My husband and I traveled to Paris for our first river cruise aboard the Uniworld River Baroness in September of 2007. We have done many ocean cruises and were anxious to compare the experience.
We arrived in Paris at around noon, got our luggage, and were immediately greeted by the Uniworld representative. We waited for a few other couples and were on our way to the ship. Once we arrived, they escorted us to our room - a category 1 cabin on the second floor. We knew our room was going to be smaller than on the big ocean ships, but it had everything we needed. There was a large picture window and nice bedding. They served a light lunch in the lounge area where we could relax after a long day of traveling.
We loved the fact that you could step off the ship and be in the heart of Paris. We spent the afternoon strolling around Paris before our first dinner on the ship.
We found the ship to be in excellent condition. The lounge was very comfortable and relaxing. It had a little library where they had information about some of the sights history of the area. Upstairs, they had a sundeck with nice chairs for viewing the scenery. There was also a glass enclosed area if it got windy, which they sometimes had to lower when we were going under a bridge. Downstairs was the dining room, which had nice windows as well. There was a tiny shop and exercise room as well on the first floor.
The food was very good. Most nights there were a couple of appetizer choices, a soup which was always excellent, two or three choices of entrees, and a couple of delicious dessert choices. They also had a nightly cheese buffet that we enjoyed sampling. There were a couple of times where neither of the entrEe choices appealed to us. Once, I ordered an entrEe portion of the appetizer which they cheerfully brought. They also always had steak or chicken on the menu which my husband tried once. On the Captain's nights, they had even more courses which they just kept bringing out. They dishes were beautifully presented and very good. We enjoyed the open seating where we could meet new people or choose to dine with folks we had gotten to know through the cruise.
As much as we liked the dinner, we thought the buffets at breakfast and lunch were maybe even better. For breakfast, they had everything you could want including an omelet station. They also had a special of the day which was always excellent. Lunch was just as good, with wonderful salads, a carving station, sandwiches, their delicious soups, and of course very good desserts.
Even though the itinerary had changed from the original plan, we still enjoyed it very much. We understand things happen when you travel and we felt Uniworld did their best to make things right. Instead of the evening boat tour of Paris that we were to have originally, they gave us a tour the next morning. My husband and I, along with another couple on the ship, decided we wanted to see things lit up at night anyway, so we took the metro to the Eiffel tower on the first night and did a boat tour on our own for 10 euros per person. Although it was nice to see things at night, we agreed that you could definitely see more in the morning, and we actually enjoyed it more then. We thought the included tours were very well done. They broke you up into smaller groups so you didn't feel so overwhelmed. The voice boxes were also nice so that you could hear everything that the guide was saying. We are not big art fans, but we did enjoy learning more about the greats such as Van Gogh and Monet. We elected not to do the optional tours to The Louvre and Versailles, since we really enjoyed relaxing on the ship on the sun deck watching the world go by, and we did not want to cram too much into one day. My husband absolutely loved the visit to Normandy and is still talking about it. My favorite was Honfleur, a darling little fishing village. They gave us fifteen euros to have lunch in town that day, and we had a glorious time eating mussels and enjoying the water view.
We thought the staff on this cruise was wonderful. Out cruise manager, A.J. was very funny and personable. Really, everyone from the front desk to the tour guides was very helpful. For example, I asked for a copy of the daily menus on the first day of the cruise so that I could bring them home. They told me they would copy them every day and have them at the end for me. I thought I might have to remind them, but there they were on the last evening laying on the bed in a nice folder.
One of the things that could be improved upon was the entertainment. Every night, there was a port talk and a mini French lesson given by the cruise director before dinner. After dinner, they did have a lounge type singer on a couple of nights and a French trivia game at the end, but that was pretty much it. Many nights, we strolled back into town to go into the internet cafe or walk off our dinners, but we might have stayed onboard if they had anything going, such as maybe a movie in the lounge. Not a major deal for us, though.
Before we left we wondered about the clientele, considering we are in our mid forties. It turns out we very much enjoyed our company onboard. Although most of the folks who took this cruise were older (there was one other couple that was our age), they were all mobile, well traveled, and very interesting people.
In summary, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise onboard the River Baroness. We would highly recommend Uniworld and this itinerary. We are looking forward to sailing with them again soon.