Exploring the destination is the chief entertainment. Each cruise on the Loire includes one tour -- in this case an all-day motor coach excursion to visit two of the Loire Valley's fairytale chateaus, Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau and Chateau d'Usse.
Other options -- such as a guided walking tour of Nantes and a visit to the Saint-Nazaire shipyard, where Loire Princesse and many other cruise ships were built -- range in price from roughly 40 to 75 euros. Starting in 2016, all shore excursions will be included in the cruise fare.
Capable local guides conduct the tours in both French and English, depending upon demand. They also provide rich onboard commentary during longer voyages. During the journey between Nantes and Saint-Nazaire, two guides point out key landmarks, including lively art installations that line the river along the estuary as part of a public arts project that showcases the waterway.
Onboard entertainment itself -- port talks, a pianist, the occasional pre-dinner game and a crew show -- is spare and takes place in the lounge on Deck 2.
In some ways, Loire Princesse is notable for what it doesn't have: no computer room, library, coffee bar, public restroom or shop. Its "boutique" next to the reception desk is a glass case stocked with postcards, candles by Missoni Home, chocolates and books about the Loire region. The only two public areas are the lounge and the sun deck. If more space had been added, the ship couldn't navigate the Loire River. Passengers are fine with the trade-off, because they tend to spend most of their time off the ship.
The lounge is quite roomy with comfortable, plush seating designed by Missoni Home and elegant copper-colored lighting from Tom Dixon. Couches are arranged around small tables, which makes for easy conversation. In good weather, the sun deck is the place to be. It spans the entire third deck and has lots of loungers and armchairs. An awning supplies shade. Towels are provided, and there is also a beverage service. Smoking is permitted in a designated area on the top deck.
Loire Princesse has free Wi-Fi, though signals can be sketchy, a common issue on all cruise ships.
The ship offers no workout room, spa, hot tub, pool or bikes onboard. The way to stay fit is to take the walking tours or venture out on your own on shore.
Unlike other river cruise ships, CroisiEurope welcomes children of all ages. That said, Loire Princesse offers no special programming for kids, and cabins are not equipped to accommodate more than two passengers.
* May require additional fees