My husband and I booked the Splendors of Italy cruise which has pre and post-cruise extensions in Milan, Florence, and Rome. We made the choice based on the exceptional/very good reviews of others and the itinerary. We are experienced with ocean cruises, but this was our first river cruise. We are not wealthy, but we splurged for a suite (#411 which was 1 of only 4). Overall, while the experience was very good as far as cuisine and drinks, it fell short on basic expectations.
Would I recommend? If the itinerary and excursions are your #1 priority, there are better and far less expensive options to consider. For others for whom cuisine and liquor are priorities and who are impressed by a beautiful boat, and do not care where they are cruising, I would say "go for it."
What do I mean by basic expectations not being met?
The cabin had no working telephone for all 7 nights of the cruise. Suites include the services of a butler, but it is hard to utilize that benefit when there is no way to communicate. I can understand a technical problem for a day or two, but an entire week? More importantly, the issue was met with shrugs as if "it is what it is." No apologies.
The sign up process for shore excursions was a one-time "dump" of details and first-come, first-served. There were typically 2 options per day; however, there was often a capacity of 25-30 people per excursion. There were about 110 people aboard. The math speaks for itself. If Plan A and Plan B were booked, you were on your own. I understand when a minimum number of people do not sign up that an excursion would be cancelled; this is about having too small capacity. Tip: Be prepared to elbow your way to the front of the line. Overall, a poor process.
Excursions also can differ in reality from the on-line description and final documents. Details come late which is a big problem if planning private excursions during what you believe to be "free time." Many of the popular museums such as the Uffizi in Florence and Borghese in Rome require reservations at least weeks in advance. I even confirmed details with the Uniworld office before leaving home so I booked several private excursions with confidence only to be surprised with major changes that made our plans impossible. What they list as a 1/2-day tour is often only a 1.5 hr. walking tour with pointing at major sites. Many of the older, less mobile passengers were caught offguard when dropped at the center of town by bus or water taxi and not returned to the ship or hotel, requiring a walk of up to 3/4 mile. Not a problem for us, but hard for some in heat. Because the tour guide in Rome was not licensed in that city, she could only walk with the group and could not raise a flag or communicate by voice box, making it hard to hear and follow her in a crowd.
Giving credit to the excellent food, I feel it important to point out that variety and choice are limited, especially at the Welcome and Farewell dinners when there is a set menu and no alternatives are printed on the menu. If asked, they will reluctantly provide alternatives, although they acted clearly unhappy about making accommodation even though a food allergy was documented at booking.
In summary, Uniworld is excellent at some things, but not some of the things that are important to us. It was an expensive learning experience. Ratings do not always paint the entire picture.
We choose the suite to gain a little extra room. Be aware that you will be docked for 4 nights in 2 different locations in Venice. If you are unlucky, as we were, to be on the wrong side of the boat, your view will be of an ugly port building. The considerable price difference to book a suite is not worth the extra expense. Small is small. Go cheaper.