This one goes out to all the great river cruise vessels out there that weren’t born yesterday. In an industry that prizes newness, you’ve got to hand it to some of the older vessels that have stood the test of time.
I’m writing this from the stateroom of one such vessel, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s 132-passenger River Royale, the first river cruise vessel I ever sailed on in 2007 (it was inaugurated one year prior) and still every bit as charming now as it was seven years ago, thanks to a solid foundation, ongoing TLC and a recent interior remodel.
There’s something to be said for that welcoming, lived-in feeling of a veteran ship. On older vessels, passengers can benefit from a tried-and-true crew that have been with the vessel for several years and know the drill. And for all the fancy bells and whistles on newer ships, older vessels can often have just as many surprise features and amenities as their newer counterparts.
The Royale, for instance, has a unique small-group dining room that seats 12 just off the main dining room, where Uniworld can host intimate events such as a private wine tasting or dinner. Across the hall from that is a convenient, 24-hour cafe area with a self-service coffee machine. On the sun deck, there is an enclosed casual-dining venue called the Blue Fox Cafe, serving up early morning yoga, a light breakfast and lunch.
The headboards in the staterooms look more like real antiques than the antique-modern design being implemented across much of the Uniworld fleet. But they work. It feels sophisticated and clean, without feeling just plain old.
The list of reputable senior ships is long, and I will not attempt to compile a comprehensive one here. But there are a few notable vessels that come to mind. There is the 203-passenger Danube cruiser Mozart, which though built in 1987 was still eliciting passionate praise in 2009, when its former owner Peter Deilmann Cruises filed for bankruptcy. Observers said the vessel, which is still sailing as part of the Nanuet, N.Y.-based Euro River Cruises fleet, was memorable for its luxury appeal, larger-than-average staterooms and indoor pool.
There is Uniworld’s River Queen, a critically acclaimed ship that dates back to 1999. And of course, there are some belle antiques stateside, too, where the nearly 20-year-old American Queen plies the Mississippi with pride.
I know there are plenty more of these modest pioneers that deserve a subtle tip of the hat acknowledging their worth and persevering competitiveness in an endless sea of newcomers. If you want to pay homage to some beloved oldies but goodies, feel free to share in the comments section below.