Launched in 2006 to cruise France’s Bordeaux wine region, the 130-passenger River Royale features charming French country décor in a palette of cream, red, and pale gold. In the inviting Gascogne Lounge, the sofa configuration inspires camaraderie after days spent touring wine chateaux, visiting UNESCO-designated Saint-Emilion, and exploring the elegantly revived city of Bordeaux. While the staterooms, located on three decks, are a compact 140-151 square feet — and the sole suite is 217 square feet — the airy decor (which was redone in 2014) keeps them from feeling too crowded.
What We Love
The Claret Room: This art deco space is where the ship's sommelier hosts pre-dinner wine tastings of the night’s red and white selections — it’s both instructive for novices and enjoyable for anyone who appreciates wine.
The Sundeck: When le soleil shines, head here to relax on a comfy lounger, in the aft hot tub, or at the Blue Fox Café, which offers indoor and outdoor dining two days per cruise. Lunch is described as “light,” but that’s a misnomer: Burgers, fries, sausages, and pizza are served, while the crystal wine glasses and silverware give it the air of an upscale deck barbecue. Dinner here is a set menu that, while tasty, is not quite the equal of the offerings in the Le Bordelais restaurant.
Best Known For
Personnel with Personality: Encountering a grumpy waiter or crewmember during a Uniworld cruise is pretty rare. The staff is upbeat, engaging, and often very funny. You will miss them when you get home and your coffee cup or wine glass doesn’t magically refill.
Great Food for Everyone: While the focus is on French ingredients and preparation, with seafood a specialty (including an oyster tasting paired with a local white wine), vegetarians and meat lovers will find equally delicious options. Warning: The creamy soups, freshly baked breads, and decadent desserts are impossible to resist.
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Who It's Best For
Casual Wine Lovers Looking to Relax: The wines served on board are almost entirely from the region — with the exception of a few whites — and they flow freely from late morning until after midnight.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
There’s More Touring than Serious Tasting: While excursions do involve wine tasting, it’s typically a visit to a single chateau paired with a panoramic drive or a walking tour. If you are looking for Bordeaux wine immersion with in-depth wine-estate tastings, you may be disappointed.
The Itinerary is Sleepy and Subject to Change: The distances sailed are surprisingly short, making for a somewhat underwhelming "cruise" experience. Water levels and weather also affect navigation on these tidal rivers, so a full day in one town may become a half day or you may overnight at one port rather than another.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.
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River Royale at a Glance
- Line: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
- Number of Passengers: 130
- Ship Size: Small
- Launch Date: 2006
- Refurbish Date: 2014