My husband and I have some extended holiday time this year so we wanted to spend some of this time traveling out of the UK (where we live temporarily- we are from the US) to Europe. I thought this would be a great chance to check out a river cruise, which we have never done before, although we have done many ocean cruises. My perception of river cruises are - they are long, expensive, and generally focused on retirees. But, I came across Croisi, which generally seems lower priced and which offered some shorter cruise options with (and this was the main selling point!) a couple options that included hikes at each port. I loved the idea of hiking the countryside at each location and I also read that the food on Croisi is excellent, dedicated to French gourmet cooking.
I did notice that Croisi is a French cruise line but didn't realize quite how French, until we boarded and we were told that there were essentially 6 other English-speakers on board! It turned out there were about 12 English speakers total, with 7 of us speaking no French at all, out of about 200 or so guests (not sure of the exact number), most of which were indeed retirees.
They sat the non-French speakers, 4 couples that included one French speaker, at the same table for meals so we did have someone to talk with. But, I think it could be almost equally likely that you could end up with no other passengers speaking English. So, if you do not speak French, my first recommendation would be to maybe do a Croisi cruise with a larger group so you are guaranteed someone else to talk with.
As advertised, the food was excellent! Maybe a little too meat-focused for some. Personally, I like meat but love vegetables as well and I could have used a little more veggies. After the first day, a couple folks from our table requested "less meat" - really hoping for more vegetables, but basically getting the same amount of vegetables but with fish instead of other meats. I am not sure what you would get if you asked for strict vegetarian - I would definitely let them know ahead of time if that is what you want.
The "free" wine choices were very good - they had some bottles you could pay for that I am sure are excellent but I wouldn't bother as the free ones were great.
The itinerary consisted of leaving from Lyon and heading down the Rhone to Avignon and then back again over 5 nights. The highlight for us was definitely the hikes! The weather was gorgeous and we saw some beautiful scenery and towns.The majority of the guests did the hikes - and I would rate them at about a level 3 and hiking poles would be helpful although not an absolute necessity. They split us into a couple groups and our hike-leader spoke English, so we were always grouped with him.
We also did some non-hike tours and they made sure we had an English tour guide (or English + French) for each one - which sometimes meant we had a close-to-private tour, if it was English only.
The best non-hike tour was Avignon. After one hike we wandered around Les Beaux de Provence, which was beautiful. We rode a bus through Camargue, which actually was pretty cool to see the "famous" bulls, horses, and pink flamingos, although I am generally not a fan of bus tours. Viviers and Vienne were nice for quick visits.
Going through the locks was interesting - we thought it was pretty cool but if you are claustrophobic you might not want to be in a lower cabin and/or make sure you're on the upper level during the use of the lock,
The evening "entertainment" was fun, but really just consisted of a little game and maybe a bit of dancing. There was no real entertainment in terms of music or shows or anything like that. There was a "crew show" one night, which we skipped, that sounded like it was something along the lines of a elementary school talent show.
There is no fitness center on board although the staff did lead an exercise session after breakfast on the non-hike days.
I really, really liked the decor of the ship - kind of a "modern, European hotel" look. Quite simple and bright. We walked through a couple other boats, just to get on the dock, and they seemed so ostentatious in their decor (marble and chrome and fancy light fixtures, etc.) compared to our more simple kind of Scandi-type look. I definitely preferred Croisi in this respect. Our room was good but because we booked late, we had a lower level room, which was all that was left. It was fine in terms of views but I suspect the engine noise was louder down there - which was an issue the two nights that we were traveling at night.
Overall conclusion - we enjoyed the cruise. The hikes were great, the staff were lovely, the food and wine were very good. There was a mixed view among the non-French speakers about the overall vibe from the other passengers. I felt like they were generally neutral, some smiled and nodded and a few spoke a little English to be friendly. But, most of the time, there was very little interaction. I don't blame them though, this is their country (we were in France, after all!) and they were on a French cruise line, so I can see why they might not be bothered with English-speakers at all. A couple of us seemed to pick up more "resentment" or maybe annoyance from the French passengers, which could be right but I tend to be pretty oblivious about this type of thing.
The room was light and bright and very clean. The bathroom was big enough. We were on a lower level so although we had a full window, we could only open the top, which was fine. If the weather was warmer, we might have wanted to be able to open the full sliding-glass door that the upper level rooms had but at this time of year, it was a little too coo for that. The bed faces the window, which is nice. The beds were two singles pushed together to make a double - no mattress pad or anything to cover the "seam" between the two beds. The main issue was the engine noise for the two nights that we traveled at night.