We chose it as we wanted to revisit an area of France we knew well from at least 25 years of camping among the vineyards of southern France.
We arrived in Lyon on excellent Eurostar direct from St Pancras.
We were met and whisked swiftly through the lovely city of Lyon to the pretty riverside, to embark on A-ROSA Stella, emblazoned with ( rather naff looking ) red lips!
We were swiftly given our cabin key cards and made our way down to our river view cabin, with 2large circular windows at river level. Decor was very 70s beige and mustard, the bed was hard, facilities minimal, and we were glad we’d brought some favourite Bulgari toiletries with us. On exploring the ship we found a busy bar, a cramped lounge with seats too close together, and wide open viewpoints all around on the sun decks, where there was a tempting looking swimming pool.
To our horror, we discovered that smoking was permitted in all outside areas. Had we been advised this we would not have booked this river cruise. We both hate smoking, and I suffer from pollution induced asthma. Our previous experiences of river cruises have been on ships that allow smoking only in limited areas.
After an indifferent buffet dinner, we made our way to the prow to see the amazing beautifully lit up city of Lyon as we set sail, happily drinking a glass of the included basic wines on offer. After a long day, we were later glad to retire to our cabin, but found sleep difficult on such a hard uncomfortable bed, at least were soothed by the sound of the gently slapping river current.
Each day brought amazing views, and incredible lock technology on this well tamed river. It was a surprise to realise that the locks were centrally controlled all along the river, so no lock keepers cottages and cheery keepers to wave to. We first sailed north to explore the river Saône, enabling us to revisit pretty Macon, a city I’d visited often in my youth, and to reacquaint ourselves with some excellent Burgundy wines , buying some bottles to enjoy on board. We had sought permission to bring these bottles on board, and a kind barman opened them as needed.
The ship eventually returned to Lyon to carry on further south on the mighty Rhone, tamed by enormous locks along its length, including the astonishing 40m drop at Bollene. The power of the water was apparent as we watched the swirl of the deep fast flowing river currents as we sailed under many bridges, some beautiful, others more utilitarian.
All along it’s length the Rhone is used by a large variety of crafts, loaded barges, many pleasure craft, small local boats and of course lots of river cruises.
It was wonderful to moor right outside the vast walls of beautiful Avignon, so that we could explore this fascinating city its with its rich history of papal power. Our favourite river port was the lovely city of Arles, settled for millennia , with its legacy of Roman history including an astonishing arena, delightfully used by parties of school children enacting Roman gladiatorial contests. There are many Roman artefacts in this city needing many hours and days of thorough exploration. As we only had a few hours, we settled for just the arena and a walk along the streets immortalised by Vincent Van Gogh in his glorious paintings. It was enchanting to sit sipping chilled white wine in the shade of oft painted Cafe de Nuit.
We enjoyed sitting in the evenings on the quiet sun deck after buffet dinner, with a glass of local wine we’d purchased along the route. Apart from one evening of a good deck barbecue, all meals were similar buffet style, and though adequate, were hardly gourmet. We had not expected this to be a “ foodie” cruise, but were very disappointed with the choices on offer, with a heavy emphasis on cheese, sausages and stir fried style vegetables. Sailing through such wonderful countryside, from the gourmet city of Lyon, it was disappointing to realise that , on board , we were not to taste the delicious French food from this wonderful region of the country.
Adequate would be the best we could say, with dated decor, very hard uncomfortable bed, plenty of wardrobe space and 2large circular windows.
The tiny bathroom had a powerful shower, with dispenser soaps.