My husband & I recently returned from our first river cruise. We chose Uniworld because we had heard such great things about the company & Paris to Normandy for an itinerary as we love Paris & we are both WWII buffs. We came in a day early to get over the jetlag but did not stay at the hotel that Uniworld uses (we stayed at a hotel in the 1st arr. that we have previously stayed at) so had to pay for our own taxi to the ship, no big deal but the cabbie did have some trouble finding the dock:) Also, we were just on this leg of the journey, there were a lot of people on the Grand France itinerary onboard but alas, that was not us.
Now, on to the River Baroness: Our first impression was that it was nice, decently appointed but some of the areas looked a lot smaller than they do in the brochure or online:) The lounge was badly in need of a redo, the chairs & couches were rather broken in to say the least & the whole area could use a new coat of paint. We always More
found it to be rather warm & stuffy in there as well. The restaurant was nice with large windows on both sides that gave a nice view of the river (or the riverboat we were tied up to). Our cabin was VERY small (they must have used a wide angle lens when they took photos of it) & the closet was tiny, you had to have the hangers sideways in order to close the closet doors. Also, there is no dresser in the room, just 2 small night tables. We are average/small sized people & had trouble moving about our cabin but we had a lot of laughs trying to do so. The bathroom was really tiny although the shower was large. I was always banging my knees or elbows in the bathroom but again, we had a lot of laughs over it. Our favorite area was the top deck, it was so nice & the chairs & loungers were very comfortable. It was a treat to sit up there with a glass of champagne & watch the Normandy coastline float by. We still miss that!
The staff: From housekeeping to the bar staff to the waiters everyone was so friendly & helpful, always smiling & remembering your preferences, they would pour the champagne as we walked into the bar or just deliver up to the deck if we were up there (thank goodness the alcohol was all-inclusive or we would have been in real trouble:) Top notch all the way. Our cruise director Ann was ok, rather impersonal but she did give a talk before dinner each night about what would be taking place the next day. The food was very good to excellent at all meals & they also offer "Al Fresco" dining up on the sundeck, we signed up for it 2x over the cruise & enjoyed it very much.
All our excursions were terrific, the local guides really know their stuff & seem very passionate about what they do. We did the walking tour of Paris (fabulous), Giverny (wow), the hike up to Chateau Gaillard (really steep climb but worth it), The Normandy beaches (so moving, so many houses there are still flying American & British flags), The walking tour of Rouen (quite nice), The extra excursion to Etratat (worth every penny, the cliffs were amazing, the trip to the cider farm (rather dull), Honfleur (such a great place) & walked in the footsteps of Van Gogh (great but don't wear good shoes, you walk thru the fields that he painted in & my cute canvas shoes got destroyed, guess I should have taken the tour title literally:)
We did have one MAJOR problem on our sailing, we were supposed to set sail Sunday night but because it was Bastille Day on Monday all the locks we had to go thru on the river were closed. Therefore, we would be in Paris on Monday instead of Giverny & so on for the rest of the week. Too bad almost everything in Paris was closed for the holiday. We then lost out on our Saturday in Paris at the end. We had saved a number of things we wanted to do in Paris for this day & as such missed out on them all. Uniworld chose to inform the hundred or so passengers this on Sunday night before our welcome dinner. Talk about a bunch of surprised people!!! You can't tell us they didn't know about this major change in our schedule well before we were due to set sail. How could they not check into whether the locks would be open or not on such a major holiday as Bastille Day?? Shame on Uniworld for springing this on everyone at literally the last minute. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot.
Overall, we had a very nice cruise on a good ship & we like river cruising but I think if we were to do another one we would go with Tauck (we've done 8 land tours with them & they are just perfect in every way). We cut thru a Tauck ship on disembarkation day & it was gorgeous, very high end & trendy & a lot roomier than our ship.
Sorry this so long but I hope it helps someone heading out to Normandy!! Less
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Our cabin was VERY small (they must have used a wide angle lens when they took photos of it) & the closet was tiny, you had to have the hangers sideways in order to close the closet doors. Also, there is no dresser in the room, just 2 small night tables. We are average/small sized people & had trouble moving about our cabin but we had a lot of laughs trying to do so. The bathroom was really tiny although the shower was large. I was always banging my knees or elbows in the bathroom but again, we had a lot of laughs over it.