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131 France River Cruise Reviews

My husband and I heard about AMA Waterways from an acquaintance. We booked our trip on the AMADagio .The trip was absolutely wonderful and the staff was outstanding. Our cruise director, Abel Ramos, was always there and always able to ... Read More
My husband and I heard about AMA Waterways from an acquaintance. We booked our trip on the AMADagio .The trip was absolutely wonderful and the staff was outstanding. Our cruise director, Abel Ramos, was always there and always able to answer any questions we had. AMA did a wonderful job of selecting the excursions we had and the guides were very knowledgeable in each of the areas we went to. We found our room to be very nice and fit our needs perfectly. We enjoyed the entertainment that they provided. The staff in the dining room was very pleasant and tried to accommodate any dietary needs that you wanted. As for the staff, I had a sleep machine with me and the young lady taking care of our room knew to bring in distilled water. We can't wait to go on another trip with AMA!!!!! It was fantastic. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
My wife, her 3 sisters, and mother had been on 3 previous Viking River Cruises and loved them all. Despite being a Francophile and loving French cuisine and French music, I had never been to France. This was our honeymoon. When we landed ... Read More
My wife, her 3 sisters, and mother had been on 3 previous Viking River Cruises and loved them all. Despite being a Francophile and loving French cuisine and French music, I had never been to France. This was our honeymoon. When we landed at de Gaulle, we were met by a very courteous Viking representative who accompanied us to and with our transport to the ship. On the ship, we were quickly shown our cabin, which, to my surprise, was quite spacious. My wife had thought that I, being 6'2" would feel cramped. Quite the contrary, I thought the room was just what was needed for this cruise: comfortable with just the right amenities. The crew on the Viking Spirit were extremely friendly, helpful, and courteous. The food on board was wonderful and there was always something for every taste. I should give particular kudos to our Program Director, Sylvie, our concierge, Anna Maria, and our Matre d' (whose name, sadly, I cannot remember). Sylvie was just the right combination of expertise, humor, and deep love of her country, which helped everyone enjoy the cruise that much more. At the completion of the cruise, we extended our stay in Paris for three days, helped by Viking's representatives there. That stay, too, was wonderful. In all our time in France, the food was fabulous, the people were warm and friendly, and the whole experience left me wanting more, which we will have next July when we do the Portraits of Southern France Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
Having traveled with Viking before, our expectations were high. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. Part of the problem was that we did not do enough homework ahead of time. We chose the worst time of year ( due to work schedules) and did ... Read More
Having traveled with Viking before, our expectations were high. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. Part of the problem was that we did not do enough homework ahead of time. We chose the worst time of year ( due to work schedules) and did not realize how much of the cruise would be spent on a bus. Viking hides the fact that for many of the excursions you will have to ride a crowded, uncomfortable bus. There was no scenic views along the highways. We also spent much of the time waiting for the very slow walkers to catch up to the group. Viking does offer a "leisure" group for those passengers but most insisted on signing up for the regular groups ensuring that all of us would forgo the opportunity for free time. Toward the end of the trip, we gave up and just went on our own. This meant we missed out on a few attractions that we could only get into as part of the group tour. Another problem was the weather. We had several days of rain. The boat could not make it under some bridges, therefore we boarded in Lyon and sat docked in the industrial part of tow by an "American style mall" for 3 days. We were told this is a frequent problem. There was no suitable plan B. We were loaded on to busses every day and rode for hours to the town's we were scheduled to visit. There were some good things_ staff was friendly and pleasant, food was good, rooms were small but nice. Our previous trip with Viking was much better. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was our second Viking cruise. The first was the cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. It was wonderful. "Portraits of Southern France" was disappointing. We had also booked the extra three days in Paris Our hotel the Marriott ... Read More
This was our second Viking cruise. The first was the cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. It was wonderful. "Portraits of Southern France" was disappointing. We had also booked the extra three days in Paris Our hotel the Marriott Rive Gauche was fine, but it was in a remote area of Paris. Our guide gave us a very perfunctory tour of the hotel neighborhood on our first afternoon. He must have spent all of an hour with us. On our own, we arranged a Grey Line tour of Normandy and amused ourselves on the third day. Due to flood conditions, our embarkation point was changed from Chalon sur Saone Port to Lyon. This was an inconvenience over which Viking had no control. However, the trip from Paris to Lyon could have been handled better. We were subjected to a six hour coach ride on which our guide felt compelled to chatter incessantly. From Lyon through the remainder of the cruise all of our expectations were met. Great crew, wonderful food, accomodations and service. The guides were all very knowledgeable.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
FLEURY-SUR-OUCHE, France – The morning mist rises slowly from the canal as L’Impressionniste glides almost silently through the water. A grey heron watching for its breakfast fish takes off from the edge of the canal as the hotel barge ... Read More
FLEURY-SUR-OUCHE, France – The morning mist rises slowly from the canal as L’Impressionniste glides almost silently through the water. A grey heron watching for its breakfast fish takes off from the edge of the canal as the hotel barge approaches. Depending on your temperament (and how late you were up the night before), you might be still asleep, or looking out your cabin window, or sitting on deck with a morning cuppa, or riding a mountain bike along the towpath as the rising sun flickers through the trees along the shore. You and 10 or 11 others are getting to know a way of life here in France’s Burgundy region in perhaps the most relaxed way possible – that is unless you are powering along on that mountain bike before breakfast and after dinner every day to work off the three gourmet meals, featuring 18 different regional cheeses and 21 different fine French wines (plus an open bar) served during the week-long cruise. It’s such an amazing feeling to have this experience on so many levels: educational as you learn about the people of this area – their lifestyle, their history; self-indulgent as the crew of six anticipate practically your every need and want; scenic as you get up close and personal with the birds, fish and mating frogs (more on those later); above all, gastronomical as you feast on the specialties of the surrounding countryside. So come along on what for me has been a particularly memorable travel adventure, something for almost everybody’s bucket list – and remember to bring your appetite. Our adventure starts in Paris, where the 11 of us meet for the three-hour drive south to le canal Bourgogne (the Burgundy Canal). Lively laughter soon dispels any concerns about whether we’ll get along: six women who are either related or good friends plus two couples, all from the U.S., and I. The cruise begins at the tiny village of Escommes, the high point of the canal 378 metres/1,250 feet above sea level. And there she is, tied up at the side of a pond, the lady herself: our home for the next six nights. She’s a 38 metres (126 feet) by five metres (16.5 feet) hotel barge with six cabins, all with ensuite bathrooms, and a crew of six to look after the maximum 12 passengers. There’s a Jacuzzi up front, open and covered deck areas for sitting outside or doing yoga, and a dining room inside. Also on deck are the mountain bikes. Dinner the first night sets the bar high: After a champagne reception with nibbles and then cocktails, we dine on asparagus with quail’s eggs and homemade mayonnaise; duck with puy lentils (the green variety from this area), cherry and cassis sauce; two cheeses – Langres, Morbier; mousse au chocolat. How impressive to see all of this is prepared by chef Josh in a tiny galley with only two burners and a home-size oven. The 33 glasses on the table are never empty: bottled still or sparkling water, Condieu white wine and a 2002 Moulin a Vent red. Plus three or four varieties of bread with that amazing salted French butter. And tea/coffee. After dinner I really do need to jump on one of those bikes to burn off at least a little of all that food and wine. I ride around the lake as the sun goes down, past locals who sit in folding chairs with fishing rods angled out over the water, past a lone white swan and some ducks, past a horse grazing in a field. Together with the evening bird sounds and sweet grass fragrance, they all combine to create such a tranquil and relaxed feeling that after my ride sleep comes quickly. I’m up early the next morning for another spin – this time on the towpath which runs along the canal, to check out the first of 42 locks we’ll be navigating. I venture off the towpath toward a local village – but beat a hasty retreat when I run into a McDonald’s under construction. I pick some mock orange blossoms and long grass for the breakfast table and return to the barge just in time to accompany Captain Rudy on the first of his daily forays to a local bakery to collect a variety of baguettes, croissants, brioche and sweet rolls. Add cereals, fresh fruit, any kind of cooked breakfast – and several others decide to step ashore at the next lock to walk along the towpath, quickly getting far ahead of our barge which rarely reaches 4kph (2.5mph) and frequently stops at yet another lock to be lowered to the canal’s next level down. The canal even crosses a bridge over a river. After a “light” lunch on board (chicken, ham terrine, a quinoa-like salad, broccoli, green salad, beetroot salad, cheeses, wines) we head off to visit the Chateau de Bussy-Rabutin, with all its portraits including those of various historic notables’ mistresses. We wander through the rose garden, and follow the twisting path of a labyrinth created from shoulder-high bushes. This evening I am impressed by the 1999 Louis Jadot Les Bertins Pommard Premier Cru Cote de Beaune Burgundy we are served – costing at least $100 a bottle in a store, perhaps $200 in a restaurant. Of course, here on L’Impressionniste you can have as many refills as you want. I definitely need another bike ride after this dinner, feeling the warm and cool air spots as the late summer dusk approaches around 10pm. Day Three and the locks come every few hundred metres/yards on this stretch of the canal. Almost all are manual, some operated by the people who live in the lock houses, others by attendants who control several locks, riding from one to the next on a bike or scooter. This afternoon we visit Beaune, with its famous Hotel-Dieu – founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin who had been a bad boy and wanted to redeem himself by providing a hostel-hospital for the indigent. (Impressively it stayed open until 1971.) Then back we go to the world of wine, for which the Burgundy area is so famous, with a visit to the Bouchard Pere et Fils cellars. Some 2.5 million bottles are stored here at a constant 13 degrees, including 2,000 bottles from the 19th century – the oldest: six whites bottled in 1846. “We use these very old wines for research purposes,” says Laura Muller, our guide. That evening we are serenaded by very vocal frogs apparently having a marvellous mating session – sounding out both high and low notes. I go ashore for a walk, record the “music” on my iPhone and spot a green frog sitting on a leaf at the water’s edge. The days pass with more visits to local landmarks, more peaceful times on deck, more walks and bike rides, more food and wine. “You know you have been drinking a lot of fancy wine when you start swirling your glass of water,” says fellow barger Joe, adding: “You also know you are on a luxury trip when you wash off fruit with a bottle of Evian water!” Indeed, there are the special touches: A Lindt chocolate on your pillow after turndown service before bed, a designer Kleenex box, l’Occitane amenities in your bathroom. And caring guest support: “Let me wheel the bike off the barge for you – the gangplank is a bit slippery,” says deckhand Mark. We start our final day with a visit to the food market in Dijon, where Captain Rudy and tour guide Brendan buy the groceries for the upcoming week. “Let’s all meet at 11am – we have a special surprise,” says Rudy. It turns out to be…more food and wine, this time sitting outside a local café-bar: oysters, smoked salmon, prawns, sea snails, bread, cheese, cherry tomatoes, ham-veg in aspic, Aligote wine. Back on the barge and we – our stomachs – are relieved to hear lunch has been delayed until 2pm. Which means the Captain’s Farewell Dinner (five courses including three cheeses) has also been put back, and runs until midnight. We drive to Paris the following morning, already missing the unique experiences and feelings of a hotel barge canal cruise in the French countryside but grateful for the good weather (generally only one week in five has sunshine every day). On this last day, our group exchanges email addresses and for months to come will share with each other our memories of everything we enjoyed on this luxury escape.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We booked our trip with Vantage 8 months in advance. We were traveling with 2 other couples and we were told there were only 3 cabins available for the cruise we wanted to take which would be close to D-Day. On the ship, we heard similar ... Read More
We booked our trip with Vantage 8 months in advance. We were traveling with 2 other couples and we were told there were only 3 cabins available for the cruise we wanted to take which would be close to D-Day. On the ship, we heard similar stories from other travelers. Vantage keeps their prices low because they don't use travel agents - you book directly with them. Their customer service has improved since 2009 when we traveled to China with them. You no longer have to wait on hold for hours to speak to a customer service representative. We booked the Paris extension and were put up at the Hotel Meridien Etoile. Our plane arrived at 7:30am from the U.S. and we were in our rooms by 11:30am. The hotel is located across the street from the Metro -great for getting around Paris. Headed out to lunch then on to Montmarte, Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees, Arc de' Triomphe , shopping at Louis Vuitton (bring your passport if you want a VAT refund). The second day in Paris we booked a dinner cruise (through Vantage cruise director at the hotel) on the River Seine which I highly recommend! See the City of Lights at its finest and see the flickering lights at the Eiffel Tower at 10 while it's sparkling in all it's glory. Sumptuous buffet at hotel with bags out at 7:30am to be transported to River Venture. On the Museum D'Orsay to see exhibits while staff on River Venture is saying goodbye to last cruisers and getting ready for the next one. Arrived on boat at 12:30pm. Cabins were surprisingly spacious Magnifying mirror (3x) in bathroom, I home radio which will charge early model iPhones and iPads. Large screen tv. Large shower for river boat and strong water pressure. Good wifi, Le Occitane products, sewing kits - everything you could possibly need. Dinner was shrimp cocktail, cream of broccoli soup, choice of chicken, halibut - mousse ice cream or cheese plate for dessert. Always a vegetarian choice too. Day 2 - Vernon - everyone is assigned a bus, yellow, blue or green that you board throughout your trip. Depart at 9:15am for Giverny for a guided visit to Monet's house and gardens. Guide was an ex-pat, Lexi, who was most entertaining. Gardens and house were breathtaking, as well as ponds and lily pads. Lunch on boat at 12:15 then at 2pm depart for a home hosted visit. Very informative and fun to see how the French live. She served apple tart and hard cider - and some of her husband's private liquor stash. . . way better than the cider. Upon our return we were supposed to have a walking tour of Vernon but it was cancelled. Another fabulous dinner - sirloin or river trout, tiramisu, always ice cream or cheese plate. Day 3 French lesson for 1/2 hour followed by a lecture on Impressionism. Lunch then a walking tour of Rouen. Lots of stores closed in town because it's Ascension Thursday and most French take a 4-day holiday. Saw where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake and a few French churches. Two hour walking tour, then back to boat for Captains Gala Dinner. Free Drinks during cocktail hour. Dinner was Chateaubriand, followed by Benedictine and an impressive Creme Brûlée. Nice Gypsy Jazz Ensemble in the lounge following dinner. Day 4 Arrived in Caudebec-en-Caux about 8am, departed at 9am for two Abbeys, one was a ruin and the other is still inhabited. Optional tour to Alabaster CoastOne and a half hour bus ride there. Those who opted not to go were given cash by our guide, Ken, to buy cheese and wine for an impromptu party on the top deck. Lots of bakeries, little cafes and cute shops. Supposed to have a pub crawl, but were told there are no pubs to visit. Day 5 LeHavre/Honfleur Vantage claims to be one of the few ships to be able to dock in Honfleur, but the truth of the matter is they have never docked in Honfleur. Dock in LeHavre- 1/2 hour from Honfleur - quaint town with lots of ships, amazing architecture, gigantic farmers market going on - so much to do. We opted not to return to the ship at noon but to stay for lunch in town till 2pm - hundreds of restaurants overlooking the harbor. Returned to ship for an informative lecture on D-Day to prepare us for the Normandy beaches tomorrow. International night for dinner and movie "The Longest Day" complete with popcorn. Day 6 Normandy Beaches Depart at 8:45am for a 2 hour bus ride (wouldn't have been as long if we had docked in Honfluer). Most touching to see the vast sea of crosses of American soldiers who lost their lives in an effort to keep democracy alive. Vantage arranged for a ceremony honoring the people in our group who served in the military. Not a dry eye in the place. Had lunch in a restaurant where they could feed all of us in less than an hour, red and white wine, poached white fish, carrots and rice with a cream sauce and apple tart for dessert. On to Pointe du Hoc where you could see the impact of the bombs, lots of bunkers bringing the war to life. Finished the day at a museum at Arromanches. Lots of French re-enactors in American jeeps and uniforms. Good place for D-Day souvenirs. Guide passed out Madelines (sponge cakes, like twinkles without the cream) for the two hour bus ride back to River Venture. Dinner at 8pm. Day 7 Two hour bus ride to Bayeux to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame and toured Bayeux Tapestry museum. The tapestry is a woven cloth which tells the story of William 11. Local guide gave us each 15 euros for lunch on our own, then back to ship. Day 8 - Les Andelys 9:30am Apple Tart demonstration by chef. Docked in Les Andelys, a picturesque little town, followed by a walking tour to Chateau Gaillard, a medieval castle, overlooking the town - or you could opt for a gentle walk of the town. Galley tour at 4pm and bus departs at 6pm for LaGrange DeBourgoult, a private reception country estate where we were to have dinner. En route we stopped on a high hill with breathtaking views of the town and a tasting of Calvados. Nice touch Vantage!!! Views of the farm were incredible, we were greeted by the Normandy Folk Dancers who performed complete with accordion and fiddle. Food not great, but I think it gave the staff on the ship a little respite. Day 9 Versailles Lunch at 11:15am due to early departure - bus to Versailles at 12:30pm. Versailles was so crowded, difficult to see much due to massive numbers of people. Made aware of pickpockets and scammers. Returned to Conflans for Captains Farewell Reception - free drinks in the cocktail lounge. Day 10 Coach tour of Paris, including Notre Dame (4th or 5th Notre Dame we visited). Louvre tour not as crowded as Versailles. Mona Lisa was waiting for us. Great guide - only 6 people to a guide which made it very enjoyable. Day 11 Full breakfast starting at 5am. Luggage out of our room by 5:30. Everyone out of their rooms by 9am so they can get ready for the next group who will be boarding at noon. Great trip by Vantage - Staff couldn't have been nicer and Vantage personnel (guides) did everything to make our experience memorable. Wouldn't hesitate to recommend this trip to everyone!!!!   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
We are experienced cruisers but this is only our 2nd River cruise. The new SS Catherine is beautiful...a little over the top in decor but the quality is staggering! Murano glass everywhere, original artwork, embroidered wallpaper and ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers but this is only our 2nd River cruise. The new SS Catherine is beautiful...a little over the top in decor but the quality is staggering! Murano glass everywhere, original artwork, embroidered wallpaper and draperies, comfortable beds with great linens. Sumptuous. Every member of the staff was professional and approachable and very helpful. Laurentia, the sommelier, was a standout. Our wine and food organization nearly took over the boat and Laurentia was just exceptional with her depth of knowledge, professional service and kindness to a group of very demanding winos! The kitchen also needs to be commended as they produced fabulous food all the time. Breakfast and lunch buffets had a wide variety of foods that were often replenished and always delicious. Our dinners had been pre-planned to go with our own organizations' wines but a vegetarian menu was always offered and several standard dishes, like a steak, could be substituted. The service was impeccable and the food beyond compare with any other cruise line. (Even Oceania and Seabourne) The rooms seemed a bit cramped at first but there is really a lot of storage and once we had fully unpacked (we are on a month long European vacation and had a lot of luggage) there was room to spare. The bathrooms are spacious for a ship and well appointed. We only did a few of the included excursions but 2 of 3 were exceptional, Avignon with Marie and Arles with Frances, the other was forgettable because of the guide. It was wonderful to just spend time on the boat. Wish we were on a longer cruise and would definitely sail on the Catherine again. The only real problem was that the dining room seemed to have really hot zones but the crew responded quickly and brought on extra air conditioners to help solve that problem. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
This is our second river cruise and I think we are hooked. This was an excellent cruise: great boat, great excursions, and good food. Only the disembarkation marred the trip. Pickup at the Airport We had Vantage provide the air fare and ... Read More
This is our second river cruise and I think we are hooked. This was an excellent cruise: great boat, great excursions, and good food. Only the disembarkation marred the trip. Pickup at the Airport We had Vantage provide the air fare and they picked us up at the airport. Had to wait for an hour which was a bit of a bummer. Got to the ship, grabbed lunch, and then walked about our docking area. It was in the Citroen area, about a mile from the Effiel Tower, and a half mile from a Metro station. It's a commercial area with ship docks and a cement factory. Seems pretty safe and with Metro access, you can get anywhere in Paris. The Boat New in 2013, the River Venture spent its first year in German rivers to be close to component manufacturers - a shake down year. Now, it's pretty much running back and forth on the Seine. This is a very good example of what a small footprint boat can be. The rooms are relatively spacious, tastefully done in wood and high quality fabrics, enormous amount of storage, a shower you can fit in, comfortable bed, two 110v outlets, and storage under the bed for your luggage. Great A/C with excellent adjustments. Hair dryer. No irons on boats. In-room safe, but instructions are incorrect. TV had a bunch of movies and international channels, many in English. A note about the 110V outlets: the one in the bathroom won't run a curling iron and it won't fit a night light; the one on the desk is also shaped funny and wouldn't fit a night light. I always carry a small extension cord and this proved helpful for our electronics. Did I mention that they have high-quality WIFI? Nice! Rooms are on the 200, 300, and 400 levels. 400 level also has suites. There is a central area in the boat on the 300 level with the concierge/tour director and main desk. Forward of this is the dining room - above it and forward is the bar/meeting room. On the 400 level on the aft of the boat is the Captains Club, a small dining area (and outside deck) serving limited menus for lunch and dinner. With its outside seating, sunroofs, and some grilled items, it was very popular. On the 200 level is a small fitness room and beauty parlor. The fitness room has a bike, e-trainer, and treadmill, all good quality. Because of the low ceiling, your head will hit the ceiling on the e-trainer if you are over 6 feet tall. A large TV is provided as is a single yoga mat for stretching (thanks Vantage!). Five of us used this room. We had room #301 and we liked the position - right next to the center of action and atrium, but it was not noisy. The Staff Ninety percent of the staff on the shakedown came on along to France - they work well together. The officers and staff are not Vantage, they are contracted as are the tour director and theieceirge. The Captain is not comfortable with English, but if you catch him alone (as we did at breakfast, at his invitation) he is quite personable. The hotel manager has the gift of gab and is the face of the ship. He calls his crew the "beehive" and indeed, they are. Most important to your trip are the tour director and concierge. We had Eva and Virginia respectively. They were both excellent. Their arrangements and interface with us were terrific. Great excursion details the night before and great handouts. The folks that manned the front desk were fine. Vantage has an annoying procedure that you turn in your room card for a paper card when you leave the ship. This is time consuming - other boats have an electonic check out. The front desk will convert your dollars into Euros and also make change - helpful for getting tip money for the guides and drivers. The wait staff in the restaurants were friendly, efficient, and willing to help you out with special needs. The Passengers Almost 100% American with the exception of one or two Canadian couples. Just about everyone was in their 60s-80s and as friendly as can be. We had one family of four generations that included kids. That was Stan Newman's family, a WWII fighter pilot who always wanted to go the Normandy beaches and his family joined him. Google Stan to read about his career. We also had a group of 40 from New Jersey, lots of fun. Many passengers did pre-voyage trips and after voyage trips, sponsored by Vantage. Some did back to back river trips. The Food and Beverages The food was good, not great. We were disappointed that we did not have more French food. Portion sizes were small, which was good because you are getting upwards of four courses each meal. Breakfast was your standard cruise fare with buffet eggs, meats, cereals, fruit, baked goods, juices and yogurts. The omelette station was excellent. Lunch featured another buffet or you could order specials off the menu. Specials were not always up to their standards. Burgers were only fair. All their soups were terrific. You could also have lunch in the Captain's Club. You pay for alcohol at lunch. Dinners were always at 7pm, open seating. Travelling by ourselves, we made a lot of new friends by sitting at different tables. Each night featured new appetizers and three entrees, meat, fish, and veggie. Usually choice of two deserts. Could also order a standard dinner of salmon, steak, or veggie, and standard appetizers and deserts. Beer and wine are complimentary. The beer was German and good. The wines changed every night. If you didn't like it, you had other free options. Nice. Our favorite meals were: lobster, lamb shank, fettucini cabonara, and eggs benedict. Unlike other cruise lines, you are free to bring alcohol on board the River Venture. And there is an ice machine to cool your beverages. Sailing The Seine OK, I did not expect the beauty of the Seine - big hills with chalk-faced cliffs, surrounded by stunning farmland and picture perfect towns. By all means, try to spend some time on top or on the forward area or on the aft deck. Because of the time zone, it stayed light very late. Intriguing also were transversing the locks, going through commercial areas, and docking at the huge port in La Harve. Kudos to the French who take meticulous care of their homes, business, and commercial plants. The Itinerary and Excursions Cannot ask for a better itinerary of French towns and Normandy WWII beaches - that's why we chose this tour and we were not disappointed. Most excursions were via large, comfortable buses - three buses for our boat, each with its own guide. Eva got everything organized and hopped between buses to see that everything went smoothly. Vernon Our boat was parked right near the center city. Guided tour of Monet's house in Giverney and gardens, including the famous lily ponds. A great tour, if a bit rushed and crowded. A superb gift shop. Look for the seed packages. Some folks signed up for having a bite with a French family and had a great time in the PM. We decided to walk around Vernon and found a cherry festival. It was fun. Rouen It was Sunday and we got up early and went to the 8am Mass at the cathedral. If you are Catholic, you MUST go to a Mass in one of the European cathedrals. (They are all name Notre Dame in France of course). After lunch, we had a guided tour of Rouen. Fabulous old houses, some crowding over the streets. Back to the cathedral for more commentary. Tomb of Richard the Lionhearted (at least part of his body - did you know he was really French). Nice chapel dedicated to Saint Teresa of the Little Flower (my grade school). In contrast to the cathedral, we visited a modern church in the shape of a ship. There, the tour ended and we stopped at the La Terresa brassarie for a drink. Caudebec-en-Caux We visited two Benedictine Abbeys. The first had ruins and a timber newer (and operational) church. The second was just ruins - but it was stunning. Our guide was Olivier, who was excellent. He brought to life the history and dynamics of these ruins. We had an excellent time. That night was formal night with a special dinner. Nice. La Harve and the Beaches of Normandy We were supposed to dock at Honfluer (a nice tourist town) but docked at La Harve instead. We were told that it was because of French bureaucracy. Hmmm.... that put us in an industrial setting 30 minutes farther from our excursions the next two days. (And here I would say, any cruise/boat trip can have issues, so just deal with most of them). An expected bonus was that the Russian cadet training four-master docked near us and we could tour it. We did get some time in Honfluer and it was a nice tourist town. We found the merchandise to be pricey. The restaurants were nice and there was a lot of them. We noticed that no river cruise boats were docked there. Our first day was huge - a two hour trip to the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach. Our guide was Alex (a Brit living on the coast) and he was five stars. I am a fan of WWII history and well read - he told me things I had never heard of before. If you have not been to the Normandy beaches, please go and celebrate those brave men. The cemeteries will make you cry. We had a ceremony where Stan placed a wreath at the cementary and all vetrans joined him. Wow. We walked around the cemetery, then headed to Omaha beach. Strangely silent, it's hard to imagine the death and destruction on 6/6/44. We then headed down the coast for an average lunch (hard to feed 120 folks great food, but they did have lots of wine). Then, off to Pointe du Hoc, where the Rangers assaulted German guns atop 100 ft cliffs. This is one of the few places where gun emplacements are still left. The French removed most of them as they were a blight on their country. Then, we stopped at Arromanches, where the Brits (God bless them) created one of the Mulberry harbors. Still some remnants. We went to the museum which had a Brit film, not that good, skip that and look at the good exhibits. Check out the History Channel for something better. Note: the shops around this area are way overpriced. If you must have a D-Day hat or T-shirt, buy it here. Otherwise, wait until Les Angeles for trinkets. What a day! We passed a countless number of monuments and museums. I would like to go back for a week! If you take this trip, your enjoyment will be enhanced by reading one of the great books on D-Day. My favorite is the one by Steven Ambrose. Read this and you will recognise a lot of the small towns that were involved in D-Day and the battles after that day. Also try the books by Beevor and Ryan. If not, just rent "The Longest Day" based on Ryan's book. Our boat showed the movie topside the night before. Know your history folks... Day Two from La Harve Another long drive, this time to Bayeux. Toured the cathedral and then lunch on our own. Found a wonderful restaurant with pate. Yum. Walked up to the British cemetery and then toured the Bayeux Tapestry. Had lunch at La Petit Normandy (great pate!). If I had to do this day again, I would have skipped Bayeux and toured some more WWII monuments and museums. Some folks took a side trip to Mount St. Michelle, but it was a long trip. One of the days in La Harve gave us an opportunity to walk around. Some of the old dock warehouses were turned into a modern shopping mall with clothing stores, shoes stores, a huge grocery store with wine and beer, and a garden center. This gave us a taste of French life outside of the old cities we visited. Les Andeles OK, I am hooked. This is my favorite French town. It's small, beautiful, and friendly. I'll go back. We had a walking tour way up to Chateau Gaillard, built by Richard the Lion Hearted. It's not a bad hike, 20 minutes, but some of our old folks had some minor problems. They also offered an easy walk just in town. The castle and its history were excellent. Once again, Eva paid for all our admittance. An easy walk down and then we were on our own. We stopped at a patisserie to smell the bread and buy a morsel. Yum! When you leave the main dock, walk towards the town and make a left at the main street. There are a couple of nice shops with quality merchandise and good prices. Also, a nice brassarie to have a capacino or beer (Le Cafe du Petit Andeley). Try a beer you have never heard of - you will be rewarded. That evening, we left our boat (it moved down to Vernon) and we bussed to a large farm where we had dinner in a barn with folk dancing. Um, not my cup of tea. Food was mediocre and two hours of the same song sung different ways was painful. Better off to buy your dinner in Les Andeles and stay on the boat. One positive part of this side trip was that we drove up to the castle so those that did not walk up could see it. On the way we passed a 1959 Buick convertible and a shop specializing in older American cars. Go figure.... Conflans This is near Paris where the Seine and the Oise rivers meet. A blue collar town with boat crews. They were having a festival of the boats and they paraded the boats and had lots of land stuff to do. Lots of fun to walk around and see how the French enjoy themselves. Paris Back to the same docking as when we first joined the boat. We have been there before and seen the major sites. We went to the Metro, got a one-day pass (about 6 Euros), visited three museums, and found a restaurant we visited 14 years ago. A great day. By all means, be adventuresome and take the Metro - it's cheap and easy to use - lots of walking however. Our concierge had great maps and advice. For a great time, try the Arts and Meiters Museum. On Board Lectures etc - French lesson - Lecture on impressionism - Lecture on D-Day - Showing of the movie "The Longest Day" - Nice tour of the kitchen by the head chef - Virginia has lots of good handouts and maps at every stop Entertainment - nice piano guy in the bar all the time - other guest musicians brought in, including a woman who sounded just like Edith Piat - skits by the staff which were pretty good Disembarkation This did not turn out well. We departed on Monday and the French rail strike was already two days old. Folks that normally taking the train to the airport drove. Our bus should have taken 50 minutes but it took three hours. Traffic was gridlocked everywhere. We missed our flight. I fault Vantage for this. They were well aware of the strike and were actively working to schedule bus trips for those who were scheduled on rail to other destinations. They should have scheduled the airport trips earlier. To Vantage's credit, they had a rep at the airport who booked us into a hotel near the airport, paid for that, and paid for the E200 extra fee for missing the flight. One poor chap was separated from the Vantage rep and ended up paying full fare to get home. Don't know if he was reimbursed. This incident was preventable and has soured me somewhat on Vantage.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
This was our 4 trip with Viking--all except this one have been absolutely terrific!! We were on the Spirit and then moved to the Hermod. First thing we noticed was how bright and upscale the reception area was, very impressive. Next thing ... Read More
This was our 4 trip with Viking--all except this one have been absolutely terrific!! We were on the Spirit and then moved to the Hermod. First thing we noticed was how bright and upscale the reception area was, very impressive. Next thing was how tight our room was compared to the Spirit. Shelf/drawer space was less and the shower was tight due to being tile/glass doors, therefore easy to hit with elbows. The other big thing we noticed was that the staff just hasn't seemed to "gel" together yet. There was not the warmth nor helpfulness shown as on the other 3 ships we've been on. Another disappointment was that nearly all menu items were a repeat of the first week on the Spirit. Other than that food issue, the breakfasts and lunches were fine for variety. There were frequent times when it was difficult to flag down a waiter just to be served water. As per usual for Viking the included excursions were all good, with good to outstanding guides. Disembarkation was a disaster for our group of 4. It was 0400 and very dark, with no crew from the Viking to light the way plus the sprinkler system along the sidewalk to the bus turned on showering us. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
My husband and I recently sailed on the Ama Legro of Ama Waterways on the Seine from Paris and experienced the trip of a lifetime. We have traveled in many different iterations of vacations but this trip was extraordinary as a result of ... Read More
My husband and I recently sailed on the Ama Legro of Ama Waterways on the Seine from Paris and experienced the trip of a lifetime. We have traveled in many different iterations of vacations but this trip was extraordinary as a result of the Ama Legro crew (family).This was our first river cruise and my first trip to Europe. We had an extremely positive experience from the booking process thru airline and shuttle services and then the unbelievable cruise week that will forever be our most memorable trip. Every morning on the boat, we were given the details of our day tours and specific suggestions on the level of physical activity required and the choice of a "Gentle Tour" or the standard walking tour experience. The tours were guided by extremely knowledgable staff. The tours we chose were so informative and interesting and the sights were made even more special thanks to the design and implementation of the tour. The ports chosen for the tours were everything I ever imagined for a true flavor of France. It is difficult to pick a favorite spot - but one unforgettable sight was the Cathedral in Rouen and the evening light show - it is a Must See! You can get a glimpse of it on YouTube - but one must make a point to see it live! The tour of the D Day beaches was especially moving. The day of all of the WWII sights was done with such respect and reverence for the experience, Our cabin was just perfect in size and it was spotlessly cleaned every day by wonderful cabin stewards and stewardesses. We had air conditioning that worked perfectly and the opportunity to open our French Balcony door really allowed us to be en pleine aire! The food was as of a 5 star restaurant and it was such a pleasure to be able to meet the Chef and his staff and thank them in person for their culinary skill. The soups are like none I have ever had and they were exceptional. The dining room service was the best I have ever experienced! The wait staff presents with such joy and attention during every meal. The bartender and lounge staff were also top notch. They were attentive, remembered favorite foods and drinks and never lacked for conversation or service. The entertainment was also a plus. I felt as tho we were enjoying the best artists in the region. We traveled thru locks - a first for my husband and myself. It was a wonderful learning experience and the Captain and Crew were very informative and happy to accommodate questions. The entire ship was spotless, well furnished and provided many different areas for relaxing and viewing. As a plus, we had wonderful weather that just added to the joy of the entire experience. I must admit, Peter our Cruise Manager was one of my favorites! His sense of humor and sparkling demeanor truly added to the ambience of the boat! (He really should have his own standup comedy show!) We also enjoyed being on a cruise with only 125 or so other guests. We not only got to know crew, but had wonderful opportunities to meet and spend quality time with many of our shipmates. We had extra days in Paris following our cruise and the 5 star service continued there as well thanks to Peter. We stayed at the Pullman Montparnasse and were very pleased with the choice and the choices for tours. You will not be disappointed in your choice of Ama Waterways as a provider of unparalleled service and true excellence in a vacation option. I only hope that some day we can enjoy the excellence of this company on another river cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
We were on the River Baroness as the first part of the Uniworld Grand France Itinerary, going from Paris to Normandy 15-22 June on the Seine. The second part of the trip was on the SS Catherine, going from Lyon to Marseille via a high ... Read More
We were on the River Baroness as the first part of the Uniworld Grand France Itinerary, going from Paris to Normandy 15-22 June on the Seine. The second part of the trip was on the SS Catherine, going from Lyon to Marseille via a high speed train from Paris to the Rhone and Saone. The River Baroness was remodeled in 2011 and is 361 feet long. In comparison, the Catherine began cruising about March of 2014 and is an additional 82 feet long. This review will just concern the River Baroness. The ship itself appeared very homey, with every crew member being very friendly and welcoming. It is almost like they are a family on the river. On numerous occasions, we watched waitstaff jump in to assist others in clearing tables. Two individuals stood out in warmth and friendliness, Georgina the Hotel Manager, and Oana our waitress. We would always have conversations with Georgina around the ship, and Oana knew our like and dislikes in the restaurant after the second day. When we came into the Van Gogh restaurant after a day of sightseeing, she would always make us laugh. The cruise to Normandy was made by the excellent Cruise Director, Piet. Timely arrangements of transportation, and very proficient guides were the rule. He always had a "this is what is going to happen tomorrow" meeting before dinner. Piet made the passengers aware of a nighttime light show at the Rouen cathedral, showing about 25 folks the way. Piet even had a group he designated "Gentle Walkers", for those who had trouble climbing steps and walking a lot. Turns out this group usually had guide ratios of 1 to 4 or 6, contrasting with 1 to 25 or so with the regular groups. There were some passengers who asked if we paid more for this! One guide, Olivier, stood out as quite knowledgeable on the Normandy landings. We also had adequate time to shop when available. I had wanted to go to Giverney for many years, so it was a thrill to be standing at the side of the water lily pond that Monet had painted, as well as walking in his garden and home. Finally, I also did the optional Versaille tour for 55 Euros. Although we saw a small percentage of the palace, it was easy to see and appreciate the sheer opulence. We especially liked the top deck glass-enclosed area, and its nicely decorated shaded areas, with plants and such. The deck chairs have nice padded cushions. A negative factor was the Monet Lounge which most often, was hot and stuffy. The one time it was comfortable was when the front window was was open, something you could not do if it was really hot out. Small ships are a problem when large noisy people congregate in groups, or talk over the guide, which was what happened on the Baroness, and to a lesser extent on the Catherine. Although Piet could not do anything in the dining room, he did try to have that particular group together, with its own guide and bus. I left my smartphone in the lounge towards the end of the week, but when I went back about 10 minutes later, it was gone. I do not believe the crew had anything to do with it. One thing I really liked with both ships was the availability of free wi-fi. That enabled us to stay connected with home quite easily, and since I avidly use Facebook, I was posting picture every day. Since we were cruising on the Seine, in every city, there were great bike paths, so several times, I checked out a bike when we are in docked, and enjoyed that immensely. On the whole, the Baroness was very enjoyable, with the staff being excellent. I would positively recommend that riverboat in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
The Grand France cruise is actually made up of 2 separate cruises, therefore 2 ships, 2 crews , just 25 of us did the whole cruise so we had almost a whole new ship of passengers , so you get to meet a lot of people on this cruise, but ... Read More
The Grand France cruise is actually made up of 2 separate cruises, therefore 2 ships, 2 crews , just 25 of us did the whole cruise so we had almost a whole new ship of passengers , so you get to meet a lot of people on this cruise, but only the 1 CD which is great, our CD was Jerome he was with us the whole time, he did a great job and we were very happy with him, he was approachable and very well organized. Avalon crew were all fantastic, we found the food and wines very good, the onboard demonstrations were very good too, we had cheese, local foods and wine tastings, a pastry demonstration with tastings, this was a Jazz cruise on the southern part and we had some very good entertainers come on board. We were on the Scenery from Cote D’Azur to Paris, then the Creativity from Paris to Rouen then back to Paris, These are the 2 oldest ships in Avalon’s fleet, being built in 2008 and 2009, but both ships are very well maintained, layout is very functional and the crew on both were fantastic. In 2015 there will be 2 new ships on the French rivers, I believe they are on the Rhine this season in preparation. We flew to Nice 8 days prior to our Avalon Grand France cruise, we had a night in Nice and a week further along the French Riviera close to Italy at Menton, absolutely beautiful, we’d go back there in a heart beat. Our Avalon cruise started with a night in Monte Carlo at the Fairmont, a large hotel right beside the Monte Carlo Casino, while the hotel is nice I thought it was very impersonal, we were only there overnight and then breakfast as we went on the optional evening tour which included a sightseeing tour by coach of Monaco, a walk around the area of the Prince’s Palace, into St Nicholas Cathedral, the resting place of Princess Grace and Prince Ranier, then dinner at Vista Palace Hotel, perched on a hill high over Monaco, dinner was nice, 3 course with wines, but the views were sensational, ladies you need to check out the view from the toilets as well! The tour was around 100 euros each, but we hadn’t planned on doing anything else that night and eating out in Monaco is very expensive anyway, so we thought it was a nice way to start our Avalon experience. (We had already been to Monaco for a day during the previous week, so we’d seen many of the attractions, but it was nice seeing the Palace area of a night when its so much quieter than of a day) There were quite a few optional tours available on the 1st cruise, but the only ones we took apart from the evening one in Monaco, was the trip to Pont Du Gard and Uzes, Pont du Gard was on my bucket list so this was one tour that we were definitely doing, it was absolutely breathtaking, its just amazing to think it was built over 2000 years ago and its still in such remarkable condition. We were there early so there weren’t a lot of tourists around at all, we stopped at Uzes on the way back, a charming city, after a short city walk we had plenty of free time to look around the many shops or have a coffee, the inside of the food shops around the fountain are well worth a look, I took loads of photos inside them, staff were great, we were given samples to try as well. On the 2nd cruise we took the Lights of Paris tour and then the next night the one to the Moulin Rouge , although it get so crowded in the theatre, its amazing how many people the squeeze in there, it was still a very entertaining and fun night, the meal was set (with an optional for the main course if I remember correctly) although we didn’t think it was up to the quality we had been experiencing with Avalon on the ship, it was still quite good and we had about 4 bottles of wine included for 6 of us at our table, but we were mainly there for the show which was fantastic, it didn’t disappoint at all. We didn’t do the included Normandy Beaches excursion, but opted for the Taste of Normandy option, we visited the magnificent Bayeux Tapestry, had a 4 course local meal with cider in a lovely little town, went to a Calvados tasting which included a slice each of the best apple pie I’d ever tasted and we travelled through some beautiful countryside as well, a very relaxing day. We were onboard for both Canada Day and American Independence Day, we thought it was a great touch to have the dining room decorated of an evening honoring both these countries with celebrations including birthday cake. I know the passengers from both of these countries appreciated it too. We actually got to celebrate another national day , as we arrived in back in Paris on the ship for Bastille Day, so got to see the flyovers during the day, plus the fireworks on the Eiffel Tower from the ship, we went to Moulin Rouge that night but were back in time for the last 15 minutes of the display, a lovely end to a lovely night and a lovely cruise as this was our last night onboard. Overall we saw some amazing things, visited beautiful towns, saw some magnificent scenery, met some fantastic people, had wonderful food and wines and treated so well by a great crew and CD, it was a very memorable experience and we thank Avalon for their professionalism. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
This was our first river cruise in France, and perhaps our last, for reasons below. The ship is well run, with a mix of Germans, Brits and Norwegians. Language was not a problem, but for English announcements were always a follow-up to ... Read More
This was our first river cruise in France, and perhaps our last, for reasons below. The ship is well run, with a mix of Germans, Brits and Norwegians. Language was not a problem, but for English announcements were always a follow-up to German, still what do you expect on a German ship. Meals were a big disappointment, the brochure described the food as European. In France I thought they would make the effort to include French style meals, no such luck. Beautiful soft French cheeses were on board, but not served at Dinner, except 2 instances. Fine if you like it for breakfast. The wine selection was good, but not premium wines, these cost extra. The no, no of this cruise was the sun-deck allowed smoking everywhere including the dining area. When will river cruise companies realise that the majority of passengers are non-smokers, and dislike intensely cigarette smoke, especially when eating or sitting on deck looking at the view. I will not be river cruising again until they change smoking policy. All sea going companies now restrict smoking to specific areas. We enjoyed the scenery and compliment the crew, especially the Maitre d' for doing their best with a full ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
There were four of us in our small group of older women and I can honestly say we had the best time. From the moment you are welcomed on board until the time you leave you are made to feel very special. We loved every minute, the staff ... Read More
There were four of us in our small group of older women and I can honestly say we had the best time. From the moment you are welcomed on board until the time you leave you are made to feel very special. We loved every minute, the staff are great, the activities are well thought out and the guides on the tours are mines of local information. The cabins are well laid out, there is no wasted space and it has everything needed, the toiletries provided are quite luxurious and the housekeeping staff do an amazing job, we especially loved the laundry service on our cruise! Possibly the best value for a cruise from what we heard from other passengers (this being my first time cruise), we also really enjoyed the silver spirits package we received free because we paid early, so can thoroughly recommend doing that. In fact I enjoyed it so much I have booked another cruise with this company (and this time with the husband), really looking forward to 2016 to do an ocean cruise on one of the new ocean cruise ships around Italy. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
My wife and I took the Paris to Normandy cruise May 18, 2014 on the Viking Spirit. I will try to add information that I didn’t see in other reviews. I can reiterate that it is a great vacation, the crew is very customer focused, and we ... Read More
My wife and I took the Paris to Normandy cruise May 18, 2014 on the Viking Spirit. I will try to add information that I didn’t see in other reviews. I can reiterate that it is a great vacation, the crew is very customer focused, and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip. - We used frequent flyer miles to get to Paris, so we took a cab from the airport to the boat. You can buy a transfer from Viking, but they talked me out of it based on cost. We later found out that it is not much more expensive than the cab. The taxi cab driver had difficulty finding the boat, despite my providing the Viking supplied map of it’s location. I was calling the boat to get better information on it’s location when we came across it as we drove north from Pont de Grenelle along Port de Grenelle. There are many boats docked in this area and the Viking sign was partially blocked by a structure. Fare was 62 Euros from CDG for the two of us with 4 bags. - The crew tries to get you in to your room before the official 3PM check in time. We got in by 1PM and sat in the lounge until then. They turn around the boat from the previous cruise in a few hours, since everyone from the previous trip has to be out by 9AM. We found the room cleaning staff very responsive, and they came in a second time each day and made the bed if required. - The boat is docked like a floating hotel for the first 24 hours, so if you didn’t want to do their bus tour, you could explore Paris on your own via the subway. They indicated that the violent crime rate in the city is very low, but there are many pick pockets. There was a report of someone’s phone being swiped on our cruise when they were out on the subway. Watch out for the kids, since they can’t be prosecuted. Each room has a good safe for storing your passport and money, so there is no need to go out with a lot of valuables. - Food is quite good, and you can explore the local French cuisine at dinner if you order from the left side of the menu. There is the same steak, fish, and chicken every night on the right side of the menu if you aren’t feeling adventurous. Quantity of food is adequate, but not excessive. My wife and I lost weight on the cruise, probably because all the walking compensated for the wine and the deserts. We were told at the galley tour that the menu doesn’t change from week to week, but it is different every night of the cruise. At lunch, there is a lack of protein as all the options don’t involve much meat. You can do the salad buffet and order off a menu. Breakfast had an extensive buffet, and you could order poached eggs, eggs benedict, French toast, or pancakes. I always wanted to have French toast in France. - Les Andelys is a one street village with exactly two stores. One store had some good scarves. The hike up the hill to the ruins provided awesome views of the river and country side. The best and most extensive souvenirs were from the store at the Palace of Versailles. The souvenirs were higher quality there with stuff you might actually want to give to people as gifts when you get back. - Dress code is business casual for dinner. Slacks and a shirt for men, and slacks, blouse, and scarf (there were a lot of scarves) for women. Only at the Captains dinner did about 1/3 of men wear a jacket. There were a few dresses, and a couple of ties. - Viking says that other cruise lines include the crew gratuity in the bill, but Viking does not. They provide a recommended gratuity in the booklet they send you a couple of weeks before the cruise. It is 2 Euros per day per person for the cruise director and 10 Euros per day per person per day split among the crew. You pay it when you settle up the bill on the last night. Total for us was 12 Euros x 2 people x 7 days = 168. The crew works hard for it and I think the fact that it is not automatically added to the bill provides motivation to put in their best effort. You also need to bring some 2 Euro and 1 Euro coin for the daily trips. 2 Euros per person for the guide and 1 Euro per person for the driver. So plan on 6 Euros per day for tips. - It is a very international crew. French captain, German cruise management, wait staff from Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, etc. Everyone did pretty well with their English and was very friendly and helpful. Our cruise director was Anika, already mentioned in some other reviews. She is very organized, has a good sense of humor, excellent English, and does everything possible to make the cruise enjoyable for everyone. She was very accessible during the entire cruise. She took photos of folks during the excursions and you can get a CD of them at the end of the cruise for 12.50 euros. The wait staff made a couple of order mistakes, maybe because of their limited command of the English language, but when informed of the error, they rapidly fixed it, no questions. They accommodated any request that was possible, e.g., dressing on the side for the salad, an extra appetizer or desert, etc. - We had one need for some pharmaceutical supplies and the front desk seemed to be quite knowledgeable about where the English speaking pharmacies are located at each stop. They handed me a map, and they are easy to find, since they are clearly marked with a green cross sign. - Most people who did Versailles did the half day tour. The full day gives you an extra 3 hours to explore on your own and then they bus you to Paris to meet up with the boat that has taken off at noon. The half day seemed quite adequate, since it also includes some free time to explore. - The cruise is very conducive to making friends. Although most of the passengers were in their 60’s and 70’s, there were many younger, and even a couple of kids. Everyone was from the US or Canada. - One of the enjoyable parts of the cruise that is not highlighted that much is the beautiful scenery along the river north of Paris. There are many chateaus along the river, and it is very relaxing to just sit in the lounge or on the top deck. - The boat is very high tech. Twin radar antennas on the bow, as well as sonar. Glass displays in the control cabin, twin propellers in the rear with 360 degree control and bow thrusters. The boat can rotate in a complete circle in the middle of the river without going forward or backward. Vibration levels and noise in our 3rd floor cabin were barely perceptible. Wifi was slow but adequate, and worked better when the boat was docked. The boat was very clean, and a crew member could be seen cleaning it every day.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
After forty-something ocean cruises, and a continuing disappointment of the direction our favorite lines were taking, we decided to try a river cruise with Avalon Waterways. In a word, the trip was perfection, a term not used lightly but ... Read More
After forty-something ocean cruises, and a continuing disappointment of the direction our favorite lines were taking, we decided to try a river cruise with Avalon Waterways. In a word, the trip was perfection, a term not used lightly but quite appropriate in this case. We chose the Paris to Normandy itinerary as it gave us the chance to visit Paris for a few days prior to the start of the cruise. We did our own arrangements and stayed at the Hotel 7 Eiffel for three nights (separate review on Trip Advisor). On our departure day, we taxied to the meeting place and were whisked away to the ship. Not really knowing what to expect, we were immediately enchanted with the Creativity. Gone were the hoards of people shoving to get to the first buffet, the hawking of drink packages and yards of gold chains. Instead we gathered in the comfortable main lounge, given a drink, and politely shown to our cabin. Cabins on these ships are quiet nice with plenty of storage space, a comfy bed, great bathroom, etc. No balcony of course, but the windows open allowing fresh air to circulate. Our cruise director, Tony Williamson, gathered the group to give a briefing on how things would work. Throw away your past experience with ocean cruise directors who you may see once or twice and only hear on the public address system. On a river cruise the cruise director is an integral part of the trip who guides you through your experience. Tony was not only extremely knowledgeable, his cordial personality and ability to relate to everyone was such a huge bonus. Our first dinner onboard spoiled us for life. We were a bit concerned about the open seating concept but it works like a charm. You may sit where ever you like and there is no "saving seats." Folks did gravitate towards certain waiters (as did we) but there really is no bad option. One of our major disappointments with ocean cruises is the push towards specialty restaurants with extra charges. If you go to the main dining room, we found the quality of food way down even on higher end lines (Holland America). On Avalon be prepared for 5-star food with something for everyone. It is served with a smile, it is hot (or cold if it should be), and delicious. Good wine was poured generously with each dinner. Every meal was a standout including the afternoon cake and coffee hour! The ports we visited were charming and, in each, shore excursions were included with optional extra excursions available. Or, you were able to do your own thing and Tony was more than happy to provide maps and suggestions (unlike our last European cruise on HAL). Highlights for us were Vernon (Giverny), Les Andelys, and Auvers-Sur-Oise. The only visit we did not enjoy was the Palace of Versailles due to the huge crowds pushing and shoving you through the experience. We were warned by Tony beforehand, and he was absolutely correct. We also enjoyed a few hours of just cruising the river, and sat in the hot tub on deck watching the scenery go by. Passengers were mostly American but a good showing of Brits and Aussies whose company we loved. Disembarkation was painless but getting on a plane out of CDG left us already missing the Parisian lifestyle and perfection of Avalon Waterways. We will still take ocean cruises as we do love lazy days at sea, but this trip opened our eyes to a whole new way of travel. If you're thinking about it, go before the word gets too far out. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
You have heard the phrase "all thumbs"? If I had more than two thumbs I would point them all upwards for this cruise. We had a wonderful time. We cruised on the Forseti from Bordeaux on May 24 on the Dordogne, Gironde, and ... Read More
You have heard the phrase "all thumbs"? If I had more than two thumbs I would point them all upwards for this cruise. We had a wonderful time. We cruised on the Forseti from Bordeaux on May 24 on the Dordogne, Gironde, and Garonne Rivers. The ship and the cabins are comfortable and very clean, The beds are to die for with a dreamy duvet. And the heated bathroom floor is a nice touch and very welcome when you get up in the morning. Hospitality is exceptional. Passengers are greeted with a welcome and a drink when arriving back to the ship after an excursion. One personal example--we were sitting on the outdoor section of the Aquavit Lounge as they were preparing for a reception for veteran Viking customers. As we were not, we offered to leave but the hostess urged us to stay and brought over glasses of champagne. We enjoyed all of the planned excursions. Our one optional excursion to Chateaux Siurac (sp?) was wonderful. Besides touring the grounds, eating a delicious lunch, we were given a tour of the owner's home. How often are you allowed to wander through the rooms seeing the owner's dvd player, TV, etc. It was a real home. And, the owner was a delightful, charming man. I also heard good reports from those that took the Cognac and the Arcachon optional excursions. I also thought the cruise struck a nice balance between planned activities and down time. We docked in a convenient location from which it was very convenient to explore Bordeaux, a fascinating city. Transfers went smoothly and there were always Viking people around to help. But, I've left the best for last because I don't have the vocabulary to describe the choices, tastiness, excellent preparation, kind service, attention to detail. it was spectacular! Well done, Viking. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
The cruise was absolutely a graceful gliding down the rivers into the magnificent world of storybook chateaux and quilted tapestries of green vineyards. Add to that picture all of the wines we learned about of this region and so many we ... Read More
The cruise was absolutely a graceful gliding down the rivers into the magnificent world of storybook chateaux and quilted tapestries of green vineyards. Add to that picture all of the wines we learned about of this region and so many we all enjoyed (even if you're not a wine buff, it's very fascinating to learn how wine is produced), the charming picturesque villages and chateaux we visited, wonderful meals and a boatload of Viking crew to pamper you and you have an idea of this week was like. it was a very lovely cruise -- but let me tell you about The Highlight: a once-in-a-lifetime dinner at Chateau Kirwan in Margaux. We arrived and to our amazement, here's our Viking crew lining the steps like Downton Abbey style greeting us like royal guests! Chateau Kirwan is Gorgeous and beautifully landscaped like a dreamy vision. Now we're kind of getting that "what life is like at a chateau" feeling! We enter into the magnificent reception room -- Oh, WOW -- it's So Grand -- there's an immense fireplace with a sea of tables set in white linens and sparkling crystal -- it was Exquisite. The food at dinner was elegant and incredible -- and the Chateau's really outstanding wine flowed -- we changed wine glasses I think 11 times! We were all just dazed with delight. We were also enchanted by Bordeaux, the town where the cruise begins and ends -- it was so enchanting with so much to do and see -- magnificent architecture, impressive beautiful statuary and fantastic history of the wine trade and more, museums, galleries, amazing shopping (with the world's longest walking shopping street (bustling, exciting St. Catherine's Street) that retains its "old French village" character), lots of other fascinating places, many near the water's edge like the Skate Park on the dock (the French children and their parents are awesome athletes!) and the "water mirror" with people looking as if they are walking on water is phenomenal -- it turns into this all enveloping mist every so often to everyone's happy delight. Bordeaux is a safe town and we felt comfortable walking all around; the tram system is efficient and quiet (it's electric) to take you further afield. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and highly recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
My DS and I were part of a group of about 40 who elected to spend four days in Paris, France before our cruise on the AmaDagio to Provence. We took advantage of some of the pre-arranged tours and transfers AmaWaterways (“AMA”) offered. ... Read More
My DS and I were part of a group of about 40 who elected to spend four days in Paris, France before our cruise on the AmaDagio to Provence. We took advantage of some of the pre-arranged tours and transfers AmaWaterways (“AMA”) offered. Our trip began the evening of Saturday, May 10, when we flew from JFK airport to Paris. We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport Sunday morning, retrieved our luggage and met the Ama rep who led us to our coach bound for the city. Another rep at the Ama desk at the Pullman Paris Montparnasse hotel gave us all our room keycards. Our luggage was taken to our rooms if it bore the Ama tag that was previously provided. After settling in at the Pullman, my DS and I walked around the neighborhood. Gare Montparnasse and the local metro are conveniently located at the end of the street, and there are several restaurants, banks, clothing, grocery and other stores nearby. We grabbed a crepe with cheese and located a BNP Paribas bank to withdraw euros. Sunday evening, the group’s first tour in Paris consisted of a cabaret dinner show at the Moulin Rouge; needless to say the men were mesmerized (lol). The following morning, our guide took us on a city tour by coach to see the major sites in Paris; we traveled by metro to spend some time at Notre Dame Cathedral. The tour continued with lunch at Le 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant, and in the evening we had dinner on a Seine River cruise. Since we were free most of the third day, a couple joined my DS and I on an excursion by local bus to Musee D'Orsay. To skip the long lines, we paid a couple more euros and obtained passes from the concierge at the hotel. Metro tickets were sold out so we bought day passes at the station. I was particularly interested in viewing The Disciples, by Eugene Burnand, but was disappointed to learn it was in storage. Nevertheless, Musee D'Orsay was delightful as were the exhibits. We used the nearby footbridge with “love locks” to cross the Seine and continued through Tuileries Garden and Place de La Concorde to get to Rue du Faubourg St. Honore where we browsed high-end shops. We then walked along Champs Elysees and enjoyed a late lunch. We rode the metro back to the hotel to prepare for the Montmartre and Illuminations evening tour which gave us an opportunity to explore the hilltop district and Sacre-Coeur Basilica, and to observe the lights of Paris at night. The stop at the Eiffel Tower was a treat with its sparkling lighting effects. Day four consisted of a tour that focused on various ethnic groups in Paris and the night ended with a Brazilian cabaret dinner show. The second day in Paris, the group met Sebastien Leroy who was to be our cruise director on the AmaDagio. He welcomed and assisted us, made us feel comfortable and at ease and ensured we got off to a good start on our tours. I believe getting to know Sebastien in Paris, and the foundation that Ama laid from the point of greeting us at the airport, set the tone and helped us to settle in early and better enjoy the cruise that was to follow. The transfers were also particularly helpful as we did not have to find our way from point A-B or traipse our luggage around as Ama handled these details. Early Thursday, the 15th, after breakfast at the Pullman, we left by coach to take the TGV high-speed train to Lyon. Within two hours we arrived and were whisked away to our first cruise tour which was a cooking demonstration where we prepared an appetizer, main meal and dessert. We were then taken to the AmaDagio where our luggage awaited us in our French balcony cabin on the Cello deck. There was sufficient storage for my DS and I to unpack and we settled in. We later attended a cocktail reception where all guests were introduced to the top brass of the ship and were provided safety instructions and other information. The ladies present enjoyed a special welcome from Captain Louis Devaux which caused some men to be jealous (lol). Breakfast, lunch and dinner were about the same time each day on the AmaDagio and the latter meals provided delightful opportunities to explore and experience French cuisine, wines, and cheeses. One night, we had dinner at the Erlebnis Restaurant in the aft where an exquisite meal was prepared to individual order, while we enjoyed a splendid scenic view of the banks of Tournon and the suspension footbridge which reminded us of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Also, entertainment was provided each night, and some couples showed us their dance moves on the floor. At times local artists were highlighted. The Daily Cruiser newsletter kept us abreast of important information such as ports, local history, excursions, and schedules. My DS and I joined the informative guided tours Ama offered at each port. Several of the locations are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Among other things, we learned of: the impact of papal and ancient Roman history on local culture, and the Saone and Rhone Rivers on the livelihood of the people along their banks centuries ago and today; the regions we were visiting; soil types and conditions that produce various wine appellations and other products; olive and truffle farming; trades, artistry and industries; ancient architecture and lifestyles; the Mistral wind and more. On reflection, I doubt I would have gotten as much detail on a self-guided tour or drive through. Also, we were able to keep pace with our English-speaking guides with the voice box Ama provided each of us, which was wonderful since we did not have to strain to hear what was being said and we could stop momentarily to observe an item or site of interest while the group continued several feet ahead. Some memorable tour highlights were -- Lyon: During the City Tour, we slipped easily over the Rhone and Saone Rivers and learned how traboules, covered walkways, were used in the old town. Belleville: On the Beaujolais Excursion we met a local vintner, Pascal, who explained regional wine production with Gamay grapes; and we visited the ochre-colored, medieval, hilltop village of Oingt (pronounced like a nasal “wah”). Vienne: During the walking tour, we took photos of the first century, Roman Temple of Augustus and Livia with its Corinthian columns. Tournon: We toured Tain-l'Hermitage, learned about Syrah/Shiraz grapes, Cotes-du-Rhone vintages and aging potential, and we sampled wines at M. Chapoutier. Viviers: On the evening Ghost Walk, we heard of Noel Albert, a burgher and embezzler who was beheaded and is claimed to haunt the medieval town. St. Etienne des Sorts: We traversed the village of Grignan and visited the hilltop Renaissance chateau where the daughter of Madame de Sevigne, who is credited with influencing French literature, lived; we later visited a farm and observed how the owner, Serge, harvests truffles with the help of his dog, Emy, who is Italian and understands French and English (lol). Avignon: We envisioned how seven successive popes lived in the Gothic Papal Palace in the 14th century, and we took advantage of the opportunity to shop. Arles: Our coach climbed the Alpilles Mountains to the rocky outcrop village of Les Baux de Provence where the ruins of a castle and its fortress sit; we also visited a farm in Saint-Remy and learned about olive oil production and quality from Gilles; and our walking tour of Arles took us to the Roman Amphitheater and sites that inspired some of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings such as the yellow café and the courtyard of the hospital where he was admitted in the late 1800s. Sometimes more than one tour was available at a port. For example, I was outnumbered by a vote of 3:1 and we signed up for the L'Hermitage Wine Tour although I would have also enjoyed the Chocolate and Wine Pairing Excursion at the chateau in Tournon. Some guests opted for the Nougat Demonstration in Viviers; Pont du Gard Roman Aqueduct Tour & Uzes or Chef Cabestan Culinary Studio in Avignon; while others went with the Impressionist Experience Tour in Arles. At times, gentle walkers' and later risers' tours were offered. The last night in Arles, there was a farewell gala cocktail and captain's dinner at which time the Captain and crew gave the guests a great send-off. Our group did not continue to Barcelona so the next day, on the 22nd, we transferred to Marseille by coach to fly to JFK via Charles de Gaulle. Ama handled our luggage from our cabins to the airport. Overall, Captain Louis and Patricia, his second in command and wife, were excellent hosts who made us feel at home on the AmaDagio. All staff we encountered on the ship were professional, courteous and helpful. We knew several by name. This was my first riverboat cruise and I hope it will not be my last. I found it to be an intimate, personal and enriching experience as I became more immediately in touch with my surroundings when we stepped off the ship and into the local culture. I was also aware of the ship and its navigation as it glided over the calm and gentle waterways, through locks, and along the rolling slopes of vineyards and the banks of everyday living in towns and villages, all as I absorbed and embraced the French way of life, if only for a moment. La vie c'est belle!   Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
My husband and I and two other couples enjoyed The Taste of France Cruise on the Swiss Emerald May 4 through 12. We began in Paris with Tauck's included transfer from the airport to the hotel Intercontinental Le Grand. It is a lovely ... Read More
My husband and I and two other couples enjoyed The Taste of France Cruise on the Swiss Emerald May 4 through 12. We began in Paris with Tauck's included transfer from the airport to the hotel Intercontinental Le Grand. It is a lovely hotel right across the street from L'Opera. Our room was small (typically European) with large windows that opened in both the bedroom and bath. A huge buffet breakfast was included each morning. Wi-Fi and use of the internet was also included. We were part of the Taste of France sailing that featured many special food and wine activities. Included in Paris was a hands on cooking class. Our welcome dinner was at Fouquet's -- a lovely experience. Our Tauck Tour Managers Anne Peault, Veronika Finollo, and Lydia Adler were fabulous from the moment we met them. After a first class TGV train to Lyon, we boarded the newly refurbished Swiss Emerald. She is a beautiful small vessel. The common areas are elegant. Our small cabin was comfortable with a French balcony that made it seem larger. Our favorite part of the ship was the Sun Deck. The six of us spent every evening before dinner on that upper deck sipping cocktails watching the beautiful scenery and experiencing the locks. Food on board was excellent and I am known to have very high standards. There were many choices for all meals. The food in the small special restaurant, the Bistro was not as good as in the main dining room. Wines were also excellent. If we did not like one, we just asked for another. Service was great. After the first evening, the waiter always brought me the cocktail I ordered the first night. Note: the ship is owned and staffed by a Swiss company Scylla. They operate it to Tauck's standards. The included shore excursions in every port were super with a focus on food and wine. The special lunch and afternoon at the bull ranch in the Camargue was amazing. The unlimited chocolate tasting at Valrhona was a chocoholic's dream come true. The walk across the Pont du Gard and dinner on the terrace overlooking the ancient viaduct was really special as the cooking class at Scook. Absolutely everything was included. Yes, the experience was expensive, but worth every penny. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
Really enjoyed the cruise. Viking had someone there at the airport to pick us up. The ship was lovely. The crew was wonderful. This was my first river cruise with Viking. I especially enjoyed the emphasis on the culture of the parts of ... Read More
Really enjoyed the cruise. Viking had someone there at the airport to pick us up. The ship was lovely. The crew was wonderful. This was my first river cruise with Viking. I especially enjoyed the emphasis on the culture of the parts of France that we visited. The local guides were great and presentations on ship were also good. Food goes without saying wonderful. The standard cabins were a bit tight but you are only there to sleep and shower. Only one incident that I found concerning was an alarm early one morning that had went off and everyone responded with life jackets. What concerned me is the lower staterooms emergency doors closed and everyone on the two lower decks were locked in without an explanation. We were lucky that everyone remained cool headed. The doors were eventually opened, but we never got an explanation of what happened. A bit disappointing was we were unable finish the trip as planned at Chalon-sur-Saone due to the river being to high for us to get under the bridges. We did get to see Beaune and our trip to Paris we had a lovely lunch and walking excursion which broke up the trip. We spend three days in Paris which was lovely. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
This 7-night "Portraits of Southern France" sailing on the Viking River Cruises longship Heimdal didn't meet all of my expectations given all the glossy literature I had received from Viking and the fancy TV commercials they ... Read More
This 7-night "Portraits of Southern France" sailing on the Viking River Cruises longship Heimdal didn't meet all of my expectations given all the glossy literature I had received from Viking and the fancy TV commercials they run on PBS Masterpiece. I made the booking for the May 24, 2014 trip from Chalon-sur-Saone to Avignon a year in advance. The Viking 2-for-1 price for a category B stateroom #219 with a verandah was $8111; I paid $6895 through an Internet travel agency or $493 per night per person. We made our way to Chalon and checked into a hotel the Friday night before the cruise was to leave On Saturday morningI received an "urgent" email from Viking notifying me that the ship would not be leaving from Chalon and we were to make our way to Lyon, about 100 miles south, to board the ship there. No explanation for this change was given. The email did say we could proceed to the docking location in Chalon and bus transportation would be provided. I had a rental car so I drove to the Viking dock at a run down industrial area but no bus or Viking representative was there. I checked with the car rental agency and was told I could return it in Lyon rather than Chalon for no additional charge so we made a decision to drive through the Burgundy countryside to get to Lyon. We found the ship, were directed to our cabin, and were told we would be staying in Lyon until Tuesday noon. The cabin was intelligently designed except for the very limited space between the end of the bed and the wall unit, which prevented one person from passing if the other person was sitting on the bed to get into the unit's drawers. The food served in the restaurant was very good.  At breakfast and lunch one could eat from a self-service buffet, order from the kitchen, or both. Dinner consisted of a choice of three starters, five entrees, and three desserts.  Wine, beer, and soft drinks were complementary in the dining room.  Coffee and tea were available anytime in the atrium. Off ship tours were ok but in many cases the guides tried to present just too much information. The passenger makeup was mostly American couples over 60 years old. There was a few brits, a large Asian family, a few teens, and no children. The Saone and Rhone rivers have none of the charm of the Rhine, Main, Elbe, Moselle, and Danube rivers.  Most of the stretches of river the ship passed through were lined with industrial factories not picturesque medieval villages. Nits that I had about Viking were: 1. On Sunday, the ship's tour of Beaune went on via a 4-hour bus ride (2 hours each way) that included a group lunch of mostly inedible food served in a hot, very crowded second floor dining room. 2. The ship's master (captain) did not speak a word of English so the few times he spoke to the passengers in the briefings in the lounge, he spoke in French and his comments had to be translated by the cruise director or hotel manager. 3. Vikings literature states "Weather permitting, the ship‘s sun dec is its most popular area when the ship is sailing." Not true on this cruise. The weather was mostly fair but the sun deck was NEVER opened when the ship was moving. 4. Given that Viking saved fuel and port charges that the passengers' undoubedly paid for, there was no compensation (not even a free drink) offered for the missed stops (Chalon-sur-Saone, Macon) and missed sections of the river. At the end of the cruise, I left some less than positive comments about the value Viking provided on the guest questionnaire. After we returned home, both my wife & I received emails containing a voucher for $811.11 (a total of 20% of the original retail price of the cruise) off a future cruise within the next year. In what world would a company presume that a customer who had problems with one of their products would return to spend good money after bad on another of their products? Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
This was our fourth river cruise and our third on Viking. Overall we would rate it excellent. The crew was outstanding, very courteous and helpful beyond our expectations. The ship was clean and well organized. We are "foodies" ... Read More
This was our fourth river cruise and our third on Viking. Overall we would rate it excellent. The crew was outstanding, very courteous and helpful beyond our expectations. The ship was clean and well organized. We are "foodies" and were pleased with all the food. The city tour of Paris was good and we enjoyed it even though we had visited Paris several times before.The visit to Monet's garden in Giverny was a delight and even though we had been there before we enjoyed it because the local tour guide was so entertaining. The visit to the Normandy beaches was, of course, very emotional but very interesting and we had time to look around and enjoy the peace and quiet. Two of the villages where we stopped, Conflans and Les Andelys were pretty quite and not quite as charming as some of the other villages we have visited in France. One of our favorite things to do on a river cruise is just to sit out on the sun deck enjoying the beautiful scenery while eating lunch or having a glass of wine and meeting new friends. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
I have nothing bad to say. The trip was flawless and wonderful. I had some flight problems on the trip over. With a few phone calls I was on a back up flight and the Viking representatives were there to greet me in Paris. The ship's ... Read More
I have nothing bad to say. The trip was flawless and wonderful. I had some flight problems on the trip over. With a few phone calls I was on a back up flight and the Viking representatives were there to greet me in Paris. The ship's crew, especially the Social Director and girls on the desk, were great. As were the maid, the waiters and staff. This was only the ship's first or second cruise so the cabins were great and the boat was immaculate. All of the tours were well organized and interesting. The food was delicious including the cookies put out for snacks. And our extensions in Paris and Nice were wonderful. Although the rooms in the hotel in Nice felt like they were second class and set aside for cruises. All things considered, I'd go again in a minute ... but it would help someone paid for me. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
After 11 trips with Vantage (plus some with other lines) , all of which were great, we finally met the worst cruise ever. The elevator was broken and not fixed for the entire trip. Many travelers were using canes and walkers and had great ... Read More
After 11 trips with Vantage (plus some with other lines) , all of which were great, we finally met the worst cruise ever. The elevator was broken and not fixed for the entire trip. Many travelers were using canes and walkers and had great difficulty going up and down the stairs numerous times daily. Others (as the average age was probably 70+ also had problems navigating the boat. In addition, the Bulgarian chef did not know how to cook. Most lunches were the same sandwiches and pasta for the entire trip. Most dinner entrees were inedible. Salt prevailed in all soups and dishes. There was a concierge on board who did absolutely nothing. There used to be 3 or 4 guides on board (one per group) now there was only one person leaving the entire shore excursions to local guides with no Vantage personnel to assist. Now what really was unacceptable was that we were the longest (most travelled with Vantage) persons on board. We never had a response from Vantage management regarding our concerns that we provided on the form at the end of the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014

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