its furnishings boast animal prints and a sculpture of a leopard. It’s a lively spot for late-night drinks and live music.
|Panorama’s Club Lounge is a perfect space to relax with a book and coffee.|
As for dining, both vessels have large, elegant open-seat dining rooms. Hint: Try Panorama’s crispy roasted duck leg with orange sauce, pomme duchesse and Savoy cabbage, or the broiled half rock-lobster tail on risotto and saffron.
Aboard Antoinette, we recommend the rack of lamb or the fillet of John Dory. Sweet tooth? Save room for Antoinette’s chilled Valrhona chocolate soup with pistachio ice cream or Panorama’s yummy baked German bread pudding with vanilla sauce.
On a sunny day, Panorama’s spacious top deck has loungers that incorporate unique sun shades to keep the rays off your head. Play chess on a “life-sized” board with humongous chess pieces, practice your putting on a golf putting green or slide into the hot tub. Guest Favorite: Panorama’s outdoor Bistro dining area fields a grill lunch several times a cruise.
Riverboat amenities have come a long way over the years. Just check out Antoinette’s blue-tiled aft pool, covered and ringed by comfortable loungers. With a spa-like feel, this covered pool area affords views to the water below and allows in natural light via a skylight.
Those who want pampering can get their hair styled or enjoy a mani or pedi on Panorama. Antoinette offers a range of spa treatments. Tip: Try the Full Body Honey Treatment with Peruvian Chocolate Exfoliation, a 90-minute chocolate fantasy experience.
Note: Both vessels have exercise rooms and Wi-Fi. Like movies? Chow down with popcorn and enjoy a flick with Dolby surround sound at Antoinette’s 20-seat Le Cinema Pigalle, the first dedicated movie theater on any river vessel. On Panorama, head for any concert offered by La Strada, a superb classical violin and guitar trio.
This year, Panorama sails two-week cruises between Amsterdam and Budapest, while Antoinette operates seven-night cruises between Basel and Amsterdam. Both vessels also operate Christmas market cruises late in the year.