I've only been on one river cruise in Germany. It was a lovely trip, leisurely sailing past castles, villages and pretty countryside with a guide assigned to a small group of about 25 of us for the entire trip. It made you feel safe ... Read More
I've only been on one river cruise in Germany. It was a lovely trip, leisurely sailing past castles, villages and pretty countryside with a guide assigned to a small group of about 25 of us for the entire trip. It made you feel safe and adventurous at the same time. Vantage did not provide this experience. The rivers were swollen hence the ship moved twice, once about 20 miles downriver and back spending the entire time in the small town of Macon France, a bedroom community of Marseilles. Several passengers called before the trip to make sure we could sail, they were told we could, not true. While Vantage could not predict the weather they were well aware of the river situation before we arrived in Europe. Many of the criticisms I offer do no reflect on the river situation, but the companies response to customer service and making amends for a bad situation.
All trips begin with the transportation, which Vantage arranged. When we purchased the trip we were told not to be alarmed about or itinerary or call every time it changed, but instead wait until a closer to the actual cruise. Three weeks before our departure I called about the flights, especially the return flight - Marseilles to Paris - a layover, Paris to Atlanta A FIVE HOUR LAYOVER and then a four hour flight to Phoenix...more than 24 hours. I was told: 1. they had no record of who sold us the trip, 2. I shouldn't have waited so long even though I was told to call nearer the trip date , 3. that no representative would tell us to wait, 4, that a supervisor would call us back 5. that we could change for $300. on each end, etc.,..the bottom line I never heard from customer service again, despite several calls. In fact when I pointed out I was traveling with three 80 year plus individuals I was told "well since they are that old they probably will appreciate the extra time"! The flights themselves were fine except that I requested an aisle seat on the longer flight legs as I am diabetic and claustrophobic. I was given a middle seat on both 8 hour plus flights and a window seat on the 4 hour flights. I called the airline and got an aisle seat on the outbound flight for free. On the way home there were no free aisle seats left so I made a minor upgrade and paid $78.00 to get an aisle seat. Aisle seats would have been available had Vantage travel asked at the time of purchase.
After our long flight we arrived in Lyon. We waited in the terminal for over 3 hours for all passengers. We then walked approximately four blocks dragging our luggage to the bus. The good news my two disabled friends were taken by wheelchair to the bus along with our other two traveling companions, the bad news, no one told my companions that I had to wait in the terminal with the others. They were frantic about my whereabouts and were in process of going to the airport police for help, reassuring them would have been one call to the driver, a thing that wasn't done, even after I talked to the welcome people about my concers. . After the long flight and long wait we then got to take a two hour bus ride to the ship in Macon France, a small bedroom community of Lyon.
Once on the ship we found the accommodations quite pleasant, larger than my previous experience, comfortable and well kept. We opted for a small window for economy sake. It let in light but no real view, which was just as well as we were port side and spent the entire trip looking at a graffiti strewn wall or the neighboring ship which we had to walk over the top floor to get to port making for many steps up and down for the elderly passengers. When our positions were reversed the other ship had an escort through our lobby.
The swollen rivers kept us in Macon for almost the entire trip We got to see France by bus. Needless to say this cut our time at our destinations short, very short in many cases allowing for no free time. Each drive would have it's own local guide and while quite adequate we never got the personal feeling that we were looked after. I personally had to go looking for part of our group when they separated from the tour. The guide never missed them despite the fact we were led to an enclosed room for a wine tasting...we had to pound on the door so the proprietor could come up from the wine cellar twenty minutes into the presentation to let us in ...no one noticed the absence of four people.
Except for two occasions we had to be bused back to the ship in time for lunch. Only once was the alternative given to stay in town and catch a second bus to allow for more free time. On the two occasions that we were too far to make it back to the ship we were allowed 20 euros for lunch, which sounds generous but it wasn't. The one lunch was on a Sunday, all but three restaurants were closed so the food was almost impossible to get and still get catch the bus. The second lunch was a 40 minute break a truck stop on the way to Avignon with snack and microwave food and no place to sit.
The food ranged from two nice dinners "the Captains celebration" and the Farewell dinner to barely adequate. Two alternative choices were available, but the one time I opted for a baked potato as a side it was spoiled and tasted tained and the hamburger at lunch was unrecognizable as meat. Breakfast was standard buffet fare, unvarying for the entire trip not even dressed up with some local bakery. Lunch was really awful.
Soup with lovely clear broth, but hardly anything else. Turkey spinach bean soup is an example, no turkey, four beans and two strips of spinach. Ham and cheese, something no one can ruin, was two large slices of bread, one thin slice of ham and cheese...steak sandwich, less than one thin slice of roast beef with canned onion strings and very few of those. The final day the lunch main course was pork neck bones...need I say more.
The crew really worked hard under very trying circumstances. The kept up a game attitude and except for several of the chauvinistic waiter attitudes, were outstanding. The ship had plenty of ice and a water purification system which kept even a water snob happy. There was very little entertainment...once a small local group, once an accordion player, a staff skit, a movie and a talk or two. This would have been fine had you been docked anywhere you could go out for the evening, but this was not to be.
Do I think Vantage could have done better, yes. They could have arranged better entertainment since we had no where to go, even games if they had to. They could have allowed lunch in town, even had their chef pack a decent picnic lunch, so we could have had more time at our destinations. They could have offered some financial reimbursements. They could have paid for an "in town" dinner. I'm sure there were many things they could have done to mitigate a bad situation.
The highlight of the trip was the Marseille extension. They cut the Avignon trip short to get us as a group in a night early for dinner in Marseille...even that was only pasta, no meat sauce, two bottles of wine for eight people and a small desert. Those of us staying for the extension were moved to our hotel, L'Hotel Dieu, which was excellent... a short walk to old town, our own guide Florence who couldn't have been better, Lovely sight seeing tour, boat ride on our own and a nice hotel provided breakfast.
The final leg was every nightmare that we anticipated. Marseille airport parking for buses is over two blocks from the terminal in a gravel lot. There is no assistance with luggage. My three eighty plus people pulled their luggage. My friend with a shoulder injury took one of her suitcases and I, a heart patient, took mine and her carry on. After about a half hour the guide finally noticed we were missing and came back and helped us. The flights themselves, despite my reservations about Delta, were pleasant. We sat in Atlanta and watched 5 flights depart to Phoenix while killing 5 hours waiting for flight. I personally will never travel with Vantage again. Read Less