Sail Date: September 2014
Having just returned from the Paris/Normandy cruise on the River Baroness, we could not fault the Uniworld service or friendliness and consideration of the staff or the fact that the food was good. However, for the sake of those ... Read More
Having just returned from the Paris/Normandy cruise on the River Baroness, we could not fault the Uniworld service or friendliness and consideration of the staff or the fact that the food was good. However, for the sake of those considering this or any river cruise there are other factors to think carefully about when booking. This is a costly vacation so take into account personality factors and your likes and dislikes. This is the only reason we are writing this review. We have travelled the world, cruised on ocean liners, been independent in cities where we’d just rent a car and go, booked private houses in foreign countries and enjoyed being locals. When we travel we like to explore and walk as much as possible. We also like some “personal space” from time to time. We only picked this itinerary because of the Normandy Beach inclusion specifically and we’d be cruising a river inland vs. an ocean. So, we'd never done a river cruise, and thought we should at least try it. We also thought that for the most part we’d be “berthed” close to places that we could walk off the ship, and those places would not be mostly in areas either noisy or industrial. The impression in the brochure makes you feel like you will be close to a tow path with a village nearby when “letting the serene Seine carry you through the countryside”. The impression in the brochure is also that the berth in Paris is very near the Eiffel Tower. The berth is long way from the Eiffel Tower. Even with a Google map printout of the location, our taxi driver had difficulty and could not find the ship immediately. In the spring, while travelling, we spoke to a couple who had been on Uniworld. They were similar to us in personality and likes when travelling. They were sociable, but also liked to choose when to be social and when to have quiet time, in fact the woman said she “needed” to have that option. She didn’t want to put me off but said she ended up just wanting to be off the ship after three days to find a place she felt less confined. I thought she may be exaggerating. The first shock to us after spending three days in a small room in a boutique Paris hotel (they are all small), was that the room we had in Paris was large compared to the cabin on the Baroness. Others on the ship told us this is Uniworld’s oldest as well as their smallest ship. They also said they didn’t like the cabins either, but insisted we not let it put us off future river cruising. Honestly we felt cramped in the cabin, and the bathroom, as both are very tight. It’s a challenge and you better not be a slob on this ship. You need to be organized in a room this small. I wish I could post my pictures of the cabin on this review. I think the brochure must be done with a different lens. You can get one person on each side of the bed, but don’t try squeezing past each other (and we are not big people). There is one chair with no room to pull it out and sit on, as it would block up the space, and the only place to sit is on the bed. It got even worse the two days we were berthed at Rouen, with another ship right beside us cutting out the view and light from the room. It was like having a huge truck parked in front of your living room window. I wish I could post that picture also. Yes, people will say “well you are not in your cabin much” but some of us don’t always want to be with everyone else socializing 24/7 and simply want to enjoy a spot where you can chill out. We were lucky we could use the sun deck as an alternative to the Monet lounge, which I agree with a previous reviewer – needs an overhaul and is not that comfy. You are either in your cabin, the dining room when open, the Monet lounge, or on the bus doing the excursions. There is the sun deck when the weather is nice, but if not, then you are limited to the lounge or your cabin when the dining room is closed. The dining room and the lounge both have low ceilings, and the noise intensifies due to that, so trying to talk or socialize when there is a lecture, music, or scheduling talk going on ruins other’s enjoyment of whatever they are listening to. What we missed were more quiet spots, and we were not alone in wishing that. Others mentioned it also. It was also our first time on a daily basis being shuttled to excursions and being in a group following a guide twice a day. We did not think we’d spend as much time on the buses as we did. At Vernon you are berthed in a sort of industrial area, but you really only get on the bus from the ship, back again, and your off somewhere else. I think our nicest spot to berth was Les Andelys, but you are not there long either. In Rouen we were close to the city, and could walk ashore, which was a bonus. We were also next to a main highway and bridge so there was a lot of traffic and construction noise. Plus we had the other ship right next to us outside the window most of the time. On the return towards Paris we berthed in St. Denis suburb, in a rough looking area, and we did walk ashore so can attest to it. It was the “dump your car parts, oil change, old tires by the sidewalk” capital of France we think. You can’t have it all I guess – close enough to walk ashore meant not an ideal spot, and other spots you were bussed for a good distance to reach your destinations. This meant a schedule of getting up early, all rushing to dine to eat breakfast, then all heading for the bus. After the tour, it was back on the bus, back to the restaurant for lunch, and return to another bus for the next destination after lunch. For us this is a schedule………and we don’t go on vacations to have to follow schedules that tightly. We are not saying this is wrong. Some people may feel intimidated in a foreign place and not wish to go anywhere on their own. This is an all inclusive floating hotel that you never have to get off except with a guide if you don’t want to. Some love to follow the bus, never have to eat ashore and struggle with a foreign menu, love to stay with the same folks all the time, sit at the same table, get the same seat on the bus. They like the security of it all and the service which Uniworld provides – and that service is very good. If you are this type of person, this is the trip for you. We found very quickly that we were not this type of person. After days of sharing the tours the first few days we choose not to do the walking tour of Rouen, but had a later breakfast after the main crowds left. We simply got a map and headed out, taking in the vendors at the market, finding the historic spots on our own, opting to see what was up little alleys, and we saw and found it all without having to wait for stragglers or follow the guide. Yes, you do get a lot more history with the guide, (and hopefully retain it all by the end of the day) but we’d done some homework, and we managed just fine. In fact, we hit the tour group many times as we walked. We found we enjoyed the freedom more. We had signed and paid for the optional tour of Versailles, but after we hit the crowds there and got back on the bus, we looked at each other and said “we’re not going on another bus, or another tour, or another crush of people”. We were bus and tour sick. So, like two other couples, we were the only folks left on the last day. We had a “sea day” and enjoyed being on vacation with no schedule. Again, this is not saying anything against Uniworld, (apart from the fact that the cabins are smaller than they look on the brochure, and the Monet Lounge is tres “shabby chic”). The staff did a wonderful job. However if you are the type of person who: likes a little more space in your cabin and light through the window all the time; likes quiet time occasionally; hates to dawdle behind a crowd and guides with lollypops (felt a bit like being back at school some days); does not wish to get up too early on vacation; doesn’t like to be bussed almost every day somewhere on a schedule and wishes there was more free time rather than travel time; and lastly, thinks you are travelling up the Seine seeing scenic spots and tying up in quiet little villages all the time--------------- if you are all or most of the aforementioned - then don’t choose this tour. I’m not disparaging it for others. It simply did not fit our “type” of travel personality. We felt confined in the cabin, often in the lounge, on the tours, and ultimately, like the lady we met, felt confined by the whole boat experience, and because of that we know we will never go river cruising again. It’s a personal choice, but I do think you should be aware of all this before you make the choice. We are glad that we did Paris on our own ahead of time, as being on a panoramic tour on a tour bus at the end would have just been a snapshot of a wonderful city that needs to be experienced with time for walking along the Seine, checking out the architecture, sitting at a café, having time to really spend in a Museum, lining up to choose the pasty of the day, seeing the lights, sitting in a green metal chair in the many parks and watching the Parisians relax at the end of their work day. You need time for Paris, so, if you do choose this tour, make sure you spend time in Paris at either the beginning or end, because you really can’t see Paris properly any other way.   Read Less
Sail Date: August 2014
What a spectacular trip that has given us so many great memories. Having arrived two days early we stayed at the Holiday Inn, Notre Dame. An accommodating staff, who prepared us for the events to come. Our embarkation, was easy- ... Read More
What a spectacular trip that has given us so many great memories. Having arrived two days early we stayed at the Holiday Inn, Notre Dame. An accommodating staff, who prepared us for the events to come. Our embarkation, was easy- peasy and our stateroom on the AMALEGRO was more than just great, with plenty of room, storage and even an in room computer. The ship is spacious, extremely clean, tastefully appointed, and well managed. The meals were especially good, with variety and special attention to guests special occasions. Regional specialties were often served at different stops. Dining room service and attention was first rate. Hats off to the wait staff, and Pavil the maitre d' for always watching out for our every need. The shore excursions were excellent and we had the added bonus of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day to make our stay at Caudebec-en-Caux and our transport to the Normandy beaches the next day above our expectations. Our Normandy trip will be a lifetime memory. Our guide was one of the few non French tour guides (an American who resides in France) and she took us thru to the June 6, 1944, experience as if we were there - very emotional. Upon our return from the beaches, we had the surprise of the locals celebrating the 70th anniversary of their liberation that lasted late into the evening. Dozens of locals were dressed as G.I.s and World War 2 outfits, many of whom were driving fully restored war era Jeeps, toting gear and memorabilia. The evening was capped with a full orchestra playing Glen Miller songs, dressed in military garb and playing the tunes flawlessly. A memorable evening! We cannot applaud the staff enough. Annie, our cruise director, was always involved in our experience. She made sure we got off on excursions in a timely fashion & always cheered us with her ingratiating personality and smile. She even gave some really good singing performances and you could often find her on the dance floor after dinner adding to the fun or getting it started. Captain Franch was a joy. Although his English skills were limited, his engaging personality communicated with all the guests just fine. The entire staff was friendly, helpful and clearly enjoyed their work. This is a well managed and cared for ship. A rose for me upon arrival, a gift at disembarkation and a hand written THANK YOU card from the Captain and senior staff when we got home … very classy. Will cruise AmaWaterways again. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
This was our first ever cruise experience and overall we loved it. If you've never tried river cruising you really should. The ship sails along at a leisurely pace and you'd barely know you were moving. There are 3 full meals a ... Read More
This was our first ever cruise experience and overall we loved it. If you've never tried river cruising you really should. The ship sails along at a leisurely pace and you'd barely know you were moving. There are 3 full meals a day in the spacious dining room, and opportunities for snacking and tea in the late afternoons and evenings, all at no extra charge. Drinks at the on-board bar are extra. There are many opportunities for excursions at each port, and optional extra excursions are available at an additional charge. These may be purchased about a month before your cruise date on-line, or may be added as an on-board extra, provided there is space available. The ship is a few years old (2009), but is still in beautiful shape and is very nicely appointed. Plenty of opportunities for relaxation and/or conversation in the ship's many public areas, so you don't ever have an excuse for sitting cooped up in that tiny cabin. And the food is EXCELLENT, especially at dinnertime, where you can enjoy a 5-course meal with complimentary wine, beer or soft drinks. The ship's intimate atmosphere is one of its best selling points. With only 70 cabins (140 passengers) and 39 crew members, there are plenty of opportunities to make and cultivate new friendships. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2014
This was our first cruise of any type beyond a couple of hours ever. Fearing seasickness, my husband was armed with a new medication that he never had to use. The sailing was as smooth as could be. I could not even detect when the ship ... Read More
This was our first cruise of any type beyond a couple of hours ever. Fearing seasickness, my husband was armed with a new medication that he never had to use. The sailing was as smooth as could be. I could not even detect when the ship left port except for the slight sound of the engines. We loved the fact that we could stay in the same room for 7 nights and see so many different sights. We also really liked paying for nearly everything up front, including our airfare. All Viking personnel, from the airport arrival to the airport departure 7 days later, were wonderful to us. The ship's staff worked very well together and were very enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and organized. We received full information both verbally and in writing about our next day's adventures. All walking tours were graded to help us make prudent decisions that matched our mobility. The radio devices to enable us to hear our guide wherever he/she was made every tour a successful one. The food was wonderful and well prepared. Service in every part of the ship was great. The extra events on days that we were sailing kept us learning new things but not overly busy. Sitting on the top deck and watching the shoreline was a favorite activity of our party of four. We are very interested in river cruising again. We have found our comfort level among all the cruises that available, large and small. Thank you, Viking, for a wonderful experience! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
We arrived in Paris 4 days before the cruise, stayed at a lovely small boutique hotel close to the port and had a grand time seeing the sights on our own and using tour companies found on TripAdvisor. We traveled by metro and the train, ... Read More
We arrived in Paris 4 days before the cruise, stayed at a lovely small boutique hotel close to the port and had a grand time seeing the sights on our own and using tour companies found on TripAdvisor. We traveled by metro and the train, and it was easy and affordable. I urge everyone to do a before of after Paris visit of several days at least, as there's rather minimal time exploring Paris itself on this cruise. After a 5 minute taxi ride, we arrived at the port at 12:30 pm, were greeted by Patricia the Program Director, and Sascha, the Hotel Manager, and had a nice light lunch in the lounge. We selected a cabin with a large window that could open which was lovely for views along the river. The room was of sufficient size, with plenty of drawers and closet space. Luggage was stored under the bed. There was a 115 V socket and several european sockets. All of our electronic devices worked fine, and we did not need a converter. We did bring adapter plugs. The room was kept clean and tidy, and we paid our housekeeper an extra tip at the end of the trip. As mentioned previously, the hair dryer is not as powerful as we're used to at home but did manage to dry my hair. We utilized the laundry service, as we limted how much we brought along, and it was delivered back to us in perfect condition the next day. The excursions have been reviewed elsewhere. Our favorite was the visit to Monet's house and gardens. The gardens are extraordinary, with an amazing abundance of beautiful flowers. There is also a Paris city bus tour with a stop at Notre Dame, a walking tour through Rouen with a "leisure" group for slow walkers, a visit to the Normandy beaches and museums, a stop in Las Andelys and optional tour to Versailles. I found the shopping best in the 2 stores in Las Andelys, and we took the half day Versailles excursion which we found to be sufficient. Back at the boat, we had breakfast in the dining room, the light lunch in the lounge (there is also lunch in the dining room) and dinner in the dining room. We thought the food was excellent but service a bit slow for dinner, especially for our table of 4, the first one in the middle upon entrance. I suggest avoiding that one, as we were usually the last ones served. People tended to stick with the original table selected on this cruise, so moving seemed like it would be a bit of a challenge. Everyone appeared to be working hard, so it seemed like an additional waiter might have helped. As typical of prior river cruises, onboard entertainment was limited. We attended an interesting lecture on Joan of Arc, a French lesson, a tour of the galley, an optional oyster eating event and a music quiz that was more amusing than expected. There was also a painting class and a piano player in the evening. The last night there were some classically trained singers, who were very good, but I didn't stay for long due to packing requirements. All of the major staff members were personable and helpful. Patricia was very orgainized, with a bubbly personality. A final word on the debarkation: We were assigned a bus for CDG airport 3 hours before the plane's departure. It took 1 hour to get to the airport, and because of a great deal of traffic, left off at Arrivals. Getting through the chaotic maze at CDG was an obstacle course, and even though we were on priority lanes throughout and moved as fast as possible, it took over an hour to get to our gate. Within 10 minutes the plane began boarding. if you prefer a more leisurely airport experience, I strongly recommend getting yourself on a bus that gives you more time. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2014
Most nights we were docked back at Bordeaux. It's just a crazy cruise itinerary. Seeing the same place over and over was a tad boring. All of the bus trips took hours and hours to get to the area. By the time you got back to the ship, ... Read More
Most nights we were docked back at Bordeaux. It's just a crazy cruise itinerary. Seeing the same place over and over was a tad boring. All of the bus trips took hours and hours to get to the area. By the time you got back to the ship, there was no time to do local walking except after dark. The tour guides on the bus would tell you to go to sleep because there was nothing to see on the way to the truffles, Bay of Arcachon & Cognac. The tours themselves were worth the drive, but our legs swelled up from all the sitting. We could not do some tours because the other ones conflicted. On the drive through PAUILLAC (MARGAUX), FRANCE we were driving around and around the same areas back and forth. The dinner at a chateaux was not really in a chateaux, but rather a new building built to hold events. We were not allowed in the real chateaux. The food was prepared and served by the same Viking staff from the ship. Wine was from the local vineyard. I did not like this cruise and would advise people rent a car to see the region. The rivers are a muddy run off mess with nothing to see along the way, unlike the Elba Viking cruise we had been on previously. Our room was large and we had a balcony, which was below the dock most of the time. Useless for views. Most of the time traveling was at night. The trip to SAINT-ÉMILION was a fiasco with busses not appearing on time and people feeling stranded by the guides. The town is not an easy walk for some people and the cripples were not warned. I am glad I saw it while still in good health. They should rename the cruise "Bordeaux to Bordeaux". Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
My friend and I took the Paris & Heart of Normandy Tour departing July 4. I was disappointed with this tour and have already advised at least three people who were considering Viking to go with a different cruise line. First, my ... Read More
My friend and I took the Paris & Heart of Normandy Tour departing July 4. I was disappointed with this tour and have already advised at least three people who were considering Viking to go with a different cruise line. First, my friend and I had a problem getting updates and documentation. One of us lives in NYC and the other in Houston. First, all emails were sent to Texas, even though several of them should have been directed to NYC, then, when documentation was sent, it all went to NYC. Only after calling and having duplicate documentation sent did Texas receive paperwork. We booked transfers through Viking. My flight arrived, and I found the Viking rep with no problem. However, seven people were supposed to have arrived, but I was the only one. I had to wait for 40 minutes and finally, when the other six had not yet arrived, I said that I was tired of waiting and wanted to go to the ship. Otherwise, I would have still been sitting at the airport. I was tired, having flown from Houston, my friend had arrived in Paris hours earlier, and it wasn't my fault about the other people. There was little entertainment on board, and I especially regretted that the last afternoon of our cruise, when it took seven hours to float to Paris from Conflans, the only entertainment was how to make a chocolate lava cake. This was the last day of our cruise! On other days, there was also very little in the way of entertainment, and, as I am hard-or-hearing and the TVs were not close-captioned, I couldn't even watch TV. In each port, local tour guides were used. When we went to Giverny, one of the tour guides didn't show up, so my friend ended up in a group that should have been halved, and the tour guide left several people, including my friend who is handicapped, behind. I could only understand one or two of the guides, even with the audio system provided. Think you will see Paris? Forget it. We got out of the bus for a view of the Eiffel Tower (which can be seen from the ship), and other than that, all pictures had to be taken out of a moving bus window on a day when it was raining. There was a little free time to go exploring but was on the first day of the tour (the day that I finally arrived at the ship at 3 PM, was tired, and wanted dinner at 7), or the evening before we all left the ship to go home. Since we didn't get into Paris until 7 PM and dinner was at 7:15, that didn't leave much time as my transfer to the airport was at 4:45 AM. Also, my friend uses a walker, and no-one told us that, in Paris, there were about 50 metal steps from the quay to street level. We had to enlist the help of strangers. We thought there was very little time to shop or explore. For example, when we were in Vernon, it was Sunday, and the few shops there were were closed, except for the pastry shops. After coming home, people have asked how the French people were. I have to say that I honestly don't know since I didn't have much interaction with them. The food was OK, probably above average but not extraordinary. However, although wine was included at lunch and dinner, all of the white was Chardonnay and all the red was Merlot. These are not my favorite varieties, so by the end of the cruise, I was drinking Diet Coke. Petty maybe, but the carpets were stained and either needed a good cleaning or to be replaced. It was so chilly and rainy in France, in July, that we didn't get to enjoy the deck at all. One of the good things was the wonderful server we had in the dining room, Simone. She was attentive, remembered us, and was exceptional. Also, the program director, Karine, did go out of her way to accommodate my friend on the tour of the American Cemetery and Omaha Beach by reserving a front seat for us so that she could easily get on/off/on the bus. However, having traveled with another line previously, I would not book another cruise with Viking. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
First, comments about the Uniworld experience. My husband and I have previously cruised with AMA on the Danube, and with Scenic Tours on the Saone and Rhone river. Service: excellent, décor: boutique hotel, beds and bedding: excellent, ... Read More
First, comments about the Uniworld experience. My husband and I have previously cruised with AMA on the Danube, and with Scenic Tours on the Saone and Rhone river. Service: excellent, décor: boutique hotel, beds and bedding: excellent, food: excellent to outstanding, wine: average to very good, tours: well-organized and interesting, Al Fresco dining option: fantastic, no announcements in your room: FANTASTIC (I hope all cruise lines will copy this)daily tour talks: available in your cabin on the t.v. (another excellent and innovative service). Bikes: available as well as Go Active bike tours. I haven’t ridden a bike in 35 years and now have gone on 2 of the Uniworld bike tours in Bordeaux. Wireless: included and in your cabin! All-inclusive: very good but not yet excellent. It was lovely to have drinks in the lounge and on the deck without worrying about cost. My husband and I cruised with Scenic Tours last year, and they are all-inclusive. We did not have any extra charges for tours. Uniworld still charges for “optional” tour. Scenic had 3 tours available each day, and no surcharge. Uniworld has usually 1 or 2 tours a day, and then very expensive optional tours that can be cancelled because not enough people signed up. A cooking class tour was a very expensive optional tour on Uniworld, but with Scenic we had a cooking class at the Paul Bocuse culinary school and it was included. On Uniworld, there is a different white and red wine served in the dining room. When we asked for a wine that is served on a different night, we were told that wasn’t possible by the waiter. Our cruise manager clarified this situation once she knew about it, and waiters then did serve any of the wines that are part of the “all inclusive” wine list. Which brings me to my last point, customer service: excellent. Our complaints and concerns were addressed promptly and graciously. Thank you to Georgina, our hotel manager. Paris to Normandy on the River Baroness Positive: visit to Giverney, visit to Juno and Omaha Beach, Uniworld provided a wreath for a powerful service at the American Cemetery – I had a lump in my throat the entire day. Rouen and the cathedral light show were lovely. Excellent, informative and interesting guides. Negative: there is no way I would have booked this trip with Uniworld had I understood how very, very small are the cabins. You can barely get a suitcase under the bed, and you can barely walk around the bed. There is chair in the room but you cannot put it beside the glass window and look at the river. The bathroom, very nicely done, is claustrophobic. My husband and I are not very large, but I can’t imagine how a large person could move in that space. The closet is so small that not only did all of our clothes not fit in it, but the clothes hangers don’t fit in it. You cannot close the closet door with your clothes on the hangers and the closet light shines all night long. For the same money or less, you can have almost the same itinerary on a competitor’s boat and have a much larger cabin. Because Uniworld combines 2 or more river cruises, our next boat, the River Royale, was a surprise. We had a lovely cabin with a much roomier bathroom, 2 chairs and a table, ample closet space – and for the same price as the River Baroness. My husband sent an irate email to our travel agent once we could compare the two exactly same priced one week cruises. Passengers who had been on the Uniworld Rhone river cruise on the exquisite S.S. Catherine were somewhat horrified when their next week was on the cramped River Baroness. Bordeaux, Vineyards and Chateaux on the River Royale Positive: Focus on food and wine – and the food was divine! We promised ourselves to have a light lunch – and would have 3 or 4 courses - the food was just that good. Excellent meals on the ship and at the Chateau for lunch. Bike riding in bucolic vineyards, visiting charming small towns like Saint Emilion and Bergerac. Wine tasting Sauternes. Seeing famous chateaus and vineyards for real after having only seen them on labels. Arachon oyster tasting! Wine tasting in the Claret Room, Shopping in Bordeaux – same shops and fashion as Paris but in a calmer, smaller and very beautiful area. Younger and more active crowd on this cruise -families, 20,30, 40 something’s plus the usual 50 to 80 crowd. Negatives: the Gironde Estuary, Dordogne and Gironde River are brown – not what I was expecting! A different shore and water look from the other rivers I have cruised. In 2014, there are only 3 cruise companies in Bordeaux. Next year, there will be more. Half of the time, we were tied up to another ship, meaning you need to keep your curtains drawn so you don’t look into another person’s cabin. Viking cruise passengers couldn’t use their balconies when that side of the ship was tied to a ship. Without more docks, I can’t imagine where all of these ships will anchor!   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
My husband & I recently returned from our first river cruise. We chose Uniworld because we had heard such great things about the company & Paris to Normandy for an itinerary as we love Paris & we are both WWII buffs. We came in ... Read More
My husband & I recently returned from our first river cruise. We chose Uniworld because we had heard such great things about the company & Paris to Normandy for an itinerary as we love Paris & we are both WWII buffs. We came in a day early to get over the jetlag but did not stay at the hotel that Uniworld uses (we stayed at a hotel in the 1st arr. that we have previously stayed at) so had to pay for our own taxi to the ship, no big deal but the cabbie did have some trouble finding the dock:) Also, we were just on this leg of the journey, there were a lot of people on the Grand France itinerary onboard but alas, that was not us. Now, on to the River Baroness: Our first impression was that it was nice, decently appointed but some of the areas looked a lot smaller than they do in the brochure or online:) The lounge was badly in need of a redo, the chairs & couches were rather broken in to say the least & the whole area could use a new coat of paint. We always found it to be rather warm & stuffy in there as well. The restaurant was nice with large windows on both sides that gave a nice view of the river (or the riverboat we were tied up to). Our cabin was VERY small (they must have used a wide angle lens when they took photos of it) & the closet was tiny, you had to have the hangers sideways in order to close the closet doors. Also, there is no dresser in the room, just 2 small night tables. We are average/small sized people & had trouble moving about our cabin but we had a lot of laughs trying to do so. The bathroom was really tiny although the shower was large. I was always banging my knees or elbows in the bathroom but again, we had a lot of laughs over it. Our favorite area was the top deck, it was so nice & the chairs & loungers were very comfortable. It was a treat to sit up there with a glass of champagne & watch the Normandy coastline float by. We still miss that! The staff: From housekeeping to the bar staff to the waiters everyone was so friendly & helpful, always smiling & remembering your preferences, they would pour the champagne as we walked into the bar or just deliver up to the deck if we were up there (thank goodness the alcohol was all-inclusive or we would have been in real trouble:) Top notch all the way. Our cruise director Ann was ok, rather impersonal but she did give a talk before dinner each night about what would be taking place the next day. The food was very good to excellent at all meals & they also offer "Al Fresco" dining up on the sundeck, we signed up for it 2x over the cruise & enjoyed it very much. All our excursions were terrific, the local guides really know their stuff & seem very passionate about what they do. We did the walking tour of Paris (fabulous), Giverny (wow), the hike up to Chateau Gaillard (really steep climb but worth it), The Normandy beaches (so moving, so many houses there are still flying American & British flags), The walking tour of Rouen (quite nice), The extra excursion to Etratat (worth every penny, the cliffs were amazing, the trip to the cider farm (rather dull), Honfleur (such a great place) & walked in the footsteps of Van Gogh (great but don't wear good shoes, you walk thru the fields that he painted in & my cute canvas shoes got destroyed, guess I should have taken the tour title literally:) We did have one MAJOR problem on our sailing, we were supposed to set sail Sunday night but because it was Bastille Day on Monday all the locks we had to go thru on the river were closed. Therefore, we would be in Paris on Monday instead of Giverny & so on for the rest of the week. Too bad almost everything in Paris was closed for the holiday. We then lost out on our Saturday in Paris at the end. We had saved a number of things we wanted to do in Paris for this day & as such missed out on them all. Uniworld chose to inform the hundred or so passengers this on Sunday night before our welcome dinner. Talk about a bunch of surprised people!!! You can't tell us they didn't know about this major change in our schedule well before we were due to set sail. How could they not check into whether the locks would be open or not on such a major holiday as Bastille Day?? Shame on Uniworld for springing this on everyone at literally the last minute. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot. Overall, we had a very nice cruise on a good ship & we like river cruising but I think if we were to do another one we would go with Tauck (we've done 8 land tours with them & they are just perfect in every way). We cut thru a Tauck ship on disembarkation day & it was gorgeous, very high end & trendy & a lot roomier than our ship. Sorry this so long but I hope it helps someone heading out to Normandy!!   Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
Scenic Emerald – South of France July 14th 2014 Cruise Review We arrived in Paris after a long delay in Singapore so were pretty ratty and ready for a rest. Thankfully, our luggage wasn’t lost, we passed through immigration without a ... Read More
Scenic Emerald – South of France July 14th 2014 Cruise Review We arrived in Paris after a long delay in Singapore so were pretty ratty and ready for a rest. Thankfully, our luggage wasn’t lost, we passed through immigration without a hitch and met up with our Scenic transfer driver in the arrivals hall. All good so far The Marriot Ambassador is ok for a major chain hotel. Expensive bar, ordinary breakfast buffet and small room but then I think that’s pretty standard for Europe hotels. We met our fellow cruisers on the Sunday night (the night before Bastille Day) subsequently everything was closed, even the hotel restaurant ! We were left there all wondering what we were supposed to do for dinner. Hubby and I decided the pasta we had for lunch was laying pretty heavy so decided to skip dinner and headed to bed early. The morning of the ‘cruise’ package started with everyone clambering for breakfast which apparently caught the hotel out as they ran out of juice glasses, coffee cups etc. I don’t think this was their first rodeo so was a bit surprised but we were looking forward to our cruise of a lifetime and nothing was raining on this parade ! We had been instructed to put our luggage outside our rooms the night before as this was to be transported to the ship by truck to save us all having to drag it onto the TGV. Great idea ! The transfer to the TGV was smooth and without incident and we were on our way. After a very smooth 2 or so hours we arrived at Dijon where we disembarked the TGV and were loaded onto luxury coaches. A quick lunch stop in Dijon was delicious with some local fois gras with toast. Yum. Back on the coaches and finally on to Chalon-sur-Saone where the shiny lovely Scenic Emerald awaited us. We felt like royalty boarding with all the staff on deck with their dress black uniforms on and welcoming us aboard. When inside the foyer we were allocated a hospitality crew person who escorted us to our cabin balcony suite 207. We highly recommend this suite. Just far enough away from the noise but really close to all facilities. The room was sparkling clean and bright. The bathroom ensuite was very reasonably spacey with a great selection of shampoos, soap etc. At 5.30pm we all had to assemble on the top deck for a safety discussion and instructions on how to put on life jackets etc. With all accounted for we went back down to the Emerald lounge for a well-earned champers. I cannot understate how hard the crew work on the ship. The bar boys are just phenomenal with their energy and funny antics. They really make the day bright when you see their smiling faces and they have a bit of a joke with you once they get to know you a little. They remember names and what your ‘usual’ is too ! Amazing ! Day one we visited the Patriarche Cellars for a wine tasting. The wines we tasted were ‘green’ and acidic and we were really surprised that they gave us such young undrinkable wines to taste as there was no way we were going to part with any Euros in their showroom upstairs ! pity because the cellar and underground tasting rooms were a lovely experience. Back to our home on the river and treated to a magnificent dinner. I could rave about each night’s dinner and lunch but to be honest just be assured the food is aplenty and of 5 star standard. A special night was our dinner date with some new friends we made in the ‘La Mour’ restaurant. Everyone gets to book one dinner there where the service is only to cater for about 30 people (instead of the usual whole ship in the main dining room seating about 140ish people each sitting). The LaMour restaurant is a very special experience indeed. 6 courses of absolutely deliciousness. One comment on the main dining room would be the NOISE ! I don’t know if everyone had their hearing aids turned down but god it was noisy !! I think Scenic need to consider some foam tiles on the ceiling or something because often it was so bad we couldn’t have a conversation across a table. (one of my very few complaints !). With regard to shore tours, we were predominantly interested in wine tasting as this was one of the main interests for choosing this cruise. The wine tastings varied from undrinkable to yum I’ll buy a bottle. It’s all very subjective and I would still encourage anyone interested in the local wines to do the tastings as it is still really interesting to get a different slant on wines and not just our one sided Aussie pallets. One tour that was one of the highlights of our tour was the visit to the Paul Bocuse Culinary Institute in Lyon. What a fantastic experience. If you consider yourself a bit of a ‘foodie’ then this is the trip for you. We were treated to a masterclass with one of the Executive chefs. He cooked a delicious red mullet dish that was to die for. We got the recipe and full instructions so we could make notes etc too. He was so lovely and helpful and happily signed our recipes at the end of the class. Another highlight among our tours was the villages of Luberon region Gordes and Fontaine de Vaucluse. Beautiful villages with lovely medieval cobbled streets with little shops and delicious cafes. However, the absolute highlight of the cruise for us was our visit to Avignon. This place is definitely on our must do again list ! It is perfectly preserved walled city which includes the Palais-des-Papes (palace of the Popes). We were lucky enough to be there when the annual performing arts festival was on so every street and corner had a different act ranging from soccer ball tossing acrobats to a didgeridoo playing Aussie to a whole troupe of bagpipe playing artists. Just phenomenal and a real experience. The video camera got a real workout that day! If there was one tour I would not recommend it was the ornithological park. To be honest it was quite hot and there was little shade. The birdlife wasn’t that interesting to us and we were happy to get back on the air conditioned bus. It came as part of the full day touring that everyone did so I guess we were pretty much locked in to going but given a choice I’d rather stay on the boat and sail on to the next port to meet the coaches. Kurt our cruise director was absolute gold. He was professional, friendly, funny, very careful, extremely competent and caring. He worked so hard to make sure everyone was having the best time. If we do another Scenic cruise I certainly hope he is on it ! All the crew were terrific. Our personal butler Ica and lovely housekeeping lady Simonetta were always looking after us. Nothing was too much trouble and we felt very special. Hubby had a ‘slept on the pillow chocolate’ incident ! Simonetta took it in her stride saying that he wasn’t the first person to do it and she definitely knew the difference between chocolate and any other um stuff you might find in a bed. All in all she made an embarrassing situation funny and let him off with a small wag of her finger hahaha ! The mini-bar was refreshed at least twice per day with chocolates, pringles and white wine. We loved to sit on the balcony before the daily cruise report by Kurt at about 6.30 before dinner. We loved the balcony and having that private area where we could retreat for an hour or so to gather you thoughts before we went into the next activities of eating and frivolity! The night time entertainment was mixed with the onboard pianist (who put up with our karaoke !) and a mixture of ‘Gypsy Kings’ type band, a fabulous piano acordian player and a local gypsy dancing group. All in all we were happy just to catch up with new friends for a few drinks (which were always kept topped up !) in the Emerald lounge. There is also a great area at the front of the dining room where you can sit open air for light lunches and was also great for when we were casting off and setting sail for a new port. Also great for going through the numerous lochs. That was an interesting experience too. One of the lochs was a 23 metre drop ! It was so funny on the way down they played the theme from Titanic ! When were down to the required level and the exit doors opened the theme changed to the Love Boat ! crazy musical director haha ! We would highly recommend this cruise. We found that we were of the ‘younger’ age group being in our early 50s. I would guess the average age somewhere up around mid to late 70s. Most were still pretty able but there were a few that were quite physically challenged needing walking sticks etc. However, they were all there for a fun time and we didn’t feel that the age of the clientele was any problem. Everyone mixed with most people and with no fixed seating in the dining room you could either sit with your regular new friends or seek out new ones if you moved tables. Scenic have got a great strategy for their river cruises and are to be congratulated for tailoring these holidays for the Aussie market. There were a few Canadians, a few British and a few NZ but 98% Aussies. We will definitely consider doing the Amsterdam to Budapest cruise as many on this cruise had done it before and highly recommended it also. Thankyou to Scenic and your crew for making this a cruise of a lifetime and a holiday we will remember very fondly in many years to come. Five star and all inclusive all the way !   Read Less

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