The state room on the SS Antoinette.
The state room on the SS Antoinette.
It goes without saying that the facilities aboard Uniworlds ships are top class.
It goes without saying that the facilities aboard Uniworlds ships are top class.

A good butler, Lazlo Orosz tells me, has to be a mind reader: “We must sense what you want almost before you do yourself…”

As the head butler on Uniworld’s SS Antoinette river cruiser (a five-star hotel on the water), Budapest-born Lazlo epitomises classic excellent service – there when he has to be, out of sight but instantly available when he doesn’t.

He’s been trained at a school run by someone who used to train butlers for Buckingham Palace. There is a difference.

The butlers for the Royals never smile, those on Uniworld’s ships do – as do all the crew members. And, cheesy as it may sound, it feels like they mean it, that they enjoy your company.

In the seven-day Uniworld “Castles along the Rhine” cruise, I seldom have need for the services of Lazlo or his team. Everything is nigh perfect.

Granted, not all of the guests aboard the SS Antoinette have the services of a butler (that’s the privilege of those in the suites) but the rest of the service is so excellent, you feel like royalty anyway.

Starting with the 2014 season, Uniworld’s “boutique” river cruise experiences are charged at an all-inclusive price. And that is truly inclusive: All meals and beverages aboard (with the exception of premium drinks); all shore excursions with English-speaking guides with option of personalising your choices; special culinary experiences; all scheduled transfers to and from the ship; portable audio guide system which is used on all shore excursions and even for on-board commentary; wifi internet access on board ship; onboard entertainment and cultural enrichment programmes on board; use of bicycles and Nordic walking sticks for those who like to explore on their own and, finally, all tips for onboard staff and onshore guides and drivers.

The food is exceptional, even given that this is a five-star establishment. The ingredients, the variety, the quantity all add up to one of the best sustained eating experiences you’re likely to have. Judging from the comments of travellers around the world on various websites, I am not the only one who thinks so either.

It goes without saying that the facilities aboard Uniworld’s ships are top class, but its staff are what make the difference.

If a river cruise is not on your bucket list, it should be. And, if you’re going to do it, why not do it in style, Uniworld-style? - Saturday Star