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9 Grand Circle River Cruise Reviews

Grand Circle has a lot of rapid repeated travelers, but I'm not going to be one of them. Their style just isn't for me. This all started with an email telling us the ship wasn't going to be in port and directing us to a ... Read More
Grand Circle has a lot of rapid repeated travelers, but I'm not going to be one of them. Their style just isn't for me. This all started with an email telling us the ship wasn't going to be in port and directing us to a hotel that had no idea what they were talking about. First up, lets talk about the ship. Its slightly smaller than the newest river ships at around 160 passengers and our cruise must have been packed to capacity. Its an older ship, I think they said the captain had been on this ship for 10 years, so that makes it older than that. Its is in good repair, but its just not a luxury ship. It feels like one of the really old $399 a week Carnival ships. There isn't much in the way of public areas The lounge- This is overcrowded to fairly comfortable individual movable chairs and tables nominally set up in groups of 4. In practice its a wall to wall sea of chairs with no room to walk between them. It made it really unpleasant to get seating in the lounge. You had to push chairs around and climb over people to get to seats. They really need to gut it and replace with a more space efficient bench/booth setup. Also during briefings when the whole ship is there its impossible to seat everyone. If you don't arrive early and fight for a seat you end up standing in the hall. They don't have a way to broadcast any of these briefings to the rooms BTW so you have to show up if you want the port info. The bar is also here. They have a small selection of beers, but I hope you like pilsners as there is almost zero variety in styles. There is also a free coffee machine and tea. Iced water is available in a pitcher, but the glasses provided are good for about a swallow before you have to refill. Don't plan on being able to fill up and going up on deck for awhile. They have beer, wine and soft drink packages available. At several points we saw the crew berate passengers. The Sun deck- The whole top of the ship has seating. There are a number of tables, a few shades and lots of reclining deck chairs up here. There is a bar, but it was never open during our entire cruise. Sure would have been nice to get able to get a drink up there, especially on our full day cruising. Space isn't really an issue here, but people will fight for the chairs up front going through locks, etc. If you want to smoke the only spot on the ship to do so is way in the back up here. The Dining room- The dining room doubles as the buffet. There are a variety of table sizes here. Seating is not reserved and dining times are not flexible. Every meal there is a huge cattle call and rush to grab the table you want. If you show up a few minutes late expect to dine at the worst table and have your party split up if you are more than 2 people. During the buffet they have salad (With no sneeze guard and people grabbing stuff with their hands) and those large cylindrical trays with the rotating tops for hot food. There is usually a cook doing something like pasta omlettes etc in the center. They rotate directions on what tables are served first for table service. Inside tables near the buffet to the back and the outside one night, opposite direction the next. Service is glacial. Expect 2hr meals. I also don't think there was many meals where someone at our table didn't have something forgotten. Drinks that never show up, skipped for a course, etc, etc. On an ocean cruise these people would have been sacked long ago. If I were treated this way at a restaurant at home there is a fair chance I would be walking out, or speaking with a manager. Food- Breakfast is acceptable. They have both hot and cold foods and you can eat on your own time as its a buffet and it is far less crowded. Nothing amazing, but nothing to screw up either. Lunch is half buffet, half table service. Nothing on the buffet ever interested me other than a salad. Most of the stuff you can pick up otherwise looks like the finger sandwiches you might get at a tea party. The table service stuff is a little heavy and there are only two choices a day. Lunch takes way too long in general. Dinner is a disaster. There have 3 choices of entree. Meat, fish, veggie. Its theoretically local, but its more like cruise ship unrecognizable dish to reuse as much leftovers as possible. No effort was made to call out local stuff or where it was from. Desert there are two choices. The rest you get what you get. I had all sorts of overcooked, uncooked and plain gross meals come out of their kitchen. Fairly often my wife ended up eating only the sides of her main dish and leaving kind of hungry. There are a few always available choices (hamburger, chicken breast, etc). There is no room service. There is no food available on ship outside of normal meal times. You get hungry? Tough. You didn't like dinner? Tough. Go to bed hungry. Wine, soft drink, or beer is included with dinner. You can also get iced tea. Tours- GCCL includes at lot of its tours. This is sort of a dual edged sword. On one hand its nice not to have to worry about booked stuff ahead of time or worry about getting ripped off by the cruise line tour rates. On the other hand its a cruise line tour. Most of the tours ended up with lot of 'drive by stuff in a bus' with little actual exploring of the places we were in. In the end I felt like we drove through most of the places we went rather than really visited. The big downside for me was the buses. Our ship was divided into 4 buses. You stick with the same bus and people stand outside early to fight for seats. One bus getting off at small attractions is a big enough problem. The issues is that all the buses were going to the same spots and they didn't space them so you missed the other buses. So you ended up having 100+ people show up at the same spot at once. A lot of the places we went to weren't very crowded.... until we showed up. It made getting people free pictures almost impossible and you always felt like you were fighting peak crowds where ever you went. The whole experience was kind of stressful. GCCL suggests you tip all the local guides and bus drivers as well. The one nice bit was the headsets they hand out for the trip so you can hear the guide without crowding around him. It allowed me to explore a little bit while the guide talked. All the ID cards and radios make you stick out like a sore thumb as a tourist while I like to try and blend in as much as I can. Rooms- The beds in the rooms fold out of the walls. This wasn't immediately obvious to me before I booked. That means you have to sleep apart from your spouse for the whole trip. The mattresses are the cheap thing spring variety you might find at a summer camp. Seriously think about upgrading to some latex foam ones GCCL. The storage is pretty nice except for the fact that you can't get to two drawers with the bed down. It makes dressing in the morning a challenge as they don't want you folding up the beds on your own. The bathroom is functional, nothing special. No mini fridge in the room, so forget about cool drinks in your room. I resorted to leaving bottles on top of the air conditioning vent to have semi-cool drinks. The small TV in the room does have a HDMI port in the back if you want to bring a bluray player, computer or similar. The CCTV system only shows the front ship cam, no view for the lounge for port talk info. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
We love cruising but always felt the port cities did not give us an adequate representation of each country; therefore, we decided to try a European river cruise. We chose Grand Circle because it came highly recommended by a fellow ... Read More
We love cruising but always felt the port cities did not give us an adequate representation of each country; therefore, we decided to try a European river cruise. We chose Grand Circle because it came highly recommended by a fellow passenger on a prevous Princess cruise, so we followed up by reviewing their website (www.gct.com) as well as the websites for their competitors. We felt Grand Circle was an excellent value, and we couldn't have been more pleased with our trip. The food & dining room service was excellent, as was the presentation, and compared favorably with the food & service we have received on our numerous ocean cruises through the years. The weather was amazing which hightened our enjoyment, but all four of the Program Directors made sure that our every need was met: they were our tour guide, and our friend by the end of the cruise. Example: one of the Program Directors had a passenger that fell, broke three teeth, and split her lip. The Program Director took her to the dentist in town, stayed with her, and made sure her bills were taken care of. Additionally, this same PD received two calls in the middle of the night during our cruise, and she again went with each passenger to the hospital, made sure they were well taken care of, and brought them back to the river boat after their release. There is nothing we could have asked that was outside their job description. All rooms are 160 square feet, and come with adequate storage space. The beds are individual and cannot be made into a queen, but they were very comfortable."The Great Rivers of Europe" included the following ports: Amsterdam, Cologne, Koblenz, a dinner out in Rudesheim, Heidelberg, Wertheim - where we had a home hosted "Kaffee Klatsch" with a local German family, Wurzburg, Rothenburg, Bamberg, Nurnberg, Kelheim/Regensburg, Passau, Melk, and Vienna. The pacing of each day was up to each passenger, with time each day to see as much/little of each town as you chose after a morning city tour lead by your Program Director. One thing we were not aware of until we got onboard: there is a massage therapist and a small workout area with two treadmills, a weight maching, a hot tub, and a sauna. Actually very nice, with a shower in the area as well. The after dinner entertainment was OK, so often we just went up to the Sun Deck to relax as we sailed through 66 locks during the entire voyage. Because there were only 158 passengers on board, disembarkation was very easy. Everyone got color-coded information to attach to their carry-on bag(s), and we didn't need to have the bags out until the morning we left. The staff loaded your luggage on the minivan taking us to the airport and, again, a Program Director was there to help with check-in, language issues, etc. After this excellent experience, we look forward to another cruise with Grand Circle. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
We booked the Budapest to Prague River Cruise on the River Adagio of GCCL. The cruise was to begin on Friday June 21st in Budapest when we were supposed to embark on the River Adagio. On Wednesday evening the 19th we were notified that the ... Read More
We booked the Budapest to Prague River Cruise on the River Adagio of GCCL. The cruise was to begin on Friday June 21st in Budapest when we were supposed to embark on the River Adagio. On Wednesday evening the 19th we were notified that the ship was in Belgrade (due to the floods) and could not get to Budapest until Sunday, 2 days late. The company therefore booked all of us in rooms in the Danubius Hotel Flamenco in Budapest. This was a poor substitute for the ship. The dinners were buffet style from steam trays and were not at all good. Coffee and soft drinks were not included even though they would have been free on the ship. The beds were the most uncomfortable I have ever experienced. The a/c was inadequate. The breakfast was not good either. The overall atmosphere was 2 star tourist class. And for this we were paying river cruise prices. The compensation offered by GCCL was a 10% rebate, far from adequate when you consider the downgrade we experienced. Also, the ship could not travel beyond Vienna due to a broken lock and so most of the trip was to be a bus tour (all but 4 nights). We were offered the opportunity to leave the tour and were promised we would be compensated for all the days we were not with the tour. That would have been 10 out of the 11 days of the tour. However, when we received our compensation it was much less. We were only with the tour 1 day but were charged $679 each for that one day which is just outrageous given that we had 2 lousy meals and a shared hotel room that was very poor. So we continued to tour on our own and ended in the Prague Hilton which we had stayed in the year before as part of a Viking River Cruise. At breakfast we met some Viking cruisers who had also been affected by the flooding. However their story was much different. They had been put up in 5 star hotels in every place they stayed. They said the hotels were better than the Prague Hilton even which is a very nice hotel. They reported that their meals were wonderful and that Viking had gone out of its way to give them extra tours to make up for the loss of the river cruising. Then we ran into some people at the Prague airport that had stayed with our cruise. They said that all the meals (except for the 4 nights on the ship) were still buffet style. They were not that impressed. Moral of the story - when the chips are down Viking comes through. Based on my experience I will NEVER take a GCCL or a Grand Circle Land Tour ever again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
We took our first Grand Circle river cruise this spring (2013), on the M/S River Rhapsody, and I want to voice a few cautionary notes, to help people decide whether this cruise is for them. But first the strong positives. (1) The staff ... Read More
We took our first Grand Circle river cruise this spring (2013), on the M/S River Rhapsody, and I want to voice a few cautionary notes, to help people decide whether this cruise is for them. But first the strong positives. (1) The staff are uniformly competent and helpful. As just one example: my wife and I were each sick for a couple days. During those periods every employee seemed to know of the problems, and asked if there was anything they could do to help. The head of the dining room had special (very mild) meals prepared for my wife. (It was almost with reluctance I left the room on these occasions--I had to repeatedly decline offers of assistance.) Not once did we encounter any attitude other than an earnest desire to help. (2) This attitude extends to excursions off the ship. The Program Directors (PDs) led people onto the trams (streetcars), led them off, and continually operated on the assumption the passengers were inexperienced and needed assistance. It was a very safe and protective environment. (3) The accommodations were comfortable and the food was excellent. (A trifle ornate for my taste, but, if my worst problem is five-course dinners, life is pretty good!) However, here are some factors you may find worth considering. 1. There is a lack of "diversity". For example; our last land tour was with Trafalgar and we enjoyed the company of passengers from New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Canada and England. The passengers on this GC cruise are all from the US. (A fellow passenger who travels with a friend from Canada said she had to forward Grand Circle information to the friend--Grand Circle would not even mail literature outside the US.) The result is (in my opinion) a far less diverse or cosmopolitan social setting. During one meal, for example, the conversation focused on the difference in winter weather between west Texas and east Texas. [Also, do not expect meals as in a restaurant. There are no tables for two--when you eat you socialize.] 2. This tour was advertised as featuring "walking over uneven surfaces" and people were warned the PDs could modify participation or even send travelers home if individual limitations impacted the group's experience. Yet our group (which was comparable to others--35-45 people with one PD) were mostly in their 70s or 80s, with several people in their 90s. Some people used canes; one a walker, others were very hunched over. (My wife and I are in our early 60s; our choice was to offer to help the stragglers or ignore their struggles.) I trust you can envision the speed with which this large group moved, and the time spent catching up, resting, etc. 3. Perhaps our expectation of experiencing the culture of the areas we traveled was unrealistic, because--since all tours were with our group and all meals were provided--we only ate and socialized with our other passengers. Basically, we found ourselves in a cocoon of US people protectively following the PD's flag to see and be described the sights. 4. The tour literature indicated we would have internet service, although it might not always work when we were cruising. This is an optimistic exaggeration. Even when there was a connection (at some of the stops, and occasionally when traveling) I found it only accessible late at night or when other passengers were on a tour or at a meal. (Apparently having many people trying to access it during "free time" overloads the system. Someone also lamented that many people now had "smart phones" that automatically accessed any available network for various "apps"--weather, news, etc. And forget Skype or any program that requires a faster connection.) I happened to need access at least every couple days; my repeated requests for advice on how to obtain that access finally led to the crew advising me to walk into town and find a McDonalds. (Apparently all McDonalds in Europe now have free wi-fi.) Do not plan on having regular internet access. 5. Room idiosyncrasies. Our lamp lights were 8 watt fluorescent and the ceiling light had three 40 watt bulbs; not quite bright enough for me to read by, unless it was sunny. There is a reading light inside the pull-down beds, but, if you are unwilling to limit yourself to reading only while opening up the bed and lying down, bring or buy more powerful bulbs (240v, standard screw-in sockets). Also, we booked a cabin with a balcony. Turns out those are on deck 4 (Serenade deck), which is the corridor between the dining room and lounge. If regular traffic and loud conversation outside your door (especially when people line up for the dining room to open) bothers you, don't select this deck. Also, one has to go to the lounge or Sun deck to hear the intercom with a PD's description of the sights we're cruising by, so we didn't use our balcony much. [Note if anyone from GC reads this: it would also be nice if there was music available in the cabins--we didn't really care about European sports or showing one movie over and over.] This tour had mostly repeat customers of GC, indicative that many people enjoy this level of attention, and the cloistered environment and slow pace. If you are in this category, I highly recommend this tour. However, as I'm sure GC will agree, this tour is not for everyone, and there are other reputable companies out there. I encourage you to compare. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
This was our eighth river cruise with Grand Circle Travel (GCT). It was our second cruise on the River Harmony. We have also cruised on the River Aria, River Concerto (two times), River Melody (two times) and Bizet. We have done the ... Read More
This was our eighth river cruise with Grand Circle Travel (GCT). It was our second cruise on the River Harmony. We have also cruised on the River Aria, River Concerto (two times), River Melody (two times) and Bizet. We have done the Christmas Markets Along the Danube and Christmastime on the Seine previously. Each were unique in their own way. Most of what we can say about this cruise and ship could be also said avout these other ships and cruise itineraries. Only some of their ships are listed as available to review on this site because they have not been professionally reviewed by Cruise Critic. I hope they do review them because we have found GCT to be a very good value. We flew into Basel, Switzerland and took a taxi to the ship, since we booked our own air arrangements. After lunch on board we went into town on their included shuttle bus transportation. This was the first of the Christmas Markets we visited on this cruise. While all of them we have visited share similarities, each one has unique elements not found at the others. Each market has plenty of Gluhwine, sausages,crafts, music and decorations. I will mention the other things that are unique in each one.Basel had a particularly extensive hat stand! The one really outstanding element of the Christmastime river cruises is the fantastic atmosphere and good mood throughout the areas visited and onboard the ship (both passengers and crew!) We went inland by bus to Kaysersberg and Riquewihr in the Alsace region of France. The Alsace has been part of Germany at other times in history and so it has a strong Christmas market tradition like Germany. The most notable aspect in these two wine towns were the extensive decorations on the fronts of the buildings along the winding streets. On day three we visited Strasbourg, still in the Alsace. A canal cruise through the oldest part of the city was included and very picturesque. There were numerous markets around the city which helped spread out the very large crowds visiting right before Christmas. These markets are very popular with people from throughout Europe, especially Italians we were informed. We enjoyed a very delicious waffle with Nutella from one of the stands and a Flamekuchen (kind of like a small pizza but native to this region) from another. While we waited to board the tram back to the ship we enjoyed a six piece Salvation Army brass band playing carols. An all you can ride public transit pass was provided to us by the ship. On day four we were transferred to the spa town of Baden Baden in Germany with a chance to taste the "curative" (meaning pungent smelling!) water the town has been known for since Roman times. We had a chance to stroll this elegant spa town and visit the Christmas markets before returning to the ship. Later there was an opportunity to have coffee and cake with a local family when we arrived in Speyer. Day five took us from Speyer to Mainz, Germany. On day six we visited the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz and saw an operating replica of his revolutionary printing press before visiting the many markets there. But the most unique visit we made here was to St Stephens Curch to view the incredible modern stained glass windows created by Marc Chagall. This is truly a must see when visiting Mainz.We tasted some fantastic German potato pancakes from a stand at the market. On day seven we cruised the most scenic stretch of the Rhine, past the notorious Lorilei rock. (This famous mermaid of the river was even spotted on board !). We passed numerous castles and terraced vineyards along the river, on our way to Koblenz. We were in Koblenz on day eight as well. This is where the the Mosel River meets the Rhine at the Deutsches Eck (German corner). We docked on the Mosel near the famous statue of Kaiser Wilhelm. We had a walking tour in Koblenz (as in all of the places visited) and took the cable car across the Rhine to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. We toured this incredible fortress on our own before descending back down to the other side of the river on the cable car. Day nine gave us an entire day and evening in Cologne. During an included walking tour with our excellent program director Eva we saw the old town and where cologne was was created before visiting the remains of the three wise men in the cathedral. Truly something to do at Christmas time. There were six Christmal markets in Cologne and we made it to all of them-on foot. We purchased three of the unique mugs at several of the markets as souvenirs. Each market had its own commemorative mug specific to that particular market. Our last day was in Nijmegan, Netherlands where there were no Christmas markets! Then we spent the afternoon cruising to Amsterdam where there was only time left for a quick walking tour along the canals and through the red light district. There was even a touch of Christmas here from the two transvestite Santas we passed! Only in Amsterdam... Well that's a VERY quick summary of the ports of call. On the ship the food was excellent and very plentiful and the staff extremely accommodating, as we have found on our other GCT cruises. These cruises have 120-160 passengers, so there is more of an opportunity to meet people, especially as there is one dinner seating and no assigned tables. Once again the very pleasant holiday atmosphere makes cruising at this time of year special. Another unique aspect to these cruises on GCT is that the pasengers are divided up into three groups of about 45 people each of which has a program director that conducts the tours for that small group. The wireless receivers allow you to hear her commentary even when there is traffic noise. The PD's went out of their way to customize the cruise for us. Visits to Riquewihr (truly a highlight) and Ehrenbreitstein were not on the original itinerary, for example. River cruises are truly the easiest way to travel in Europe and we can recommend them without hesitation. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
The summary of this review is that the trip was WONDERFUL. This was our third Grand Circle trip (previously with OAT to Machu Picchu/Galapagos Islands and GCT to South Africa, but our first river cruise) and we have had three GREAT ... Read More
The summary of this review is that the trip was WONDERFUL. This was our third Grand Circle trip (previously with OAT to Machu Picchu/Galapagos Islands and GCT to South Africa, but our first river cruise) and we have had three GREAT experiences. As with the other two trips, the difference on this trip was the Program Director and the Staff. They truly reflect the high standards maintained by Grand Circle, which in our mind make the difference. The Itinerary We had read a lot on various forums about the Danube Markets, but little about the Rhine Christmas Markets. What a nice surprise to see markets in almost every stop despite our early trip. Only in Nijmegen (where they don't have markets) and Mainz (where they weren't open yet) did we not see markets, though they varied in size in various towns. We made up for that, however by shopping in other stores in the towns which many times had better prices and selections than the markets themselves. We found the best prices for our needs in the small stores in Heidelberg (Steins, Nutcrackers, & Smokers) though we managed to buy something in every town without much trouble. We followed our philosophy of buying something if we really liked it when we found it, because we have too often in the past said we'd get it later and couldn't.....and we didn't regret this approach as we rarely found cheaper prices. Our guide, Steven Martinot, was very helpful and thorough in recommending which town might have a particular souvenir, and which store/restaurant/bar might suit our needs. We arrived at the airport in Amsterdam about 9:30am and were on the ship by 11:00. One of the Program Directors met us and escorted us to the bus for the transfer to the Ship. We were docked centrally near the train station and in the afternoon set off to walk to the Anne Frank House, some shopping, and the obligatory stroll through the Red Light District. Amsterdam is an easy and safe city to get around in (we had been there before) so we went off on our own. We skipped the optional tour in Nijmegen the next day to the Holocaust Museum in favor of some relaxation (that jet lag is rough) but heard from those that went that it was a moving experience. Our walking tour was the first of many strolls through various river towns which highlighted the history and architecture of the area. The use of the provided individual receivers allowed us to hear our guide perfectly throughout the trip. After a brief walking tour in Cologne (where we experienced our only drenching rain and wind) we were given free time to visit the Cathedral or to browse the markets. There were several different Christmas markets in Cologne, and we finally got to leisurely visit them when the rain diminished and we returned after lunch, but it is NO fun at all to visit the Christmas Markets in drenching rain, no matter what protective clothing you bring!! It was a good first lesson, however, as we learned that those "water-resistant" parkas we brought really just resisted the water for a little while and there was no substitute for long underwear, rain pants, waterproof rain jackets, and LAYERS of clothing. Toe warmers and hand warmers came in handy as well!! Each day we stopped at another town along the way, stopping very close to town except in Strasbourg where the street cars were convenient and easy to use. Koblenz, Mainz, Heidelberg, Speyer, Baden-Baden, Strasbourg and Kayserberg were all wonderfully scenic stops. The two additional optional tours, Rudesheim and Heidelberg were well worth the modest cost. The walking tours were generally not strenuous, though definitely involved walking on cobblestone streets and uneven pathways. They varied in length, were generally slow-paced, and were usually a mile or two at the most. On-ship entertainment varied from a local children's choir to magicians to the chef teaching the making of German stollen. A musician performed every evening and at special events to assure constant entertainment. The tour was generally fast paced if you wanted to do everything, with something to do most of the time (especially shopping), but individual choices could slow this considerably by balancing the free-time activities. Most days we were eating breakfast by 8am and ready to tour by 9am. Usually, a half day was available for voluntary activities such as shopping or lounging. The Crew The entire staff of the ship was wonderful. We have never been on a ship, large or small, that had an entire staff (from the Captain and Hotel Manager to the Engineers, cabin stewards, or other staff) that ALWAYS seemed to sincerely care about making our trip perfect. We NEVER experienced a hint of poor service or uncaring people just going through the motions. Rather, each person without exception treated us as valued guests. We seldom saw our cabin steward (though when we did he always asked about how he could help us further); we would go to breakfast or dinner, and magically when we returned our cabin was always spotless and refreshed. At mealtime, despite our changing tables, so we didn't always have the same wait staff, they quickly knew our names, and the idiosyncrasies of our choices. I had two wonderful massages on the ship (yes, they have a masseuse!!!). The cost was about what you would pay at home, and less than half the charges you might see on a large cruise ship. I highly recommend you try to get one....a great way to get over that jet lag!! We have never had a more accessible Captain on any trip. We first met him at the Safety briefing which was the most thorough I have ever experienced. Throughout the trip, he was available, personable, and truly interested in the passengers. He even participated in the crew show (not to be missed, by the way), and not just to give a speech!! Likewise, the other senior members of the staff were always attentive and accessible. On any tour, the Program Director provides the glue that brings it all together. We again were blessed with a superb Program Director, Steven Martinot, who consistently shepherded us through the tour. As on all tours, there are different personalities of our fellow travelers that require different amounts of attention (perhaps we are one of those too). I have never seen a tour director more consistently patient with everyone, and truly interested in pleasing everyone. A truly remarkable person. This service level and extraordinary standard of excellence with its staff is the quality that separates the Grand Circle experience from the rest. The Ship The cabins were comfortable, though small. There are good videos on the GCT website that clearly show the cabins, but the nice surprise was the roomy bathrooms. In looking at cabins on the first day before people moved in, it appears they are all about the same with a small amount of space deducted from the cabin to provide the narrow balcony. Our shower (201) was large and covered the width of the bathroom (probably close to 4'x3') while others had corner showers that seemed a bit smaller, but certainly adequate. The pull-down beds were VERY comfortable and even though I am over 6', and large, I was absolutely perfectly relaxed. The sofas were adequate for sitting, but too narrow to lay down on, so we ended up leaving the beds down all the time. Two movies showed continuously on the TV (many were Christmas movies, though we saw Casablanca and Patton on two nights as we went to sleep!!); there was also news and other channels as well. The ship was exceptionally clean and the decor was pleasant, though not brand new. However, it did not show signs of wear or deterioration at all. The lounge was very comfortable as were all of the facilities on the ship. A small area off the main lobby, and the library provided quiet spaces that could be used as well. Obviously, in the winter, the sun deck serves primarily the smokers on the ship. A three-sided covered area behind the wheelhouse provided some protection from the wind and the elements, but obviously required heavy coats. On the day we sailed a particularly picturesque section of the Rhine, the dining staff provided homemade hot chocolate in this area as we all enjoyed the afternoon on the river. The Food The food was wonderful! We've cruised on over 20 large ships, and traveled extensively, and found the presentation, preparation, and variety to be very good. For Breakfast, every day omelets or eggs were available for custom preparation, a special preparation was available from the kitchen, and all of the normal breakfast foods -- pastries, meats, waffles or pancakes, juices, and fruits -- were provided on the self-service buffet. At lunch, this same buffet line (actually two similar lines) contained a wonderful salad bar, usually at least 3 prepared sandwich options, several hot options, and other self-serve sandwich options. Many days a custom pasta dish was prepared to your individual taste. Again, an option from the kitchen was available to order as was a hamburger and French fries!! We always started with soup which was delicious. Varied desserts options were always provided. Dinner started usually with an appetizer, soup and salad followed by a choice from two or three entrees. These included a wide variety of dishes including vegetarian options, turkey, duck, chicken, fish, lamb, pasta, and beef. Also, standard options of Grilled Chicken Breast and Salmon were always available with a baked potato. Two dessert options were offered. In short, only the pickiest eater couldn't find something to eat each night. And of course, red or white wine was provided on a complementary basis at dinner. Coffee, Tea, or Hot Chocolate were available on the ship 24 hours/day. Cookies or snacks were provided in the lounge in the afternoon and evenings. The first day, 5 bottle or 7 bottle wine packages were offered at a discount (bottles ranged from about 13 Euros and up) and soft-drink packages were also offered. Generally on the ship, prices were reasonable and seemed to be less than those charged for comparable items on large cruise ships. The Challenges Yes, there were VERY minor irritants along the way that could be improved upon (have you ever been with 140 people in any event that hasn't had some irritant?) As with any tour, a little flexibility and a sense of humor are needed. The most important of these was the inability to reserve a table for meals in the restaurant. When traveling with 4 in our group (tables were mainly for 6), it became a challenge to get 4 seats at the same table.....the recommendation from the Program Directors was to send someone early to stand in line and "hold" the seats! Thus, for every lunch or dinner, my wife or I was generally somewhere between 10th and 15th in line (I refused to go more than 15 minutes early) necessitating one of us to miss the port talk or other pre-meal activities. Actually, despite an otherwise wonderful trip, my wife has said she won't go on another river cruise unless she can reserve a seat in the dining room. The number of people who were always in line to reserve a table indicates the significance of the problem (we had groups of up to 30 on the trip). One night, the Manager actually gave the Captain's Table to a late arriving group that made a big fuss (perhaps this is a hint for future travelers). I gather they recognize this is a problem, but haven't found a way to accommodate it. Whenever a minor problem occurred (for example our toilet kept running), it was only a few minutes after reporting it that the issue was resolved. Our cabin bathroom tended to have a slight 'sewer' smell occasionally. I suspect it was a problem of not retaining water in the shower trap (I think it is a common 'boat' problem), but it was never so overwhelming that it was offensive. Plumbers were on board at two ports, and they were cleaning "kitchen fat" out of the pipes (at least I think that's what the limited English of the plumber said) and following this the smell disappeared. Special Suggestions We ended up with 3 suitcases (2 big, 1 medium) to get all of our different sweaters, raingear, snow gear, etc. to the ship. We also included a duffle bag for overflow when we bought too many souvenirs. Now we could do this as we did our own air, and were allowed 2 bags each, but suffice to say we had four full bags going home! In fairness, though, I could have left one sweater and two sweatshirts at home, and if we had taken advantage of the onboard laundry, easily stayed within 1 bag each (until we bought souvenirs!!). Those nutcrackers and steins and stuffed animals etc really do take a lot of room!! Fortunately, two suitcases just squeezed under the couch on each side!!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
With an American 70-cabin river boat and 34 crewmen and program directors all with excellent conversational English, this was an excellent adult touring and discovery Rhine and Mosel rivers cruise - from Antwerp, Belgium, through the ... Read More
With an American 70-cabin river boat and 34 crewmen and program directors all with excellent conversational English, this was an excellent adult touring and discovery Rhine and Mosel rivers cruise - from Antwerp, Belgium, through the Netherlands and Germany, and touching France, to disembarkation in Basel, Switzerland. The boat was impeccably clean and inviting, serving full breakfasts and gourmet meals for lunch and dinner (including wine at dinner). The 132 passengers were grouped with three dedicated and local-knowledgeable program directors, so we got to know each other quite well, leaving contacts for further get-togethers. Guided port walking tours to ancient market squares, churches and half-timbered buildings in the close-by quaint Roman and Medieval-founded towns along the Rhine and Mosel rivers were almost everyday. Included bus tours were provided: to the every-10-year Floriade horticultural exposition in the Netherlands, to castles, to the WWII liberation museum and Remagen Bridge, and on the French Alsatian Wine Route; and a canal boat tour was made of Trier, the principal city of the Mosel valley. Only 4 optional extra cost tours were offered (Dutch Delta Works, Luxembourg, Marksburg Castle, and the Black Forest), all in parallel with other included town info tours. On-board activities included daily piano, vocal, magic, and gypsy entertainment, as well as kitchen and bridge tours, a Belgium chocolates discovery by treasure hunt and candy display and explanation, and a 'horse" race, all in the separate lounge - just plain fun. We were upgraded to a balcony stateroom - enough room for two chairs, but we were outdoors for beautiful weather throughout the trip (early July) except for two short rain episodes. Embarkation and disembarkation shuttles and assistance were well coordinated, as was the administration of the whole cruise. It was the cruise of a lifetime, and we'll probably do another soon. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We have just returned from our first trip with GCT. This is not a first riverboat cruise, but the first with this com. First of all the River Harmony is a lovely CEAN ship. We chose the prelude deck and it was quite fine. Husband thought ... Read More
We have just returned from our first trip with GCT. This is not a first riverboat cruise, but the first with this com. First of all the River Harmony is a lovely CEAN ship. We chose the prelude deck and it was quite fine. Husband thought one deck higher would have been better. The Captain was next to us so if it is good enough for him it is fine for us. Being at the water level did not create a problem. The only noise was when the barges would pass by and it sounded like water rushing by the boat. When you heard it you then got use to it and knew what it was. It is strange how the boat never rocks with the water motion. Our room was the nices when it comes to storage and though the beds are only 2 twins i think most people know how to handle that. The beds were nice as I liked the idea that you could elevate them, just like a chaise lounge, good for those who do sleep at home with their beds up some. The bathroom was the best size especially the shower of any cabin catagory we have had on a cruise ship. Even if you are large I don't think you will have much trouble with the shower curtain taking a shower with you. The crew and the Captain are just as friendly and nice as you could ever expect. Our captain was always where he could be seen. Even on departure day the first group leaving at 4:30 a.m. he was there to say good bye. Everyone has a bad day but they never show it. They love to talk to you and of course the policy of GCT is for them to call you by name. They do a great job of learning that very fast. program directors are top notch. They are young and I can't figure out how they keep their cool around all the SENIORS. They know their stuff and if they can't answer some question they will let you know they will find out. I do think sometimes people try to test them. Our stops were very nice,you can check out the itinerary for those. Most included tours were of the towns, villages etc. It is nice as the P.D. do give you a good overview. The optional tours which for us was Luxembourg was very good and included a lunch that was very nice. The highlight of this tour is going to the American cemetary,puts tears in your eyes, the sight is just beautiful Other optional was the Delta Works, I did not want to go but was glad I did. Many women think it is a man think, but to see the work and story behind it was worth it to me. Now about food. The presentation is beautiful. Many people think it is good. I would only rate it as fair. I did not starve or go away hungry, but it was not high on my list of best ever food. Plenty choices for breakfast, with lovely fresh fruit. Lunch, salad bar could have had more things to put on the greens. Soup they served and the cold soup was my favorite as it always is on any cruise. Dinner is another story. Two choices for entrees, and all else is the same for everyone. Always on the menu is salmon or grilled chicken. There is a vegeterian choice also. Since at the end of the day dinner should be relaxing I found they rush to clear your courses so everyone is served the same thing at the same time. GCT to to blame for having only a certain amount of servers and believe me they work their tails off. More servers could make for a more relaxing meal. Breakfast and lunch you pretty much wait on yourself so that works out o.k. Evening was nice to be on the sun deck and a few nights they had special entertainment or just a great guy singing and playing the key board on the off nights. After a long day of walking and sightseeing it was good to turn in early for what would be a new adventure on the river the next day. It is a very relaxing way to see Europe along the rivers. Yes I would go again but not ready to sign up for another yet. This was a first for the home visits and that was very interesting. The home we went to the lady went beyond her duty to serve good treats and it was nice to see her home and yard. In fact I have emailed her with a return already. I think they love what they do with the Grand Circle program. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
The river cruise and tour was with GCT on the River Harmony. It was 5 days pre-cruise in the Alps, from Lucerne, then 14 days on the Rhine and Mosel rivers, then 4 days post-cruise in Brugge. The pre-cruise and post cruise were good; nice ... Read More
The river cruise and tour was with GCT on the River Harmony. It was 5 days pre-cruise in the Alps, from Lucerne, then 14 days on the Rhine and Mosel rivers, then 4 days post-cruise in Brugge. The pre-cruise and post cruise were good; nice hotels and good tours, but the river cruise was not my cup of tea. It was very regimented with tight schedules and too many ports. I think we visited 11 or 12 ports but I lost count. I much prefer setting my own schedule, stopping to smell the roses and being able experience each port's uniqueness. In talking with many towards the end of the cruise, few could recall one port from the next. The schedule was; up at 7:00-7:30, go eat breakfast, pick up transmitters, meet guide ashore to do 2+- hour walking tour of each village. Then, back to boat for lunch, then back to village on my own as there was nothing to do on the ship, then meet for the next day's preview talk at 6:45 while we sail for next village, then dinner at 7:00, then nothing to do but go to bed with nothing on TV but 2 old movies which were supposed to be appropriate to the tour; i.e. war movies like Anne Frank. The food, though presented well, was German, Swiss, Belgian food featuring blood sausage, over cooked meat with gravy over everything, sauerkraut, beets, cabbage, over cooked vegetables...you get the idea...old world food! There were no chops, no steaks, and the only seafood was overcooked, previously frozen fish. Both lunch and dinner seemed hurried with standing in line for the lunch buffet. Midway through the trip, I started staying ashore after the walking tour and searching out brew pubs to sample the local beer and then trying to find a pizza parlor for lunch! GCT sells only to Americans so for me, it would have made more sense to serve us the type of food we are used to with a sprinkling of the old world. The wine served with dinner was very poor quality. Even the bartenders remarked about it. I opted to buy a wine package and also buy wine ashore. There was no pool or spa on the sun deck. I was one of only three people who lay in the sun but after the heat wave in Switzerland and part of Germany, most of the time it was cloudy and cool. I believe I was the only person to use the spa on the lower deck but only used it once as only one jet worked. The ship was very well kept and clean. I had a cabin on the top deck with a small veranda. My cabin was small but at least the bed was good. The Captain and other staff personnel were great and so were the tour directors. They were definitely a high point. So, my bottom line is; River cruising is definitely not for me and I doubt that I will ever do another. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
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