Launched in 1993 and refurbished in 2011, the 116-passenger River Ambassador is the oldest and one of the smallest ships in Uniworld’s European fleet. But the years have been kind and the Empire-inspired décor in the public spaces — in a mostly gray, black, and white palette that tones down the fussiness — is an elegant take on the intimate, art-filled boutique hotel ambiance for which Uniworld is known. Cruising the rivers and canals of Belgium and the Netherlands at tulip time in March and April, and the Danube and Rhine rivers from May to October, River Ambassador is a cozy ship to come home to after a day of touring.
What We Love
Cuisine That Doesn’t Disappoint: River vessels often set high expectations with fancy table settings and ambitious menus — and then deliver only so-so food. Not this ship, where the cuisine is top-notch. Four-course dinners feature several options per course, with a focus on flavorful, locally inspired and sourced ingredients, which include inventive vegetarian dishes as well as classics (such as salmon and steak) for traditionalists. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style, with lunch often incorporating regional products purchased at local markets.
Gracious Staff: Uniworld takes pride in having top service on board their ships, and that shows on River Ambassador, where the staff members go out of their way to remember your preferences and make you smile.
Best Known For
All-Inclusive Pricing: Unless you take an optional tour or book a massage, you’ll never have to open your wallet while on board. Fares include all beverages, daily excursions, gratuities, and airport transfers.
Excursion Flexibility: Guided morning tours — by bus or on foot — are paired with a choice of late-morning or afternoon activities, such as a museum visit, beer tasting, or bike ride. There's also a "gentle walkers" category for those who need to take things a bit slower. This means that group size tends to be on the smaller side. Typically, there also is free time for independent exploration by foot or on the ship's bikes.
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Who It's Best For
Easy-Does-It Travelers: Americans, Canadians, Brits, and Australians — generally aged 60-plus — make up the majority of passengers, who are well-traveled and appreciative of the ease of all-inclusive, English-language touring.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Staterooms Are Tiny — and Shiny: At 128 square feet, the Class 1-3 staterooms have just enough room for a queen-sized bed — a very comfy one, by the way — and that’s it. There are also two mirrored walls (in the bathroom, too), so expect a constant reminder of the pounds the chef is adding to your waistline. At 254 square feet, the four suites are worth the splurge if you cringe at tight spaces.
Nights Can Be Quiet: An onboard musician provides pre- and post-dinner melodies — and special local entertainers come on board twice during the cruise — but unless you get a lively crowd, things generally wind down by 10 pm.
It’s Not All Scenic Cruising: On the spring itineraries through Belgium and the Netherlands, don’t expect to cruise past fields of tulips — you’ll see them, but mostly during garden excursions. And in Brussels, the dock is in a dingy warehouse area far from the historic center.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.
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River Ambassador at a Glance
- Line: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
- Number of Passengers: 116
- Ship Size: Small
- Launch Date: 1993
- Refurbish Date: 2011