Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Relaxing on the Rhone - a river cruise virgin's trip report.

Relaxing on the Rhone - a river cruise virgin's trip report.

Old May 28th, 2016, 08:20 AM
  #21  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,096
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.>>

Scootoir, I'm not familiar with the AmaWaterways beds but these were normal in every respect - proper comfortable sprung mattresses, proper sheets over the mattresses, and duvets with duvet covers.

Dukey - as you will have guessed by now I had no hand in the planning of this trip, but our captain did a superb job in avoiding as many problems as the high water would permit. The main effects on our itinerary were in Lyon - other than that, I think it made little difference.

I wonder if the Viking boats are bigger and therefore less flexible?
annhig is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 09:54 AM
  #22  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,562
Interested to follow along. I'm not a cruise person, although I enjoyed a few days with Hurtigruten last year, but have considered river cruising at some point. However, singles usually get penalized financially, or stuck in the worst cabins, so I was interested to see that this boat has single cabins with full windows.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 10:14 AM
  #23  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,096
However, singles usually get penalized financially, or stuck in the worst cabins, so I was interested to see that this boat has single cabins with full windows.>>

thursdaysd - while we were waiting for the delayed TGV at Avignon, I was talking to a woman who had been on our boat, travelling as a single, and she had had to book 18 months in advance to get one of the 4 single cabins because she didn't want to travel in cattle class or pay double. In the event she said that she had a small double and was very happy, though it was on the bottom row of cabins so I'm not sure that she did in fact have a full window. But we spent very little time in our cabin save when we were sleeping so I can't honestly say that the lack of a full window would have worried me.
annhig is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 12:40 PM
  #24  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,096
Because we were moored further upstream than planned, our coach trip to the city took longer than it should and what with the traffic we didn't get there until gone 10 am. At some point the night before [or was it the following morning?] we had a brief meeting in which we were told about the itinerary for the trip to Lyon and asked to pick an excursion group [1,2, or 3] in which we would stay for the rest of the trip. All we had to do then was to board the coach bearing our number [we were in group 2] and follow the guide holding that no, and we were set. We also had audio receivers which we were instructed to turn to channel 21, 22, or 23 in order to hear the guides, on the basis that other groups' guides were likely to use 1,2, and 3, or even 11,12, and 13.

Once we picked up our guide, we did a brief coach tour of the city during which she imparted a lot of interesting information about the history of Lyon from the Romans to WW2, and then were dropped off at the Cathedral on the hill overlooking the town. The guide had quite a lot to say about this too but I got bored and on the pretext of needing the loo sneaked off to the souvenir shop hoping to find a birthday card for GF who had let slip that it was her birthday the following day. Success! they had a nice range of cards and even sold some in English, though I chose one in French which seemed more appropriate somehow.

After some free time to look round the cathedral we got back on the coach and were transported down to Lyon where after a short walking tour, including an explanation about the "traboules" or hidden passages between the buildings which were used amongst other things to hide resistance fighters from the Gestapo, we had some more free time, which C & I used to buy some small presents for GF, while V took her for a cup of coffee. I did some other shopping too, finding some great Asterix books in a book shop, which I knew that DS and DH would love. My only complaint was that having been reminded by the guide that Lyon sees itself as the culinary capital of France, and being walked past all those lovely restaurants, there was no time in the itinerary for us to have a meal there - it was very frustrating! OTOH I saw enough of Lyon to know that I want to go back and spend more time there - and not just for the food either.

So there was nothing to be done except get back on the coach and watch Lyon fade away behind us as we were driven back to the boat for lunch and a sail up the Saone river to Challons where we would moor for the next stage of our trip - a tour of the Burgundy vineyards and Beaune itself.
annhig is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 12:42 PM
  #25  
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 35,894
The "water level" issue seemed to be that the levels in some waterways at some times of the year were too low and the boat could not navigate. Busses were substituted, reportedly for days at a time since the company felt this was a comparable way to travel and refused to consider a cancellation or refunds.

The Viking "long ships" are just that: long and I have no idea what their draft dimensions are.

In the past, singles have always been at a disadvantage on most cruise lines since they either paid the price of two fares or they didn't cruise. These days, several of the ocean-going companies have added so-called "studio" cabins meant specifically for single occupancy.

I simply do not agree that singles have been "stuck with the worst cabins" unless one considers the cheapest cabins to be the "worst." And the fact remains that generally speaking, the cheapest and also the most expensive cabins on most ships are the first to sell out so there were either a lot of people in the "worst" cabins or somebody is mistaken and uninformed.

Lots of people have figured out that, for the most part, the cheapest cabins continue to have access to most, if not all, of a ship's many amenities so cabin position becomes of secondary importance.
Dukey1 is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 01:12 PM
  #26  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,096
The "water level" issue seemed to be that the levels in some waterways at some times of the year were too low and the boat could not navigate. Busses were substituted, reportedly for days at a time since the company felt this was a comparable way to travel and refused to consider a cancellation or refunds.>>

Dukey - the same applies if the water level is too high as the boats cannot get under some of the bridges. There had been torrential rain in the centre of France in the days before we arrived leading to a rise in the rivers which threatened to lead to the same for us; this is a frustrating but real possibility when river cruising but I don't know what the boat companies can really do about it.

Anyway, back on the boat we were welcomed with glasses of chilled juice, and then settled down to lunch while we made our way up towards Beaune. Lunches too had a general pattern - there was always the option of a soup and dessert, and the rest was a buffet, with a appetiser, hot and cold main courses, and lots of varied salads, breads, cheese, etc. followed by tea and coffee. There was also a "light lunch" available in the stern lounge area but we never took advantage of that, as the normal lunch could be as big or small as you wanted.

The days tend to merge into one, but after lunch I think we had a presentation on the next day's trip, followed by dinner, followed [or perhaps preceded, I forget!] by the presentation of the Captain and crew to the passengers, which they made into a nice little ceremony accompanied by some sparkling wine.
annhig is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 01:14 PM
  #27  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,058
annhig, one of my questions about European river cruises is whether you dock right in the city so one can opt to tour on one's own. Clearly that wouldn't have worked in Lyon, but if you can highlight any cities where you could have done that, I'd appreciate it.
Kathie is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 01:28 PM
  #28  
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 22,067
If you were up on the hill, you were clearly at the basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière and not at the cathedral which is down in the <i>vieille ville</i>. Maybe you shyould have listened to the guide instead of sneaking off. ;-)
kerouac is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 01:29 PM
  #29  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 48,163
<<The Viking "long ships" are just that: long and I have no idea what their draft dimensions are.>>

I don't know what draft dimensions are (know absolutely zero about cruise ships at all), but when we were in Bordeaux last month we were absolutely stupefied at the size of a Viking cruise ship casually sitting in the river Gironde by the tram stop for the Bourse. It looked like it had about a dozen "floors." We couldn't begin to imagine how a ship that size had come down river and ended up in central Bordeaux. It was monstrous; it took up the whole skyline. How?

I guess it's good business for Bordeaux, though, because every crappy café and bistro on the Place du Parlement, a short walk up from "the dock" (though it wasn't even apparently a dock, was overflowing with clients at lunchtime.

Enjoying your report, annhig, though I don't think I'm ready for a cruise quite yet.
StCirq is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 01:43 PM
  #30  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,096
I won't [unless you really want me to] describe every day in such detail as you'll have got the idea by now - breakfast was followed by an excursion, then lunch while the boat motored onto our next port of call followed by dinner. On the Wednesday [GF's birthday] and the Friday when we went to the Pont du Gard I think that it may have been the other way round, in that we did the sailing in the morning with an early lunch and the excursion in the afternoon, and when we were in Avignon we had the whole day there, which we took advantage of by having lunch in the town which made a nice change.

I will however describe the excursions to give those who are interested an idea of what to expect starting with the tour of Burgundy and Beaune.

We set off early in the morning [9am?] and were taken along the Route des Vins through several very pretty villages and past a lot of vineyards many of which are named in large letters so we could spot them from the coach. I learnt quite a lot, including that the best wines generally come from vines between 30-50 years old - viniculture is not for the impatient. After a short and pretty pointless photo-opportunity, we drove on to Beaune for a short walking tour, and a wine tasting where we were taught to sample the first and second "nose" of a wine before tasting it, and how swallowing ruins the palate for tasting [as well as getting you drunk if you have too much of course!]. Then we had free time for some wine sampling of our own, and a bit of retail therapy at the market, where on the advice of the guide I bought some olive oil flavoured with truffle [which is great with scrambled eggs and omelettes apparently] and "moutarde de bourgogne" which is locally made, as opposed to "moutarde de Dijon" which is made in China! There were also some lovely chocolate shops and stalls selling herbs, table linens, cheese, and even knives.

Again we lacked the time for more than a cup of coffee or glass of wine [or two] before we had to get back on the bus and return to the boat, as it was time for the boat to turn and try to get under the bridges of Lyon so that we could head south to Provence.

Anyone who was following me on FB will have seen parts of this afternoon, which considering all we were doing was sitting on the boat going down a river was quite exciting, as the captain successfully negotiated the low bridges in Lyon, shot some rapids [which we were able to do because of the height of the water] and took us through a succession of ever deeper locks. At one point we even gave a lift to a logging barge which had lost its engine and was stranded, lashing it to us and taking it downstream so it could moor up where there was access to the shore. GF, who had cruised before on the Rhine and the Danube said that the other rivers were more interesting than the Rhone, but I certainly found that afternoon very interesting.

The evening was spent celebrating GF's birthday - we had booked a table for dinner in the aft lounge where it's possible to have a special meal; it cost no more but had to be booked in advance and was limited to 20 or so people per night. The food was extra-specially nice, we gave GF her cards and presents [chocolates from me, a scarf from V&C] and there was a very nice atmosphere.

After dinner we moved to the lounge where we capped the night by winning the weekly general knowledge quiz and were rewarded by a bottle of bubbly which finished off the evening very nicely.

[oh dear, I seem to have done exactly what I said I wouldn't do - I will have to try harder!]
annhig is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 01:44 PM
  #31  
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 542
Annhig:
Really enjoying following along thus far on your TR and reading the various postings.Too bad you didn't get to have lunch in Lyon. Next time, with a jaunt through Les Halle's de Bocuse, reasons to go back, for sure.

Regarding cabins on the river cruise ships, my experience has been:

Tauck Paris/Provence - no single supplement with good sized cabins, very comfortable queen bed, on lower level, two set windows high up which, if standing, allowed a view at just above the water line. Pricey but most hands on from expert Tauck personnel, all excursions included, as well as wines at dinner, lots of nice extras.

Avalon - called them directly to request notifying when single supplement was dropped for Tulip Time Cruise date of my choice, whereupon I booked a double cabin on the mid level of the ship with a sliding door Juliet balcony for just a bit more than the SS charge would have been. Cabin size same as above, again very comfortable bed. Least hands on from aloof Avalon personnel, afternoon tea, wines at dinner included and a pesky charge for each of the several optional excursions I chose.

Uniworld - made same call for Bordeaux, Chateaux & Vineyards cruise, with like result of mid level cabin, floor to ceiling set window this time, once again comfortable bed. This cruise experience was my favorite, marvelous tour director, included all excursions except cooking class at Le Grand Bordeaux Hotel, wine at both lunch and dinner, afternoon tea, with gratis drinks of choice in the lounge at all times.

For those who think river cruising isn't for them, with a bit of "tweeking" here and there for the right fit, it might be worth a try.

Staying on board for more��
travelchat is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 01:46 PM
  #32  
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 542
Oops - imoji not working - should have been
travelchat is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 01:54 PM
  #33  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,096
annhig, one of my questions about European river cruises is whether you dock right in the city so one can opt to tour on one's own. Clearly that wouldn't have worked in Lyon, but if you can highlight any cities where you could have done that, I'd appreciate it.>>

Kathie - had water levels allowed, we would have moored in Lyon I think, but one would have had to forgo the guided tour [to which I clearly paid insufficient attention as kerouac points out though in my own defence a basilica is a cathedral of sorts is it not?]

We did stop in the centre of Arles, and in Avignon, but only in Avignon did we have long enough to spend a whole day there. Looking now at the information supplied prior to the cruise starting, it's possible to work out where theoretically speaking you could do your own tour but because of the varying water levels, this can't be relied on.

St C - I think that what you saw was an ocean cruise ship not a river one because I can't see how they could get any further up stream due to the bridges. I've seen the same monstrosities in Venice and like many others worry about the damage being done by their wakes. We didn't see one in Bordeaux but I assume that the river must be pretty deep there for them to be certain of getting in and out again as being ocean going, they must have a much deeper draft than a river boat.
annhig is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 01:57 PM
  #34  
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 4,007
Enjoying your TR! Thanks!
joannyc is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 02:21 PM
  #35  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,562
@travelchat - thanks for the info. I've seen photos of the Tauck single cabins, and am not impressed.

@dukey1 - "unless one considers the cheapest cabins to be the "worst."" Obviously the cruise company thinks they are the "worst", that is why they are the cheapest... Most if not all of the single cabins on ocean going ships I have read about are interior.

Ocean-going cruise lines make little if any profit on the cabin fares. They make money on all the extras which they hope to sell you (excursions, gambling, alcohol etc.) and obviously if there is only one of you there will be at best half as many extras.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 02:28 PM
  #36  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,096
Hi travelchat - thanks for joining in and for your valuable comparisons of the different companies. I should have added that we had afternoon tea and cake every afternoon [though frankly we hardly needed it] and that all the excursions were free.

As you have mentioned the staff on your cruise boats, this is perhaps a good place for me to talk about ours who were almost without exception quite excellent. I suppose that they can be divided into 3 - the Captain and crew with whom we had little to do but on whose professionalism and skills we were entirely reliant, the "hotel" staff who fed, watered, and cleaned up after us, and the two Riviera staff, cruise director Alex and manager Mario, who organised the tours and transport. Of course I have nothing to compare the latter to, but I felt that they hit exactly the right level of involvement with their charges, and if there were any emergencies or serious logistical problems due to the high water we were certainly not aware of them.

Naturally the crew we had most to do with were the waiting and bar staff, and the receptionists, virtually all of whom were either Bulgarian or Romanian. My GF, whose DD is married to a Bulgarian gave one or two of them rather a shock by answering them in Bulgarian of which she knows a few words but their english was very good so sign language was not required. Nor was any French as barely any of the crew, save the Captain and First officer spoke any, apart from the Riviera staff. The standards of all the staff we had contact with were very high and I can find very little to fault them, in fact, nothing at all. They were polite, friendly but not overly familiar, and put on a very funny entertainment one night which was well judged for its audience.

Apart from that and the two quizzes there was no evening entertainment other than a pianist who played every afternoon and night. During the week I learnt that on other boats local entertainers come on board to do folkloric dancing and the like, which may appeal to some but not particularly to me.

Joannyc - thanks!
annhig is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 02:42 PM
  #37  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,058
Thanks so much, annhig for the information. I'm enjoying your trip!

Thursdays, you might be interested to know that Pandaw has eliminated their single supplements on many (not all) sailings. And on most of the boats all of the regular staterooms are the same size, so no "worst" cabins for singles.
Kathie is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 02:51 PM
  #38  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,096
thanks, Kathie - glad to be of help.

I think that I am going to revert to the "daily diary" style as it makes it easier to remember what we did - lazily I made no notes at all and although this was only a week or so ago, the details are soon lost.
annhig is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 03:12 PM
  #39  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,096
Thursday - the gorgeous gorges of the Ardeche.

GF, who is not fond of windy roads and precipitous heights, was dubious about doing this excursion, but on the whole I think that she was pleased that she did. We had time for a bit of a lie in this morning, a leisurely breakfast, and then the morning was more or less our own while we motored to the place from which we would be taken to the Ardeche. I recall that we had a presentation about the Gorges, and that at some point we had a safely talk, but that may have been the day before.

After an early lunch we were loaded onto the buses and taken off firstly to a lavender farm which was nice but as it was too early for the lavender itself lacked a little impact. Then we drove along the gorge, passing many beautiful spots, but stopping only twice, once at the Pont D'Arc, again at another vantage point to admire the wonderful views and finally at a tourist centre where it was possible to visit some underground caves, or would have been were they not closing 5 minutes later. I've seen loads of caves so I wasn't bothered but one or two mutterings could be heard that this should have been prioritised over the lavender farm which I could well understand. We also passed but did not stop at a relatively new attraction, the Chauvet cave, where as with Lascaux II they have made a life-size reproduction reproduction:

http://www.experienceardeche.com/pag...hauvet-cave/56

We were told that it has received huge numbers of visitors so anyone thinking of going, especially in high season, should really book ahead. This is something that I should have loved to see but I suppose that it is too difficult to fit these sorts of visits into the itinerary so I'll just have to go back.

As for the scenery it was definitely worth seeing and the roads really weren't too bad; GF sat on the inside seat and didn't shut her eyes too often!! The Pont D'Arc was gorgeous but even in May the river and the roads were very busy - July and August must be hell.

Back on the boat we dined and enjoyed a presentation about the Pont du Gard - which was to be the next day's excursion - whilst the boat sailed down through more locks towards Arles where we would moor the next day.
annhig is offline  
Old May 28th, 2016, 03:19 PM
  #40  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,096
Oops - imoji not working - should have been...

I don't know, travel chat - i liked the ?? - they were very enigmatic!
annhig is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO