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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2018
Cruise number 52 Riviera Cruises - MS Thomas Hardy 6th December - 11th December 2018 Cabin number : 218.- midship , Deck 2 - Balcony Cabin Total pax : 169 , Crew : 44: Decks :5 Cruise for 5 nights - Christmas Market cruise ... Read More
Cruise number 52 Riviera Cruises - MS Thomas Hardy 6th December - 11th December 2018 Cabin number : 218.- midship , Deck 2 - Balcony Cabin Total pax : 169 , Crew : 44: Decks :5 Cruise for 5 nights - Christmas Market cruise Budapest / overnight Budapest / Bratislava / Vienna / Vienna overnight / at sea / Budapest overnight Checking in was fast and expiditied perfectly , From arrival on river side/ check in then to cabin was 30 minutes. On board, housekeeping , room service ,main dining room service and food all of a very good standard. The Bistro restuarant which is booking only can not be compared to any of the chefs table rstaurants on similar star rating ships this is due to it not being any differant from the main restuarant except for menu. No differant silver service ( in fact our table felt we had better service in the main restaurant), no variety of wines per course as expected and local foods as would be the norm. The included excursions all of a good standard , with the guide in Budapest on day one Uri being so non PC its great to hear and excellent at his guiding. The oriantation tour around Bratislava with Alta was first class again so non PC its refreshing . Tour around Vienna was basic and pedestrian . We did our market route and spent many wonderful hours using our own apps. The Ars Mundi string quartet was a nice touch as entertainment in Vienna on board after dinner. No form of sail away , however found the departures times to early as you miss the impact of the christmas lighting after dark. Postpone by 2 hours and all would be fie on this point However the total lack of any entertainment besides our loan pianist who tried his best does drop the overall rating somewhat along with the very pedestrian cruise director , the tour manager tried his hardest to bridge the gap but to no avail. This meant long dinners and more bar time . Overall a good product with a few tweeks and upliftments , the Housekeeping, Bar and main dining room along with the ship crew carry the product for sure 2018 star grading - 4 Read Less
Sail Date: October 2018
Riviera Cruises ( a UK cruise line) just began to market in the United States and their ships and itineraries looked very nice. A few days before our cruise we heard the water level on the Danube was low and river boats were unable to ... Read More
Riviera Cruises ( a UK cruise line) just began to market in the United States and their ships and itineraries looked very nice. A few days before our cruise we heard the water level on the Danube was low and river boats were unable to sail. ( Some cruise lines cancelled their cruises.) We called Riviera and were told there was no problem. When changing planes in Philadelphia, we heard from other passengers that all the cruises out of Budapest were disrupted. We attempted to reach Riviera on their "24 hour hotline" but could only leave a recorded message. Upon landing in Budapest 9 hours later, there was still no response from Riviera. We finally heard from them around 3 pm Budapest time - approximately 24 hours before our ship was to sail. We were told we needed to take a bus to another city ( their bus) for embarkation and that this would be the only inconvenience. Much more could be said concerning the non-existent cruise ( majority of the "cruise" was on a bus) but there are more issues to share. Upon arrival to the ship, we found it to be very modern and seemed quite new. The décor was lovely. The dining area was spacious and the dinner menus were varied. The foods were fresh and service was good. Entertainment was space - a quartet one night and a few talks other nights about the places we were to visit. The ports we visited were what you would find on a Blue Danube cruise - Vienna, Salzburg, Budapest, etc. Tours were fine - compromised though, due to the water level and subsequent bus transportation. Each cruise guest was told on the last night that there would be compensation for the "cruise" and that it would be equal. Upon arriving home, we were told that the American cruise passengers ( or at least us) needed to sign a non-disclosure agreement ( UNLIKE the UK passengers). Our new UK friends shared their reimbursement amount which was much greater than we were offered. We refused to sign the non-disclosure agreement which would have prohibited our ability to share this review on Cruise Critic. As a result, Riviera has refused to reimburse us. So, be forewarned. Choose your cruise line carefully. Read Less
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5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
The Robert Burns is a new ship, not too big, beautifully appointed and spotlessly clean. Cabins are obviously not large, but comfortable and have everything you need. The bathroom was quite elegant and the shower a pleasant surprise - ... Read More
The Robert Burns is a new ship, not too big, beautifully appointed and spotlessly clean. Cabins are obviously not large, but comfortable and have everything you need. The bathroom was quite elegant and the shower a pleasant surprise - better than the ones we have found in many hotels. The food was excellent and there was the option of dining in the bistro rather than the main dining room if you wanted to. The crew were all charming and couldn't do enough to help. Entertainment was sparse - one quiz night, one visit by a string quartet who were excellent, and one evening of Hungarian folk dances, which was fun. Each day there was an included shore excursion - mostly close to the Danube - with a local guide. Bratislava in Slovakia was a particular surprise - it's a delightful place. We also visited other towns and villages, including Salzburg (which did require a two hour coach journey, but we could have chosen to stay and take a guided tour of Linz instead), Vienna and Budapest, which was a fascinating mix of new and old and probably my favourite. My only criticism was that the cost could have included wine or beer with meals. The drinks package available was quite expensive, especially given that drinks costs from the bar were reasonable. This was our first European river cruise, and admittedly we were lucky with the weather - blue skies and sunshine all week. All in all a very enjoyable holiday. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
We commenced a 14 day cruise starting from Cologne and due to finish in Budapest. We were oblivious to the low water problems before we left. It was obvious from day 3 that there were serious river level issues. Perfect Recipe for holiday ... Read More
We commenced a 14 day cruise starting from Cologne and due to finish in Budapest. We were oblivious to the low water problems before we left. It was obvious from day 3 that there were serious river level issues. Perfect Recipe for holiday stress. We received conflicting updates , missed 2 itinerary stops , had the Nuremberg visit seriously shortened and then didn’t cruise any further from day 7 being moored near Straubing. We were taken on some time filling bus trips until finally the axe fell and we were told by the cruise manager that the trip was being curtailed and we would be flown home from Munich. We were duly despatched from the ship at 4 30am We never got to see Vienna or Budapest. This trip should never have been allowed to commence with such uncertainty and by running it and ruining it we won’t get the opportunity again to visit those special cities. This was the most expensive holiday we have ever booked and was a total and absolute calamity. We were the victims of indecision and procrastination for had the trip been cancelled at least we would have had the opportunity to re book . Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
This was our first river cruise and proved to be most enjoyable overall. The scenery was wonderful, the weather glorious, the staff were friendly and helpful and we had a superb cabin - number 325. The general organisation on board was ... Read More
This was our first river cruise and proved to be most enjoyable overall. The scenery was wonderful, the weather glorious, the staff were friendly and helpful and we had a superb cabin - number 325. The general organisation on board was mostly good, the excursions we did were excellent and we enjoyed the flexibility to join a group when sightseeing or explore on your own. The coach was also most comfortable. The evening dinner at Quinta da Pacheca was most enjoyable. There were, however, some disappointments and surprises:- 1. The breakfasts and lunches were far more enjoyable than the dinners! A "superb 4 course dinner" as advertised was certainly not served. The vegetarian food showed little imagination, although hey did try to accommodate my requests. The waiting staff, although very friendly and helpful, did appear rushed and more often than not we had to serve ourselves with our wine which was held in a communal cooler serving other tables too. There appeared to be a distinct lack of vegetables to accompany the meat and fish dishes. The choice of dessert was very poor - often fruit/cheese and only one other. 2. We were astounded on our first morning to be woken by the extreme engine noise - not merely loud, but quite deafening. We were unsure how other areas of the ship fared in comparison. 3. Daily briefings were somewhat tedious, although our tour director, Carmem was a lovely lady. One felt obliged to attend in case important information was missed, but it was most inconvenient to disturb our relaxation on the sun deck. We felt it would have been better to impart the information in written form. 4. The sun deck was most relaxing, but surprisingly there was no bar service. 5. We were also surprised when the sun deck had to be completely evacuated at one point and for quite a long time owing to lack of clearance at a lock and a bridge. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
This was our first venture into river cruising, and we were not disappointed. We enjoy wine and looked forward to learning more about Port and seeing some amazing scenery. The itinerary looked fairly daunting and full on, it was! ... Read More
This was our first venture into river cruising, and we were not disappointed. We enjoy wine and looked forward to learning more about Port and seeing some amazing scenery. The itinerary looked fairly daunting and full on, it was! Embarkation/Disembarkation We were met at Oporto airport by one of the tour escorts, and after a short wait taken to a coach. Then a 20 minute transfer to Villa Nova de Gaia, where MS Douro Elegance was birthed. To get to our ship we had to cross another ship, this appears to be quite normal for river cruising. Once on board we were taken to the bar/lounge for tea and cakes, and our cruise director Carmen and hotel manager Roseline. We then received our cabin keys/cruise card, our cabin was not difficult to find and our cases were already inside. Disembarkation is equally efficient. Luggage tags were provided the day before disembarkation, cases needed to be outside the cabin by 09:00. We were not due to leave for the airport until 14:00; this left us with a full morning to explore Gaia and Porto. We had lunch off the ship although a light lunch was provided in the bar. If you needed to freshen up two cabins were available on request. When you did board the coach for the airport you did need to see that your luggage had been loaded. Dining The restaurant is open seating with a fixed meal time in the evening. A light breakfast was available at the coffee station or a full buffet in the restaurant. Alight lunch was available in the bar or a full buffet in the restaurant. Some of the choices at dinner were a little ‘unusual’ particularly the starters. In general the food was to a good standard, although choice was limited. Vegetarians did struggle, and risotto appeared regularly. The wine in the restaurant was very good and locally produced, most evenings the recommend wines were €16 to €18 which was very reasonable and drinkable. The coffee station was a bit of a disappointment, whatever you selected from the machine it was too sweet for our taste, we are not great coffee drinkers and there was a good selection of teas. Bar The bar/lounge was spacious and comfortable. Pedro the bar manager was not only highly skilled but also very amusing. There was a good selection of drinks at reasonable prices. White port and tonic became our favourite pre-dinner tipple. The drinks package changed after we had booked and it only provided drinks with meals which seemed a bit restrictive (though people found ways round this!) They need to make this a simple package that covers all drinks and limit the price per drink. Cabin Our cabin was starboard middle on deck 2 (209), the cabin is a reasonable size, with a large opening windows, though half the evenings we were against another ship or a wall, the half we had very pleasant views. There was a large LED TV, two USB charging sockets, a proper hair drier, a small fridge, two small bottles of water that were replaced daily and a kettle for tea and coffee making. There is plenty of space under the bed to hide your luggage. The safe on the top shelf of the wardrobe is awkward to say the least, and I’m average height. The bathroom is very good and there was always plenty of hot water, it just lacked storage space. Most mornings we were woken when the ships engines were started at 06:30, but it wasn’t particularly load and there was no vibration. The information pack in the room was excellent, a detailed map of the Douro was provided along with maps of all the places we were to visit. There were also two wireless headsets for use on the trips. Entertainment This took place in the bar on three nights, a quiz, the port ceremony where Pedro opened a bottle of vintage port using port tongs and a Portuguese folk music evening. If you wanted to avoid these, you could take a drink up to the sun deck which was very peaceful. Photography There wasn’t any! How nice not to have photographers trying to snap you. Gym This was a token gesture comprising a treadmill and an exercise bike. Excursions The organisation of the trips was very good, at the beginning of the cruise you picked your bus number (1,2 or 3), and that was your bus with the same escort for the whole cruise. The pre-cruise itinerary covers all the trips in some depth, here are my thoughts on some of them: Sandeman: This seemed a bit light weight; you are taken round a visitor centre with a quick tasting afterwards, and a retail opportunity. The view of the Douro from the terrace is spectacular. But it takes nearly as long for the coach to get up to the quinta as the actual visit; those of a nervous disposition should not look out of the coach windows! Salamanca: A long day with a good if chaotic lunch and some large flamenco dancers. The city is quite compact, and we were easily able to do the cathedral ourselves, and then take the organised tour in the afternoon. Quinta da Pacheca: This was a dinner at a quinta that included a brief tour of the winery. The food was very good with plenty of local wine, and live music. Mateus Place: Famous for featuring on all those bottles of rosé! Beautiful gardens, and well worth taking the time to walk round. The visit does not include going inside the palace. Calem: Just a short walk down the picturesque Gaia quayside and a tour of this port lodge with a tasting and another retail opportunity. Well worth seeing if just to get an idea of the scale of port production. Anything Else? The five locks that we pass through are very impressive and worth seeing. There are also some very low bridges that the ship can only just squeeze under, the sun deck has to be cleared for these. The sun deck is a great place to sit and watch the scenery go by, but it could use a bar service up there and some way of listening to a commentary. Also, beware of the static electric sock you might get when going down the stairs! There was a very good atmosphere on the ship, the crew all got on very well together and nothing was too much trouble for them. With only 120 passengers it was more like a large house party, and by the end of the cruise you had probably spoken to everyone else. And finally, Carmen our cruise director did a fantastic job of making sure everything happened when it was supposed to. Carmen is very hands on, she give the talks in the morning about what we are doing that day, goes on the trips and is dancing in the bar at night! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
Traveled before with Riviera. Wanted to try a river cruise as the advertising and hype suggested it would be a wonderful 5* holiday and worth the expense. Can't fault the ship. Clean and well maintained. Cabin and bathroom ... Read More
Traveled before with Riviera. Wanted to try a river cruise as the advertising and hype suggested it would be a wonderful 5* holiday and worth the expense. Can't fault the ship. Clean and well maintained. Cabin and bathroom decent size. A fridge is needed though. Ice was NOT always available as advertised. Food extremely good but no choice of wine other than red, white or rose on the drinks package. The staff were friendly and efficient but short on the ground in the dining room and it was a free for all when it came to finding a dining table. Painist very competent but the lack of evening entertainment really needs addressed. Captain's night was decent. Great food but the entertainment was provided by way of a crew show. Seemed like cheap entertainment to us. Some moorings were anything but scenic. Ship often docked at lunchtime losing part of some days to go ashore. Tours itinerary good but some trips far too rushed. We enjoyed the cruise. It promised a lot, but overall was somewhat disappointing. Riviera need to address certain aspects of their river cruises if they really want to provide the 5* they promised. We will return to sea cruising. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We booked the cruise to celebrate 30 years together, it’s hard to believe how much things have changed for same sex couples over those years! Once we were through security, we booked into the Number 1 lounge at Birmingham Airport, ... Read More
We booked the cruise to celebrate 30 years together, it’s hard to believe how much things have changed for same sex couples over those years! Once we were through security, we booked into the Number 1 lounge at Birmingham Airport, and after the family with the horrible toddler who for some reason had been given a whistle had left, we relaxed until our flight which was a nice start to the holiday. We seemed to attract families with noisy children as opposite us, there were two more noisy children, but to be fair, their parents tried their best to settle them down. Well, the mother did, and told the father off just as much as the kids! Bonus number one of a river cruise. No kids! We arrived in Dusseldorf at around 5.30pm, had collected our luggage and were on the coach by 6pm. However, getting to the ship in Bonn, (our revised departure port), was delayed due to roadworks and an accident. We got to the ship just before 8pm. On the way, our tour guide, Barbara, introduced herself and briefly went through what would happen. She kept mentioning the “beautiful” Jane Austen – surely it’s for us to work that out for ourselves? (Turns out she was right, it is a very beautiful ship!) To be fair, that was really the only annoying “American” thing we noticed, there were certainly no endless art auctions, photographers, over enthusiastic staff, etc, and with a kettle in our cabin, it was easy to feel at home straightaway! On arrival, before we could give our names, we were given our keys and shown to our cabin! It was lovely to be called Mr & Mr – we’ve been on holidays (even our honeymoon) to find our booking is under Mr & Mrs! The cabin is compact, but certainly well laid out, and I was delighted to find that my request for non-feather bedding had been sorted. Two bottles of water are offered each day, but the tap water is perfectly drinkable. As it was getting late, we went straight to dinner and sat with two other couples, who became firm friends, along with lots of other passengers! The food was excellent – served to the table rather than buffet style – and took advantage of our pre-booked wine package – I’m not sure we got our money’s worth, to be honest, but it’s nice not to have any nasty surprises at the end of the holiday. The food was delicious throughout the cruise – I can honestly say that there was nothing we didn’t like for the whole duration. Portions were adequate, and you could chop and change items, and have double portions without any problems. Dietary requirements were well catered for. At the end of the meal, we had an unexpected surprise from our cruise.co.uk travel agent – a cake with a huge sparkler to wish us happy anniversary, which was a lovely and unexpected touch. After dinner, we quickly unpacked – there was more than enough space for everything, and plenty of good quality wooden hangers (the normal ones which also let you hang them over the shower, rather the fiddly ones some places use). There were electricity sockets by both beds, making charging easy, however, they are two pin rather than three pin, so an adaptor is necessary. The cabin included an umbrella along with tea/coffee/milk for the kettle. Other sorts of teas and infusions were available for free in the Lido on the top deck, which doubles as a separate restaurant. For this cruise, it turned out that the menu was Indian – coming from Birmingham, we thought we’d rather eat in the main restaurant as we found the variety and company of other guests excellent. Had the menu been an Indonesian “Rijsttafel” (commonly found in the Netherlands), we would have been very tempted – after all, the head Chef was Indonesian and the captain was Dutch… Once we’d unpacked, we decided to have a short stroll around Bonn – that’s the beauty of many river cruises, you’re normally docked near enough to walk to somewhere interesting – having been to Cologne in the past, Bonn was an unexpected bonus. With the exception of Strasbourg where we had a coach transfer, all moorings were within 5-10 minutes of the centre, making it easy to have an evening stroll. Day 2 - Koblenz After a night’s sleep (with very fierce but essential air conditioning), we woke up for breakfast. There was plenty of choice, although the hot food/egg station was quite cramped and perhaps the sauces could have been put elsewhere on the main buffet. The safety briefing was done in a professional manner, then there was an orientation talk about Koblenz. One excellent feature was a map of the route along with maps and information on all of the places we were going to visit which had been provided in a folder in the cabin. I do wish sea cruises would follow this example, rather than giving rather limited information late in the night before (if at all, with some cruise lines). For the rest of the morning, we found a shady spot at the front of the ship and very much enjoyed watching the magical castles and towns sail by, chatting to other passengers. All too soon it was lunchtime, which was served buffet style, with the exception of soup. A lighter lunch is also served on the Lido – and on a couple of occasions, I went up to get the hot option which I brought back to the restaurant to join the others. The beef stir fry was particularly nice, but it didn’t stop me having a few things from the restaurant buffet too! After lunch, we were given a short orientation tour of Koblenz, including the Deutches Eck and town centre, then had time for a stroll around and a cuppa before going back to the ship in time to change for the Captain’s welcome reception which was taking place at 6.30pm. Along with the Farewell Gala Dinner, this was the only evening where there was one sitting. I took the Maitre d’s advice and had a double portion of the pork wrapped in bacon, which was delicious. There was always a meat, fish and veggie option on the menu, and although most nights there wasn’t any choice of starter/desserts, well thought out substitutes were made depending on dietary requirements. Later in the evening, we had a stroll back to the Deutsches Eck which took less than five minutes, then around town, stopping for a drink on the way back. Bars seemed to close their outside areas at 11, but we found a lovely place with a good view. Day 3 – Rhine Gorge/Rüdesheim Breakfast was served until 9.30, so there was no rush to get up. The morning was spent cruising down the Rhine Gorge, which really should be called the “Rhine Gorgeous”! Again, the scenery was stunning, and the morning passed very quickly. There was a commentary on deck (perhaps the voxboxes could have been used), then there was an explanatory talk about Rüdesheim. There was an optional extra of the landtrain/mechanical museum visit for €15. The landtrain didn’t take long to get to the Mechanical Museum. It’s an absolute must do – housed in a very old building, the lady taking us round really brought the machines to life in the most magical way. After an icecream sundae we walked around town and ended up back on the ship before we knew it – the mooring was so near the town, we didn’t use the train coming back, although it was useful for people who couldn’t walk very far. After dinner, we somehow missed the organised walk into town, but found a lovely bar on Drosselgasse where there was live music, then a singer – it’s a lovely little street with plenty of evening atmosphere. Day 4 – Speyer Another leisurely morning of breakfast, orientation talk, cruising and lunch seemed to vanish quickly. We had a choice of going to the technical museum or into town. As the weather was exceptionally hot, and the museum was mainly in the open air, we decided to go into town. After a short orientation tour, we went to the Jewish Museum and saw the ancient Mikva (ritual bath) which being below ground, was nice and cool. Speyer has a nice enough high street and we found somewhere for a soft drink to people watch. We’d also been recommended to visit the beer garden of one of the Domhof, which was a really great suggestion. We sat and had another drink, then walked through the park to get back to the ship. That night, there was a staff show which was very entertaining, and included a short pantomime – I’ve no idea what the crew must have thought, but the British crowd understood all of the jokes! Afterwards, people were dancing, but we decided to go to the top deck as there was a little breeze. Day 5 – Strasbourg Perhaps as we were going through some locks, the orientation talk was at 9.30, so we got up a little earlier on this day, even though we weren’t going to get to Strasbourg until after lunch. The scenery was more industrial, but the time seemed to pass quickly yet again. On arrival, we got into coaches and had a tour of Strasbourg which is very pretty. It’s a shame we didn’t have time to go to see the Parliament, and it wasn’t mentioned by the guide. Being exceptionally pro-EU, I bought a lovely EU-flag umbrella and a wind up musical toy that plays the EU anthem (Ode to Joy). Other views were undoubtedly available on the cruise! The previous day, we’d very kindly been sent an invitation to a pre-dinner celebratory drinks reception in the Lido. It wasn’t really surprising that so many people were there as this was a lovely way to celebrate an occasion, and the air conditioning struggled to cope, so most of us went back to the lounge with our celebratory drink. We sat for dinner with our usual friends, most unfortunately one of the waiters was rather rude to one of our party. She simply mentioned that she didn’t have a side plate for her bread, somehow he managed to drop her bread on the floor, then told her that he had other tables to serve! The incident resulted in a bottle of wine being offered. It really was the only unfortunate incident as generally the service was impeccable, especially from Merhan, who helped me learn some Bulgarian as that’s the location for our next trip!! After dinner, there was a fun music quiz in the lounge which made the evening pass quickly. It’s fair to say that there wasn’t much entertainment on the ship, but with the exception of Strasbourg, where we sailed away at 8pm, we were generally docked very close to somewhere if you wanted a stroll, making it a very different holiday to a sea cruise. Day 6 – Titisee / Breisach It was a bit of a shock to have to get to breakfast for 7.30 so we could get to Titisee. Our guide on the coach turned out to be British, making jokes like the roads were designed by “Herr Pinn”. He was quite informative and joked he’d “Brexited” many years ago! The drive, which took about 1h30, was very picturesque. We had a couple of hours in Titisee, which included a short talk about cuckoo clocks, then after a “Black Forest Cake” (or some sausages in my case), we had a look around. We’d left it too late to do a cruise on the lake, but in the full sun it was probably just as well. Most shops sold cuckoo clocks along with the usual tourist stuff. The drive back was less scenic and took about an hour and lunch was waiting for us when we got back at about 13.30. After lunch, I wandered into Breisach, but my husband decided to have a sleep as it was so hot (about 37C). There was a castle up a hill, but at that temperature, I simply had a short walk around town, which was fairly workaday with not too much to see apart from the castle which was perched on a hill, and I didn’t fancy walking that far in the scorching heat. As the next day was going to be very busy, the disembarkation presentation took place this evening. It was followed by a talk about the next day’s tour (including a warning that not everything would be in English when we got to Switzerland – apparently some people had moaned about things being in German in Germany!)! The evening continued with the Captain introducing all the staff and crew before the Farewell Drink and Dinner. Once again, the food was excellent and I had a mixture of both corn-fed chicken and a rösti which was the vegetarian option. Day 7 – Bernese Oberland/Lucerne The last full day was very long and undoubtedly the highlight. Even though Switzerland isn’t in the EU, it is in the Schengen area and a member of the EEA, so there were no passport formalities, which could have made the day even longer. After breakfast we picked up our packed lunch, a sandwich (or gluten free alternative!) along with salad, chocolate biscuits, fruit and juices. Our coach was supposed to leave at 8, but during breakfast it was announced that it would leave at 8.15, only to finally leave at 8.20. So much for Swiss timing! Groups 1 and 2 left 30 minutes earlier than Group 3, as there wasn’t enough room on the train for all of us. Our guide actually lived in Richmond (North Yorkshire) and came over for the summer season. To be honest, we’ve had better guides and he seemed a little confused at times. We arrived at Wilderwil at about 10.30, just enough time to use the facilities (there are none on the train) and caught the old cog railway up the mountain. We sat near the driver, so didn’t have the best view, it’s probably best to be nearer the centre of the train rather than at the front or back. There wasn’t much information about what to do on top, a sign did say Alpine Garden, but I didn’t hear anyone saying they’d been. There is a self-service café at the top where everyone ate their packed lunch (even though the tables advised “no picnics”) –the guide did say they wouldn’t mind. Prices in Switzerland are generally extortionate, and this was certainly no exception! Sitting with a view of snow-capped mountains when the temperatures had been approaching 40C all week was rather magical, to say the least! It was quite a bit cooler, but still in the mid-20s, which was very unusual. At 13.01 (well, 13.02 to be precise), our train departed back down the mountain and then we had an hour-long journey to Lucerne. The guide didn’t seem to want to use the voxbox, so we followed him to the very picturesque wooden bridge then had a wander around ourselves. We only had about an hour, so there wasn’t really enough time to stop for a drink, although we did have an ice cream while walking round. The drive back to the ship took about an hour, and we arrived at about 18.00. It’s a shame we didn’t have more time in Lucerne, but getting back gave us enough time to shower and do the majority of our packing. It had been a long day, so after dinner, we went to the top deck and sat chatting with other passengers – we had been going to have a stroll into Basel, but thought we’d leave it until the next morning, when we had spare time after breakfast. Day 8 – Basel and goodbye We had use of the cabin until 9.00, so after breakfast we sorted everything out and left our hand luggage in the shop, heading off for a walk around Basel. In the very immediate vicinity of the ship, it’s very workaday and rather grim, not at all what we expected for Switzerland. However, a short walk over the bridge leads you into the Old Town, which is very nice. We then came back over another bridge and found the Minster, the Old University and the Rathaus, which is exceptionally pretty (and has a free toilet). Rather than spend a fortune on a drink, we went back to the ship, where tea/coffee was being served in the lounge, unfortunately in paper cups, rather spoiling the decadence of the ship. A light lunch was served from 13.00, comprising goulash soup (surprisingly no veggie option was available), open top sandwiches and fruit. Our coach was to leave at 13.30, and we were called at 13.20. We got onto the coach and started on our way. The road access to the river is very limited, and then we heard a bump, the driver had hit something. The police seemed to arrive in seconds, then Barbara came onto the coach and said that the person who should have accompanied us to the airport had been delayed, so hopefully we could sort ourselves out at the airport. With an average age of well above 18, we decided we knew how to use an airport and off we went at about 14.00. The driver was quite chatty, saying he was German, but works a lot in Switzerland as wages are about double those of Germany. On the way, we were very surprised when his phone rang and he answered it, holding the phone while he drove! However, we did get to the airport safely and to the correct terminal. We had a lovely, if extortionately priced tea/coffee in Sprüngli which cost nearly £10. My husband managed to leave his jacket there and because the UK isn’t part of the Schengen agreement couldn’t retrieve it as we’d passed through another passport control, making it an even more expensive cuppa! Our flight back was with Helvetic Air (seemingly part of SwissAir), which was very enjoyable, with a drink (alcoholic or non), chicken or cheese sandwich and a chocolate before landing. It was one of the nicest flights we’d had in a while and a lovely way to end our holiday! All in all, we were delighted by the holiday and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them and would definitely go on another Riviera holiday in future. It’s certainly not a bargain break, but there again, you do get value for money and it’s a wonderful way to celebrate something special. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
After being bombarded by a plethora of river cruise advertisements, a leisurely cruise down the River Rhone stopping at mediaeval villages visiting vineyards sounded a good option. This cruise on Riviera Travel’s Lord Byron from Lyon ... Read More
After being bombarded by a plethora of river cruise advertisements, a leisurely cruise down the River Rhone stopping at mediaeval villages visiting vineyards sounded a good option. This cruise on Riviera Travel’s Lord Byron from Lyon to Avignon (or in our case the reverse) proved to be a huge disappointment. After a four hour exhausting motorway drive in the rush hour from Lyon Airport we arrived at the Lord Byron berthed in Avignon at about 8.30pm, some fourteen hours after we set off, only just in time for a late dinner. It was interesting that some of the passengers were flown to Marseilles, a lot closer to Avignon but then had to be coached back at the end. We did think it would have made more sense to fly us all out to Marseilles and fly home from Lyon, but I suppose that would be too complicated. Our first impression of the cabins were that they were quite small with only enough room to get round the bed, no sofa of course, and no long hanging space in the tiny wardrobes. Saying this, they were kept incredibly clean. Our first confrontation with the waiting staff did not make a good impression. A menu was thrust into our hands and “Order drinks!!” barked out before I could get my feet under the table. Unsure about what epicurean delights we were about to consume I begged humbly for a few minutes to get our bearings, without success. With a lot of demanding and eye rolling on his part he stomped off to re-appear a few seconds later like Manuel in Fawlty Towers bellowing “Drinks!!” again and again, only satisfied when we gave him a random order to shut him up. Unfortunately this set the tone for the remainder of the cruise. The idea of good customer service seemed to sit uncomfortably on the shoulders of the mainly Bulgarian waiting staff. On one occasion I received a cocktail with no spirit in it and the bar manager refused to believe me, and another time when waiting to be served coffee at breakfast I was told off in no uncertain terms when I told the waiter we had been there for twenty minutes. I have been on 25+ ocean cruises from rock bottom standard to 6 stars and have never encountered service as bad as this, and, coupled with mediocre food we found it hard to believe that this was advertised as 5 star luxury. It was interesting to note that both the food and the surly expressions on the waiters faces transformed on the last night. This couldn’t have anything to do with gratuities being due could it? Heaven forbid. The actual itinery of the cruise was not what I expected. The only wine tasting that was organised was in a cellar in the middle of the town of Beaune which seemed odd as we could have stopped at the numerous wonderful vineyards that we passed through later on and only viewed from the coach. Avignon and Arles were interesting places to visit but, in general, coach trips were the order of the day and on two occasions in the week the boat moved on while you were on the coach and you rejoined the boat at a different place. Erm…forgive me, I thought this was a cruising holiday not a coach tour. Opting to miss one of the trips so we could experience the actual river cruising, the realisation of the geography of the Rhone was brought home to us. There are massive locks about every 20 minutes which meant that we had to stop and wait, once for over an hour, then enter these huge concrete tombs and sit for another half hour. As the French rely on these for part of their electricity supply the locks are huge blots on the landscape surrounded by ugly concrete buildings and electricity pylons. There was no shade on deck as the sunshades were taken down for low bridges.(Although I did see one river boat with better designed sun shades that they could leave up all the time)The Saone was totally different but unfortunately we only cruised a short time on this lovely river. We arrived at Viennes and Beaune in the heat of the afternoon when only “mad dogs”etc were around and on two occasions we were told that the museums, shops etc were closed on that particular day. Our impression was that the passengers had to fit around the itinery that was easier for the company rather than the other way round. There was no entertainment on the ship apart from a pianist who played quietly (thank goodness) each night to a bizarre selection of odd, poor quality backing tracks including “A Child is born” by Johnny Mathis virtually every night. In July?.... Weird. A staff show was performed on one evening which was amateurish and embarrassing. If you like coach trips, mediocre food, hard seating, rude, or at best, indifferent service, this might just be the holiday for you or…..you might like a respite week at the local care home. Take your pick. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
This was our second cruise with Riviera and we weren’t disappointed. The journey was breathtaking at times, Emily Bronte is luxurious, the staff seemed to go out of their way to make the experience enjoyable and I wouldn’t hesitate to ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Riviera and we weren’t disappointed. The journey was breathtaking at times, Emily Bronte is luxurious, the staff seemed to go out of their way to make the experience enjoyable and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. I was glad we’d started the cruise in Cologne because as we sailed down the Rhine the scenery became more beautiful. Both Cologne and Koblenz were pretty enough but nothing compared to the treats that were to come. I loved sailing through the picturesque Rhine Valley, Rudesheim was a delight, made even better by the coffee, Titisee was also a delight and we enjoyed our slice of Black Forest gateaux sitting by the lake. All of those trips seemed relaxed and well organised. Most, but not all, were in the afternoon so that meant that after breakfast we could listen to Barbara’s information about the next place we were going to visit. However, nothing prepared us for the amazing visit to Schynige Platte. You need to see it to believe it. We ate our packed lunches in certainly the most beautiful place I have ever eaten lunch and arguably the most beautiful place on Earth. It was truly wonderful. I do have a gripe about this trip though. We could have done without the long journey afterwards to Lucerne before heading back on another long journey to the ship. We arrived there late on Sunday afternoon so shops were closed and the few which were still open were packed with other tourists. We were only there for about an hour, and when we arrived it was pouring with rain. All we managed to do was grab a cup of tea in a cafe which was closing and visit the loo. We saw very little of Lucerne except on the walk back to the coach. One of the coaches should have gone to Lucerne for the whole day - it’s certainly worth seeing, but instead we were all a bit grumpy about it. I hope they get that sorted because it spoiled our last day a little bit when we could have gone back to the ship and enjoyed our last afternoon and night on board. Instead we had a late dinner, and then had to pack so it was all a bit of a rush. We were given envelopes and a suggestion that we should tip in the region of €8-11 per person per day. I wish they would just charge us extra for the holiday and pay the staff a decent wage without the need for tips. Any cruise line which does this will get our business in future as I consider asking for money distasteful and demeaning to the staff. It was also hinted that the cruise director Jane and Barbara weren’t included. I wouldn’t go on that cruise again as I’ve seen it, but I’d highly recommend it. I’d certainly go on another river cruise especially one which charges more and doesn’t expect tips. Read Less
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