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Sail Date: October 2018
We chose this cruise to experience the varied ports and wines along the route. We were not disappointed. We saw a lot of different sights and history. We visited the Luxembourg Memorial Cemetery which was truly an moving experience. ... Read More
We chose this cruise to experience the varied ports and wines along the route. We were not disappointed. We saw a lot of different sights and history. We visited the Luxembourg Memorial Cemetery which was truly an moving experience. The Rhine gorge was spectacular. The Mosel River views were beautiful. the crew was very attentive. The captain was welcoming and personable. We had to make a quick change to avoid the low water condition on the Rhine. That meant that we missed one port. Vantage and the Captain made the necessary adjustments in the itinerary. All of the passengers agreed and that made our cruise a little special. But we were able to see another port more fully. The captain even made a special effort to illuminate the towers of the Bridge at Remagen when we passed them at 11:30pm. That is the kind of attentiveness from the Vantage personnel that makes them a cut above others. I would take this cruise again. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
We recently sailed the River Splendor on MAJESTIC RIVERS OF EUROPE:CASTLES, CATHEDRALS & FAIRYTALES cruise, a 14-day river cruise mostly following Germany's Romantic Road with castles visible and viewed on land. The ... Read More
We recently sailed the River Splendor on MAJESTIC RIVERS OF EUROPE:CASTLES, CATHEDRALS & FAIRYTALES cruise, a 14-day river cruise mostly following Germany's Romantic Road with castles visible and viewed on land. The ship's cabins are basically the same size on 3 decks with the exception of the suites on the highest deck and the D cabins on the lowest deck which lack a french balcony and have a small window about the size of a small porthole just above the water line. Food service and wait staff were excellent. Our waiter,JARO, serve witha smile and graciusness and wine poured endlessly. Guided tours were interesting. However, the tour to Heidleburg required 2 hours of driving in each direction and viewing not themost interesting castle ruin that had been modified several times over the last centuries. Anoptional tour to Rothenburg was in lieu of spending a morning in Wurzburg; however, we did spend an hour at the end on return to the ship at the fortress in Wurzburg. A planned tour to Koblenz was skipped was eliminated because of a passenger hospital emergency that required deviationfrom routing and a medical evacuation that was handled well; however, we were docked in Koblenz and had sufficient time to walk around the old town which appeared quite charming. We had onboard entertainment in the evenings on 3 occasions; musicians came onboard playing local music, costumed dancers were cheery,and there was a glass blowing exhibiti. We ventured thru 78 locks which required closing down the top deck for 2 days. The CruiseDirector, Bogey,and his assistant Maya, were hands on, intimately involved in the cruise details, and made for an enriched cruise experience. Maya was an assistant on our Douro River cruise. Unfortunately, the cruise was marred by an apparent Vantage policy of overbooking within 90 days of departure or sooner on substanitally reduced deals likethe one we purchased. This was our third Vantage river cruise in 18 months. We were bumped from a June 2016 Douro River cruise and, fortunately, since our air was booked with Vantage,and our flexibility, we were rescheduled to July 2017, provided a substantial discount, and given an upgraded C cabin on thetop deck rather than the middle deck that had been assigned.. Vantage reps advised that Vantage had overbooked 12 cabins. The cruise itself was excellent. We reserved this Majestic Rivers cruise 1 1/2 months prior to departure at a reduced price. Our invoice assigned a cabin and expressly stated "C321 or better", a speciic cabin with a french balcony on the top deck. One week prior to departure, a Vantage rep called my wife who was at a gym and advised that we were being bumped to a D cabin on the lowest deck,, which turned out to be D 213, with the "porthole". My wife was at the gym and could not speak with him so she asked the rep to call me. Aside from the small porthole like window, because they are on the lowest deck and the window can not be opened,dT he D cabins are damp and small items that are washed take much longer to dry out. I was told incorrectly by that the rep explained everything to my wife. In fact, nothing was explained, and I was told that nothing more could be done. I called Vantage and spoke with their Travel Manager of 18 years who rudely stated that overbooking was endemic to the industry, and if I chose to express my concerns publicly,so be it. Our rate was adjusted by $600 for the difference in cost between our assigned C 321 cabin and an unspecific D cabin and discounted by $200 apparently for the incovenience of being overbooked. We emailed President Heny Lewis and received no response to our concerns prior to departure. We emailed the Travel Quality Department and was eventually advised that the Travel Manger with whom I had spoken was working on it and would do his best to restore us to a C cabin with a fernch balcony, as originally invoiced, paid for, and epressly reserved. and assigned. We never heard further from either the Quality Dept or the Travel Manager. Unaswered is the question of how a travel company overbooks a specifically assigned and reserved cabin,i.e. our "C 321 or better" reserved and invoiced cabin and bumps passengers in favor of other passengers--a form of discrimination. When we boarded the ship in Budapest, we asked the cruise director if our C cabin was available and were advised that the ship was fully booked and that we were assigned to D 213. The cruise director was truly concerned abouta problem that was not of his doing. As a result of the cruise director expressing to Vantage our ongoing and unaswered concerns, a few days later we received a bottle of champagne. As it turns out, 3 other D cabins were resided in by 3 other couples who also had been overbooked and bumped. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
We had a last minute deal which included airfare and was a great value, cost wise. We had 2 days inAvignon,a pleasent town to walk around. As this was the last cruise of the season, some cafes, and galleries were closed,including the ... Read More
We had a last minute deal which included airfare and was a great value, cost wise. We had 2 days inAvignon,a pleasent town to walk around. As this was the last cruise of the season, some cafes, and galleries were closed,including the galleries on Rue Tentulier. St Pierre's chapel was delightful to visit, as was the included excursion to midieval Vienne and the extra cost excursion to the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct. Pros- The ship has a pleasant and efficient Romanian/Buigarian staff, very good food service and cruise director/tour guide, and cabins are good size. We were upgraded to 417 which is the highest deck and had more closets and storage space and a mini fridge compared to other non suite cabins. Cons- The cabin walls are extremely thin, such that if a neighbor sneezed it was as if they were next to you and tv sound was noticeable. The latter disappeared typically by 10pm when most retired.The walls need to be improved. The river is not that scenic and that interesting to sail, frequently viewing nuclear plants, industrial sites, and trees slightly masking the parallel highways. By comparison the Douro River Vantage cruise we took in August was very scenic - hillside wineries and a few castle ruins. The Avignon stay could have been improved by a nearby visit to Nimes or Aix en Provence. The extra cost Perouges excurision was not worth $79. A tiny hamlet inhabited by about 80 people -sort of a Disney midieval open air museum. The midieve lbuildings are interesting but not as charming to view as those in our included Vienne excursion. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
I wanted to see the old cities of Europe and not have to move from hotel to hotel. My friend recommended Vantage and we unknowingly booked the same cruise. It was the most relaxing vacation I've ever taken. I hope to take a Vantage ... Read More
I wanted to see the old cities of Europe and not have to move from hotel to hotel. My friend recommended Vantage and we unknowingly booked the same cruise. It was the most relaxing vacation I've ever taken. I hope to take a Vantage cruise every second year to different destinations but I would even take this cruise again. Water was so calm that we didn't know when we were moving - the most relaxing vacation I've ever taken. I loved that there were only 160 passengers so that it was interesting to meet a varied group of travelers and have meals with very nice people. Met some new friends too. The boat was kept very clean, inside and outside. Service was exceptional and the best food I've eaten in a two week period. Loved that they were so flexible in providing food from the café menu in the restaurant so when the menu got a little too fancy for me I could order a grilled steak or salmon. There was no shortage of excellent and fresh food and a good menu variety. I'm a believer in Vantage. Read Less
21 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
I've only been on one river cruise in Germany. It was a lovely trip, leisurely sailing past castles, villages and pretty countryside with a guide assigned to a small group of about 25 of us for the entire trip. It made you feel safe ... Read More
I've only been on one river cruise in Germany. It was a lovely trip, leisurely sailing past castles, villages and pretty countryside with a guide assigned to a small group of about 25 of us for the entire trip. It made you feel safe and adventurous at the same time. Vantage did not provide this experience. The rivers were swollen hence the ship moved twice, once about 20 miles downriver and back spending the entire time in the small town of Macon France, a bedroom community of Marseilles. Several passengers called before the trip to make sure we could sail, they were told we could, not true. While Vantage could not predict the weather they were well aware of the river situation before we arrived in Europe. Many of the criticisms I offer do no reflect on the river situation, but the companies response to customer service and making amends for a bad situation. All trips begin with the transportation, which Vantage arranged. When we purchased the trip we were told not to be alarmed about or itinerary or call every time it changed, but instead wait until a closer to the actual cruise. Three weeks before our departure I called about the flights, especially the return flight - Marseilles to Paris - a layover, Paris to Atlanta A FIVE HOUR LAYOVER and then a four hour flight to Phoenix...more than 24 hours. I was told: 1. they had no record of who sold us the trip, 2. I shouldn't have waited so long even though I was told to call nearer the trip date , 3. that no representative would tell us to wait, 4, that a supervisor would call us back 5. that we could change for $300. on each end, etc.,..the bottom line I never heard from customer service again, despite several calls. In fact when I pointed out I was traveling with three 80 year plus individuals I was told "well since they are that old they probably will appreciate the extra time"! The flights themselves were fine except that I requested an aisle seat on the longer flight legs as I am diabetic and claustrophobic. I was given a middle seat on both 8 hour plus flights and a window seat on the 4 hour flights. I called the airline and got an aisle seat on the outbound flight for free. On the way home there were no free aisle seats left so I made a minor upgrade and paid $78.00 to get an aisle seat. Aisle seats would have been available had Vantage travel asked at the time of purchase. After our long flight we arrived in Lyon. We waited in the terminal for over 3 hours for all passengers. We then walked approximately four blocks dragging our luggage to the bus. The good news my two disabled friends were taken by wheelchair to the bus along with our other two traveling companions, the bad news, no one told my companions that I had to wait in the terminal with the others. They were frantic about my whereabouts and were in process of going to the airport police for help, reassuring them would have been one call to the driver, a thing that wasn't done, even after I talked to the welcome people about my concers. . After the long flight and long wait we then got to take a two hour bus ride to the ship in Macon France, a small bedroom community of Lyon. Once on the ship we found the accommodations quite pleasant, larger than my previous experience, comfortable and well kept. We opted for a small window for economy sake. It let in light but no real view, which was just as well as we were port side and spent the entire trip looking at a graffiti strewn wall or the neighboring ship which we had to walk over the top floor to get to port making for many steps up and down for the elderly passengers. When our positions were reversed the other ship had an escort through our lobby. The swollen rivers kept us in Macon for almost the entire trip We got to see France by bus. Needless to say this cut our time at our destinations short, very short in many cases allowing for no free time. Each drive would have it's own local guide and while quite adequate we never got the personal feeling that we were looked after. I personally had to go looking for part of our group when they separated from the tour. The guide never missed them despite the fact we were led to an enclosed room for a wine tasting...we had to pound on the door so the proprietor could come up from the wine cellar twenty minutes into the presentation to let us in ...no one noticed the absence of four people. Except for two occasions we had to be bused back to the ship in time for lunch. Only once was the alternative given to stay in town and catch a second bus to allow for more free time. On the two occasions that we were too far to make it back to the ship we were allowed 20 euros for lunch, which sounds generous but it wasn't. The one lunch was on a Sunday, all but three restaurants were closed so the food was almost impossible to get and still get catch the bus. The second lunch was a 40 minute break a truck stop on the way to Avignon with snack and microwave food and no place to sit. The food ranged from two nice dinners "the Captains celebration" and the Farewell dinner to barely adequate. Two alternative choices were available, but the one time I opted for a baked potato as a side it was spoiled and tasted tained and the hamburger at lunch was unrecognizable as meat. Breakfast was standard buffet fare, unvarying for the entire trip not even dressed up with some local bakery. Lunch was really awful. Soup with lovely clear broth, but hardly anything else. Turkey spinach bean soup is an example, no turkey, four beans and two strips of spinach. Ham and cheese, something no one can ruin, was two large slices of bread, one thin slice of ham and cheese...steak sandwich, less than one thin slice of roast beef with canned onion strings and very few of those. The final day the lunch main course was pork neck bones...need I say more. The crew really worked hard under very trying circumstances. The kept up a game attitude and except for several of the chauvinistic waiter attitudes, were outstanding. The ship had plenty of ice and a water purification system which kept even a water snob happy. There was very little entertainment...once a small local group, once an accordion player, a staff skit, a movie and a talk or two. This would have been fine had you been docked anywhere you could go out for the evening, but this was not to be. Do I think Vantage could have done better, yes. They could have arranged better entertainment since we had no where to go, even games if they had to. They could have allowed lunch in town, even had their chef pack a decent picnic lunch, so we could have had more time at our destinations. They could have offered some financial reimbursements. They could have paid for an "in town" dinner. I'm sure there were many things they could have done to mitigate a bad situation. The highlight of the trip was the Marseille extension. They cut the Avignon trip short to get us as a group in a night early for dinner in Marseille...even that was only pasta, no meat sauce, two bottles of wine for eight people and a small desert. Those of us staying for the extension were moved to our hotel, L'Hotel Dieu, which was excellent... a short walk to old town, our own guide Florence who couldn't have been better, Lovely sight seeing tour, boat ride on our own and a nice hotel provided breakfast. The final leg was every nightmare that we anticipated. Marseille airport parking for buses is over two blocks from the terminal in a gravel lot. There is no assistance with luggage. My three eighty plus people pulled their luggage. My friend with a shoulder injury took one of her suitcases and I, a heart patient, took mine and her carry on. After about a half hour the guide finally noticed we were missing and came back and helped us. The flights themselves, despite my reservations about Delta, were pleasant. We sat in Atlanta and watched 5 flights depart to Phoenix while killing 5 hours waiting for flight. I personally will never travel with Vantage again. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
This was an outstanding cruise. The ship was beautiful and well maintained. Embarkation/disembarkation went very smoothly. The cabin, dining and service were all above expectations. Best of all, the crew was very friendly and ... Read More
This was an outstanding cruise. The ship was beautiful and well maintained. Embarkation/disembarkation went very smoothly. The cabin, dining and service were all above expectations. Best of all, the crew was very friendly and helpful. It felt like we were on a private yacht. We traveled with family (6 adults) - they made every effort to keep us all together for our tours, dining, etc. The itinerary was very good and the tours, which are included, were well organized. We saw all the local attractions at each port, plus had free time to roam around the area. The cruise director was a real professional - everything on time, very efficient when any changes had to be made. This was by far the best cruise experience we have ever had - it was our first river cruise, but we've been on at least a dozen ocean cruises. We started planning our next cruise with Vantage as soon a we got home! Vantage is a great company and we definitely will travel with them again. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
Three of us were flying from Charlotte, N.C. to Paris. I always check in with the airline 24 hours in advance of the flight. Our names were there but the word, in an attractive shade of red, next to our names was: Cancelled. I ... Read More
Three of us were flying from Charlotte, N.C. to Paris. I always check in with the airline 24 hours in advance of the flight. Our names were there but the word, in an attractive shade of red, next to our names was: Cancelled. I immediately called Vantage. The next day we were told we now had the reservations, with only hours to go before our flight left. We were met at the Paris airport and, after a long wait, a coach arrived to take us to the Vantage Venture, located not in Paris but in another city. Boarding was easy and we had a light lunch. The food on board throughout the trip was outstanding. Our cabin was very good with a large bathroom. At a briefing the next day we were told that a lock on the river was not working which meant not going to Paris by boat and the cancellation of quite a few activities including the Paris by Night trip, a nice restaurant and a Can-Can show. Obviously Vantage is not responsible for a broken river lock but it has been un-repaired for weeks and remained so for the next group of passengers. As for the "cruising", there wasn't much except at night when everyone was asleep and awoke to find the boat in another "quaint" town maybe 30 miles away. Vantgage did itself proud on our seeing where our "D" days troops landed. A flower ceremony was held overlooking Omaha Beach complete with our National Anthem and Taps. We could also see the German emplacements which fired on our troops. Then we boarded the coach again which took us directly to the beach itself. This is why I came on this trip. It is an experience and words can not add to it. The boat has an excellent housekeeping staff and everyone was very friendly on the trip. I was worried enough about our return flight home that I talked to the Vantage concierge about it. I was told not to worry about it, that everything was taken care of. Three days later I was still worried about it and checked it out on my Kindle Fire. Again, our names were on the flight and that beautiful color of red beside our names, CANCELED. I took the kindle to the tour director and, perhaps too bluntly, asked her what she was going to do about it! She took down the info and said she would take care of it. Two days later as we were going to another one of those cathedrals on the bus, she received a call that said we had been once more confirmed for seats on the plane. Vantage should clean house on their travel department in Boston. The three of us, along with about 20 other passengers, are members of The President's Club, and were invited to a roped off portion of the upstairs lounge for drinks. Gee, thanks, I needed that. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
This was our second River Cruise with Vantage. Once again it was amazing! They do an excellent job with tours. We really had a special Cultural Connection at the home of the Marktheidenfeld famliy. The food was so good, entertainment ... Read More
This was our second River Cruise with Vantage. Once again it was amazing! They do an excellent job with tours. We really had a special Cultural Connection at the home of the Marktheidenfeld famliy. The food was so good, entertainment was a famliy who played Germany music. We were singing, laughing and dancing. Most passengers were in mid to late 60. Fun group. We spent a lot of time up on deck enjoying the view as we made new friends. We met a lady who has sailed around the world 5 times on first class ships. She said this was one of the best ever cruises she has ever done. Food was great. River Cruises are not what I expected. They are very busy and you have to be able to do a lot of walking. We were very suprised and pleased. Last night of the cruise Captain got notice the last lock was broken and may take two days to fix. He turned ship around and docked us at near by city for the night. He kept us up to date of what the problem was and within 2 hours, they had made new arrangments for us. Next morning buses picked us up we were bused to Budapest. We were booked into a luxury hotel and a sit down dinner was booked for us in the Hotel dinning room. It was seamless fix to problem they had no control over. This was our second River Cruise and my sister and brother in law went with us. They LOVED it. We would totally recommend Vantage. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 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
8 Helpful Votes
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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2013
This was our first River Cruise and it was excellent. We have gone on 54 big ship cruises (mostly Princess and Celebrity) and did not know what to expect on a small River Cruise. The tours were very well organized, we had the very best ... Read More
This was our first River Cruise and it was excellent. We have gone on 54 big ship cruises (mostly Princess and Celebrity) and did not know what to expect on a small River Cruise. The tours were very well organized, we had the very best tour managers who went beyond the call of duty to make sure everything went smooth. Most passengers were are age (60). Only one passenager used a walker and was not able to join some of our tours. Tesa our tour manager helped him as much as she could to be sure he had a good time. The food was amazing. The Chief came to the table every night to see if we enjoyed our meal and ask if we needed anything special. The Captain was friendly and even helped me off the ship with my suitcase at the end of cruise. In one of the ports a couple had not returned to the ship on time. The Captiain got off the ship with my husband to look for them. That woudl NEVER happen on a Cruise Ship. I can't believe Vantage has gotten so many bad reviews. I would totally recommend them and would not use any other River Boat company. They did an excellent job. Read Less
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