We were on the River Baroness as the first part of the Uniworld Grand France Itinerary, going from Paris to Normandy 15-22 June on the Seine. The second part of the trip was on the SS Catherine, going from Lyon to Marseille via a high speed train from Paris to the Rhone and Saone. The River Baroness was remodeled in 2011 and is 361 feet long. In comparison, the Catherine began cruising about March of 2014 and is an additional 82 feet long. This review will just concern the River Baroness.
The ship itself appeared very homey, with every crew member being very friendly and welcoming. It is almost like they are a family on the river. On numerous occasions, we watched waitstaff jump in to assist others in clearing tables. Two individuals stood out in warmth and friendliness, Georgina the Hotel Manager, and Oana our waitress. We would always have conversations with Georgina around the ship, and Oana knew our like and dislikes in the restaurant after the second day. When we came into the Van Gogh restaurant after a day of sightseeing, she would always make us laugh.
The cruise to Normandy was made by the excellent Cruise Director, Piet. Timely arrangements of transportation, and very proficient guides were the rule. He always had a "this is what is going to happen tomorrow" meeting before dinner. Piet made the passengers aware of a nighttime light show at the Rouen cathedral, showing about 25 folks the way. Piet even had a group he designated "Gentle Walkers", for those who had trouble climbing steps and walking a lot. Turns out this group usually had guide ratios of 1 to 4 or 6, contrasting with 1 to 25 or so with the regular groups. There were some passengers who asked if we paid more for this! One guide, Olivier, stood out as quite knowledgeable on the Normandy landings. We also had adequate time to shop when available. I had wanted to go to Giverney for many years, so it was a thrill to be standing at the side of the water lily pond that Monet had painted, as well as walking in his garden and home. Finally, I also did the optional Versaille tour for 55 Euros. Although we saw a small percentage of the palace, it was easy to see and appreciate the sheer opulence.
We especially liked the top deck glass-enclosed area, and its nicely decorated shaded areas, with plants and such. The deck chairs have nice padded cushions.
A negative factor was the Monet Lounge which most often, was hot and stuffy. The one time it was comfortable was when the front window was was open, something you could not do if it was really hot out.
Small ships are a problem when large noisy people congregate in groups, or talk over the guide, which was what happened on the Baroness, and to a lesser extent on the Catherine. Although Piet could not do anything in the dining room, he did try to have that particular group together, with its own guide and bus.
I left my smartphone in the lounge towards the end of the week, but when I went back about 10 minutes later, it was gone. I do not believe the crew had anything to do with it.
One thing I really liked with both ships was the availability of free wi-fi. That enabled us to stay connected with home quite easily, and since I avidly use Facebook, I was posting picture every day.
Since we were cruising on the Seine, in every city, there were great bike paths, so several times, I checked out a bike when we are in docked, and enjoyed that immensely.
On the whole, the Baroness was very enjoyable, with the staff being excellent. I would positively recommend that riverboat in a heartbeat.