2 Paris European Waterways La Belle Epoque Cruise Reviews

Our trip started in Paris, meeting on a Sunday at the Hotel Westminster on Rue de la Paix at 1:45pm. The drive down to the boat was about 3.5 hours as we went to the farthest point from Paris in Venarey-les-Laumes. We were met by the crew ... Read More
Our trip started in Paris, meeting on a Sunday at the Hotel Westminster on Rue de la Paix at 1:45pm. The drive down to the boat was about 3.5 hours as we went to the farthest point from Paris in Venarey-les-Laumes. We were met by the crew with champagne and snacks. I had extremely high expectations about this canal barge trip...and they were exceeded almost immediately. The cabin was comfortable and the bathroom quite large with big fluffy robes and towels. We had one of the Jr. Suites. It was definitely bigger than the regular cabins but you really don’t spend much time in it. Our first dinner was nothing less than suburb - Escargot (a bowl of 20), a huge, perfectly cooked Duck breast with orange sauce, 3 regional/artisan cheeses, and a poached pear with caramel mascarpone ice cream. I have never in my life had ice cream or even gelato that good...not even in Italy! All this was paired with 2 excellent local wines. Even my husband, a non-duck eater, LOVED the duck. He told the chef that it couldn't possibly be duck as it was way too delicious. All meals continued to be five star plus. Breakfast was the same every day: cereals, fruit, yogurt, pastries, bread, meat, and cheese. The bread and pastries were fresh from local bakeries. The jam was made in one of the villages. Everything served on board was basically purchased by the chef at local markets. Lunch was elegant with a main dish like Quiche Lorraine, Stuffed Quail, Baked Salmon, or various pates and meats together several salads. This was followed by either two cheeses or dessert but usually not both. There were always two local wines, a white and a red. About an hour before dinner we had aperitifs with appetizers that were always different and always excellent. We had stuffed mushrooms, tempura shrimp, duck or salmon mousse on blinis, tapenades, etc. After a drink from the open bar came a top notch dinner, accompanied by two local wines, a cheese course with 3 local options, and dessert. Over the course of the week we had duck, veal, venison, white fish (or guinea fowl), and beef tenderloin. There are not enough superlatives to describe how truly good dinner was. We did eat out at a top rated restaurant in Chablis one evening. It was fine but could not even come close to the dinners we were having on the barge. During the course of the week we visited an abbey, several chateaux, markets, vineyards, and quaint villages. The barge was always moored at night. We would normally cruise either before or after our excursions. We would walk and or bike along with the boat to get some exercise in an attempt to diffuse the day’s gastronomic extravaganzas. There are lots of locks on the canal so it’s very easy to move faster than the boat. Most days we moved somewhere about 10 km and went through a half dozen locks. There is also a hot tub on the main deck. I was the only one to use it during our trip. All I can say is the others missed out! The crew caters to your every whim. My husband wanted chips and they magically appeared. A couple of us on board drank Diet Coke rather than coffee, so it was always stocked. All manners of spirits were available. If there was something you didn't like, the chef would make you something else. The crew really makes the cruise special. It was a first class operation that leaves you wanting for nothing. Our cruise ended in Tanlay. We were transferred back to the Hotel Westminster, arriving about 12:30p. If you love excellent food & wine, beautiful countryside, interesting excursions, and personal, attentive service, then a canal barge is the way to go!   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
1) It's all inclusive - no nasty surprises. Luxury cabins, all meals, drinks, wine, transportation to and from private excursions/tours, equipment, EVERYTHING is included for one reasonable price.2) Our luxury suite just happened to ... Read More
1) It's all inclusive - no nasty surprises. Luxury cabins, all meals, drinks, wine, transportation to and from private excursions/tours, equipment, EVERYTHING is included for one reasonable price.2) Our luxury suite just happened to be located on the ship. Rather than us packing, unpacking and then repacking at a luxury resort every day - they move our resort for us! Talk about easy! You simply could not replicate this trip on dry land without spending a huge amount of money and spending most of your day traveling from one port to the next. And even then, finding restaurants and meals and equal accommodations, for all practical purposes, impossible. The canal barges are an excellent value for money deal.3) The entire crew was Johnny-on-the-spot eager (!) to help, answer questions, find answers and provide whatever our whims required. Want a major US newspaper delivered to your cabin door in the morning (even if the ship is miles from any major city)? Just ask ahead of time; out in the relaxed rural areas, the locals are very much less interested in stocking the LA Times daily. We asked for - and got - the papers of our choice. (It turns out the crew spent some time arranging delivery to a local shop, in the shop in the town we would b at the next morning. Then at first light a crew member would go out and retrieve the papers from the local shop. This feat is even more amazing as the local shops are not usually open at 5:30 AM. How the crew managed to pull of this trick day after day still amazes me.)The crew did not cease to amaze me in the care and feeding of the passengers. Can't eat grapefruit because of a medical concern? Let them know ahead of time, and if by magic, grapefruit disappears from the menu. The replacement, a large assortment of other fresh fruits, was available. The impressive part of this is that the chef very quietly took care of our diet needs in such a way as to be absolutely undetectable by any other passengers. Rather than pointing out a medical condition by serving one 'odd man out' meal, the entire menu was seamlessly adjusted so that everyone could fearlessly eat everything that came out of the kitchen. It's a small touch, but it means a lot.Our guide would meet us after breakfast and off we would go for another private tour (no line to wait in at all). Private wine tasting with the vintner himself? Check. Private tour of historical sites? Check. Time to explore small towns? Check. And all the while, our Guide was charming, funny and very informative.The entire (small) crew work hard and long to achieve, and retain, a very high level of service and comfort. They seemingly defy gravity in their efforts to meet passenger requests. These guys and gals earned their tips, and I gladly stuffed an envelope for their gratuity, for I was, and remain, grateful for all of their hard work. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
La Belle Epoque Ratings
Category Editor Member

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