Detailed review and long…….
With our past experiences of joining cruises in Europe the most important factor was flying direct from our local airport (BHX) with no connections at other hubs. Rushing between gates at Frankfurt or Schiphol is not for us, and from many others we have met who have had horror stories of missed connections and lost luggage.
Our flight to Lyon was slightly delayed but on arrival we, and 10 others, were met by a Riviera representative and after only a 75yds walk we were in our luxury minibuses and on our way to our ship, a short 30 min drive.
As soon as we boarded at 3pm we, and our luggage, were escorted to our cabin - super, no waiting.
Many other passengers did not join till much later either with flights to other airports or the TGV from London via Paris
As the Riviera price for the same itinerary on Emerald was at least £1000 per couple cheaper, our expectations were not high but we were delighted with the MS William Shakespeare which we found much more comfortable and welcoming than the Emerald Star ship, which is all chandeliers, chrome and glass.
The deck layout is very similar but we found the lounge, with its sofas and comfortable chairs, and the dining room layout and furniture, to be far more welcoming and relaxing. As is normal on European rivers, the staff are mainly from Eastern Europe, and we found them all to be engaging, with good English and striving to give the best of service
In the lounge there is a 24-hour tea, coffee and water station, together with complimentary cookies and fresh fruit. The sun deck has really comfortable deck furniture and ample shade, unlike some other cruise ships we came across on the Rhone which were baking in the 30C++ heat.
Only on a few occasions were the shades lowered for low bridges or locks.
Surprisingly, we found the choice and quality of the food better than Emerald with some dishes, in presentation and taste, up to top restaurant quality. The superb beef wellington and an excellent sole meunière stood out amongst many fine dishes.
Breakfast was either Continental at the bar, or a Buffet with a good choice of hot food, including an egg station, in the Restaurant. The only minor gripe-their supplier had let them down with English breakfast sausage so only frankfurters were on offer-uhg
Lunches are buffet style, with three hot choices, and a good choice of salads, a soup and always cold cuts and smoked salmon or gravlax. The pastry chef had some style and passion with a choice every day-and of course French cheeses.
There were two Gala nights with a stylish menu but on all other evenings there was a table d'hôte menu but if you wanted something different there was always grilled chicken breast or grilled salmon.
Service was first class in every way from the waiters, both for ordering, service and drinks. One was never left with an empty glass. We were exceptionally lucky in having George and Aussie Zoe look after us. They shone in every way, are a credit to Riviera and they could walk into a job in any top restaurant in the World
We took the pre-booked drinks package at €109pp which worked out just about right. The wines on offer changed most nights but all were very acceptable especially the Merlot, the Beaujolais and a very quaffable Rosé. The draft Warsteiner was excellent.
On Gala nights there was complimentary sparkling wine in the bar as a pre-dinner drink, on other nights there was a Happy Hour with special discounts on certain drinks-€3.25 for sparkling wine, €1.75 for beer and €4.50 for a G&T.
Drinks prices, overall, were sensibly price and cheaper than pub prices back home.
There was pianist for pre-dinner cocktails and after dinner drinks in the Lounge and on two nights a rather fun quiz. On the Gala dinner nights there was a reception to introduce the Captain and the Hotel Manager Bruno together with all the crew. On the last night we were treated to a farewell serenade by all the crew and staff-not at all cheesy but really good fun…
All are included in the price and there is a morning or afternoon excursion most days with cruising in between. We loved the day cruising watching the countryside changing from Burgundy to deep Provence.
A full briefing was given before each trip and we all had audio boxes and ear pieces which were so useful in crowded places. I must mention the quality of the guides-all had perfect English and were gifted and enthusiastic in every way.
Four of the trips were by coach and the one through the Burgundy vineyards during the vendage was exceptional and culminated in a tutored tasting at La Cellier de la Cabiote-the highlight of our day. Free time in Beaune old town followed by shopping , it was market day, and then back to Chalon for lunch and an afternoon cruise through the Côte Chalonnaise and Beaujolais countryside.
The trip around old Lyon was also very enjoyable and the view over old Lyon from basilica Notre-Dame of Fourvière is a must, as are the wall murals in the old town.
The other coach trips were to visit the Ardeche Gorges but as we had driven through these on previous visits so gave this a miss and stayed on the top deck, in glorious warm sun, whilst the ship repositioned to Viviers where the passengers re-joined the ship. All seemed to enjoy the coach trip, for us 3 hours on windy roads would have been too much.
At Vienne we had a free morning to explore this old Roman town on foot with the option of joining the “little train”
Other highlights included market day in Arles and after our guided walk round the Roman ruins we had free time to shop and sightsee before returning to the ship for lunch. The market was a delight and our star buy were bunches of dried lavender @€4 to replenish the ones we bought so many years ago. We did not take the afternoon coach tour to the Pont du Gard (done that) so we took the opportunity to take another walk around town before relaxing on the sun deck, under the velum sheltering from the hot Provence sun (32C)
We sailed early evening to Avignon where we moored adjacent to the city walls very near the famous bridge. On our last day our walking tour started at 9.30 in the morning with a visit the remains of the ancient bridge followed by an extensive, and very interesting tour of the Popes Palace-again given an hour afterwards to explore on our own before making our way back to the ship.
Other than a couple from the US and another couple from down under it was all British and Irish. Ages went from 50’s to 80’s with the average in the high 60’s. But age does not matter, some of the oldest were the spriteliest and put the youngest to shame. Most very mobile with the occasional stick and one wheelchair.
As there was no direct flight from Marseille to Birmingham the only option was a 3-hour coach trip back North to Lyon airport, to which we were not looking forward.
We departed at 9.30 and how wrong we were. A smooth and comfortable journey on the A7 with glimpses of the Rhone, the ever-changing countryside and views, which I, as the driver on many of our previous trips to the South of France had never had the chance of experiencing.
Our guide obtained trollies for us and escorted all the way to the check in desks-superb service from start to finish
Non existing. It is NOFI
Riviera staff were full of apologies, even they and the Reception suffered. Apparently, it is an ongoing problem with this boat which is hoped will be rectified when it is laid up at Chalon during the winter. A new antenna and routers are to be fitted.
The lack of WiFi was only disappointment with this cruise and with Riviera.
Luckily, we had a strong 4G signal on our mobiles so we were not completely out of touch.
Absolutely superb-could not have been bettered.
Certainly, the pair are the best we have come across on any of our cruises.
Mandy the Cruise Director, assisted by Sarah her Riviera Concierge, are at the top of their game and are a credit to Riviera.
Guides and Drivers are not expecting tips but for exceptional service the guide lines of €2 for guides and €1 for drivers
Gratuities are not included in the price but guidelines from Riviera are a crew shared €10pp per day.
We also looked after those who were exceptional, including Sarah and Mandy.
If you have got this far, well done and I hope there are some useful nuggets in here.
We were well impressed with Riviera who gave tremendous value for money for a truly 5 Star cruise—we hope to sail with them again, perhaps on a boat with WiFi not NoFi
and do please ignore the photos of stained tables. When new the furniture had not been sealed and after the first cruise the water stains could not be removed, They are cleaned and polished daily.
There are 4 De Luxe Balcony Suites on this ship and we were in 303. They are certainly a step up from the other upper deck cabins with a seating area and outside balcony, beyond sliding patio doors. The disadvantage is this protrudes into the sleeping area so the only way to get into bed is to shimmy sideways. We much prefer the suites on Emerald with enclosed balconies with drop down windows-and their complimentary stocked fridge, laundry and other little extras—but that all comes at a steep price.