My family and I just disembarked from a 7 day cruise with Croisieres de France on the Horizon. My wife, 4-year-old daughter and I enjoyed the cruise and would cruise again for the value.
Now, a bit more. I've done 23 cruises before this one, 14 with my wife and 1 with all three of us. We've been on all the major US-focused lines except Carnival (Royal, NCL, HAL, Princess, Celebrity, Costa, etc) and favor Celebrity above all else for their food, service and quality (in that order). We found an amazing value on this cruise with my daughter cruising for port tax only and airline tickets with miles that made this trip an easy choice based on the value. We like a quiet cruise - we've done all the big excursions and whatnot. We like dinner to be nice and enjoy quiet family time for the majority of our travels.
CDF is a French/European line. Period. On a ship of 2,000 there were maybe 8 Americans and 2 Brits. The majority spoke French or Spanish. The crew nearly all spoke English - certainly well enough for us to never go without all week. Since we don't go on trips to meet folks this worked out VERY well... all those annoying conversations you hear on ships were just white noise since neither of us spoke French or Spanish well enough to understand most of it.
It's also a value line. Don't expect Premier Cru Bordeaux's on the inclusive wine list. Do expect a quality table wine (and I'm a reasonable oenophile) everywhere. Don't expect foie gras unless you're willing to pay the 15 EUR premium at dinner. It's there... but it's a premium.
But there are few of those. The line really is all-inclusive... all liquor, wine with all meals, tips... all inclusive. Paid for satellite internet time (with good speeds I might add) and a gift shop purchase but that was it. Soda machines dispense endless Coca Cola products as well. If you're tied to a specific brand of liquor or beer be prepared to be disappointed but if you're willing to flex a bit you can save a ton and still enjoy yourself.
The itinerary was great - At Sea, St Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, St Kitts, Tortola. We did beaches and actually stayed on board a bit and skipped excursions this time around. I was disappointed that our stop in Martinique was on New Year's Day meaning the entire island was seemingly closed for the holiday. One lap through the city center revealed it to be a place I'd like to visit but out of 300+ shops there was a fabric store and a shoe store open. The ship sailed out of La Romana which is about 90 minutes from the airport in Santo Domingo - $100 each way in a taxi which was easily negotiated on both ends of the trip.
What WASN'T easy was the immigration portion of embarkation. The DR requires you to pay a $10/pp Tourist Card tax on arrival so be prepared for that. But the biggest problem was they had a single guy working immigration on the front end... thankfully they had 4 on disembarkation. The cruise portion of the embarkation was a breeze - took less than 5 minutes
Dinner was the one spot where I'd say I was truly disappointed. The food quality was excellent - it was all prepared well from quality ingredients. But... as a cruise passenger I'm used to an elegant meal experience with "glamorous" (for lack of a better word) choices. I don't want to say "gourmet" since I would only really expect that on Celebrity but there was never really a "wow" item - and even on HAL or Princess there's rarely a dinner without at least one item. But the food was good, and we were in and out most nights right at an hour... so it was GOOD, not great. The other meals were consistent mainly buffet experiences. The pizza crust was easily skipped (it's a French line, not Italian) but the daily selection of baguette, sausage and cheese was nearly as good as I got in Paris 6 weeks before.
I was very glad I carry an HDMI cable so I was able to play movies from my laptop onto the TV - otherwise we would have been limited to French, Spanish or the one English-language movie that looped all day.
A few other negatives you'd expect... communications with the French-first, Spanish-second, English-third crew were possible but not easy. Smoking was a bit more prevalent than I would like but not out of control nor unrestrained.
A few more notes:
- Amazing value for the price.
- Ships are clean and safe.
- Great crew and fantastic itinerary (other than noted).
- Ship is not too big or too crowded - was dwarfed at many ports
- Guests onboard at several points so embarkation and disembarkation is relatively easy (see below)
- Our cabin NEVER got good air conditioning