Five Things to Know About Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection's S.S. Maria Theresa Cruise Ship
World's Best 2016 Awards Rank: #2 River Ship
Best for: High-end cruisers looking for luxury and Old World grandeur (Minimalists need not apply)
Sails: The Danube River, the Main River, and the Rhine River
At a Glance: A Travel + Leisure World’s Best 2016 winner, placing second in the River Ship category. Like its sister ships, the S.S. Antoinette and S.S. Catherine—the “S.S.” stands for “super ship”—the S.S. Maria Theresa is pure opulence. Expect antique furnishings, gilded everything, and Baroque décor fit for an empress.
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The Design Is Lavish
Designed with the aid of Uniworld’s sister company, Red Carnation Hotels, the S.S. Maria Theresa feels more like a floating boutique hotel than a ship. The lobby is resplendent in marble, mirrors, and gold details; its centerpiece is a grand marble staircase, topped with a Murano chandelier and a 10-foot high oil painting of the ship’s namesake, Maria Theresa, who ruled Austria and the Holy Roman Empire from 1740 to 1780. The aesthetic can only be described as palatial: the color palette (royal blue, antique golds, shades of white, and soft grays) is straight out of the 18th century, and frescoed ceilings and hand-painted murals are everywhere, as are hand-painted coronets, which serves as a motif throughout the ship. Even the elevators have tufted velvet walls.
Cabins Are Luxe
The staterooms are as sumptuous as the rest of the ship, with velvet curtains and chairs, custom headboards draped in rich fabrics, and gilded flourishes. Even the marble bathrooms serve up little luxuries, from heated towel racks and floors to Hermès and L’Occitane en Provence bath products. Sizes range from 162 square feet for a cabin with a small window to 410 square feet for a Royal Suite with two French balcony. Like the other suites on the ship, the latter comes with in-suite butler service.
No need to keep an eye on your bar bill: your cruise fare covers almost everything, from exercise classes and gratuities to drinks and WiFi. Most excursions are complimentary, too, including bucket-list experiences like a private Mozart and Strauss concert at a Viennese palace and a cocktail reception at a 13th-century castle hosted by a descendant of the Hapsburgs.
There’s a Pool By the Bar
When it’s too cool for the sun deck, you’ll find plenty of places to lounge indoors. Most passengers’ first stop is the elegant blue-toned Hapsburg Salon, where passengers gather for drinks, lectures, and dancing among mural-splashed walls. Cocktails can also be had at the Leopard Bar, so named for its subtle animal prints and leopard statues. But the slinkiest place on the ship might be the bar’s heated pool, which sits beneath a jungle-themed mosaic and is surrounded by glass walls that turn opaque when someone enters. Another standout gathering spot: the intimate Lipizzan Cinema with its vintage movie posters, blue tufted-velvet seating, and a marble wall with a movie screen.
The Food Is World-Class
Dinner in the restaurant is an experience. White tablecloths cover the tables, and menus are filled with local dishes like Wiener schnitzel and Austrian streudel, along with classic cruise fare like grilled salmon with lemon butter and capers, along with a complimentary red and white wine, usually selected from the region. On some nights, passengers can reserve a seat in the Leopard Bar for a five-course tasting menu featuring dishes like German onion pie and whole slow roasted beef sirloin.