Small Ship Cruise Line Review: CroisiEurope

A family-owned 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 on 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 river and island coastal cruises, beyond Europe, appear below. The total fleet worldwide now numbers almost 50 vessels. The firm caters to English speakers as well as European nationalities, and bien sur, the French.


Danube River scene. * Photo: CroisiEurope Cruises

Ships, Years Delivered & Passengers

The river fleet numbers 40+. A sample listing follows. A “P” following a ship’s name indicates Premium, the newest and heavily remodeled vessels with larger cabins and more amenities.

Seine: SEINE PRINCESS-P (b. 2002, renovated 2012, 134p); BOTTICELLI (b. 2004, renovated 2010, 150p); RENOIR-P (b. 2018, 110p)

Rhine & Danube: LA BOHEME (built 1995, renovated 2011, 162 passengers, 108 sq. ft. cabins); BEETHOVEN (b. 2004, renovated 2010, 180p, cabins 140 sq. ft.); LAFAYETTE-P (b. 2014, 86p, cabin size N.A.); VIVALDI-P (b. 2009, 176p); GERARD SCHMITTER-P (b. 2012, 174p); EUROPE (b. 2006, renovated, 2011, 180p); FRANCE (b. 1999, renovated 2011, 156p); LEONARDO DA VINCI (b. 2oo3, renovated 2011, 174p); MODIGLIANI (b. 2001, renovated 2011, 156p); VICTOR HUGO (b. 2000, renovated 2019, 96p); MONA LISA (b. 2000, renovated 2010, 96p); SYMPHONIE-P (b. 2010, renovated 2017, 108p); MONET (b. 1999, renovated 2007, 156p); DOUCE FRANCE (b. 1997, renovated 2017, 110p). N.B. The Moselle has been added with cruises embarking in Basel.

Rhone & Soane: MISTRAL (b. 1999, 158p, cabins 118 sq. ft.); VAN GOGH-P (b. 2018, 110p); CAMARGUE-P (b. 2015, 108p); RHONE PRINCESS (b. 2001/renovated 2011, 138p)

Garonne/Dordogne: CYRANO DE BERGERAC-P (b. 2013, 174p, 140 sq. ft)


Cyrano in Bordeaux. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Loire: LOIRE PRINCESS-P (b. 2014, 96 p, cabin size N.A.), a sidewheel paddle boat with a shallow draft designed to negotiate shallow waters.

Douro: GIL EANES-P (b. 2015, 32p, cabin size N.A.); MIGUEL TORGA-P (b. 2016, 136p); VASCO DA GAMA (b. 2002, 142p, cabins 129 sq. ft.); INFANTE DOM HENRIQUE (b. 2003, renovated 2014, 142p); FERNAO DE MAGALHAES (b. 2003, renovated 2011, 142p); AMALIA RODRIGUES (b. 2019)

SW Spain: LA BELLE DE CADIZ-P (b. 2005, renovated 2010, 176p, cabins 118 sq. ft.)

Po (Italy): MICHELANGELO (b. 2000, renovated 2011, 156p, cabin size N.A.)

Elbe & Moldau: L’ELBE PRINCESSE-P (b. 2016, 80p, cabin size N.A.); L’ELBE PRINCESSE II-P  (b. 2018, 86p, cabin size N.A.); N.B. These two are paddle wheelers with the ability to navigate shallow waters to reach the center of Prague. VICTOR HUGO (b. 2000, renovated 2019, 96p); MONA LISA (b. 2000, renovated 2010, 48p)

Russia & the Volga: ROSTROPOVITCH (b. 1980, rebuilt 2010, 212p, cabins 126-243 sq.ft).

French Canals: Six French hotel canal barges built 2014-2016 and one renovated 2013; five taking 22p and one 24p, operating in Alsace, Burgundy, Champagne, Loire & Provence.

Coastal Ships: In addition, the CroisiEurope also runs LA BELLE DE L’ADRIATIQUE-P (b. 2007, renovated 2017, 198p), a five-deck oceangoing ship operating in the Mediterranean (Italy, Sicily, Croatia & Greece) with all outside 151sq. ft. cabins.  In October 2019, the line takes on the former Silver Discoverer (Silverseas and originally built for the Japanese market as the Oceanic Grace in 1989)  to operate as LA BELLE DES OCEANS (120 passengers) on itineraries beginning in East Asia then working its way westward to Europe. SEE BELOW.

Canada & the St. Lawrence: New for 2020: Cruises (11 nights) will begin at Montreal with an overnight then a flight to St. Pierre et Miquelon, French territorial islands near the mouth of the St. Lawrence and just south of Newfoundland. The coastal vessel LA BELLE DE OCEANS (120 passengers) will cruise to Cap-aux-Meules (Magdalen Islands), Gaspe and Perce Rock, Baie-Comeau, Tadoussac at the mouth of the Saguenay then upriver to Chicoutimi and along the St. Lawrence to Quebec City and Montreal (with a full day and overnight aboard before disembarking. This itinerary is likely to appeal to the French from France and to the growing North American market. Cruises operate between mid-June and mid-September (the beginning of fall footage).

Mekong River: INDOCHINE, a colonial-style boat operates on the Mekong (b. 2008 and taking 48 passengers in 172 sq, ft. all outside cabins); INDOCHINE II-P (b. 2017, 62 passengers, in 242 sq. ft. all outside cabins; LAN-DIEP (b. 2007, 44p), TOUM TIOU I (b. 2002, 20p) and TOUM TIOU II (b. 2008, 28p).

Southeast Asia, South Asia, Persian Gulf & Middle East: BELLE DES OCEANS (built 1989 & 120p) Cruises November 2019 to February 2020. Thailand & Malaysia 9 days; India & Sri Lanka 11 days; Dubai & Oman 8 days; and Jordan, Egypt, Israel & Cyprus 10 days.


Belle des Océans. * Photo: CroisiEurope

Inland Southern Africa: A relatively new offering is the riverboat AFRICAN DREAM (b. 2017, 16p) operating on Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, southern Africa. The cruises are paired with a land stay at a lodge on the banks of the Zambezi River on the Border of Namibia and Botswana.The vessel takes just 16 passengers with 8 suites, including two with balconies. In 2020, the 16-passenger ZIMBABWEAN DREAM, built locally at Harare, will arrive to provide a second vessel for the Lake Kariba cruise portion of a longer tour that includes Victoria Falls and Botswana’s Chobe National Park with stays in riverside lodges.

The colonial-style Mekong riverboat used by Croisieurope is between cruises at Ho Chi Minh City.

The colonial-style Mekong riverboat used by CroisiEurope is between cruises at Ho Chi Minh City. * Photo: Ted Scull

Passenger Profile

While the first language aboard is French, English is also used for all announcements and entertainment, and is widely spoken amongst the crew. 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.


$$  Expensive

Included Features

All drinks, from wines to beer, cocktails and soft drinks, are included in fares during the main season from April to October. For North American passengers, all excursions are included, from walking and motor coach tours, to even, for instance, a thrilling helicopter ride on the Bordeaux itineraries from Pauillac over the vineyards of the Medoc region.

CroisiEurope Cruises

A helicopter ride over the vineyards near Bordeaux is a highlight of a Garonne River cruise. Photo: Heidi Sarna


The usual Europe 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 (unusual route) 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-draft sternwheelers 80-passenger L’ELBE PRINCESSE and L’ELBE PRINCESSE II (2018) taking 86 passengers. European river cruises operate nearly year-round.

Beyond Europe, Botswana‘s Chobe River in southern Africa plus Victoria Falls, and Mekong in Cambodia and Vietnam, are exotic options, plus ocean cruises to Malaysia and Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, the Persian Gulf, Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.

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.

Since 2018, CroisiEurope is a booking agent for selected 9-night cruises of the St. Lawrence River aboard the newly rebuilt MS JACQUES CARTIER, calling at Quebec City, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto and Niagara Falls and passing along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

LA BELLE DE L’ADRIATIC operates in the Mediterranean. * Photo: Croisieurope

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-speaking Swiss in the majority), 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.

Autumn colors after the grape harvest along the Moselle in Germany. * Photo: Ted Scull

Autumn colors after the grape harvest along the Moselle in Germany. * Photo: Ted Scull


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.

Small Ship Cruise Line Review: CroisiEurope

A standard cabin aboard Cyrano de Bergerac. * Photo: CroisiEurope

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.


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; there is a lot of duck on the menu as that’s a very popular French dish in its various permutations. 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.


An elegant lunch onboard with complimentary wine. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Activities & Entertainment

Pre-dinner and sometimes post-dinner games, dancing and live music from a duo on the electronic piano and guitar. Basically, the it’s social interaction amongst the passengers that holds sway rather than sophisticated entertainment.

The Salon Bar on the Symphonie. * Photo: CroisiEurope Cruises

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 we cover. 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.


Go to; 800-768-7232.



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By Brian Major.

AmaCerto in action. * Photo: Ama Waterways

AmaCerto in action. * Photo: Ama Waterways

Slipping silently along a fast-moving current while gazing at green hills, stately castles and quaint countryside villages, it’s not hard to understand the thrill felt by passengers sailing the legendary Danube River. The winsomely picturesque river has been an iconic waterway for generations, serving as an enduring inspiration for legendary European artists from Johann Strauss to Jules Verne.

It’s difficult to imagine a river more intimately woven into the life and history of its homelands. Known to antiquity as one of the original borders of the extended Roman Empire, the Danube passes through or borders 10 separate European countries. The river is mentioned in Bulgaria’s national anthem as well as in Lithuanian folk songs; it served as the inspiration for Germany’s Danube school of landscape painting, developed in the river valley during the 16th century. Today the river’s popularity continues with European and international travelers, who have made the Danube route between Hungary and Germany the single most popular river cruise in Europe.

The 164-passenger AMACERTO is the most advanced riverboat ever to join the AmaWaterways fleet, and features a variety of innovative facilities and amenities designed to enhance the experience for its well-traveled clientele.

AMACERTO is further distinguished by friendly and attentive service staff, whose members are always prepared to offer guests additional information on the ship, its services and ports of call. The ship’s concierge excels at fulfilling special requests for arranging personal off-ship excursions and activities.

AmaCerto's Swim-up Bar. * Photo: Ama Waterways

AmaCerto’s Swim-up Bar. * Photo: Ama Waterways

Onboard, AMACERTO features a heated swimming pool with a ‘swim-up’ bar on the uppermost Sun Deck. There is also a high-tech fitness center with a treadmill recessed into the floor, a private massage room, and a hair salon. Complimentary WiFi is available throughout, all staterooms are equipped with flat-screen LCD televisions and entertainment systems offering complimentary first-run movies, classic films, and various computing options.

The Erlebnis Chef’s Table Restaurant is an intimate eatery with sweeping floor-to-ceiling views over the stern and features a glass-enclosed demonstration kitchen. The elegant room doubles as a sunny daytime lounge serving coffees and light fare.

AMACERTO is a decidedly upscale ship with the flavor of a smartly tailored European boutique hotel. Furnishings and decorative accessories feature a cutting-edge contemporary flair, and the large, floor­-to-ceiling windows in the ship’s staterooms and public spaces flood the vessels with light, brilliantly highlighting the smooth marble floors, rich dark woods and exotic floral arrangements.

Every AMACERTO itinerary offers a selection of ground tours at ports of call, with excursions led by experienced, talented local guides who provide intensive immersion into the culture and heritage of each region the ship visits. Tours are available both for “gentle walkers,” who prefer to explore at a leisurely pace, and for “active walkers” who desire to cover more ground. There’s even a “late starter” group for guests who prefer to sleep in.

AmaCerto's interesting "Twin" Balcony cabins. * Photo: AmaWaterways

AmaCerto’s interesting “Twin” Balcony cabins. * Photo: AmaWaterways


AMACERTO has nine separate stateroom categories. Suites located on the Violin Deck measure 350 sq. ft. and feature the company’s “twin” balcony concept, with French and outside balconies installed in the same room. Suites come with sitting areas and mini-bars. Bathrooms offer a bathtub and shower. Categories AA+, AA and AB rooms also include twin balconies, measure between 250 and 235 sq. ft. and do not have bathtubs.

Violin-deck category BA and BB staterooms total 210 sq. ft. while category C staterooms measure 170 and offer French balconies. Categories D and E are 160 sq. ft. and include picture windows. All accommodations also offer in-room safes, hair dryers, full-length mirrors, closets and direct-dial telephones.

Compact Category C cabins with a French Balcony. * Photo: AmaWaterways

Compact Category C cabins with a French Balcony. * Photo: AmaWaterways

Public Spaces

AMACERTO main restaurant is located on the lowest Cello Deck and combines small tables for two with larger four- and six-seat family tables plus several cozy banquettes, a touch appreciated by American passengers. The restaurant also has two Wine Bars, anterooms positioned adjacent to the main dining room well-suited for parties of up to eight and intimate private dinners.

The Violin deck contains the ship’s primary activity areas, including the marble-floored reception area and library. There’s also an elegant main lounge that doubles as an observation area and all-around daytime gathering spot, plus a small gift ship. The main lounge also features the Strauss Bar and an al fresco bistro serving coffee and tea drinks. Located at the Violin Deck’s aft section are the spa, hair salon and fitness room, and the Erlebnis Chef’s Table restaurant.

The top-level Sun Deck is the location for the pool and whirlpool, a jogging track and sunning area with lounge chairs and unimpeded panoramic views.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the main restaurant. The ship features gourmet dining with cuisine produced under the auspices of Chaine des Rotisseurs, the international gastronomic society founded in Paris in 1950. The Chef’s Table restaurant has a dedicated chef, and on good-weather days passengers enjoy lunch outdoors on the Sun Deck.


Evening entertainment normally features small groups, ranging from string quartets to classical pianists, who perform in the main lounge. The musicians are often residents of cities and towns along the route and perform classical compositions for which this region of Europe is world-famous. A fleet of bicycles sees use on several excursions and are available for those who want to explore riverside paths.

The Bar in the Main Lounge. * Photo: Ama Waterways

The Bar in the Main Lounge. * Photo: Ama Waterways

AMACERTO sails the Danube and Rhine rivers on a variety of itineraries, some combined with hotel stays in Munich, Prague and Budapest. AmaWaterways offer an upscale vacation experience along the world’s signature waterways, while the onboard service is highly professional, and the food amongst the best on the river.

Click here for more info on AmaWaterways.

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