My family and I recently came back from our 21 Day Romantic Seine & Rhone Paris to Barcelona APT tour in June 2013 on board AmaLegro and AmaDagio. We all had a wonderful time there and I would like to use this opportunity to share my experiences and thoughts with everyone. Hopefully, people would find my article useful in their decision making and preparation for their trips with APT and/or AmaWaterways.
There are 2 parts of my review: part 1 covers 3 days in Paris and 7 day on board AmaLegro, and part 2 covers 7 day on board AmaDagio and 3 days in Barcelona. This is part 1 of my review.
Our trip started with 3 days in Paris where APT organised various tours. After 3 days in Paris, we were transferred to Seine River on Day 4 late afternoon where our luxury river ship, AmaLegro, awaited.
Compared to our previous experiences with AmaBella and AmaVerde travelled from Amsterdam to Budapest in 2011, AmaLegro is very similar to those 2 ships but a few years older. There are public lounges in the front and back of the ship, free internet and Wi-Fi access, and gym. The cabins are well equipped and reasonably spacious.
The food and shore excursions were certainly the highlights of my cruises. The quality of the food (3 meals, morning tea, and afternoon tea) was excellent and services from the restaurant and bar staff were very attentive and always do their best to anticipate customers’ needs. For example, unlike AmaBella and AmaVerde where I always had to ask (or should I use the word “beg”) to have my water and non-alcoholic drink refilled during my meals, AmaLegro is the only the ship where my drink always being refilled before it ran out, I never had to ask.
My favourite shore excursions along Seine River were (1) Giverny where we visited the home of Claude Monet and its famous gardens; (2) Rouen, heart of Normandy region; (3) picturesque Honfleur; (4) beautiful Les Andelys and Chateau Gaillard built by Richard the Lionheart; (5) Chateau de Malmaison, home of General Napoleon and Josephine. All passengers on walking tours were accompanied by Quietvox and people could join different groups to suit their fitness level. There was daily information session every afternoon by the tour director informing everyone the details of shore excursions for the next day.
We had a really bad experience with the night walk to the Rouen cathedral for Rouen cathedral light show at 11pm. On the way walking from the ship to cathedral with our tour director Peter Whitehead gave us no information about where to meet after the light show and he didn’t organise any torch for us. So after the light show, all of us were very confused with what to do next, and it took us a while to find Peter Whitehead because there were many people and limited light in the square, then we had to walk back to the ship in the dark by ourselves.
There is a critical safety concern associate with the design of the spiral staircases to level 1 cabins. Compare to all other stairs in the ship, the tight construction of these stairs with narrow staircase width, steep gradient, and handrail on only one side, they are not easy for the elderly passengers to use. With majority of the passengers on board over the age 50, every day I saw elderly passengers struggling with these stairs. I am a much younger person and even I found the stairs gradient very challenging. I felt climbing up these stairs was like a rock climbing exercise because these stairs are too steep.
When we raise our concern about the stairs to level 1 cabins, and asked if we could have an upgrade to upper level cabins e.g. either we paid extra or for free, given the ship was not at its full capacity. Tour Director, Peter Whitehead said that he would investigate but he didn’t think upgrade would be possible. He never got back to us. During the same conversation, Peter Whitehead also indicated that “we got what we paid for” and we should already know there are stairs to level 1 when we booked our trip. I found Peter’s comments quite condescending. Later, I found out tour director’s room is on level 2, so he might not aware of how difficult these stairs are to elderly passengers.
We were aware of the existences of the stairs at the time of booking, but we didn’t know the design and shape of the stairs to level 1 is so “elderly user unfriendly”. There was neither information nor photos on APT brochure providing any indication on the shape and design of the spiral staircases to level 1 cabins. If we were given clear information (e.g. photos) about the design and shape of the level 1 stairs at the time of booking, then we would be able to assess the situation accurately and make an informed decision, e.g. we would not have chosen level 1 cabins. All other stairs in the ship are quite easy to use.
I filed a formal complaint to APT after the tour to raise my concerns. APT addressed my concern about the night tour swiftly. APT told me that because the night tour to Rouen cathedral was an informal tour, therefore our tour director, Peter Whitehead, thought there was no need to do any coordination. APT was initially sceptical to my concern about the level 1 stairs and told me that these staircases comply with European safety standards and since nobody ever complaint about the stairs and have been no accidents recorded, then it must be an isolated problem. Our tour director, Peter Whitehead, declined any wrong doing in telling us “you got what you paid for”. So I had no choice but to liaise with other level 1 passengers and encourage them to contact APT and tell APT what they thought about level 1 stairs. In the end, APT agreed to pass on my suggestions regarding a second handrail to AmaWaterways for future consideration, and APT would encourage anyone who has disclosed their mobility concerns to book cabins on level 2 or 3 in the future.
APT refused to refund us the portion of gratuities that would go to tour director, Peter Whitehead, because that was already included in the overall fee. I was very disappointed with their decision because I thought gratuities were supposed to use to encourage good performance, not insulting customer.
Overall, we had a lovely time in Paris and on board AmaLegro. It could have been perfect holiday for us if it wasn’t the dangerous stairs and humiliating experiences with the tour director, Peter Whitehead. We do not hold any grudge or vendetta against APT or AmaWaterways, but we want to share our experiences with people who are considering taking the European river cruise with APT / AmaWaterways, so people would be much better prepared than us.