CroisiEurope's Van Gogh, which cruises from Lyon on the Rhone and Saone rivers, visits ports like Avignon and Arles, where passengers can visit some of the same spots the ship's artist namesake used to haunt.
Completely refurbished in 2018, the ship sports a new cabin reconfiguration, offering more space and lots of welcome innovative amenities. It accommodates 105 passengers, in 20 upper deck cabins and 34 main deck cabins, all of which are generously proportioned and offer full views of the river. The new decor throughout the ship is a big departure from its former bright, and perhaps slightly dated, color scheme. Now it features a sophisticated and chic taupe color palette with little pops of color. Artwork throughout pays homage to Van Gogh.
With such an intimate number of passengers, cruisers quickly get to know each other and friendships often spring up quickly. The general vibe is convivial and relaxed. Other than the daily excursions off the ship and a few activities offered onboard, there is not a lot to do other than relax and watch the world go by. This is probably not the cruise for anyone looking to be constantly entertained.
Thoughtful and attentive crew members go above and beyond to make sure everyone is happy, learning guests' names and drink and food preferences within a day or two. Other than a few specialty items, all alcohol is included, so passengers know that the all-inclusive rate is truly all-inclusive.
CroisiEurope is a French line, and the majority of the passengers are French. Onboard announcements are tailored to the nationalities of the passengers, however, and the front desk staff are all fluent in French, English, Spanish and German. On our cruise, we were the sole American onboard and the charming purser often called me out by my name during announcements.
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The meals are French too, with a fixed menu. Expect three-course meals at lunch and dinner, with a very French bent, such as duck confit with potatoes and carrots or rack of veal with shallots and tarragon. People with food allergies or special dietary needs can be accommodated, but you'll need to make your preferences known.
As one of Europe's biggest riverboat operators, CroisiEurope is well known throughout France, Germany, Spain, increasingly in the U.K. and, more recently, it is pushing to attract U.S. passengers. The nationality mix varies from sailing to sailing with French still the main base. That said, the line has been pairing up with more U.K. and U.S. tour operators and charter companies. In 2017, U.S. company Road Scholar had such a success with CroisiEurope, it has booked more charters for 2018.
Overall, most passengers are in their late 60s or early 70s and are quite active, participating not only on the daily excursions, but also happy to dance into the night.