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7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
We took advantage of a special offer via Imagine Cruising a company we use and trust for this river cruise.We arrived at Lyon and boarded quickly and were very pleased at our cabin which was spotless and very welcoming with nice decor ... Read More
We took advantage of a special offer via Imagine Cruising a company we use and trust for this river cruise.We arrived at Lyon and boarded quickly and were very pleased at our cabin which was spotless and very welcoming with nice decor etc.We enjoyed the pleasant public areas and especially the sun deck with good seating and a lovely shaded area with also small but well presented pool to cool off in everyday.All meals and most drinks are included and were of very good quality.We enjoy different cultures and the food offered and like to try different tastes and always found something tasty at meal times.Salads.meats,fish desserts.cheeses including the breads were good.Tea and coffee are available at all times. We visited the South of France area from Lyon through Avignon,Arles etc down to the Port st Louis area which was the only port to disappoint.We think this last stop should be excluded from the itinerary as it's too industrial in this part.We enjoyed two trips outside of the towns that we moored in the centres.the first was to the Camargue area ending up in the lovely little seaside town of St Marie de la mer which is beautiful.The second was to Marseille but was too rushed and a bit frustrating as we only had 25 minutes around the port area which was the most interesting part of the city. The clientele are largely German with a few other nationalities and about 25 percent British and there was little mixing ,probably due to the language barriers and it was difficult to communicate and people gathered in the evenings in their own language groups.I hoped for more mixing It was very pleasant to sit to enjoy sunsets and the passing countryside as we leisurely sailed the river.All the main cities including Lyon and Avignon are easily explored from the boat and we have lovely memories of these beautiful places. the evenings were simple with light music playing as we enjoyed the company of fellow cruisers with inclusive drinks and food at hand at all time. We will certainly river cruise again and we hope with Arosa in the future.104 Read Less
33 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
The pre cruise 3 day stay in Prague, together with Vienna and Budapest were the high points of this, our second river cruise. The views from our Juliette cabin window were magnificent and come highly recommended.The weather was typically ... Read More
The pre cruise 3 day stay in Prague, together with Vienna and Budapest were the high points of this, our second river cruise. The views from our Juliette cabin window were magnificent and come highly recommended.The weather was typically very hot but the air conditioning kept us all cool until one evening it broke down for a few hours. Generally however, the facilities onboard were maintained to a high standard. The transfer to Passau from Prague by coach was over 5 hours, having been delayed for an hour when one of our party sadly became ill. Similarly our transfer from the boat at the end of the cruise to Munich Airport by "Imagine Cruising" was rather too long. We lwere required to vacate our cabins by 9.00am, then waited (without further refreshments) in the ships lounge until 11.00am, when we began the transfer to Passau Centre for a walking tour. We then completed the journey to Munich airport at 2.00pm, arriving at 4.00pm for our 8.15 pm BA flight to Heathrow. This river cruise was on Arosa Donna, with an equal number of German and British passengers. Info was delivered in two languages, but translation sometimes less than transparent.The crew were a mix of nationalities, but key posts were filled by German staff. Embarkation, cabin, boat and itinerary were generally good. The food, at best very ordinary.Never the standard we experience on ocean cruises. Afternoon tea is composed of rather plain cakes. Entertainment on board consisted of a very noisy , poorly attended disco every night - until midnight. "Ports of Call" and Excursion information delivered by one very good and one very weak member of staff. Really surprised that in Budapest no evening cruise available, given the beauty that is Budapest at night. Excursions are booked when onboard. The crew, particularly in the restaurant and bars were unusually a rather grumpy, unhelpful bunch, who were rarely seen on the upper sun deck taking orders. Staffing , particularly in the bars , appeared to be a real issue during our Donna cruise and it was never easy to get a drink , without queuing a long time on this " all inclusive" cruise. Similarly the cruise line ARosa / Chef appeared " to struggle" with those, like my wife, with special dietary requirements e.g. Gluten Free. But food dishes on the daily menu did have allergens identified. Overall, although we enjoyed the boat, the cabin, the cruise , the places visited - we would be unlikely to choose ARosa again. Read Less
29 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
This was our first time on a River Cruise and I did enjoy the overall experience of river cruising but would choose another company next time, in regard to some reasons listed below. This cruise was along the Danube from Passau to ... Read More
This was our first time on a River Cruise and I did enjoy the overall experience of river cruising but would choose another company next time, in regard to some reasons listed below. This cruise was along the Danube from Passau to Budapest and back over 8 days. When we arrived in the train station in Passau we were surprised that there was no representative from Arosa to offer passengers any information on when and/or where our prearranged bus transportation to the vessel would be available. Our luggage was taken from all the arriving passengers but that was it with assistance. We were travelling with another couple and after all of us were wandering around for quite awhile trying to get some help and being unsuccessful, we decided to just take a taxi to the vessels location. Have no idea how long the other train passengers had to wait for their transportation but do know that we were well settled in on the vessel when they finally did arrive. This needs to be improved. The ship itself was in good condition with the exception of one problem that was apparent with a sewage smell that would appear at times in the lounge area and nearby stairway to the outer upper deck and unfortunately there were also some issues with our companions cabin and this smell as well. When we inquired about it we were told they were aware of the situation but were told from head office that it would be addressed later on in the season. This is not acceptable. Our cabin ( French Balcony ) on Deck 3 was comfortable and well serviced by the attendants throughout the cruise. Actually the crew overall were very friendly and offered good service and spoke enough English for any english speaking guests which were very limited ( think I was the only one ) but they did leave a daily activities leaflet in both English and German in our cabin, as they knew I was only English speaking while my spouse and our travelling companions are fluent in German. This was a nice touch. Wifi was very inconsistent the entire trip whether we were moving or not, so if one needs to rely on consistent daily computer contact, this is something to consider with Arosa. Not sure about other companies out there. Something to consider also is that for any people with physical challenges, there are no elevators onboard. We did see a number of people really struggling at times especially on stairwells to the outer deck... I think that with the overall older clientele cruising nowadays, all vessels should be fitted with elevators. As previously mentioned meals on board were buffet style and although food was quite plentiful, we found that a lot of dishes were too greasy and food would often look like it was sitting in a lot of oil. Seemed to be popular with the German clientele but not really appetizing for our particular tastes. Would also have been nice if the evening meal at least could have been a sit-down dinner. We also opted for the all inclusive beverage package and would enjoy a pre dinner cocktail each evening and on occasion, one afterwards. Did enjoy the ports of call along the Danube and did a combination of ship excursions and touring on our own along the way. The ships excursions were all done in German so not the best for me but I did enjoy the sights. Vienna was lovely as was Budapest with it's architecture and also the much smaller Bratislava. In conclusion, with the issues that did arise on our cruise and for our particular tastes regarding food and meals, we would not do another cruise with Arosa. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
I wanted to give you an update of our experiences on the Arosa Bella cruise on the Danube. Let me start out that there were 5 of us traveling in 3 cabins. We are all in our late 40's-early 50's. We got a text the night before the ... Read More
I wanted to give you an update of our experiences on the Arosa Bella cruise on the Danube. Let me start out that there were 5 of us traveling in 3 cabins. We are all in our late 40's-early 50's. We got a text the night before the cruise was to start while we were in Munich that the locks were down in Slovakia and the boat could not get to Passau so we would be bussed to the boat in Hungary. This ended up to be a 6 hour bus ride to Komaron, Hungary. We were not happy at all with the way they handled the lock closure. When we got to Passau as we were instructed, the Hotel Director, Michael was unwilling to speak with us to explain what was going on because we spoke English. To quote him "I will only speak to the German guests now, you can wait." Now keep in mind we are in a strange country where we don't speak the language. Dozens of people are milling around trying to find out what was going on and many were mad that they had not been contacted. We were not mad, but did want to understand what they were saying. We were lucky in that about 20 minutes after standing there, a person that was going on the cruise that spoke English finally translated for us. He told us to tag our bags and put them on the bus and just to get on the bus. The Hotel Director kept telling us to wait even after I called the cruise line contact that had called me about the change and she promised to call Michael to have him talk to us. I saw her call him and heard him answer and he then still chose to ignore us. If it wasn't for a very nice German man that had lived in Fort Lee, NJ for a time, we would have had no idea what to do or where to go until they decided to talk to us. On the cruise itself many times we felt a burden to the cruise line because we spoke English. Because of the change in itinerary they did give a lovely tour in Budapest in English that we were not expecting. What we didn't realize was if we didn't take the German tour we would not be allowed off the ship in Melk & Krems. We ended up taking the German tour because we wanted to get off the ship, but in Esztergom we almost had the same problem, but I forced the to call us a cab to take us to Basilica. That information would have been helpful before we went so we were prepared. I had originally had some tours planned but due to the change in itinerary we had to cancel them. We did have a great waiter every night who spoke English and got us an English menu every night. The ship itself was lovely. The passengers were friendly even though many did not speak English. Food was generally good with only a few times that there was little to eat for my husband since the gluten allergy. They had a hard time understanding the gluten allergy depending on which chef was there as some did not speak any English and could not tell my husband what foods were safe and what weren't. The itinerary was great and we loved that we were overnight in Vienna and Budapest. Wifi didn't really work well so I wouldn't tout it much. We had a full drink package so all our drinks were included. This was great and not something I was used to on a cruise. We had lots of great local wines and schnapps. The cabin was comfortable and clean and very well kept. We loved being up on deck as we went through the locks on the return trip. The cruise line did give us an OBC for our troubles of the 6 hour bus ride to Komaron and a discount on the spa. We both had massages which were nice while on the river. I only wish we had some English tours to use the money on. We ended up with beach towels, but I would have preferred to see more of the cities. I did take 1,529 pictures and it was an awesome trip. We have decided we would do another river cruise in the future, but will be trying a different cruise line in the future. We got to see a lot of them, as in many of the cities, when the boats docked, you walked through one to get to yours so you got to at least see their lobby. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
Overall: I think it is very tricky to try to add Americans to what was once a mainly German cruise line. The announcements were in English and German and all the printed materials were in English and German. We did get an all-English ... Read More
Overall: I think it is very tricky to try to add Americans to what was once a mainly German cruise line. The announcements were in English and German and all the printed materials were in English and German. We did get an all-English newsletter every day and an all-English “Daily Calendar” The staff was pretty much bi-lingual, but their first language was German, so they spoke to one another in German. In spite of all that, this could be a good cruise for people who are looking for a middle of the road cruise. The pricing is lower than AMA or Avalon and the inclusion of all alcoholic beverages could be a plus for some travelers. In speaking with another agent on board, she said that her experience on the newer ship on the Rhine was much better. The food was far superior and cabins were nicer. Lounge: The lounge and bar area seems to be quite small. It was always well used. At times there was nowhere to go to find a quiet space to check emails. In the front of the boat, the lounge looks over a lot of equipment, disrupting the view. The dining room: The dining room was attractive and set up for people to interact. After any meal they did ask you to leave so they could set up for the next meal. This happened several times, and we moved to the lounge where it was difficult to have a quiet conversation. Sun Deck: This space has a large seating area and a pool with lounge chairs. The weather was cool and rainy, so no one used the pool. On good days people sat and visited. Since smoking is allowed on the sun deck and there were numerous smokers,we opted to stay in the lounge most of the time. Meals: Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style, with no ordering off the menu. There was an option for egg dishes like omelets and scrambled eggs made on the spot to your specs. Breads, cold cuts, cereals and fruits were available. Regular coffee, hot chocolate and tea were available. Generally no pastries were offered in the morning, only muffin halves. Dinner was buffet on three nights and on the other nights there was a set menu with three choices: meat, fish or vegetarian. I was quite disappointed in the food. The cereals offered for breakfast were: mueseli, corn flakes and cocoa puffs. There was a pot of porridge available. We thought it tasted like gummy oatmeal. The yogurt was put in a large bowl to ladle out by ourselves and was poorly labeled. Many times the food was cold by the time I got it to our table as there were many people trying to get at the buffet. Since this is a German company, there were foods offered that were not usually part of the American diet, such as herring for breakfast and rabbit for dinner. Dessert mainly consisted of cakes and puddings. There was a mid-afternoon coffee and tea service that included cakes and desserts. Excursions: Excursions were set up so that the English-speaking people were on one bus with one tour guide and the German speakers were on another bus. The German bus had about 12 people and the English speaking bus had about 33 people. There was no differentiation in the large group by abilities. (no gentle walker or active walker groups) so we kept to the pace of the slow walkers, some of whom used crutches. This made the tours tedious for people who wanted to see more. In Arles, we decided to just walk the town on our own. Americans were treated to lunch at Paul Boucuse Restaurant in Lyon. Paul Bocuse is a 3-star Michelin chef, so lunch was a fabulous treat. I would say that it was one of the highlights of the cruise. The other guests were not invited, nor were aware of this excursion until the Americans returned and were gushing over the wonderful food. The excursion to the Ardeche, which included a visit to the Lavender museum and lavender fields was well worth it, although we spent a lot of time on the bus.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
We had very favourable impressions in entering the small "lobby" with shop display, reception desk, and staircases aft to the sleeping quarters, forward to dining room and lounges, and below to gym and sauna. The ship for its ... Read More
We had very favourable impressions in entering the small "lobby" with shop display, reception desk, and staircases aft to the sleeping quarters, forward to dining room and lounges, and below to gym and sauna. The ship for its size was very well equipped and comfortable for the 170 passengers. The air conditioned cabins are not large but with sufficient storage space, TV (mainly German channels) comfortable beds and a shower room. The two upper deck cabins have a juliette balcony with full length opening doors giving a wonderful view of the passing of river scenery. The upper deck has a swimming pool with sun lounging area, a games area with quoits etc and a covered area to enjoy drinks in the shade. The deck below has a sauna and a small well equipped gym with various exercise machines, there was also a fitness instructor who gave any kind of instruction including Pilates classes. The forward part of the ship a dining room with a nice mix of tables, so that a couple could keep to themselves or form a large group. The large lounge held the bar, a great range of cocktails, and full length windows for those who wanted to enjoy the scenery in air conditioned comfort. The service was impeccable, there are 46 crew on the ship, mainly German and very friendly and on a small ship you encountered them frequently; there was always a smile and a greeting. The food was amazing, 5 course meals every evening, with a Mediterranean theme and local produce, the chef may have had had a Michelin star or tw. During the day there was a buffet with numerous choices at breakfast and lunchtime, and afternoon tea with cakes. Coffee and tea, with lots of choices, were free and available from 6:30 am to late at night on a self service basis. Alcoholic drinks had to be paid for but the price was no more expensive than a normal restaurant. We travelled with Swan Hellenic who had chartered the ship for a history themed tour of eight nights with a university lecturer on board to give informative talks. We journeyed by train from St Pancras via Lille to Lyon to board the ship, much the most civilized way of travel, with a Swan Hellenic tour manager to ease our passage. The cruise was up the Soane and then down the Rhone visiting Beaune for the medieval hospital, Tournus to see Cluny Abbey remains, Viviers for the Ardeche gorge and lavender fields, Arles, the Roman amphitheater , Avignon, Bridge and Popes Palace, Vienne for the Roman remains and Lyon for the medieval town, there were guided coach tours with local guides for each visit. The pace of the tours is not fast as many of the passengers are of advanced age, typical Swan Hellenic clientèle, in fact there is always a gentle option for each tour for slower passengers. Travel down the river is naturally slow, often several hours overnight, with long delays at the locks which needed some rearrangement of timetables to manage all the planned visits. A very relaxing and informative eight days.   Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
This was our first river cruise in France, and perhaps our last, for reasons below. The ship is well run, with a mix of Germans, Brits and Norwegians. Language was not a problem, but for English announcements were always a follow-up to ... Read More
This was our first river cruise in France, and perhaps our last, for reasons below. The ship is well run, with a mix of Germans, Brits and Norwegians. Language was not a problem, but for English announcements were always a follow-up to German, still what do you expect on a German ship. Meals were a big disappointment, the brochure described the food as European. In France I thought they would make the effort to include French style meals, no such luck. Beautiful soft French cheeses were on board, but not served at Dinner, except 2 instances. Fine if you like it for breakfast. The wine selection was good, but not premium wines, these cost extra. The no, no of this cruise was the sun-deck allowed smoking everywhere including the dining area. When will river cruise companies realise that the majority of passengers are non-smokers, and dislike intensely cigarette smoke, especially when eating or sitting on deck looking at the view. I will not be river cruising again until they change smoking policy. All sea going companies now restrict smoking to specific areas. We enjoyed the scenery and compliment the crew, especially the Maitre d' for doing their best with a full ship. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
I just returned from the A-Rosa Stella Provence river cruise (sailing on Saone and Rhone rivers), August 2013. The all-inclusive cruise experience was great! The cruise included a wide range of ages from 30-80 yrs -- several 30-40 year ... Read More
I just returned from the A-Rosa Stella Provence river cruise (sailing on Saone and Rhone rivers), August 2013. The all-inclusive cruise experience was great! The cruise included a wide range of ages from 30-80 yrs -- several 30-40 year olds who loved to party from USA, many 50 year olds from USA, and about 40 German / British passengers. Our French balcony cabin had 2 doors that opened wide (not just a sliding glass door) , which added to the enjoyment of views along the river. On several mornings, we were welcomed by gorgeous sunrises and swans as we arrived into the port towns. Cabins offered lots of storage, both hanging racks and shelving. A-Rosa's Stella departs and returns to Lyon. This is a big plus, over the other river cruises that leave from Chalon-sur-Saone because Lyon has major airport and train connections, making arrival /departures easy. A-Rosa Stella serves wonderful wines with lunch and dinner. For example, the last night's wine pairings with dinner were Perrin et Fils wines. Bar drinks are included -- and Stella's bartender makes great mojitos -- perfect enjoyment for late afternoons, as we sat on the sun-deck, sailing past small stone villages, under brilliant blue skies. Lunch aboard the Stella offered a buffet in the main dining room, or grilled lunch on the sundeck, along with bar service. The dining room never felt crowded, due to the floor-to-ceiling windows on each side of the dining room, that let in light and offered magnificent views! The itinerary was perfect for this region. The shore excursions that A-Rosa offered were handled by knowledgeable local guides, who had pride in their town, and wanted to show us 'the best'. I really enjoyed the excursions to Chateauneuf-de-Pape and Beaune. In both locations, we were able to enjoy samples of the local wines. When the ship stopped in Lyon, after the tour of Old Town, we were offered lunch at a restaurant owned by Paul Bocuse, a famous Michelin 3 Star chef! We enjoyed a 5 course lunch, paired with wines. And, best of all, this special lunch was included at no additional cost! Bicycle tours were offered -- a guide would take passengers on 3 hour excursions through small wine-growing villages -- or we could borrow a bicycle to ride around Avignon or Arles, if preferred. At the end of the cruise, departing the ship was a unique experience -- we requested that Stella's reception desk order a taxi for us, to go to the airport at 7:15am. As we strolled off the ship, a Mercedes 500 taxi was waiting for us -- our luggage already loaded in the trunk. And, this private taxi only cost us 50 Euro! A-Rosa's river cruises should definitely be included, when you consider taking a European River cruise!   Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2013
We sailed the ARosa Aqua along the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam. It was our second river cruise and an unforgettable experience. The ship was clean and nicely appointed. All cabins are the same size, I believe 165 sq. ft, but the design ... Read More
We sailed the ARosa Aqua along the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam. It was our second river cruise and an unforgettable experience. The ship was clean and nicely appointed. All cabins are the same size, I believe 165 sq. ft, but the design made the most of the space. Large bed - 2 twins put together, good walk-in closet space, functional bathroom with enclosed shower and a french balony. The crew were very courteous and eager to please. The food was exquisite - right on a par with the best cruise lines. Especially enjoyable was the all-inclusive aspect, so no need to whip out a card every time you order a drink, etc. Not to mention a nice supply of Havana Club rum! Other passesngers on ths cruise were mostly if not all American, generally in the 50-75 range and pretty experienced travelers from what we could tell. Everyone got along very harmoniously. There were included shore excurions daily in every port, and even bicycle tours offered. The tours were very good for the most part. The ports themselves were well-chosen, our favorite being Strasbourg. Entertainment was not so remarkable, but also not expected on a ship like this. In essence our experience was very, very positive and we would highly recommend it for someone who would like to experience an overview of slightly "off the beaten path" ports in an easy, relaxed and all-inclusive manner at very good value. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2013
All of the river cruise offerings in Europe are good- very good in fact. They occupy a niche akin to the likes of Azamara or Oceania, if one wanted to reference ocean-going ship experiences. The components are straight forward, as the ... Read More
All of the river cruise offerings in Europe are good- very good in fact. They occupy a niche akin to the likes of Azamara or Oceania, if one wanted to reference ocean-going ship experiences. The components are straight forward, as the dictates of rivers and locks pretty much constrain the hardware. Ships are all virtually the same size. So the Viking Longships are the same as those of Uniworld or AMA or Avalon or Scenic or Tauck or A-Rosa. The layouts do differ, and stateroom sizes/attributes as well. They mostly ply the same waters, though Uniworld has a unique offering on the Po River in Italy, and Viking sails the Elbe alone. But choosing the right river cruise vacation is much like choosing a new upscale car- they all have four wheels and a lot more, but there is an intangible personality attached to each. This is not the place to go into a deep comparison between brands. Suffice to say that A-Rosa, a German company that got into river cruising over a decade ago, has enough experience and moxie to compete with the well know brands. My brother and I had the recent opportunity to cruise Lyon-Lyon on a 7 night voyage that took us downstream as far as Arles and back. The ship was the "Stella", and my view is that the whole trip was stellar! Arosa has only this year stepped into the North American market. We were on the first of their N.A. oriented cruises, with English announcements, all- inclusive fares (cruise, taxes and port fees,excursions, beverages, tips, meals, entertainment, bicycles), with an emphasis on incredible a la minute fine dining. The North American promoter of Arosa, David Morris, was also onboard for the duration, and 'Mario', the food and beverage manager for all of Arosa presided over the daily culinary offerings. So, this was a pretty special week, but I am pretty confident they keep the quality up all the time. Due to extremely high water levels, we were unable to head upstream to Chalon and Macon as planned; we remained docked in Lyon (hardly a hardship!), and took coach trips to the intended destinations in Beaujolais, Burgundy- as far as Dijon. We visited exalted wineries, ate 'family style' at an auberge in Beaune, and saw a lot of the pretty countryside. The local guides were charming and unflappable, in addition to being extremely well versed in the local history and attractions. Compared to the many that saw their vacations cancelled or markedly abridged due to the flooding on the Rhine and Danube, we were lucky indeed. The itinerary, beginning and ending in Lyon, meant more steaming time than the usual one-way trips of other companies. Sometimes, we would disembark, go on a tour, and rejoin the ship a ways up or down the river. Even at night, there was lots to see if underway. The Rhone has lots of lit up towns, industry and farms adjoining. Even the two nuclear facilities we passed had an eerie beauty to them. Now the details. Stella was launched in 2007, so is already middle aged by river ship standards. The newer ones have a bit more refinement, and the standard stateroom size, at 156 square feet, is on the small side. But there is a pool, which was a huge plus, and a much larger spa and exercise area than on the Avalon Scenery and AMA Amadagio, which we viewed while alongside at dock. What sets the line apart is the service and food quality. Quite frankly, I have not seen much else come close. Certainly on a par with Silversea- the food and wine, better. The staff ratio, though not as high as Tauck, is more than adequate to ensure everyone was well attended. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style, with an omelet station and lots of European local specialties. When was the last time you saw red mullet or quail on offer? Dinners were a 2 hour leisurely affair with fixed menu gastronomic wonders arriving in succession, each paired with outstanding premier and grand cru wines, auslese dessert wines, then grappa or port or whatever afterwards in the lounge. From Tartar of King Crab, to Rack of Lamb with eggplant caviar to Chocolate Canache with Passion Fruit Sorbet, the food was truly spectacular. Top notch cheese selections were there each night (with chutneys and figs in addition to the usual fruit and cracker accompaniments) Cocktails flowed freely all day (included), and the bartenders were quite excited to be making North American concoctions including excellent martinis and a creditable Mai Tai. Champagne- will that be Pommery for you, sir?... was pretty well always available, though there were also offerings of Prosecco and methode champenoise sparkling wines. A foodie's delight? Without reservations! And in the midst of the glorious wine districts, nothing could exceed. To top things off, both a wine and chocolate tasting were conducted, with exquisite offerings. The tours were a range of fairly prosaic walking excursions to a, get this- lunch at Michelin 3 star Paul Bocuse's eponymous restaurant outside of Lyon. Included without fanfare, lunch for two would likely set you back $400 if you walked in the door, but was a free inclusion aboard A-Rosa. So too a tour of the Southern Ardeche, a lavender museum visit, an onboard performance by genuine French chanteur Luc Brian, who sang Piaf an octave lower, as well as talks by preeminent author and journalist, Kati Marton. A very personable young historian, Silvia Sonntag, gave talks in German, but also led an impromptu tour of Arles for a group of the English speaking coterie. She acted as a sort of cultural attache, translating and demystifying the 'French experience' for German and Anglo alike. This kind of versatility and 'beyond the call' attitude balanced the somewhat more formal approach of the cruise director. There was an on-deck barbecue one day, fresh shucked oysters another. I missed Les Gitans- musician dancers who performed one evening when we had chosen to simply walk the streets of Avignon. Maybe the other river cruise lines come close or are on par in some departments, but the extravagances onboard are clearly unequalled. Their food costs are about triple the industry standard, yet the pricing, once all is considered, is more than competitive, perhaps because they are 'new kids' in the USA/Canada markets. I enjoyed the German ambience and mixed passengers. The demographic was younger than some of the other river cruise lines. A contingent of Arboretum and Botanical Garden members from Dallas added energy and knowledge with their calling out of shrub and tree names on bus tours, in Latin of course, and their ability to keep the bar open until one am. There was little in the way of language barriers, though some crew, from Hungary, were a bit deficient in both German AND English. A bit of French certainly helped out ashore, but cocooned as one is on a cruise, it is easy to get by without. A-Rosa is offering terrific deals in the short run on the Rhone and Rhine, including a waiving of single supplements, and upgrades to french balcony staterooms, from around $2600 for the Rhine and $3100 for the Rhone/Saone. Sweet Dreams pastry chef Gale Gand will be aboard August 17th and 24th, 2013 Lyon departures. The 'Hearty Boys'- also part of the culinary celebrity aristocracy, will be aboard a week earlier. My only complaint was having to go home, but at least I can savour and cherish my memories.   Read Less
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