The SS Joie de Vivre, Uniworld’s latest offering, is the first super ship built at 125 metres, as opposed to the standard 135. As such, it’s able to slip through France’s winding channels to dock at moorings that are simply too small for other ships. It can even get right into the heart of Paris on the Seine River. Indeed, as its name suggests, the Joie de Vivre is a love song to the French good life, exemplified by its 20th-century Parisian design. As is Uniworld’s dynamic signature, expect to be transported back to the Golden Twenties with handcrafted furniture, fine antiques and original artwork. It’s a complete package too, with everything from the wine collection and supper club to the spa and farm-to-table cuisine enjoying a decidedly Gallic influence.
Given its bijou sensibilities, the Joie de Vivre features just 64 staterooms and suites, fostering a palpably intimate atmosphere. And, the colourful exuberance is invited into each cabin with bright splashes, adding character to dark-wood furnishing and marble-lined bathrooms stocked with L’Occitane amenities. You’ll also be treated to a handcrafted Savoir of England bed, complete with 100% Egyptian cotton sheets, pillow menu and European duvets. In turn, the suites are particularly impressive. Each individually designed and decorated, they all enjoy the services of a personal butler, on hand for everything from delivering your in-room breakfast and helping with your Nespresso coffee machine to offering a shoeshine or laundry service. The two Royal Suites also come with an open-air balcony and a soaking bathtub.
It won’t come as a surprise to learn that there’s a strong emphasis on French dining across the ship’s four gourmet venues. The main restaurant, Pigalle, features farm-to-table specialities from the surrounding regions in four-course dinners, along with buffet breakfasts and lunches that come accompanied by made-to-order options. For something a touch lighter, head to Le Bistrot, the ship’s very own Parisian sidewalk café. Here, bistro delicacies are served up to pretty river views framed by dropdown windows. But, it’s Le Cave des Vins that truly stands out. Under the guidance of a talented chef, you’ll enjoy a seven-course degustation meal using fresh, seasonal ingredients. It’s all washed down with paired wines, tailored by the ship’s expert sommelier.
The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that we mentioned that there were four dining venues. That’s where Claude’s comes in. This elegant venue, all sophisticated glitz and glamour, is transformed each evening into a tapas supper club where you’ll enjoy signature cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and performances from local musicians. On selected nights, it also shows classic French cinema under the stars. For a more traditional experience, head to Salon Toulouse. A full-service bar featuring its very own art collection, it offers a superb drinks menu and, in a nod to French cultural tradition, high tea hosted each afternoon.
As is the joy of river cruising, you’ll want to spend most of your time on deck, watching pretty towns and verdant countryside roll by. The Joie de Vivre’s even features a giant checkers board, along with the obligatory loungers, of course. You’ll also be able to reach stops missed out by larger ships, with each destinations brought to life by included tours. Guides use QuietVox headsets to deliver informative talks. And, when you return from your onshore excursions, you’ll have the option of resting up at the Club L’Espirit, the ship’s onboard spa. Unwind with a yoga session, pamper yourself with a beauty treatment and massage any sightseeing aches. Or, get your heart pumping with a session in the resistance pool or fitness centre.
Scott Anderson is General Manager at The Luxury Cruise Company. The Luxury Cruise Company is your port of call for incredible cruise holidays.