A week on the Rhone & Saone with Swan Hellenic
It had been quite some time since we had done a river cruise and never on one of the French Rivers so we were really excited when we set off by train to travel down to Lyon to join A-Rosa Stella. The travel arrangements were excellent and having an escort from Swan Hellenic took away any possible stress so the start of the holiday was great. Arriving at the quayside we were impressed with the external appearance of the vessel, the paintwork being very well maintained and this initial experience was mirrored when we boarded as the interiors were equally attractive. The reception area, main lounge and the dining room were elegant and nicely understated - quality and style was the name of the game, not glitz for glitz'z sake. Our cabin had a Juliette balcony and was well proportioned. There was a a double bed (two singles pushed together continental style), a flat screen TV showing a variety of programmes with a few in English, ample storage space and a good sized bathroom with a large shower. Again everything was well maintained. The cabin stewardess looked after the cabin very well and our cabin was always cleaned and made up for the day by the time we returned from breakfast. Likewise the nightly turn down service always took place whilst we were at dinner. The dining experience was remarkably good, especially considering the limited galley space on river vessels. Breakfast was an extensive serve yourself buffet with both hot and cold food being available, tea and coffee being served at the table. Lunch was again a buffet with a good selection of hot and cold dishes which changed daily. Dinner fdiffered in so much as it was served by the waiters and waitresses and the dinner menus, which changed daily, offered a good choice. It was possible to get tea and coffee at all time of the day or night on a serve yourself basis. The bar had a wide selection of beers, wines and spirits which, whilst not being cheap, cost about what might be expected. At dinner wine could be bought by the glass or by the bottle chosen from a reasonable wine list. It also worth mentining that coffee (or tea) was served after dinner at the table The staff were from several countries and they were all, without fail, polite, efficient and cheerful and their language skills seemed more than up to the job. There were trips available at all the stops made along the way and they were mostly included in the fare. The guides were good and the experience made more enjoyable by the use of "Whispers" ( the ship's name for the Quietvox radio system) where the guide has a microphone and transmitter and the guest each have a small receiver with an earpiece and this meant everyone could hear what was being said. More ships should use this system. On deck there were ample chairs and loungers, a small pool and "giant chess" and as the scenery was what everyone had come for this was ample in the way of facilities during the day. In the evening there was a keyboard player in the lounge and one night a local singer came aboard and gave a concert of local French songs. Our week on the River Rhone (and Saone) passed all too quickly but we had a great holiday and can really recommend the ship and Swan Hellenic for the organisation of the overall package.
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