I’m sailing north from Versailles on Vantage’s River Venture, and I’m watching the church spires and willow trees of the northern French countryside slip slowly past us as we move along upstream. It’s part of the company’s effort to preview the ship’s new home on the Seine (Launched last year, River Venture sailed its first season on the Rhine.
Right away, you can sense that the ship is very American. And that’s to be expected. Americans are Vantage’s bread and butter; the line markets to U.S. customers with U.S. television channels, a U.S.-style electrical outlet in every cabin and English-speaking guides (although the Boston-based company has indicated they could branch out to the UK in a year or two.
Here are some of my other first impressions, and a sneak peek of what you can expect onboard:
1. The Feel
The ship is comfortable but not luxurious, with simple functional design that does the job without a lot of flourishes. The decor is a monochromatic beige and browns.
2. The Food
There’s a lot of American comfort food being served. For example, both lunches onboard have offered hamburgers, cheeseburgers and hot dogs in the aft lounge as an alternative to a full, silver service meal in the dining room. One other taste of home I couldn’t refuse was fried mozzarella sticks and a Monte Cristo sandwich. Given that we drove past Alexandre Dumas’ home today, the latter seemed a fitting option for lunch. But I doubt anyone’s ever heard of them outside of the US.
3. The Bathrooms
The bathroom in the standard cabin I’m in is easily the best of any ship I’ve been on. The shower design is ideal. It’s closed off completely, so there’s no danger of getting the rest of the room wet. And it’s spacious – with a full glass door, so there’s no worry about creeping shower curtains sticking to your limbs or elbows being damaged in a cramped shower. And the bathrooms come stocked with L’Occitane products, which is always a nice touch.
4. The In-Room Entertainment
On the Samsung flat-screen television, the menu offers dozens of recent and classic movies of every genre and a handful of music compilations in various genres. There’s also the usual itinerary, shore tour and map interactive features.
So who would this suit? Well, if you’re a veteran river cruiser and you’re fond of the likes of Uniworld’s boutique-style riverboats, Vantage is not for you. I would say it sits somewhere between the clean, modern lines of Avalon, and the more functional design of Viking or CroisiEurope.