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annhig May 27th, 2016 02:07 PM

Relaxing on the Rhone - a river cruise virgin's trip report.
Cruising, let alone river cruising, was never on my agenda until a couple of months ago when an old friend asked me to join her for 8 days on the Rhone, cruising between Lyon and Avignon. The original plan had been for my friend and her DH to go with an old university friend of his and his DW but her DH's chronic illness meant that he was too unwell to travel, so rather than cancel the whole trip she decided to invite me instead. Of course I had to think it over very carefully and 30 minutes after receiving her e-mail I was on the phone saying "yes"!

It took a couple of weeks to sort out the name change and other formalities with Riviera, [the tour company organising the cruise] but after that the only thing to do was to sit back and wait for the date to arrive, which it duly did, and the morning of May 16th saw me on the early flight from Newquay [in Cornwall] to Gatwick. There I picked up the train to St Pancras where we were going to meet before joining the Eurostar to Lille where we would change onto the TGV. My GF and I managed to spot each other through the crowds waiting to check in, and all was plain sailing until our travelling companions turned up or rather, the wife, C, did. She was very upset because the husband, V, had left his laptop bag on the tube train they had been on, and they had not discovered this until they got to St Pancras, so he had had to go back to Bakerloo to try to find it. And his passport and mobile were in it, so she wouldn't even know if he'd been able to find it until he turned up - or not!

After a rather tense 30 minutes, V arrived complete with laptop case, passport, and mobile. Luckily the staff at Bakerloo had found his bag so the trip was back on track as were we as we boarded the 12.59 Eurostar which turned out to be very full. At Lille we were met on the platform by the Riviera tour director, A, who shepherded us and his other charges onto the equally full TGV to Avignon, warning us that we'd have to be quick to get off at Lyon so to be ready with our luggage nice and early. The first problem however was where to put our luggage as this double-decker TGV was not well-appointed with luggage areas, and quite a lot downstairs had been taken by those who did not want to lug their bags up to the top level. However we managed it in the end and settled back for the 3 ½ hour journey to Lyon where we would join the boat.

Next up - the first of many, many meals and an unexpected chance to practice my Bulgarian.

Kathie May 27th, 2016 02:20 PM

Oh, I'm along for the ride! Looking forward to reading all about your adventures.

jubilada May 27th, 2016 02:32 PM

Ready to board!

hetismij2 May 27th, 2016 02:37 PM

Looking forward to more. I always enjoy your trip reports.

janisj May 27th, 2016 02:42 PM

This is so timely -- I am thinking of a canal or river cruise this Fall. Looking forward to your TR.

travelchat May 27th, 2016 03:17 PM

This is going to be a fun read. River cruising is my favorite travel mode as of three years ago when I very hesitatingly signed on for a Paris/Provence ten day trip with Tauck. It turned out to be such a good fit (solo senior widow) I've done two more since then. Only wish I had discovered them sooner. I do hope your experiemce is as fulfilling as mine have been. Looking forward to hearing how it goes.

Bedar May 27th, 2016 03:24 PM

Just amazing the guy got his stuff from the tube people !!

TPAYT May 27th, 2016 05:59 PM

I'm also on for the ride. I've been trying to get MDH on a river cruise for quite a few years but he's not buying it. Trying to talk a gal pal into it but unfortunately friends my age either have a lot of medical problems or, if healthy, don't have the funds to do so.

That said, I'll travel along with you. Let's go!!!!

Scootoir May 27th, 2016 06:13 PM

Yay! I have been hoping you would post this Annhig. I took a river cruise with my cousin in December and now want to take another with Mr. Wonderful. The Rhone is high on my list.

Please report on the cabin, bathroom, bed, etc. I had some issues with AmaWaterways and have to find more comfort for Mr. W to go along.

Nikki May 27th, 2016 06:27 PM

What a good omen to start the trip with the return of your friend's laptop and documents!

aggiegirl May 28th, 2016 04:57 AM

That is truly a miracle the lap top was recovered! I'm looking forward to the continuation of your report. I've never done a river cruise, but have been interested.

di2315 May 28th, 2016 05:07 AM

I'm along for the ride too, thank you!

ellenem May 28th, 2016 05:51 AM

With my similar disinterest in a cruise, I am interested to hear your experience. And an annoying report is always good.

annhig May 28th, 2016 06:15 AM

And an annoying report is always good.>>

well I hope I'm not going to be too annoying, ellenem!

thank you all for your interest. We were also relieved about the recovery of the laptop etc not least because the atmosphere between V&C might have been somewhat strained had they been lost. The fact that they had to change at Bakerloo because the train stopped there contributed both to the problem and to its solution, IMO - I think that it was the stress of having to change trains that caused the problem, but it enabled the to be found by the staff much more easily.

And it gave us something to tease V about every time we left the boat!

<<Please report on the cabin, bathroom, bed, etc. I had some issues with AmaWaterways and have to find more comfort for Mr. W to go along.>>

scootoir - please remind me to do this if I forget. In fact I can probably do better than describe it, I can post a link to the boat which was the MS Swiss Corona; this is the best picture of the sort of cabin that we were in that I can find:

for more pics of the boat, see here:

Our cabin was on Ruby [the middle] deck [I think they get more luxurious the higher up you get] and though it was by no means spacious, it was fine for the two of us, with plenty of wardrobe and cupboard space, a small but well-designed bathroom with a quadrant shower so no corners to bang into and a useful under-basin cupboard in which to store toilet bags. we also had a small table and chairs, a mini-bar [with free water every day] as well as a shelf for the kettle, tea and coffee and information book. We also had a picture window which could be opened [called a french balcony I think] but no balcony as such, but that was ok with us as we were happy going up on deck if we wanted to sit outside.

A potential problem for those travelling with a friend as opposed to a partner is that although the bed was made up as two twins, there was in fact no space between them. GF and i have known each other for about 30 years and have shared a room before so we were fine with that but it's something to watch if that might not be the case for you.

ok - back to the cruise.

annhig May 28th, 2016 07:11 AM

The train arrived on time at Lyon TGV station, and once we'd all managed to leap out before the train left [not all that easy with all the people trying to get on but you just have to be as ruthless as they are!] and been gathered together by the ever patient Alex [who turned out to be the cruise director] he led us outside to the coach park where we were told we would have a short wait for our bus to take us to the boat, which had had to moor further upstream than usual due to the high water level in the river preventing the captain getting it closer to Lyon.

10 minutes came and went however, and it was well over half an hour before the coach arrived, held up by Lyon's notorious "bouchons" or corks, Bouchon de Lyon meaning not only a restaurant but also a traffic jam! Once the coach arrived we were quickly loaded and about 30 minutes later we were alighting and making our way to the boat.

A quick note about luggage - from the time we boarded the coach at Lyon to when we left the coach at Avignon TGV station at the end of the trip the luggage was dealt with for us, but before and after that we were on our own. So if you are travelling by train, you need to be able to carry it on and off the carriages, and to manoeuvre it into or onto the luggage racks, which is not always very easy as there simply aren't enough, especially on the TGV. My case weighed only 12kgs on the way out, and about 16kgs on the way back, and that was quite enough for me to manage. We also had to walk quite long distances along platforms and round the stations with our luggage and if you were travelling with someone with restricted mobility that might also cause problems. OTOH you don't want to arrive at dinner on board every night wearing the same clothes so packing for a cruise, even a relaxed one like this, takes a little bit of thought. Luckily there was a laundry service on board but it wasn't cheap, so we used it as little as possible but if weight [luggage not you!] were a real problem it's something to consider.

Overall if there were concerns about this I would suggest flying not going by train; the decision, which suited me fine as I'd never used the TGV before and was keen to try it, had been made long before I came on board with the trip, but IME generally there would be far less lugging around of bags if you fly than if you go by train especially if you check it in, and if there is someone with mobility problems, you can always book special assistance.

Sorry - I keep getting sidetracked - now back to the boat!

annhig May 28th, 2016 07:28 AM

A couple of days before the trip I'd come across a kindle book on amazon all about river cruising so I'd been reading it avidly and finished it just before we arrived. So I was prepared for the first thing to happen that I might not otherwise have expected which was the requirement to use the hand sanitiser dispenser that greets one as one gets on board, even before the first welcome drink! Duly sanitised and greeted with sparkling wine, we were invited to obtain our keys from reception, [GF and I had one to start off with but they happily supplied us with another when we asked] and make our way to our cabin where our bags quickly joined us.

Dinner was already being served so after a quick pit stop, we repaired to the dining room for our first meal on board. a hand sanitiser is provided at the entrance to the dining room and I noted that people were generally very good at using it, both going in and going out. My memory does not stretch to recalling what we were offered on our first night [or any night come to that, except the last, for which I still have the menu] but most evening meals took the same format - a starter [usually fish], soup, main course [often a choice and of course always something for vegetarians] cheese and/or dessert, followed by coffee or tea. Portions were not mean but were not so generous that I felt stuffed at the end of the meal and of course you could always miss a course if you liked. Unlike on some boats alcohol had to be paid for, but personally I prefer that as there is less risk of people over-indulging and I'm not paying for other people to drink! And with one exception [not bad for a whole week's meals] all the food was of a consistently high quality, and some of it was very good indeed.

After dinner we went up to the lounge and enjoyed a post-prandial brandy before getting an early night - the coach to take us back to Lyon for our tour of the city was due to depart at 8.45 so we would need to get an early start.

Tomorrow - food, food everywhere, but not a spot to eat!

ellenem May 28th, 2016 07:39 AM

Yikes! I was my autocorrect on my tablet replaced annhig with annoying! Definitely untrue!

annhig May 28th, 2016 07:42 AM

I'd guessed as much, ellenem. but it gave me a laugh.

Scootoir May 28th, 2016 07:43 AM

Thanks for all the info on the cabin. Was the mattress similar to a hotel bed? Sorry to stick on this topic but AmaWaterways had thin mattresses covered in vinyl that were worse than my college dorm.

Dukey1 May 28th, 2016 07:51 AM

Thanks for this report which is, as usual, both interesting and informative.

Our one river cruise (with Viking) was wonderful but we planned it so we would not have the "low water" issues (on the Rhine in our case) that have caused so many complaints about that particular company in the past.

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