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.]