We were originally scheduled to do Gems of Northern Italy but the ship was damaged in a port accident so we switched to the Grand France tour. The first week was on board the S. S. Catherine (reviewed separately) with a high-speed train connection between Lyon and Paris to begin the second leg. The train trip to Paris was fantastic. Everything was looked after by our lovely escorts and we arrived without incident.
The ship: Decor was classic; beautiful and well-maintained. The maintenance staff worked hard to keep everything clean and shiny. Because we switched at the last minute, we were not able to get the same category cabin as we had booked on the Venice cruise so we were in the "basement". The room was larger than the one on the first leg of the trip. We didn't spend a lot of time in our room, so the size and location wasn't a huge issue. The guest laundry was located on this floor which was very convenient. However, the only coffee station on the ship was next to the bar on the other end of the boat which was very inconvenient. We had the same issue with the a/c on the Joie de Vive as we did on the Catherine; it was not nearly adequate given the temperature in France at the time. Even with the thermostat set as low as possible (5C), the temperature in the room never got cool enough. I was extremely uncomfortable, especially at night, and even though I requested a fan, none was provided.
The pool was indoors in the middle of the bar - very unappealing location. It was covered over at night. The main lounge and rooftop deck were comfortable and it was wonderful to sit there and watch castles float by.