River Cruising in France on the S.S. Catherine

River Cruising in France on the S.S. Catherine

With bold design and French flair, Uniworld’s Catherine takes river cruising in France to another level By: Kenneth Shapiro
<p>Suites on Catherine include butler service. // © 2014 Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection</p><p>Feature image (above): The S.S. Catherine...

Suites on Catherine include butler service. // © 2014 Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Feature image (above): The S.S. Catherine will sail itineraries in France this year and next. // © 2014 Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection


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When it comes to river cruising, it is essential for every cruise line to differentiate itself from the competition. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection solves that problem with its design aesthetic, and nowhere is that more apparent than on its new ship the Super Ship S.S. Catherine.

Beatrice Tollman, president and founder of Uniworld’s sister company, The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, her daughter Toni Tollman and Brian Brennan, projects director, were the key designers involved with Catherine. Their vision, brought to life onboard, represents not only a standout in river cruising, it is also in tune with the region where Catherine sails. Tollman and company utilized original artwork, classic paintings, antiques and fanciful color and fabric combinations to give Catherine a decor that is elegant, yet fun, and is evocative of the French countryside along the Saone and Rhone rivers where the ship sails. 

The design statement is evident as soon as guests board the ship. The lobby features a one-of-a-kind Murano glass chandelier alongside a glass elevator with a waterfall cascading down one side — a feat that engineers spent much time pondering before pulling off.

Catherine has 80 staterooms, five suites and one Royal Presidential Suite. To say the staterooms are stylish is an understatement. Every aspect of each room is carefully thought out, so that guests may feel more like they are staying at a boutique hotel than on a river cruise ship. The ample rooms feature, among other amenities, handcrafted Savoir of England beds and flat-screen televisions with an impressive selection of complimentary movies and English-language stations. Marble bathrooms feature L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, a towel warmer and more. Suites have additional amenities, including butler services. Category one staterooms and suites come with full open-air balconies; category two staterooms on the Carmargue Deck have French balconies; and category two and three staterooms on the Avignon Deck feature French balconies. 

The ship’s Cezanne Restaurant is just as thoughtfully designed as the rest of the ship, giving the space the ambiance of a gourmet restaurant. The ship’s architects told me it also has one of the best kitchen facilities on any ship in Europe, and daily trips to local markets ensure top-quality regional French cuisine. 

The ship’s main lounge, the Van Gogh Lounge, feels like a French country house — complete with a fireplace. On my cruise, however, passengers seemed to naturally gravitate to the funky and fun Leopard Lounge, decorated with a dizzying array of Leopard prints. The ship’s small swimming pool is located behind glass walls inside this lounge, which seems odd but actually adds to the venue’s quirky charm.

Other amenities on the ship include a spa, coffee bar and fitness center.

In 2014 and 2015, Catherine sails Burgundy & Provence and Grand France itineraries, as well as Ultimate France sailings in 2015.

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