Built in 2005 and refurbished in 2010, La Belle de Cadix is dedicated to the Guadalquivir River, Gulf of Cadiz and sometimes the Guadiana River, actively cruising through all but high-summer months. The Belgian-built vessel is capable of navigating ocean waves within a few miles of the coast in order to reach Atlantic ports just beyond the Guadalquivir River's mouth. That dual capability makes for an especially sturdy river cruise through Andalusia with its calm waters -- and therefore makes an ideal cruise for first timers and passengers more sensitive to motion.
While the ship's overall color scheme is heavy on pastels and light wood tones more popular from decades past, the ship is in good shape, polished and well maintained. Furnishings are both practical and comfortable, and rooms and common spaces -- like the lounges, terraces and restaurants -- are clean and organized.
During the days, this cruise does not offer afternoon entertainment -- letting passengers enjoy leisure time that's perfectly suited to the mellow ambience of southern Spain. In the evenings, the dining room, lounges and sun deck are lively venues for conversation, cocktails and dancing on special entertainment nights. Note that American guests can rely on all crew and some passengers with whom to speak English; but on this cruise there is a language barrier between English speakers and most other passengers, since they are predominantly from French- and Spanish-speaking countries.
Generally, the ship offers everything one needs for a pleasant cruise. However, it does not offer a dedicated library, hair salon, spa or other added gathering spaces that a larger vessel may have room for, but would seem extraneous on a compact vessel like this one.
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Overall, CroisiEurope offers an experience aboard La Belle de Cadix that suits travelers who prefer a low-key holiday with comfort, calm and sociable experiences shared with easygoing fellow travelers and friendly crew members.
As a French cruise line, CroisiEurope attracts many French speakers, as well as Spanish speakers mainly from Spain, and English speakers primarily from Great Britain; though a few Americans may be onboard too. Announcements are made and excursions are led in all three of those primary languages, and passengers are grouped in the dining room according to the language they prefer to speak.
"Smart casual" are the key words aboard this ship. During downtime onboard and on excursions, passengers should dress for the arid, toasty Andalusian temperatures that prevail all year; though for winter cruises, a light jacket or scarf will come in handy especially after sunset. Hats and sunglasses are a must. Evenings on the ship can be more "casual dressy," and while most passengers don upscale attire for gala events, men are fine in a sport jacket, and a sundress or a nice blouse and slacks or a skirt are fine for women.
The all-inclusive cruise fare covers breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, and includes free beverages of wine, beer, juice, coffee, tea, and mineral water throughout the day -- as well as a selection of regionally appropriate Spanish wines at dinner. Drinks can be ordered from the Lounge Bar all day, and the only alcoholic beverage choices with an added charge are wines on the special menu. Wi-Fi on this ship is complimentary, although it's only available in the reception area and lounge bar. Onboard entertainment like local singers, dancers and even a bingo night are all included, as is the gala dinner.
Shore excursions can be selected at an additional cost. Airport transfers and drinks ordered during excursions are not included. Gratuities are accepted at each passenger's discretion, and generally follow the industry standard of $5 to $10 per day per person, with tips shared equally among all crew members. Passengers are asked to use the envelopes in their cabins, and to deposit the envelope in a designated box upon disembarkation.