Douce France Entertainment & Activities
Like all Croisi ships, Douce France's fares reflect two excursion packages that you select when you purchase the cruise. The default Classic package, included in the basic fare, provides one shore excursion in each port, usually a walking tour or visit to a museum. The Discovery excursions are more elaborate and unusual (and cost more money). Sometimes you can switch once you are onboard and buy an individual Discovery excursion, but that's at the discretion of the hotel director and whether there is room. There are no tours outside the packages.
For English-speakers, the ship tries to make sure that attractions and museums have a separate guide available. On our short cruise, we found varying success with this. At Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, the French guide handed us a sheet of paper and asked us to follow along. While the paper had all the relevant info, we missed out on the jokes and laughter with the group. In Speyer, a staff member with limited English unsuccessfully tried to convey the significance of the cathedral; it wasn't until we read a sign within the building that we learned it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Conversely, we had a separate English tour at Siegfried's Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum in Rudesheim, and that made all the difference.
Americans who had purchased the Discovery tour on our trip, a visit to a vineyard outside Mainz, enjoyed it and didn't seem to have the language barriers that we experienced on the Classic tours. So, this might be one place where it could be worth your while to upgrade.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Although our cruise was short in length, the ship packed quite a bit of activity in. Our scenic sailing day through the Rhine gorge included a morning exercise/stretch session (song choice: Despacito); a guess-the-world-monuments paper trivia game; a guess-the-national-anthems quiz and a trivia session focused on the company itself (which a large number of passengers, all repeaters with the line, knew the answers to). All activities were held in French and English.
While CroisiEurope does have aperitif hour, this isn't the time when staff discusses the daily program, unlike on other river cruise lines. Instead, the program for the next day is discussed at dinner -- at the front of the room for the French passengers and tableside for the English speakers.
A musician is onboard and plays both recorded and live music after dinner in the lounge. Whether or not you find a lot of passengers taking part depends on the day's itinerary. On gala night, the dance floor is packed.
Douce France does not have a program of enrichment activities. During our scenic Rhine cruising, recorded commentary in French and English told passengers about the different castles along the way, but that's about all we had in terms of organized entertainment. (Of course, you can argue that for an American, being on a French ship and learning their customs is an education unto itself!)
Douce France Bars and Lounges
Douce France has one bar on the Upper Deck. It's very modern, with a lavender carpet, furniture and curtains, accented with chartreuse pillows. A purple light gives the room a nightclub atmosphere and the dance floor has little lights that serve as "stars." It's fun and comfy, although we missed the outdoor space at the front of the ship that many river vessels have.
The bar is the main gathering place during the day and evening. During the day, canned music, ranging from Kenny G-style jazz to classical to light French pop, plays. During aperitif hour, the onboard musician plays a mixture of live and canned songs. At night, he switches to French and American dance songs; on our cruise, passengers did get up and boogie on most nights.
Small plates of pretzels and nuts are available. Cocktail service begins at 10 a.m., and bottles of red and white wine are placed in the "always available" coffee bar area, along with teas and still and sparkling water. The included drink menu has beer, port, martinis, Campari, whiskey, gin and vodka drinks; sparkling, white, rose and red wine; Pepsi and Pepsi Light, as well as iced tea, lemonade, sparkling water and fruit juice; and after-dinner digestifs such as cognac and brandy. Extra charge premium drinks include rum, scotch and bourbon; muscat, Cremant sparkling wine and Champagne; and Tokaji dessert wines, as well as Baileys, Armagnac and Grand Marnier. Prices range from 4 to 45 euro for the best Champagne.
Douce France Outside Recreation
Douce France has sun loungers on the top deck, although there were no cushions on our shoulder-season cruise. Part of the top deck is covered with chairs and tables. The French do smoke up here and they do so in higher quantities than other nationalities, so you might find yourself having to move if you can't abide smoke.
Douce France Services
Douce France has an atrium with a front desk, where the hotel manager sits. This is where you check in and out for excursions and free time off the ship, as well as gather for excursions. There's also a small shop offering trinkets that's open periodically during sailings.
There's no library or daily program, although the ship puts together a short news digest daily.
Wi-Fi is available for free throughout the ship. We found the signal to be pretty good, except when going through locks.