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11 Paris to Europe - British Isles & Western Cruise Reviews

Had never cruised Princess before but chose for the port intensive itinerary of places we had always wanted to visit. Crown Princess exceeded all my expectations. Service & food were excellent. Horizon buffet offered an abundance of ... Read More
Had never cruised Princess before but chose for the port intensive itinerary of places we had always wanted to visit. Crown Princess exceeded all my expectations. Service & food were excellent. Horizon buffet offered an abundance of choices and variety. Staff was friendly and helpful. Excursions were well organized and guides enhanced the experience. Especially liked the Discovery tours in Guernsey & Cork. Yes - we kissed the Blarney Stone - was one of our favorite excursions. Would have liked more time in Edinburgh. Invergordan was a surprise. The locals were prepared for the cruise passengers and greeted us warmly. The visit to Normandy and the American Cemetery was exceptional and emotional. Our group was there when the chimes played the Star Spangled Banner and then Taps - no dry eyes after that! Ship never seemed crowded and was very clean. Cabin had plenty of storage space. Would definitely cruise with Crown Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
We have been on Princess for 9 cruises. The 11 day itinerary for Paris and the British Isles drew us to this cruise. It was a good choice although with 2 busy pre-cruise days in Paris, and 11 days with 9 ports it was extremely active and ... Read More
We have been on Princess for 9 cruises. The 11 day itinerary for Paris and the British Isles drew us to this cruise. It was a good choice although with 2 busy pre-cruise days in Paris, and 11 days with 9 ports it was extremely active and probably not for people who are looking for a R&R vacation Embarkation at Le Harve was remarkably fast due to so few people starting the cruise there. We had no wait, took maybe 10 minutes. There are two other embarkation ports. People seem to be getting on and off constantly which does effect some of the usual rhythm of the time on the ship. The ship was clean, staff everywhere were friendly and helpful. The waitstaff exceptional in every dinning option. The MDR food good but we thought it has changed over our 15 years of cruises. Some recipes and dishes were a bit off, such as pasta sauce that was just too sweet for Italian Hubby. Entertainment, when we could stay up, was good, 3 very funny comedians especially. One thing we didn't like on this cruise was 3 tender ports, with slow access to the tenders and very long lines, more than 1 1/2 hrs standing in lines with hundreds of people trying to get back to ship. It was also very stressful to get off the ship, lining up for tender tickets at least 1 hr ahead of the start time in order to meet up with the private tours we booked. The ports of call: Guernsey, a beautiful English island with a fascinating past, both ancient and WWll with the German occupation. We had to take the tenders there, and got off in St. Peter Port a lovely, friendly little town with nice shops. There are pretty cottages and ocean views all around the island. In a private taxi you can do it in 3 hrs nicely. The locals are warm and welcoming and seem to be happy to share their special little island with us. London, no real option except bus tour which was long, never got off except lunch. Drive by of the big sights very unsatisfactory, $179 pp. Wehad expected photo stops at least and there were none. Ireland, Cobb/Cork , we took a private taxi tour of the Kinsale coast . The lush green of the countryside is lovely. Dublin and Belfast, all beautiful stops. We took Paddywagon tours in Dublin and Belfast to Giants Causeway. A fantastic value, Tiernan our driver-guide for both trips was fantastic, fun and a fountain of Irish knowledge. The Antrim coast is beautiful. The Museum in Belfast is free to see the "Bog people" and definately find your way to get a pint at The Crown-an iconic Irish pub. I think Scotland stole my heart, so beautiful , so much history. Get into the highlands! Taxi George Dunoon took us all around lochs chapels, Inverary castle and beautiful vistas from Grenoch. In the Orkney Islands, Kirkwall, The Standing stones of the Ring of Brogdar and ancient Neolithic age ruins of Skara Brae were facinating. In Invergordon, our best day, with a private guided tour. A kilted, very tall Scotsman , Gavin Nicholson of Invergordon tours, showed us the Highlands and included a scotch and chocolate tasting, a falconry display at Dunrobin castle , and a gorgeous highland drive. Edinburgh,was a day in town on our own. Edinburgh Castle and the Royal mile will take up all your time in port. Its easy to fill up your time on your own. We took a $25 taxi each way- they line up just off the pier. Disembarkation was very smooth. And transfer to Charles DeGaul airport took about 3 hrs. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
For France's Finest Part 1 review go to Viking Spirit cruse reviews. After completing the first half of this VRC cruise we finished breakfast and said farewell to friends we had made during week one on the Viking Spirit. Each of ... Read More
For France's Finest Part 1 review go to Viking Spirit cruse reviews. After completing the first half of this VRC cruise we finished breakfast and said farewell to friends we had made during week one on the Viking Spirit. Each of them would have enjoyed week two on Viking Neptune. We were on the road around 9am and our bus stopped in Dijon for lunch (on our own). We opted to leave the herd of passengers with our guide and set out to find a quieter place and were not disappointed. We shared a salad, pizza, and a nice white wine at a small outdoor bistro-restaurant. Our bus left Dijon at least 30 minutes late when two fellow passengers didn't listen to the guide when she set the meeting place and time and then got lost while out on their own alone roaming around the town. This was not cool. Embarkation on Viking Neptune went well at the tie-up point in Chalon-sur-Soane around 4:30 with luggage getting to our cabin in a very reasonable amount of time. Cabins: Identical to Viking Spirit. Spacious, well equipped. Crew: The cruise director and her staff and our cabin attendant were all wonderful and friendly. We found the wait staff on one side of the ship to be better than the other so we tried to seat ourselves on the side with Gyorgy and Julio as often as we could. The hotel manager was fine but not nearly as friendly as Jochen (aka Joe) on the Viking Spirit. we were a bit disappointed with the Captain as he had a tough act to fellow from the Spirit. The Captain on Neptune was nowhere near as outgoing and perhaps the language issue had something to do with that. We rarely saw him outside of his obligatory appearances at functions. Dining: Chef Margele is incredibly talented and what a joy to see her passion for her work and enjoy the fruits of her labor. The dinners were a couple of steps above what we enjoyed on Viking Spirit. Each evening Chef Margele introduced her menu and that led to great expectations and we were not disappointed. Her soups and sauces were fantastic and once again each meal was presented in a beautiful manner. The "Provence local lunch" was magnificent! Itinerary: Once again we were very lucky with the weather and it was pleasant every day. The scenery along the rivers and in the towns was magnificent (except for the ever present "dog mines", "dog flowers", and "dog traps" where we needed to be extra careful during our walkabouts). We stopped at Beaune, Lyon, Vienne, Tournon, Viviers, Arles, and Avignon. Visits to two wine tastings and the Valdhrona chocolate shop were enjoyed immensely but our favorite spot had to be Avignon with its walled city, Palace of the Pope's, and the scenic (especially at night) "Broken Bridge". What a lovely town! Toward the end of our second week of vacation with VRC we felt as if we had been firehosed with medieval facts and architecture but it was still a fantstic experience. We would recommend this two week itinerary to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Background: We are in our late 60's, and have 7 ocean cruises and now 3 river cruises behind us. Travel: We made our own fight arrangements through Air France, and flew out of Washington Dulles direct to Paris. The aircraft was an ... Read More
Background: We are in our late 60's, and have 7 ocean cruises and now 3 river cruises behind us. Travel: We made our own fight arrangements through Air France, and flew out of Washington Dulles direct to Paris. The aircraft was an Airbus 330/200, and was the most comfortable international flight I have taken. The planed was set up in a 2-4-2 seating configuration, and we snagged two outside seats in economy both ways. The leg room was the same as what we have experienced in United Economy Plus. We arrived the first day of the cruise and went directly to the boat, using a private transfer company for 55 Euros. The Ship: This was our second trip on the Viking Spirit, having made the Tulips and Windmill cruise in April 2007. She is in very good condition, and Viking has really improved since then. The bath products are excellent now, very similar to what you find on Holland America. Stateroom: We were in cabin 215, next to the stairs. Very quiet actually, with the exception of the sanitary pump that ran quite often during the evening, but then most cabin heard it, and we quickly became used to it. It only runs when a toilet is flushed so at night it seldom ran. Beds were very comfortable, and there is plenty of storage. Staff: Very good. Always smiling and will go out of their way to assist you. Dining: The food was very good to excellent. Dinner typically started around 7pm, and finished up between 8:30pm and 9:00pm. Contrarily to what we found on another river cruise line, the wine poured freely and you really didn't need to bring any aboard. The red wine was a decent Merlot, light and smooth. The white was a Chardonnay that those that drank it said was very good. Our glasses were never empty until dinner was over. If you sail on the spirit, try to get Peter as your waiter. Very, very good. Tours: The tours offered were good, however we personally do not like a lot of detail on a tour. Give us the basic description and move on. Our guides were obviously very knowledgeable, but standing in one place for 10-15 minutes listening to a complete history of what we were looking at is not our personal cup of tea. On a couple of the tours, we actually left and went off on our own to see some of the town as our time there was limited. Summary: Overall we had a fantastic time and met some really great people. We wound up at a 8 top table with three other couples and got along great. We really enjoyed their company and feel we made some really good friends. We do not think you will be disappointed if you take this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Uniworld drops the single supplement in Europe so i watch and wait. Awakwning jetlagged and grabbing a cappaccino in the wee hours while i wait for the sun to rise may sound wretched, but once i put my feet up on the window ledge and the ... Read More
Uniworld drops the single supplement in Europe so i watch and wait. Awakwning jetlagged and grabbing a cappaccino in the wee hours while i wait for the sun to rise may sound wretched, but once i put my feet up on the window ledge and the sunrise sends a myriad of pastels reflected into the river my mood changes. i feel rejuvinated as i watch the houses, castles and foliage float past my window. i reccommend spending extra for a big window or a french balcony so you can sit on the bed and enjoy the scenery pass your window. Uniworld's sevice is impeccable from the greeting as i enter the ship and the buffet lunch waiting to the cabin crew who keep my room spotless. After every tour i'm greeted w/ a lavender scented cloth and a cool or warm drink, depending on the weather and a smile. The hotel manager took one look at my last name and adressed me in fluent French. she was suprised i only spoke English and i was suprised (at the end of the cruise) that she escorted me to my taxi w/ my luggage. The French tour manager, however gave the most boring lecture i've ever been subjected to and her accent precluded answering questions. The cleaning gremlins are always polishing brass and cleaning windows, inside and out. The ship is spotless. Restaurant staff remember what i drink and decode the menu specials. As a diabetic i am grateful for the fresh food and healthy choices offered. I appreciate the chef creating French dishes that refect the region in which i travel. Every cruise ends w/ a chef's dinner and baked Alaska. The chef draws a fine line between creative and bizarre, but his dinner is never dull. Both food and sevice are A1 all the time.Reception staff are always cheerful whether lending me a scissors to keep up my travel journal or posting my mail back home. The night staff are friendly and we chat after i roam around searching for a book in the library. The Royale is one of the few ships that has a jacuzzi on deck -- a pleasant way to rejuvinate after a relaxing hour in a deck chair. I've come to expect the best from uniworld and i'm never disappointed. The Royale is one of the better ships in the line and the food in France is fabulous. Uniworld provides free pick up and drop off at the airport whether or not you book their airfare as long as your travel agent gives them the flight and times. The taxi fare from Arles to Marsailles airport is $150. I appreciate that courtesy. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We opted to book the Burgundy & Provence river cruise (26 July - 3 Aug) on the Avalon Scenery through a travel agency since we were on a separate trip to Paris the week before with a corporate group. We took the ... Read More
We opted to book the Burgundy & Provence river cruise (26 July - 3 Aug) on the Avalon Scenery through a travel agency since we were on a separate trip to Paris the week before with a corporate group. We took the TVG (train) from Gare Lyon Paris on the morning of the 26th of July to Arles. The TVG was a smooth and quite ride with about four stops along the way. We arrived in Arle around 1:30 pm. The train station in Arles is about a 5 minute walk to where the Scenery was docked. Knowing that check-in wasn't until around 5:00 pm we headed for the ship anyway to see if we could unload our luggage. When we arrived at the ship, the receptionist told us we couldn't check-in, but was more than happy to hold our luggage. Two crew members went out to the dock and retrieved our luggage. From that moment on I knew the service on board the Scenery was going to be good. We headed to the old town in Arles for lunch for which there were numerous cafes to sit and relax. At about 4:30 we headed back to the ship and checked in. We had the ship to ourselves for about an hour before the buses bringing the remaining passengers in from Monaco. First thing we notice was how clean and well maintained the Scenery is. The second thing we notice and experienced throughout the cruise was the Staff. I can't say enough about the quality, friendliness, and professional service that we experienced during this cruise, from the receptionist, cruise director, to George the bartender (very important), to Indra, probably the best server we have ever experienced on any cruise. He knew that I enjoyed a beer with dinner, and from the first day on, I never had to ask. That evening during the welcome party we learned that the ship was only half full (bad for the crew, but good for us). We were all surprised at that announcement. I really expected a sold out cruise. FOOD - All I can say is that I didn't have a bad meal while visiting France, and that includes the Scenery. The food was good, not the greatest, but good. Breakfast and lunch was buffet, while dinner was a 5 course sit down. Wine and Beer flowed freely. We found the soups to be really good. LOUNGE - We normally closed the lounge up each evening with our new found Aussi friends. Avalon was smart in keeping the drink prices reasonable. You could get a beer and or wine for about 3.5 euro. Mix drinks would run around 7 euros. All could be charged to your room. CABIN - Our cabin was 202, about mid-ship, first cabin on the second deck (perfect spot). The cabin was small with a french balcony, but had plenty of storage both in the cabin and bathroom. Luggage fit easily under the bed. It had a flat screen TV, small frig, and ample lighting. Bed was very comfortable. ENTERTAINMENT - Each evening they had a piano player (Angel), but would have like to see them spin some records every now and then. Only so much piano music you can dance to. They also brought in the Gypsy Kings (what's left of them) - and they were good, to a French female cabaret singer who should retire. But she gave her best. The crew performed some funny skits one evening. OTHER AREAS - The outdoor upper deck was very spacious, but because of the numerous low bridges and locks, it seems the canopies and railings were down more than they were up. They also have a hot tub, which was nice on one of the cooler evenings. We only had about three good nights of warm weather with no winds where we could sit outside and really enjoy the cruising portion. PORTS OF CALL: We enjoyed all the complimentary walking tours Avalon provided. They lasted about 2 to 3 hours. They kept the groups small, great tour guides, and headsets. For those who had walking issues, they provided some transportation or a slower walking tour depending on the town, roads, slopes, etc. ARLES - We did the walking tour and enjoyed seeing the Roman ruins and the Old Town of Arles. We chose to take the Vincent Van Gogh tour. I was a little skeptical at first, but I must say I really enjoyed it. They bused you around to all the sites and areas that Van Gogh had painted, and then on to the Hospital where he had stayed. Very interesting tour and beautiful country side. AVIGNON - We took the walking tour of Avignon, with the majority of the tour dedicated to the Palace of the Popes. Beautiful Palace from the outside, but very bland inside. We opted for the Chateauneuf-du Pape wine tasting tour. Other than the country side being beautiful, most of us felt the tour was overpriced and a waste of time. They only visited one winery were we tasted a few wines, that really weren't that good. I didn't see anyone in our group buy any wine. Avalon should include a second winery for comparison sake. That evening was the tail end of a weeklong festival that highlighted street performers - Lots of Fun!! VIVIERS - Really small town with a really a cool Cathedral where we got a short organ concert. The Cathedral is set high amongst the city with some wonderful views of the countryside. TOURNON - Another small town with Roman ruins - really unique. We took the Chateau tour, which was the best. Not only was the Chateau beautiful, but the gardens within. We drove the country side stopping along the way to view numerous castles, chateaus, and little villages with historical churches. Great tour! LYON - We opted to sleep in that morning (late night at lounge) and do Lyon on our own. Lyon was awesome - only bad side was that we stopped there on a Sunday - NO SHOPPING!! However, they had the greatest fresh outdoor markets and an outdoor art market. Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a must see. Set atop Fourviere Hill, you can take a tram to the cathedral for about 3 euros. Views are amazing. We got to the church during mass for which we stayed - nice treat. We found a great quite little cafe to have lunch. MACON - Cute little town, but guess what - all the stores were closed on Monday as well. I need to work in France!! CHALON-SUR-SAONE (Disembarkation) - Since we booked on our own, we had booked a train back to Paris for one night then our flight home. The receptionist ensured that we had a taxi waiting for us to take us to the Chalon train station. Again - service was outstanding. PROS - Entire Scenery Staff - The Best!! - Room Comfort - The Ship (clean and neat) - The passengers we met, ranging from 20 to 70+ years old. Majority were from Australia. CONS - Need more river cruising time - Schedule Lyon other than Sunday - Later dinner seating - Cruise Director long winded sometimes, which cut into our social time with other passengers at the lounge before dinner, which was too early. OVERALL - A wonderful trip, on a wonderful Ship the Avalon Scenery. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Just wanted to make a comment before starting on the review. Avalon includes bottled water in the cabin each day on most ships. The soaps, shampoo, etc., were very nice and definitely an upgrade from our Magnificent Europe of two years ... Read More
Just wanted to make a comment before starting on the review. Avalon includes bottled water in the cabin each day on most ships. The soaps, shampoo, etc., were very nice and definitely an upgrade from our Magnificent Europe of two years ago. Coffee, tea, juice and water along with fruit and cookies are available 24 hours a day in the back lounge. Each afternoon there is a coffee/tea and cake offering in the main lounge. There is a beauty shop on board. They added head massages to their list of offerings. I had mentioned on last year's survey that it would be nice to have someone who could give manicures on board. This year on the Creativity, Sandra was able to shape my nails and cuticles and then give a hand massage. Again, I mentioned on the survey that further nail service would be nice. We did not use the onboard fitness room as we were walking quite a few miles each day on the tour. The hot tub was on the top deck and was used by quite a few people. We boarded the Creativity after taking an optional trip to the Eifel Tower. It was so nice to see one of our bartenders from last year, Radu. Always nice to have a familiar face to greet us ... This trip had 123 passengers as I recall. The Creativity is a fairly new ship and its layout was familiar to us as we were on the Affinity's maiden voyage last year. I have been asked by several Cruise Critic members to talk about the included and optional tours. On the Paris to Normandy portion of Grand France there were two included tours most every day. You were given the choice of one or the other. Sometimes we made a good choice and sometimes we didn't ... here are the choices that we had for tours and optionals: Paris: There was an included sightseeing tour of Paris. In the afternoon there were two optional tours: Louvre and Versailles. Last year we took the Versailles tour and really enjoyed it. Those who took the Louvre tour said it was good but not much time to just stand and enjoy the artwork. In the evening there was an optional trip to the Moulin Rouge. We didn't go either this year or last year but those who went had a great time. Conflans: The included tours were a trip to the village where Van Gogh spent his last three months or St. Germain to visit the home of Josephine Bonaparte. We did the St. Germain trip and it was OK but wish we had done the other one as we heard good things from those who took it. Vernon: The included tours were a trip to Claude Monet's home and gardens or Chateau de Bizy which is a 'small Versailles' ... we did Monet and loved it. That evening there was onboard entertainment by Valerie and Alexis, which was OK but not a group that I would want to hear again. Rouen: There was a walking tour of the city in the morning and then two optionals in the afternoon: Homfleur and Calvados Distillery or visiting several Abbey's, which is the one we did (I graduated from a Benedictine University and wanted to visit a Benedictine Abbey) and we had a great time. Those who went to Honfleur said it was nice and that they enjoyed the distillery. We stayed in Honfleur while we did our own Normandy trip so I wasn't interested in going there That evening we had onboard entertainment from La Strada, which is a trio of violins and keyboard synthesizer who performed classical music. This was our third time seeing these performers and they just get better each time. We did purchase their CDs so that I can enjoy then here at home. Rouen: This day there were three included trips: Landing Beaches for the American Landing Beaches for UK and a Taste or Normandy which included the Bayeux tapestries. My husband did the American landing beaches while I stayed on the ship and relaxed. Everyone enjoyed their tours. Normally there would just be a trip to the American Landing Beaches but there were 20+ folks from the UK who were there especially to see the UK beaches as many of them had served in the military in World War 2. Les Andelys: The included tours were basically the same. One did a tour of the city and then went up the hill to the ruins of Richard the LionHeart's castle and then walk back to the ship or take the bus up and back from the castle and then tour the city. That afternoon we had a tasting of several French cheeses. We arrived back in Paris and those who only took the Paris/Normandy trip leave to go home and the others of us went on to the start of the second cruise. NOTE: This trip was affected by the Iceland volcano and a little over 100 of the folks had to find alternative ways to get home. Some of them decided to go along on the Burgundy and Provence portion of the trip and then leave the ship to get back to Paris for their flights back to the US. Just a quick word on the Creativity. It was a great ship with good staff. The food wasn't as good as what we have had on our two previous cruises and we were sure that the CD knew about it and also put it on our survey forms. We had a limited number of people on this cruise as the volcano prevented many folks from getting to Paris. I believe that we had just 51 of us on this portion of the trip. Then those who were continuing on the Burgundy and Provence trip were put in a small van and began our journey to Chalon. On our way there we went to Beaune to either do Burgundy Wine Tasting or tour the Hospices of Beaune (we did the wine tasting). There we met the others group who would be joining us on the cruise. Lunch was on our own. We arrived at the ship to find out that one of the waiters was also on the Affinity last year (Lazlo). Chalon: Walking tour of the town and then sail to Tournus where you could walk to St. Philibert Abbey (beautiful place). There was an optional tour to Chateau Cormatin which we did not do. Macon: No tour just cruising on the Saone. The weather was beautiful so we enjoyed Lyon: City tour which includes the painted walls and the Basilica ... can't miss the Basilica ... Lyon is a wonderful place to tour. Lyon: There were two optional tours scheduled but they wound up being put together which is going to the silk mills and then to the market. Afternoon there was an optional to the Beaujolais vineyards ... we didn't take either one but heard great reviews on both of them. Tournon: Walking Tour and then a little free time before going to Viviers where we took a walking tour through the city and then went up the hill to the Church/Convent area and had an organ concert at the church ... for those with problems walking, transportation was provided up and down the hills. My husband took the transportation but I walked. Avignon: Included tour of the town and the Pope's Palace. In the afternoon there was an optional trip to Pone du Gard and Uzes which we again did not take. Arles: City walking tour and then optional to St. Remy, Van Gogh and Nostradamus ... again we did not take the optional. We took the extension and wound up in Nice where we did take the optional trip to Monaco ... which was great!!! The Scenery is a little older than the Creativity and has had some updating. Rooms, service, etc., were great. The food was better than on the Creativity but as with most ships, there was too much salt in the prepared food. This was a fantastic trip. We were so fortunate to have Yvette Laurent as our CD. She is so pleasant, organized, and nothing seems to 'rattle' her. She did such a great job in helping those who were stranded in Paris, both those who booked their air, etc, through Avalon and those who didn't. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
As background, my wife and I have just recently entered our early 60s, we've been married for 32 years, and we've cruised fourteen times since 1977. Our first ten cruises were on progressively "smaller" ocean-going ... Read More
As background, my wife and I have just recently entered our early 60s, we've been married for 32 years, and we've cruised fourteen times since 1977. Our first ten cruises were on progressively "smaller" ocean-going vessels, and the last four, (one in each of the past four years), have been Europe Uniworld river cruises. Although we really liked each of our ocean cruises, we've decided we really enjoy the Uniworld format/product the best. (Note: From what I've researched online and read on CC, I'm pretty sure most of the Europe river cruise companies that market to Americans are pretty similar. We've always decided upon our itinerary first, then availability/included amenities and excursions/pricing, with an extra nod to Uniworld because we know the product. In the final decision, we've chosen Uniworld each time). We booked our own air, on Air France, so we could pick our departure/return/routing. Both outbound and return flights were direct between Washington, DC Dulles and Paris CDG. Our outbound flight departed (as something different for us) at 10:00 PM, and arrived around 11:00 AM the next morning in Paris. (No wondering what to do at our Europe ship-departure destination like we've had upon arrival at 07:00 AM on prior cruises, with ship cabin availability not until mid-afternoon). Uniworld includes no-extra-charge transfers to/from the ship if you arrive and depart within a reasonable window on the same day of arrival/departure along with everyone else. As we've experienced before, one of the most frustrating parts of any cruise is the gathering-up of passengers from different arriving flights, walking to the transfer bus with luggage, and then waiting aboard a stuffy, non-running bus until enough passengers fill up the bus to make the drive to the ship. The bus delivered us to the ship in less than thirty minutes, with the ship moored on the Seine near the Citroen Quay, with the Eiffel Tower on our side of the river in plain view from the ship. River Baroness is very well maintained, and was quite up to our expectations compared with our prior Uniworld cruises. All of the public spaces were decked out in Christmas decorations, including individual Christmas stockings hung on every cabin door. There are two main/indoor passenger decks, accessible by either a fairly-steep straight staircase between the decks, or a second spiral staircase between Reception on the main deck and the dining room below. There is no elevator, but there was one of those motorized gliding stairs chairs between the two indoor decks, and another outdoors between the main deck and the upper Sun deck. It was so cold this week, not many people went up on the Sun deck to sit or even to stroll or exercise. There is a fairly large protected/covered area up on the Sun deck, immediately behind the wheel house. Passengers are only permitted to smoke on the Sun deck, so the covered area was rarely utilized by non-smokers because this was the area where the few cigar and cigarette smokers congregated. The ship had Internet access available on one PC in the area between Reception and the coffee bar, and wireless capabilities in the public rooms if you brought your own netbook. At the beginning of our week, the Internet access was described by staff as sporadic, so it was no-extra-charge for the week. I found it to work pretty well when the ship was stationary, but slow and/or unreliable underway. When we first walked into our cabin, (they're all identical on both passenger cabin decks of Baroness), it seemed very "compact" compared to our standard cabins we'd had previously on River Duchess and River Queen. Turns out it was an optical illusion. After unpacking our two behemoth checked soft side cases and carry-on cases, there was a place for everything. There are shelves on both sides of the bed, running from the floor to the ceiling. There's a small (at most three feet wide) closet for hanging garments with three drawers in the bottom, and a small cabin-key-lockable safe for valuables. Along with a large drawer at the foot of each side of the bed and a long shelf over the entire width of the bed, we were easily able to stow everything we brought. We were comfortable in no time. The bathroom was also "compact", especially the shower. Although the shower had terrific water pressure and nice amenities, (and I'm of "average" height/weight), every time I was in the 24" x 32" shower, I remembered the scene in the movie "Tommy Boy" when (huge) actor Chris Farley was trying to change clothes in a tiny airplane bathroom. We really had no problems getting used to our cabin at all. If there was one minus, though, it would be the slab hard foam mattresses on the hotel-style beds have not been upgraded to the same mattresses as we remembered from our other two Uniworld ships. (Note: We had supper with a couple who were seated at the Captain's table for the Captain's Welcome Aboard dinner, and they told us Baroness is headed to dry-dock in 2010 for a major facelift). We were not disappointed with any of the food in the main dining room, located on the lower level. Of course, this is always a subjective opinion, plus my wife and I aren't "foodies". By my observation, though, I never did notice anyone ordering the stand-by, always-available alternative chicken breast or steak if someone didn't want any of the menu's three main entrees at supper. To me, that's always a good sign. The generous buffet breakfasts, along with available specials-of-the-morning offerings brought by wait staff or made-to-order omelets, were excellent, and the lunch buffets had new, fresh offerings every day. The desserts were also very good. Supper portions were perfect. Between the portion sizes and daily walkabouts, my wife and I came home weighing-in just slightly less than when we left home. That's terrific. The wait staff was attentive, happy, friendly, obviously got along with each other, and were always eager to please. The included house wines with supper were nice. The ship's keyboard musician in the lounge was good, and he played until the last passenger left at night. There were local musicians also scheduled to come aboard some evenings, but when our itinerary was altered en route, (see below), the local musicians weren't able to transport themselves to meet the ship. Our week's Cruise Manager, Emmanuelle Bonneau, was absolutely splendid! We've enjoyed every one of our previous three Uniworld cruise managers, but my wife and I agreed Emmanuelle was the best. She is a perfect combination of cheerfulness, competence, helpfulness, and just a pleasing, amazing personality. All week long she had to work behind the scenes to reschedule excursions and work with local guides and bus companies to add or modify plans so we had a wonderful experience. She accomplished all of this without coming unglued and while keeping a smile on her face. Well done! Our first full day aboard (Monday) went as-planned, after the ship's departure from Paris towards Les Andelys on Sunday night. We enjoyed our morning tied up in the center of Les Andelys. It was sunny, but pretty cold and windy. (Note: Although the castle is quite a hike uphill, buses are provided for those who don't think they can make the climb. Do be advised, though, the hike back down the hill from the castle seemed very do-able. We witnessed a few passengers, who walked with canes all week, did take the bus up the hill, but made the return hike on their own, and they said they enjoyed it. You might consider that alternative if you choose to take the bus up the hill). Les Andelys was a small, sleepy village, with a nice church, but almost everything was closed as it apparently is every Monday. When we re-boarded the ship after our morning walkabout with local guides, the ship's staff gathered us all to discuss a change in itinerary. We were told the captain had learned about an imminent Seine River locks total work stoppage (aka "strike"). After weighing alternatives among the ship's senior navigation and activities staff and Uniworld headquarters, shipboard staff made a decision to not proceed up the Seine in the afternoon, going farther away from Paris to our next day's stop at Rouen. A determining factor seemed to be the Captain could not guarantee we would be able to make it back up the Seine to Paris, and through the last set of river locks before the work stoppage began. Although we were disappointed to miss Rouen and its cathedral and Christmas market, most of us agreed we wanted to be tied up in Paris for the original itinerary of four days at the end of our week, rather than being stranded somewhere between locks on the river and away from Paris. (The lock operators did indeed go on strike, so it turned out the "correct" decision to alter our original itinerary was the right one). On our way back towards Paris Monday afternoon, we stopped in a slightly larger village, Vernon. It, too, was mostly closed down because it was Monday, but it was a nice opportunity for walking about on a sunny cold afternoon, enjoying the town and its Christmas decorations. The next morning, (Tuesday), again sunny but very cold and breezy, we were tied up in the town of Conflans. It's non-official claim to fame is it's where the Seine river barges come to rest at the end of their usefulness as commercial vessels, and they become on-the-water residences. There was a newly-arranged ship's bus excursion offered to Auvers sur Oise for a two-hour walkabout, but my wife and I chose instead to enjoy our morning walking the streets of Conflans with the locals as they went about their daily shopping for their meat, vegetables, breads, and pastries. There was a small waterfront market, too, with fresh fruit and vegetables. The ship departed Conflans after lunch, and headed back towards Paris, where we tied up after supper. With the change in the week's itinerary, the on-board activities staff modified the sequence of the Paris days' excursions. We all happily accepted the Paris city tour by bus this morning, (Wednesday), with a walkabout stop at Luxembourg Garden and at Notre Dame cathedral with our local guides on another sunny but cold day. Then it was back on the bus to the ship for lunch, or as an alternative, you could stay in the city and make your way back to the ship on your own. After lunch, another set of buses dropped us off at the Arch de Triumph, and we left on our own to walk down the (luckily all downhill) length of the Champs Elysees at our own pace, and then through the Christmas markets, to Concorde Plaza, where we could meet the ship's shuttle buses back to the ship. On Thursday morning we awoke to see two-to-three inches of new-fallen snow everywhere! Although we enjoyed how Paris looked in its snow coat, a lot of those commuters into the city had a heck of a time riding their scooters. We were told Paris usually doesn't get snow this early in the season, and they certainly didn't look prepared for making the already-frozen roads any easier to get around. We boarded buses with our local guides for a non-original-itinerary trip through the Louvre. Happily, for whatever reason, the crowds at the Louvre were minimal, and it was nice to see some of the highlights in only a few hours with a terrific local guide. Of course, you can spend weeks and weeks going through the Louvre and still not see everything. After lunch, the ship provided shuttle buses into the city for a drop off at either the Trocadero Christmas market across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower, or at the Opera House and its surrounding shopping district, with return shuttles from the Opera House back to the ship before an early supper. The only "optional" excursion this week, to "The Lido" show, was offered this evening. It seemed less than half of the ship's passengers chose to join this excursion, mostly because (even at its "reduced" last-minute price) it was the Euro equivalent of more than $210 per person, including the round-trip transportation and a half-bottle of champagne during the show. The next day, the feedback we heard from some who attended wasn't all positive. Several people complained they discovered the ship's price was way out of line compared to others (not from the ship) at their table at the Lido. They did enjoy the show, though. Friday morning, overcast and grey, was lazy, with a special "brunch" provided in the dining room. Our wonderful cruise manager, Emmanuelle, gave a "France today" presentation in the lounge. The day's plan was to have the ship provide shuttle buses to Concorde Plaza again, and later return shuttles back to the ship, but the first outbound bus wasn't able to get to the ship because of the slippery roads, and had to cancel. Rather than wait thirty minutes for the next bus to arrive, my wife and I decided to adventure out on our own, and we walked to the near-by RER station. We took the "C" train to the D'Orsay Museum just five stations away, towards the Eiffel Tower. This turned out to be a good decision, as we had no problems using the RER (with tickets purchased from the ship's front desk). This was an amazing museum, inhabiting a huge beautifully restored train station. It had an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and displays over five floors, although there were no in-service escalators or elevators in the whole museum, which meant lots of stairs. (No American ADA compliance in Paris?) Back on the ship, before supper we had the always-disappointing "disembarkation briefing" in the lounge, meaning our week was sliding towards its end point. After dark, we boarded buses with local guides for a beautiful Paris evening illuminations coach tour, with a jump-out stop at the top of the Trocadero (with very very cold temps and strong winds) to watch the Eiffel Tower twenty-minute light show. Then it was a scramble back onto a warm coach, and a continuing wonderful drive past more of the illuminated sights of Paris. A really nice evening, complemented with hot glud wine and snacks in the lounge when we got back to the ship. Saturday morning again dawned bright, sunny, and very cold. We were off on coaches with local guides on a thirty-minute drive to Versailles. Again, for whatever reason, either the time of the year or the snow and ice on the ground, the bus parking lot was almost empty. Minimal crowds, so we were able to enjoy our tour through the palace and grounds without crushing crowds of tourists. After the palace, we were provided tickets to the adjacent Royal Equestrian stables to watch a rehearsal and demonstration of dressage and quadrille, and then a walk through the stables before boarding the coaches back to the ship. The afternoon was on-your-own, but my wife and I decided to be lazy and stay on the ship, and also to begin to re-pack for our departure the next morning. We had the Captain's Farewell dinner this evening, and finally we said our good-byes to new friends we'd made during the week. Disembarkation onto buses early Sunday morning after a full buffet breakfast was uneventful, and the transfer back to CDG airport was congested but tolerable. The terminal was a complete and total zoo. Part of that might have been because of delays getting to the airport in the morning's Paris snow storm, or because of flights rescheduling from the major snow storm that had paralyzed most of the eastern seaboard in the US. There were no signs in the terminal in any language directing people to where they needed to be, and no airline representatives to be seen. There were thousands of travelers all looking as puzzled as we were, and the lines were outrageously long. We finally found the right line, and got through security and to our gate with time to spare. Once we boarded, almost an hour late, we sat at the gate awaiting several groups of delayed incoming-connection passengers and their luggage to get aboard our plane. Then our plane got in line for the de-icing stations while we watched the airport maintenance crews continue to scrape the runways. We were thankful to finally get airborne just short of three hours late, not realizing how lucky we actually were to be getting back to the US east coast at all after the previous day's debilitating heavy snows that had canceled more than 50% of the incoming and outgoing flights the day before. (If I haven't put you to sleep already with waaaaay too much detail),... In summary, we considered this cruise one of our favorites ever. No complaints. Will we cruise with Uniworld again? YES! Absolutely! I can't think of a reason why not. We liked this ship, the staff, the (modified) itinerary, our cabin, housekeeping staff, the other passengers, and the food. Were we disappointed we didn't get to see Rouen? You bet. But that happened because of something out of the control of Uniworld. Plus, now there's a good reason to go back to France to pick up the places we missed on this cruise. Bon voyage!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My husband and I took the Paris to Normandy cruise on the Baroness in late July 2009. We have been on many ocean cruises but this was our first European River Boat cruise. There is another detailed review of this cruise on Cruise Critic. I ... Read More
My husband and I took the Paris to Normandy cruise on the Baroness in late July 2009. We have been on many ocean cruises but this was our first European River Boat cruise. There is another detailed review of this cruise on Cruise Critic. I will only report some additional things: • Odd room numbers have better views while docked • Our room was at the very back of the lower deck and on the evenings when the boat was moving there was a significant amount of engine noise. To be fair, people in the very front on the top floor complained about loud talking in the lobby while they were trying to sleep at night. • I loved the self serve coffee/cappuccino/tea/hot chocolate machine. I bought some cinnamon at a grocery store at our first stop and this added a nice touch to the cappuccino. • Bring a travel mug with a lid. When I got the cappuccino, I could fit two of them into my mug and walk around with the top on. I like big mugs of hot drinks, not the smallish mug size that they provide. • Bring a cork screw. They do not care if you buy bottles of wine for consumption in your cabin but you will need a cork screw. If they open the bottle for you, you will be charged a corkage fee. I called Uniworld in advance and asked about carrying on wine and drinking it in my cabin. They said "No Problem". At our first stop we bought 2 bottles of wine for 3 and 4 Euros. It was very good even at that low price. • The house wine at dinner was very good. I think we had around 4 glasses each night. They were there filling your glasses as quickly as you could drink it. There was no skimping on the included wine. • The food was VERY good. Ocean cruises are more about quantity and less about quality. The food on this cruise was the opposite - more quality, less quantity. The only legitimate complaint that I heard on the trip was about the small portions at dinner. To be fair, no one asked for seconds. I asked our waiter if anyone ever asks for seconds and he said that passengers usually don't ask for 2nds or for 2 entrees, etc. By the end of the cruise, we were asking for a 2nd roll or an additional appetizer, etc. The meat portions are about the size of a deck of cards which is the correct portion size. The problem is that Americans eat way too much and restaurants serve enough for at least 2 people when you order one entrEe. So if you're hungry, ask for a 2nd entrEe. On the night we had lamb, after the fact, my husband was sorry he didn't ask for 2nds. He loves lamb and doesn't get it often and was disappointed with the serving size of his lamb that night. • If you want to use one of the bikes, you have to reserve them well in advance. We asked to use them at the first stop and were told that they were reserved for the entire day, but the bikes sat outside the ship unused almost all day. Turns out, that they are big and heavy and most people had trouble maneuvering them and brought them back early. So if you are told they are spoken for, I would go back and ask during the day. The best day to ride the bikes is at the first stop in Les Andyles. This is a quiet typical French village. • To my surprise, Paris was so nice! It was clean, easy to get around. I've always heard that Parisians don't like Americans and won't talk to you unless you speak perfect French. This couldn't be further from the truth. We wandered around a lot and everyone was so friendly and very willing to assist us. I was amazed at how much there is to see in Paris. I definitely plan to return to Paris and finish seeing the sights (hopefully on another river boat cruised). • Optional Excursions: a. Versailles - a must do, you won't be sorry. b. Cider Farm - I don't think anyone thought this was worth the money. No one in our party liked the food and since it wasn't apple picking season (which is the Fall), there was nothing to see. They just talked about what goes on. I think it was a waste of money. Overall, the trip was wonderful. We met many wonderful people, ate great food and drink, saw wonderful sites and learned a lot. There are 4 - 6 itineraries I've picked out and can't wait to go on another one. My only regret is that more Cruise Critic members are not taking these cruises or not writing about them. I've learned so much from the members and enjoy sharing my knowledge. If anyone has a specific question, please don't hesitate to ask. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
My wife and I have taken nineteen ocean cruises. It was time for something different. We were eager to explore central Europe. We decided to take a Viking River Cruise.  We were amazed at how many river cruise ships are plying German ... Read More
My wife and I have taken nineteen ocean cruises. It was time for something different. We were eager to explore central Europe. We decided to take a Viking River Cruise.  We were amazed at how many river cruise ships are plying German waters!  We took advantage of a 2 for 1 offer and had a 12 day vacation for around $2200 per person. The first two days were based on land. We stayed at the Novotel Paris Tour Eiffel. It was a four star rated facility. It was fine for the most part but the AC struggled to keep us cool in the humid Paris summertime. The two days in Paris included a half day excursion to see the city highlights. The rest was free time. From Paris we traveled to Trier, Germany. Enroute we visited the American Cemetery in Luxembourg and had a half day tour of Luxembourg City. We boarded our ship in Trier.  A big advantage with this river cruise line was that all excursions are included in your price. On bigger ships there is a wide range of excursions offered that are mostly overpriced and similar to "cattle cars" in the amount of personal attention one receives. The excursions on the Viking Sky were mainly overviews of the places we visited and would have cost over $1000 per person on an ocean ship.  River cruises are a great value. Another big difference with ocean ships is with the food. On the big boats you get lots of food at just about all hours of the day. On the river cruise you get your three meals and that is it.  Within each meal there were a few choices but not many. That is fine as we tend to gorge on the bigger ships. The food was of good quality and often reflected the region that the ship was in at the time. Another difference was that the river cruise was a bit more sedate. Music was provided by a man with a synthesizer and was adequate. There were very few additional programs on the ship. Mostly a lecture or demonstration after dinner. That was fine for the most part and resulted in a relaxing time.   There was a port per day. The tours mostly took place in the morning. They provided us with "audiovox" listening units so we could hear the tour guide clearly even while lingering behind to explore something of interest. I think that you will see more and more tours using this new device.  After the seven day cruise we spent two days at a five star hotel in Prague.  This was a nice way to end the vacation. We also had a general tour of Prague included by the cruise line with plenty of time to visit on one's own.  If you are looking for a cruise experience that is more location intensive and less ship focused a river cruise could be something for you. The clientele skews a bit older and slower but this is a wonderful way to see the world.  Trier- very interesting Roman ruins. This used to be a capital of the Roman Empire in the Rhine area.   Bernkastel- quaint town and wine tasting like you have never experienced (as much as you wanted as you do your own pouring). Cochen- interesting restored castle. Another quaint town. Koblenz- Not much here. Rhine Cruise- a highlight of the trip.  Amazing beauty. Rudesheim- highlight is a tram ride to the top of the hill to view a monument and the Rhine valley. Heidelberg- full day excusion including delicious lunch in the old town area. Wurnberg- beautiful Residenz of the bishops worth the trip alone. Bamberg- not the best of the stops. Fun but ok. Nurnberg- the emotional highlight of the cruise when viewing the former stomping grounds of the Nazi party during their heyday. Sobering. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
My  husband and I took the Paris-Normandy trip on the River Baroness in June, 2009.  This was a great trip with a good combination of busy and down times.  We loved sitting up on the top deck watching the countryside go by as we cruised ... Read More
My  husband and I took the Paris-Normandy trip on the River Baroness in June, 2009.  This was a great trip with a good combination of busy and down times.  We loved sitting up on the top deck watching the countryside go by as we cruised on the Seine River.  The top deck had a glass-enclosed space for chilly evenings and lounge chairs for sunning.  The passengers were a mix of Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, British and U.S. citizens.    The cabins are on the small side, but very efficient.  There were two twin beds that could be pushed together or kept apart.  Suitcases fit nicely under the beds and there was a large drawer under each bed.  There were 3 drawers in the closet and a large shelf towards the ceiling that went over the bed area and shelves and reading lamps on the side of each bed.  There was a chair and a stool and a low table with another shelf below  that held the water bottles, ice bucket and glasses .  Behind the door there was a large full-length mirror with a plug next to it.  There was also a dual voltage plug next to one of the beds. The bathroom  was built for one person and there is a shelf above and below the sink and another plug.  There were built-in containers of L'Occitane shower cream and shampoo in the shower and body lotion by the sink.  2 washcloths, 2 hand towels and 2 bath towels were replenished as needed.  There was a hair dryer provided.  I used my dual-voltage curling iron with an adaptor with no problems.  Nightly turn down service with chocolates was provided each evening while we were at dinner.   Breakfast and lunch were both served buffet style with lots of options.  Made-to-order omelets were available each morning along with the buffet.  Lunch always featured soup, sandwich and hot items along with salads, cheeses and dessert.  Dinner featured a choice of 2 starters, 2 soups, cheese and 2 dessert options.  There were usually two main course options along with a 3rd Vegetarian option.  There was always the option to have Steak or Chicken Breast, fries, salad, ice cream or fruit plate if the regular menu wasn't to your liking.  The food was very good.  Wine and soft drinks were complimentary during dinner.  Seating was open and you usually had a 1 ½ to 2 hour window for each meal time.  There was 'tea' served every afternoon and when you came back from a shore excursion, the crew was waiting with juice and warm towels for everyone as you came back onboard.   The crew was great and all seemed to get along like one big happy family.  There was no self serve laundry onboard, but service laundry was available.  Prices were about 4 euro for pants, 3.5 euro for a shirt, 1.5 euro for a t-shirt, for example.  In the 'patio' area there was an ice & water machine and a coffee, tea and hot chocolate machine along with iced tea that was available 24 hours a day.  There were 2  water bottles in each room that could be refilled each morning from this area to take on excursions.  There was a piano player who played every day during tea and before and after dinner.  On 2 different nights local entertainment was brought onboard.   You were welcome to board the boat any time on Sunday - a light lunch buffet was served during the afternoon.  We boarded about 3 pm and were shown to our cabin immediately.  The boat is docked in Paris across from Parc Andre Citroen.  Some people walked up to the Eiffel Tower (about 2 miles) before the boat sailed at 6 pm.  We sailed all night and went through 5 locks on the way to Les Andelys - a lovely little town.   We were docked right in town, although it was a Monday and not much was open.  The included excursion was to Chateau Gaillard up the hill.  You could either hike up or take the bus.  The boat departed at 3:30 to sail to Rouen where we arrived about 8 pm.  Again we were docked right in town so you could go for an evening stroll thru the town.  Rouen is a large town and there was a walking tour on Tuesday morning and time to go back into town in the afternoon to do some shopping.  There was an optional tour that afternoon to Chateau de Vascoeuil (48E) - no feedback available.  The boat stayed docked in Rouen that night and then on Wednesday was the full-day excursion to the Normandy Beaches which was a very special day.  About 7 pm we set sail to Caudebec where we arrived about 10:30 - it was lovely to sit out on deck after dinner and see the houses along with river.  On Thursday morning we boarded the buses to go to Honfleur - a seaside village - where we were taken on a walking tour of the city.  There was an option to go back to the boat at 12:30, stay in Honfleur til 2:30 when a bus would come back to pick you up or go on an optional excursion to a cider farm/lunch/Deauville (57E).  We did not go on this excursion but everyone who went said that it was a great afternoon - good lunch and Deauville has a casino.  At 6 we sailed all night back to Vernon.  Friday brought the included tour to Giverny - the poppies and roses were in full bloom.  While we were at Giverny the boat sailed to Mante-la-Jolie where we boarded for lunch.  After lunch you had the option of staying on the boat while it sailed to Conflans or to go on an optional excursion to Versailles (53E).  We went to Versailles and toured the palace with a guide and then had an hour or so to see the gardens.  Unfortunately, there was not enough time to go out to the Hamlet or the Trianons, but that would take all day to see the whole place - next time!  When we arrived back at the boat it left again for Paris where we arrived in time to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle at midnight.  On Saturday morning we went on the included City Tour of Paris where we stopped for a photo op down from the Eiffel Tower and a stop at Luxombourg Gardens where we walked through part of it with the guide.   That afternoon there was an optional excursion to the Louvre with a guide (53E).  On Saturday evening there were two optional tours available - Dinner at Altitude 95 at the Eiffel Tower (159E) or an evening at the Lido (142E).  On Sunday morning you needed to be out of your cabin by 8 am but were invited to stay on the boat as long as you wanted to during the day.  They scheduled transfers to the airport all during the day.   Each evening before dinner the Cruise Manager gave a short talk about the next days activities and the daily program was in your room when you returned from dinner.  There was a morning exercise scheduled each morning and a small fitness center.  On Monday night was the Captain's Welcome Dinner where the crew was introduced.  On Friday night was the Captain's Farewell Dinner.  Most people dressed up a little for these two nights, but nothing too fancy.  Other nights most men wore sports shirts and slacks and the women wore sun dresses or slacks - pretty casual really.  Umbrellas were provided in case of rain.  There was wi-fi most of the time and there was a computer for use for a nominal charge.  There were 2 movies shown continuously during the day on the TV and there was English language CNN plus many French channels  available.   We had a wonderful time on this trip and are sold on river cruising.  We extended this trip with 2 days in Paris before and 2 days in Paris after which gave us enough time to do a few other things in Paris.  Many on the trip were also combining this with the Burgundy & Provence cruise making this a 2 week journey.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2009

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