My husband and I took a Vantage Seine River Cruise from Paris to Honfluer, France because many of our friends recommended a river cruise as a great way to see Europe. The state rooms were small but well-organized with plenty of storage. The bathroom was larger than on any previous cruise ships we’d been on and the water in the shower was powerful and easily-adjusted. The service onboard was outstanding, including our cabin attendant, the office staff, the dining room waiters, and the cruise director. The food was very good; freshly-prepared omelets and pastas were available for breakfast and lunch, and a five-course meal was offered each evening. There was also a “lighter fare” menu, but those who selected that said the food was adequate at best. Boarding and disembarking were well-organized and efficient. If we stopped reviewing the cruise here, we would give it a “5.”
Perhaps the biggest disappointment were the tours on shore. They averaged about 2-2½ hours, were led by guides of mixed quality, and we had a great deal of free time. On two days, this free time was in very small towns whose museums happened to be closed and which had minimal shopping opportunities. Even the “full-day” at the Normandy beaches was shortened by a 3-hour round-trip bus ride. On a positive note, all activities started and ended on time.
If you are seeking a vacation in Europe with all the amenities of America (including a 110v outlet in each cabin), then a river cruise is a good option. However, for those who seek a more authentic overseas experience, there are better options. This was our first river cruise and, despite the excellent service and food, will probably be our last. We have travelled extensively and have been to all seven continents. When we travel, we live on the economy, staying in bed and breakfasts, eating local foods, and struggling with the differences in language and customs. We found that we missed the “uniqueness” of France while on the river cruise. Fortunately, we had been to Paris and Normandy on our own and in a rental car several times before, so do not feel that we missed too much. This part of the cruise, therefore, would get a rating of “1.”
If you do choose to take a Vantage river cruise, we have several suggestions:
- Despite the information you receive by mail or email prior to the cruise, reconfirm the location of the port with Vantage a minimum of 24 hours prior to boarding. We flew to London for several days before flying to Paris, and hired a shuttle to take us to the port identified in the most recent email from Vantage. Unfortunately, the ship had docked at a different port on the other side of Paris. After a frustrating hour of searching, and an additional cost of more than the original fare, we reached our cruise ship. Vantage did reimburse us the additional fare.
- Be prepared for very slow internet service.
- If you do not want a full meal at dinner time, pick up fruit, bread, or cheeses at a local shop before boarding. The room service menu was very limited and expensive.
- The tour notes that the boat is not handicapped-accessible. Take this seriously. We often had to climb stairs to the deck of another boat in the same dock, walk across and down stairs to our boat, and then up to our deck.
The state rooms were small but well-organized with plenty of storage. The bathroom was larger than on any previous cruise ships we’d been on and the water in the shower was powerful and easily-adjusted.