Friday, August 13, 2010

Travel By River Cruiser

Ken and I took our first European river cruise quite a few years ago. We liked it so well that we have done three more, the latest being just recently. So what's so unique about traveling this way? There are small groups of passengers, not like the huge ocean liners that offer cruises, which we don't enjoy.. The first three ships we were on held around 120 and  the Provence in France accommodated only 46. We like the small groups. This last one was great. There were only 42 in the group, and so we had an opportunity to get to know everyone. No little cliques were formed, everyone interacted just like the kindergarten teacher wanted us to do way back when.

We boarded the ship after spending a day and a half in Nice. Our cabin was larger than on the other river ships we'd taken. We had twin beds with nightstand, a desk, two small easy chairs with small coffeetable, a nice sized walk-in shower and vanity in the bathroom with a separate room for a toilet and basin. Also a wardrobe that held all our clothes, which we unpacked immediately. Wrinkles hang out quite well! All decorated in the style of Provence, lovely colors and patterns in the fabrics and tiles.

The crew on this ship proved to be international. They hailed from France, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania and England. All spoke English very well, and in a short time, we came to know each one. The Captain was French, Co-Captain English. The chef was Czech, but he prepared food in the French way with spectacular flavor and presentation at every meal. The maitre'd and the waiter served us well and catered to whims of some passengers with a smile. The Ship Hotel Manager, a French woman, was Miss Sunshine in person. She did everything in her power to make sure our stay on the Provence was comfortable and satisfying. The housekeeping staff kept our cabins spotless, and the bartender learned quickly who wanted what to drink and exactly the right proportions. We ended up feeling pampered by all.Our program director hailed from India orignially but had come to France many years before. She was outstanding in her field.

The meals were so good--a buffet breakfast each morning that offered juices, platters of fresh fruit, cheeses, cold meats, scrambled eggs, bacon and/or sausages, and trays of croissants, breads, and pastries plus good coffee. Each morning, there was a special breakfast, as well. One day it was crepes, another an omelet, and then Eggs Benedict which people added to the other buffet items. No need for a mid-morning snack!

Lunch began with a soup and then usually a choice of a salad or a hot entree or special sandwich. Dessert followed. Dinner had several courses and a choice between two entrees with red or white wine to accompany the meal. The one thing they do is give small portions, so that you feel satisfied, not stuffed, when finished.

The ship had a sundeck where we often sat and watched the scenery on both sides of the Rhone River. If it was cool or too warm, we sat in the air-conditioned lounge that had floor to ceiling windows for viewing. The river ship even offered a small gift shop on-board with the merchandise changing as we moved from one district to another. Yes, I did make a few purchases.

Ken and I both highly recommend traveling by river ship--unpack once and still be in a different place every day. We find it totally relaxing and rather enjoyed being treated like royalty.

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