As one of Uniworld’s largest ships, the SS Catherine continues to provide luxury cruising on a grand scale. Launched in March 2014, the vessel joins its two sisters – SS Maria Theresa and SS Antoinette – and is the second of Uniworld’s fleet of Super Ships. It cruises along the Rhone and Saone rivers of France, with its Old World feel and unique, whimsical décor and design.
The iconic French actress, Catherine Deneuve, honoured the role of godmother to this incredible ship, which continues the individuality of this boutique cruise line with innovative and sophisticated features. Every piece of art found onboard the SS Catherine is an original, and it’ll be hard to take your eyes off the antiques and artworks that grace its public areas (including a specially commissioned Murano glass chandelier and life-size glass horse), but its itineraries and program of activities are just as exciting!
With a maximum capacity of 159 passengers, the SS Catherine manages to maintain an intimate feel, while still allowing guests plenty of opportunity to befriend fellow travellers. The crew to passenger ratio is excellent at 1 to 2.78 passengers, which ensures that the service onboard is as exceptional as the decor.
Uniworld markets its river cruises predominantly at the American market, but the ships are also popular with affluent guests from other English-speaking countries, namely the UK and Australia. All staff on board the SS Catherine are English-speaking and provide a flawless service. While the majority of passengers are senior travellers, slightly younger cruisers are finding the luxury voyages enticing. Yearly family cruises also welcome children onboard, with child-friendly itineraries and half-price fares for under 18s.
The main dining venue is the Cezanne Restaurant, located at the front of the Avignon Deck. Breakfast, lunch and dinner service are available here, with plenty of delicious options available to suit all palates and preferences.
Breakfast consists of a lavish buffet, with a choice of cereals, seeds, nuts, fresh berries, yoghurts, omelettes cooked to order, pastries and more. Freshly baked breads and champagne are also served at breakfast. Lunch service is also presented on an extensive buffet station, which offers a range of hot and cold options, from salads to carved meats and pasta dishes. For dinner, the Cezanne Restaurant is a la carte menu service, including white glove service from waiters.
Drinks onboard are inclusive and unlimited, and a special selection of local wines and beers are offered to accompany each meal. There is a 24hour tea/coffee station, too.
A highlight of the SS Catherine is the quirky and opulent Bar du Leopard, decked out with leopard-print fabrics and safari-themed decorations. In the middle of the room you’ll find a glassed-in swimming pool, which is an unusual feature in keeping with the jungle-esque theme of the room. The lounge acts as a second dining venue, as well as the perfect space to relax with a drink, dance, enjoy the evening entertainment – or take a dip!
The Van Gogh Lounge, situated on the Camargue Deck, is the main area for both enrichment and entertainment activities, and provides plenty of tables and chairs both inside and out.
For those who would love an opportunity to dress up, the Captain’s Welcome Dinner is a must, but there are plenty of other entertainment options available throughout the voyage, including solo performances, concerts and recitals.
Both onboard and onshore, SS Catherine guests have a well-rounded and enriching activity program to choose from. Onboard, passengers can relax on the Matisse Terrace, which can be found at the front of the Van Gogh Lounge on the Camargue Deck, or enjoy one of the deck games available, including giant chess and shuffleboard. There is also ship-wide Wi-Fi available for those needing Internet access, a boutique, and a well-stocked library with a choice of books, magazines and board games.
Of course, one of the main draws of a river cruise is the variety of shore excursions that are available. A typical Burgundy/Provence cruise onboard the SS Catherine includes a diverse choice of tours depending on what each guest would like to experience - from the main attraction of a port to something a little more surprising.
The Go Active program encourages passengers to make use of the bicycles and Nordic walking sticks, at no extra cost. Gentle Walking Tours and 'Do as the Locals Do' tours can help guests to appreciate the scenery, towns and villages of the area, as well as the local traditions, culture and customs. Onboard, the enrichment program includes guest lecturers, presentations and demonstrations that incorporate elements of the local area.
There is a choice of five different categories of staterooms onboard, spanning across three decks, with 6 suites and 74 staterooms to choose from. Staterooms on the Saint Remy Deck are the smallest of the bunch, but are equipped with all of the amenities a guest could need to have a pleasant voyage. These staterooms offer picture windows, whereas the larger staterooms on the Avignon and Camargue Decks are more spacious, with veranda or French Balcony.
All staterooms and suites offer top quality amenities, including marble bathrooms with showers, heated floors, towel racks and L’Occitane toiletries. Other features include bathrobes, slippers, flat-screen TV (with infotainment system), safe, complimentary bottled water, handcrafted Savoir of England beds, Egyptian cotton sheets, European duvets and pillow menu. In addition, from 2016, suites will benefit from the services of white-gloved butlers, plus suite guests can enjoy a complimentary in-suite spa treatment, a mini-bar and bar set-up, daily fruit and cookies, iPod dock, DVD player, bottle of wine on arrival, free laundry service and indulgent bath products. Suites also have a triple accommodation option available, with sofa-bed to accommodate a third person.
There is a well-equipped fitness room on the Saint Remy Deck, where exercise equipment is available for use. There is also a selection of weights, and mats for stretching and yoga.
For a well-deserved pamper session, head to the Serenity River Spa, situated on the Avignon Deck, or relax on the Sun Deck and soak up the glorious views. The pool, glassed in, within the Bar du Leopard, is perfect for a relaxing dip in unique surroundings.
The SS Catherine offers luxury cruising throughout France, sailing along the Rhone, Seine and Saone rivers. A popular itinerary runs between Avignon and Lyon for a seven night voyage through the Burgundy and Provence regions, but there are longer tours available for travellers who wish to stay on the rivers for 14 nights. All itineraries include guided tours as standard, with other excursions and activities such as wine tasting, private tours and chocolate demonstrations also available.