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We have done over fifteen great river cruises in Europe with various companies, and sailed on the Caledonian Canal on Lord of the Glens. We chose this trip with European Waterways because it had a different itinerary and we wanted to return to the Scottish Highlands. At over £3,000 each for 6 nights, we were looking forward to a very high standard of food and service. The crew were great and very hard-working (they do a lot of multi-tasking), and nothing was too much trouble. Service at meals was excellent. The boat was very nice and we liked the open bar. The restaurant chosen for a night out was lovely. But - I run high-end tours, so I have a lot of experience of tour planning - we felt that the cruise was otherwise run on a budget. The food was a huge disappointment. In our opinion, it was too specialised for a group; portions were generally small, meals were rarely hot enough, and my dietary requirements, notified beforehand, were not adhered to at the first two meals. We had a party of Americans on the boat who did enjoy the food, but we also travelled with a British Couple who had done two previous European Waterways cruises and were very unhappy with this one. They said that the difference between the food on this cruise and the earlier cruises (which they praised highly) was significant. They said the earlier portions had been huge (they'd had to ask the chef for smaller ones) and the choice was much more mainstream. The wine on this cruise was good, but this couple weren't happy that it was all French (apparently a directive from EW head office), when they had had an international variety of wines on the earlier cruises. We all had the impression that this cruise was geared to the American guests. After enjoying wonderful food on many earlier river cruises and the Lord of the Glens, we were deeply dissatisfied with what we were given to eat. Each day, we were bracing ourselves for what was to be served and this was stressful when the meals should have been a delight - good food is one of the main reasons people go on cruises. The chef did substitute some dishes for us and the other English couple, and these were good. He served us all octopus after several people had said they didn't want it, and, when someone asked if there was an alternative, he said there wasn't one. Not what one would expect to hear after paying so much for the cruise. Would it not be a good idea to offer a choice of something more mainstream for those who don't want specialist or foraged food? I aimed to use this holiday to chill and relax after a frantically busy and stressful few months. The American party were very keen on long walks and cycling. That's fine, but I felt there was too much emphasis on this, to the extent that I felt uncomfortable just sitting on the barge at these times. In the end, we were very glad to get off the boat. We would not travel with European Waterways again.

A huge disappointment

Spirit of Scotland Cruise Review by alisonweirhistorian

Trip Details
We have done over fifteen great river cruises in Europe with various companies, and sailed on the Caledonian Canal on Lord of the Glens. We chose this trip with European Waterways because it had a different itinerary and we wanted to return to the Scottish Highlands. At over £3,000 each for 6 nights, we were looking forward to a very high standard of food and service. The crew were great and very hard-working (they do a lot of multi-tasking), and nothing was too much trouble. Service at meals was excellent. The boat was very nice and we liked the open bar. The restaurant chosen for a night out was lovely.

But - I run high-end tours, so I have a lot of experience of tour planning - we felt that the cruise was otherwise run on a budget. The food was a huge disappointment. In our opinion, it was too specialised for a group; portions were generally small, meals were rarely hot enough, and my dietary requirements, notified beforehand, were not adhered to at the first two meals. We had a party of Americans on the boat who did enjoy the food, but we also travelled with a British Couple who had done two previous European Waterways cruises and were very unhappy with this one. They said that the difference between the food on this cruise and the earlier cruises (which they praised highly) was significant. They said the earlier portions had been huge (they'd had to ask the chef for smaller ones) and the choice was much more mainstream. The wine on this cruise was good, but this couple weren't happy that it was all French (apparently a directive from EW head office), when they had had an international variety of wines on the earlier cruises. We all had the impression that this cruise was geared to the American guests.

After enjoying wonderful food on many earlier river cruises and the Lord of the Glens, we were deeply dissatisfied with what we were given to eat. Each day, we were bracing ourselves for what was to be served and this was stressful when the meals should have been a delight - good food is one of the main reasons people go on cruises. The chef did substitute some dishes for us and the other English couple, and these were good. He served us all octopus after several people had said they didn't want it, and, when someone asked if there was an alternative, he said there wasn't one. Not what one would expect to hear after paying so much for the cruise. Would it not be a good idea to offer a choice of something more mainstream for those who don't want specialist or foraged food?

I aimed to use this holiday to chill and relax after a frantically busy and stressful few months. The American party were very keen on long walks and cycling. That's fine, but I felt there was too much emphasis on this, to the extent that I felt uncomfortable just sitting on the barge at these times. In the end, we were very glad to get off the boat. We would not travel with European Waterways again.
alisonweirhistorian’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin
The cabin was well fitted with spacious wardrobes and a very comfortable bed. On reflection, we should have had twin beds, as the double bed was pushed against the wall. Shower room adequate, but floor tiles slippery - I skidded and fell. Organic toiletries very poor; they ruined my hair.

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