When it comes to the all-inclusive segment of the river cruise market, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and Scenic are two of the top contenders. Both companies strive to be as luxurious and as all-inclusive as possible. I recently cruised on both Uniworld’s new Maria Theresa and the new Scenic Jasper. The way that these vessels differ provides insights into how the their companies differ both philosophically and operationally.
Staterooms: Both ships feature staterooms that are fairly equivalent in size and with fairly comparable amenities, although Scenic Jasper’s staterooms do come with complimentary mini-bars with wine, soft drinks, chips and chocolate.
Uniworld’s Maria Theresa, on the other hand, features no mini-bar but an attractive jar of gourmet chocolates along with bottled water. As a River Heritage Club Member, meaning that I have cruised before with Uniworld, I also received a complimentary fruit platter in my stateroom.
Both ships feature staterooms with bathrobes, comfy beds and sitting space. Plus, both ships feature balconies that can be enclosed to create a solarium of sorts in cool weather and an open-air room in warm weather. Scenic’s approach and Uniworld’s approach to their balconies are somewhat different, however.
Uniworld’s Maria Theresa featured mosquito netting on its balcony; Scenic Jasper did not. However, Scenic’s open-air balcony featured folding glass doors that exposed the balcony. Uniworld’s fixed glass doors were a tad more obstructive than Scenic’s when passing from the bedroom to the balcony – a minor quibble to be sure.
The best way to judge those is to see for yourself in the videos below.
Dining Venues: Scenic Jasper has multiple dining venues (the main dining room, a speciality dining “experience” within the main dining room, an alternative dining venue, and for snacks, the River Cafe).
Maria Theresa features a single dining room, although Uniworld does offer a private dinner for up to 20 people in the Leopard Bar, situated aft on Maria Theresa. There doesn’t seem to be a specific company policy regarding dinner here, but I experienced it on my cruise as did others.
Dinner in the Leopard Bar was exceptionally well done as it was in Scenic Jasper’s Table La Rive, which offered a six-course set menu paired with wines, but available only to guests on deck three and those in Junior Suites on deck two.
Room Service: Scenic Jasper offers room service to all guests in all categories of staterooms. Uniworld’s Maria Theresa offers room service only to guests in suites.
Tours: On Scenic Jasper, all tours were included, even the evening concert in Vienna. Uniworld included all tours also but charged 75 euros per person for the evening concert in Vienna.
Bikes: Scenic Jasper featured electric-assist bicycles. Uniworld’s were not electric-assist. In all other respects, however, the bikes were equal. The electric-assist bikes did provide a slight advantage on long rides, such as one we did between Durnstein and Melk on Scenic Jasper.
Self-service launderettes: Uniworld has self-service launderettes for complimentary use; Scenic does not have them at all. However, Scenic’s Glen Moroney told me his company will include laundry service at no charge.
Service: Both companies excel at service. I talked with travel sellers on Scenic who likened it to Crystal. Travelers on Uniworld likened Uniworld’s service to Seabourn.
Coffee machines: Uniworld had the Viennese Cafe where there is one coffee machine that dispenses all sorts of speciality coffees. Scenic has two coffee machines in the lounge, and also, something I did not see on Uniworld, loose-leaf tea on Scenic Jasper.
Fitness: Both ships feature, small but well-equipped gyms.
Suites: Scenic’s suites, situated aft, are some of the largest on the rivers; Uniworld’s, situated midships, are some of the most elegant.
WiFi: Worked well on each ship.
Bottom Line: With the exception of the mini-bar and some differences with the balconies, staterooms on both ships were fairly equivalent. Yes, Scenic Jasper boasts butlers for all staterooms, but the room attendants on Maria Theresa do a fine job. A feature that may appeal to some: Scenic Jasper features multiple dining venues, while Uniworld’s Maria Theresa has the popular Leopard Bar, also a favorite watering hole for many during my cruise. Bikes and fitness are fairly equivalent, though some may prefer the electric-assist bikes on Scenic Jasper. One thing to note when is that Scenic has a strong following in Australia, meaning that cruises may be more “international” than on Maria Theresa.