A RIVER CRUISE ON CANALS
This was our first river cruise. We tried to book in 2013 but all dates were fully booked so we have had this trip booked for fourteen months. Because of low water levels the cruise itinerary was changed two days before we were due to go and although we accepted this change when we were actually on the cruise the itinerary was changed again and the river cruise changed to a canal cruise which wasn’t exactly what we were looking forward to. However, I will focus mainly on my experience of a “River Cruise” as opposed to an ocean cruise. We booked with Riviera who were considerably cheaper than other lines and our ship was the Swiss Ruby. The flight from Luton was on time and was OK (Easy Jet). Mike, the tour Manager, met us at the airport and we were swiftly transferred to the ship. This ship takes 88 people but there were only 42 of us as the others cancelled when the itinerary was changed. THE CABINS The cabins are a bit bigger than I had feared. They are on two levels but are identical, apart from the fact that the lower ones have windows that do not open – the reason for that became obvious on the trip as on occasions the water practically covered them due to the wake of passing ships. We paid extra for a cabin on the upper level which had French doors but no balcony – not even the size of a builder’s plank Malcolm – it just had a rail to stop you falling out. It was nice to have some fresh air though – I would not book a lower deck one (if I went again). The cabins were lovely. The bed was very comfortable, there was adequate storage space. There was shelving up the sides of the bed so you just had to be careful that you don’t whack your head when you are getting something out of the lower cupboard. There are tea and coffee making facilities – although the brochure says there aren’t. There is a flat screen TV but the only English speaking channel is BBC World News. There is a small hairdryer but, ladies if you need to style your hair it only has one speed and no diffuser – I would take your own. The bathroom was actually bigger than some we have had on ocean cruise lines. A proper shower cubicle – no shower curtain!. There was always hot water and the toilet worked every time. There is a dispenser of hair/body shampoo which is OK and soap and body lotion. THE PUBLIC AREAS The ship is very elegantly furnished throughout and very clean and well looked after. There is a lounge/bar on the upper deck where a pianist/singer – who was very good – plays in the evenings. There are jig-saw puzzles and games and a very small library. Tea and coffee is available here 24 hours. There is a reception area that is manned 24 hours and a small shop selling essentials and also gifts, handbags, scarves, some clothing, etc. The restaurant is on the lower deck and is again very elegant with white linen, fine china and glass etc. There is a sundeck which chairs and tables and some sun loungers. There is a sun canopy but this was not erected very much because of the low bridges we encountered on the changed route and on occasions the sundeck was closed. THE FOOD All the food was of a very high quality was well cooked and presented and the hot food was hot – not luke-warm . Breakfast was a buffet of everything you could think of both hot and cold and you could also have poached eggs and there was an omelette station. Lunch was a hot and cold buffet but there was also a different soup and vegetarian dish to order every day. Dinner was four courses plus tea or coffee. Obviously there is not the choice you would get on a large ocean cruise ship There was a choice of two cold starters, two soups, three mains (including a vegetarian) and one dessert or fresh fruit salad or cheese. My husband struggled with some of the choices not being to his taste but the staff were very obliging and offered him alternatives. If all else fails they will cook you an omelette. DRINKS Practically all the wines on board (this particular ship anyway) were German with the odd Australian one appearing on the recommended list with dinner. Drinks prices were about the same as hotel prices and there is no added service charge or tax. THE CREW The crew were fantastic – as there were only 42 of us instead of 88 we were really well looked after. They just couldn’t do enough for you. Every one of them spoke to you in passing and most of them got to know you by name. They even did a crew entertainment one evening and it was brilliant. The atmosphere on board is very laid back and friendly and there is no dress code but everyone changed for dinner and all the men wore long trousers and shirts. People dressed up a bit more for the Farewell Dinner and some of the men wore jackets and ties. All excursions are included on this trip. We didn’t get all we expected as the itinerary was changed – but I have covered that on the Forum. Despite the disappointment of the changed itinerary etc. we really enjoyed the river (canal) cruise. I couldn’t fault the ship in any way. Mike and Richard who looked after us from Riviera were excellent and were as much in the dark about what was happening as we were. Would I go again? Yes, if I thought everything would go to plan. The jury is still out IS IT FOR YOU? If you like a big ship with lots of entertainment, lots of people and food available 24/7 then NO. If you like something more laid back with practically individual attention, a slower pace and the entertainment is mainly talking to your fellow passengers then YES
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