Snapshot: A French firm based in Strasbourg that started up in 1976 now operates one of the largest inland waters’ fleets in Europe with both river and canal boats. The river cruises travel waterways throughout Europe, providing one of the main attractions for those looking for less traveled destinations. In addition, coastal cruises fan out from Naples to the Amalfi Coast, Aeolian Islands, and Sicily, from Naples to Greece, and along Croatian coast and Montenegro. Additional beyond Europe river and island waters cruise will appear below. The total fleet now numbers 50 vessels. The firm caters to English speakers and as well as European nationalities other than French.
Ships, Years Delivered & Passengers: The river fleet numbers 30. A sample listing follows: Rhine & Danube — LA BOHEME (built 1995, 162 passengers, 108 sq. ft. cabins); BEETHOVEN (b.2004, 180 p, cabins 140 sq. ft.); SEINE (b.1999, 158 p, cabins 86 sq. ft.); Rhone & Soane — MISTRAL (b.1999, 158 p, cabins 118 sq. ft.); Garonne/Gironde — CYRANO DE BERGERAC (b. 2013, 174 p, 140 sq. ft.); Loire: LOIRE PRINCESS (b. 2014, 96 p, cabins size N.A.); Douro — VASCO DA GAMA (b. 2002, 142 p, cabins 129 sq. ft.); SW Spain — LA BELLE DE CADIZ (b. 2005, 176 p, cabins 118 sq. ft.); Po (Italy) — MICHELANGELO (b.200, 158 p, cabin size N.A.). Elbe & Moldau – L’ELBE PRINCESSE (b. 2016, 80p) and L’ELBE PRINCESSE II (b. 2018, 86p).
In addition, the CroisiEurope also runs LA BELLE DE L’ADRIATIQUE b.2007, a five-deck oceangoing 198-passenger ship operating in the Mediterranean (Italy, Sicily, Croatia & Greece) with all outside 151sq. ft. cabins and GALATEA b. 1964, an 8-passenger motor/sail yacht; INDOCHINE, a colonial-style boat operating on the Mekong, built in 2008 and taking 48 passengers in 172 sq, ft. all outside cabins, and in 2017, newly introduced INDOCHINE II; and four hotel barges taking 24 passengers on French waterways. N.B. In 2017 and 2018, two 16-passenger riverboats will begin operating on the Chobe & Zambezi rivers in southern Africa. 7-night itineraries will feature three aboard the boat, four at a high-end game lodge, and include a visit to Victoria Falls. The first will be AFRICAN DREAM, a 16-passenger riverboat with 8 suites, including two with balconies.
Passenger Profile: While the first language aboard is French, English is widely spoken amongst the crew, and for some British and North Americans, the international experience is a major plus, though you will likely be in the minority. German, Italian and Spanish passengers may also be aboard.
Passenger Decks: The riverboat fleet includes three and four deckers, including the top open deck.
Price: $$ Expensive
Included features: All drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are included during the main season from April to October. Shore excursions are extra, something that breaks from the norm with river cruises and helps lower the per diems. However, in many instances the principal sights may be accessed on foot from the boat’s gangway.
Itineraries: The usual rivers are included such as Rhine, Moselle, Elbe, Main, Danube, Seine, Soane, Rhone, Douro (Portugal), Gironde and Garonne (SW France), and St. Petersburg to Moscow along rivers, canals and across lake and reservoirs. More unusual are the Guadalquivir and Guadiana rivers in Andalusia (Southern Spain); the Po in Northern Italy; the Loire from St. Nazaire inland to Nantes and Angers (via shallow-draft paddleboat); Amsterdam to Berlin via waterways that connect the Rhine and tributaries with the Elbe across Northern Germany; and the Elbe and Moldau inland as far as central Prague by new shallow sternwheelers 80-passenger L’ELBE PRINCESSE (in service) and L’ELBE PRINCESSE II (2018) taking 86 passengers. European river cruises operate near year round. Beyond Europe, the Chobe River in southern Africa + Victoria Falls, Irrawaddy in Myanmar, and Mekong in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam) are exotic options. In another category, canal cruises operate on waterways throughout France using 22-passenger barges.
Coastal cruises operate from Naples to Italian ports, islands and Sicily and in the Adriatic to mostly Croatian ports and Montenegro and Greece, including Corfu.
Why Go? A French cruise line with an international passenger list may appeal to English speakers who would like to travel with Europeans (with French, Belgian and French language Swiss in the majority) and rather than just mostly North Americans.
When to Go? The cruises operate during the best weather seasons, and the busy travel months of mid-June to September can often be avoided by choosing a spring or autumn date. Some departures are geared to the flowering bulb season in Belgian and the Netherlands, grape wine harvest in France and Germany, and a European-style Christmas (with markets) and New Year’s.
Cabins: Most are of small to moderate size, outside with windows, beds in twin or double configuration. Some newer boats have larger cabins if that is an important factor, and some offer a few single cabins. Amenities include radio and TV.
Public Rooms: All boats offer a forward lounge with bar for viewing and enjoying the entertainment, a dining room that seats all at the same time, and a top deck with both open and sheltered seating. During passages under very low bridges, the deck may have to be cleared of seating and railings.
Dining: Breakfast is a buffet while lunch and dinner are fine French cuisine set served three-course meals with complimentary beer, wine and soft drinks. It pays to like the local food. Passengers are assigned tables according to their language. Some North Americans may find the full lunch menu a bit much so you may wish to skip a course.
Activities & Entertainment: Pre-dinner games and dinner-dances; basically it is social interaction amongst the passengers that holds sway rather than planned entertainment.
Special Notes: Consider the international flavor, which might be a plus or minus for you.
Along the Same Lines: CroisiEurope is probably the most international of the riverboat lines. Others may cater only to English speakers (including those who speak the language well in addition to their native tongue) or specific nationalities such as German and Swiss or Spanish.
Contact: www.croisieuroperivercruises.com; 800-768-7232