We love cruising but always felt the port cities did not give us an adequate representation of each country; therefore, we decided to try a European river cruise. We chose Grand Circle because it came highly recommended by a fellow passenger on a prevous Princess cruise, so we followed up by reviewing their website (www.gct.com) as well as the websites for their competitors. We felt Grand Circle was an excellent value, and we couldn't have been more pleased with our trip. The food & dining room service was excellent, as was the presentation, and compared favorably with the food & service we have received on our numerous ocean cruises through the years. The weather was amazing which hightened our enjoyment, but all four of the Program Directors made sure that our every need was met: they were our tour guide, and our friend by the end of the cruise. Example: one of the Program Directors had a passenger that fell, broke three teeth, and split her lip. The Program Director took her to the dentist in town, stayed with her, and made sure her bills were taken care of. Additionally, this same PD received two calls in the middle of the night during our cruise, and she again went with each passenger to the hospital, made sure they were well taken care of, and brought them back to the river boat after their release. There is nothing we could have asked that was outside their job description.
All rooms are 160 square feet, and come with adequate storage space. The beds are individual and cannot be made into a queen, but they were very comfortable.
"The Great Rivers of Europe" included the following ports: Amsterdam, Cologne, Koblenz, a dinner out in Rudesheim, Heidelberg, Wertheim - where we had a home hosted "Kaffee Klatsch" with a local German family, Wurzburg, Rothenburg, Bamberg, Nurnberg, Kelheim/Regensburg, Passau, Melk, and Vienna. The pacing of each day was up to each passenger, with time each day to see as much/little of each town as you chose after a morning city tour lead by your Program Director.
One thing we were not aware of until we got onboard: there is a massage therapist and a small workout area with two treadmills, a weight maching, a hot tub, and a sauna. Actually very nice, with a shower in the area as well.
The after dinner entertainment was OK, so often we just went up to the Sun Deck to relax as we sailed through 66 locks during the entire voyage. Because there were only 158 passengers on board, disembarkation was very easy. Everyone got color-coded information to attach to their carry-on bag(s), and we didn't need to have the bags out until the morning we left. The staff loaded your luggage on the minivan taking us to the airport and, again, a Program Director was there to help with check-in, language issues, etc.
After this excellent experience, we look forward to another cruise with Grand Circle.