This was a very pleasant week cruising up and down-river from Lyon on a riverboat which could hold 140 passengers but carried only about 50 during the week. This made the public areas such as the lounge and the dining room less than half-full, resulting in better service and more enjoyable surroundings, and allowing getting on and off the boat and shore excursions to be less crowded and hectic.
The boat is not as fancy as some I have seen, nor does it need to be. The cabin was very comfortable and everything worked fine. I should note that I was on the bottom deck, and one could notice the noise going through the water, and at night going through the many locks there were a number of bumps and thumps. I was sorry that I could not lie on my bed and watch the world go by through my large window as it was at a higher level.
There was a sun deck where one could sit and enjoy the passing scenery, but it was often closed as the boat went under so many low bridges; in fact, during the week there was only one afternoon where I was able to take advantage of the sun deck.
The food on the boat was much better than I had expected, mainly French cuisine, but with some other options, especially pasta options. Dinner was a leisurely 5-6 course served affair with complimentary wine and beer (the same house wine all week) served at one sitting at 7:30 or so. The menu, while slightly limited, was quite sufficient with the exception of usually no dinner salad offered. Lunch was served either in the dining room or in the lounge. In the dining room there was a buffet with soup and a great selection of salads and a couple of beginners and desserts, and then you ordered and they brought the main course.
In the lounge (with luncheon piano playing) there was a buffet with a limited selection of salad makings,
soup, and a couple of hot dishes. Wine at lunch was not complimentary.
The ship had one Provincial Buffet lunch in the lounge that was superb with free wine. It included local specialties of mussels, sausage, cheese, and French desserts. They also served a nightly snack every night. There were two receptions with champagne and snacks.
Entertainment on the boat consisted of a musical couple. He played piano, flute and accordion; she sang and played the violin. They were really quite good and very entertaining and there was nightly dancing and a couple of trivia-type contests. If you told the piano player you liked a particular song (in my case "Lily
Marlene" that became your theme song and you heard it every time you came into the lounge.
There were some great shore excursions, usually one in the morning and one in the afternoon, timed so that you were on the boat for lunch, which was never included in the excursions. Trips included scenic rides in the countryside and to quaint villages or historic chateaux or wine tastings as well as guided city walks. Private radio listening devices were provided. Transportation by comfortable bus was provided.
I felt that the excursions were good, but slightly overpriced by perhaps 20%, especially since usually no food or drink was provided except at one wine tasting. The city walking tours were not really necessary as the ship provided a local map for personal touring.
The ship did have a workout room with two machines and a hair-dresser salon and a small shop selling souvenir items.
Everything on the boat was great until the final day. I do not fault the boat for arriving back to Lyon delayed by a number of hours due to lock traffic, and they took action to offload most of the passengers earlier in the morning along the way so they could take a bus to the airport for their flights. However, when we arrived at the dock in Lyon there were nine persons with baggage waiting in the entryway to get off via the one narrow brow (gangway). For some reason, the hotel manager went on the dock and started loading on the baggage of, and two dozen embarking passengers, causing confusion and overcrowding in the small entryway. When I suggested that they should let people off first, he brusquely said, "well come on then." Nobody helped me with my bag, so as I trundled it off the boat and went by him he studiously ignored me. Perhaps this is another example of when you leave a cruise they ignore you as they are too busy getting ready for new guests who have not already tipped them. Except for this one sour note, the service and friendliness of the crew and staff was outstanding the entire week.
I booked this particular boat/line primarily due to the excellent rate and low single supplement and was completely satisfied with everything. The other similar cruises I had looked at charged a much higher single supplement on a base fare some 30-40% higher.