MS Camargue

CroisiEurope’s MS Camargue on the Rhone River

We recently had a chance to try a 4 night cruise on one of CroisiEurope’s river ships. If you haven’t heard of this company don’t feel bad as the company has primarily been marketed in Europe and only recently started sales in the US.

CroisiEurope is a 40 year old French family owned river ship company operating over 60 vessels. The fleet consists of river ships in European Rivers, Peru and the Amazon River, the Mekong River, the Chobe River in Africa, the Canals of France and European Coastal cruises.

Their ships are not 5 star nor pretend to be, but they are a solid 4 star product that are fresh, bright and very user friend. Their river ships rang in size from 72 to 160 passengers. All of the cabins are basically the same meaning no cabins below the water line with washing machine windows. Their ships are specifically designed for the various rivers they sail, with very shallow drafts so they can sail in draught conditions when many others can’t. Their ships do unique itineraries like Prague to Berlin because of this design.

They also operate 6 French Canal barges that carry 22 passengers with Bikes and on deck Jacuzzi. These cruises go through the fantastic wine regions of France and feature fine food, cheeses and wines. This is a rare opportunity to see rural France up close and personal in these chic well equipped barges.

What really caught our attention was their diverse itineraries designed for Europeans, who unlike Americans don’t necessarily want a 7 night cruise. The cruise we were on was a 4 night round trip cruise on the Rhone River in France. Other short 5 night cruises from Nantes on the Loire, 5 and 4 night r/t Paris on the Seine, 4 and 5 night cruises in Bordeaux, 4, 5 and 6 night cruises on the Rhone, 6, 5 and 4 night cruise from Venice, 5 night cruises in Portugal, 5 and 4 night cruises from Amsterdam, 5 and 4 night Rhine River cruises, 5 and 4 night Danube cruise and several additional options. Of course they also offer a complete selection of 7 night cruises on all the rivers of Europe and Vietnam.

Our cruise was a 4 night cruise that was roundtrip Lyon, a 45 minute flight from Paris or scenic ride on a TGV fast train. The 112 passenger Camargue was our home for 4 nights and 5 days. The cruise itself covered much of same ground-river as a 7 night cruise.

Our cabin was a standard cabin on the upper deck with floor to ceilings windows and a sliding glass door of 160 sq ft. The bathroom is tight but has a very good shower and good storage space. The cabin space has been extremely well designed with features such as a TV that drops down from the ceiling, nice convertible beds with luxury linens, ample closet space, safe and two specially designed chairs that fit the room perfectly. Of particular note, the cabins on the lower deck have big glass windows but no sliding doors in comparison to most other river ships that have a narrow window while you are standing below the water level.

The crew was your typical river ship crew of mostly eastern European origin with French sailors and kitchen staff in this case. The young crew all speak English and French with some members speaking even more languages. I found the crew very friendly and extremely accommodating. Language and written materials in English are not an issue. I honestly would give this crew 5 stars.

Shore tours are handled very different than your typical US based river ship. Tours are included for US clients but sold ala carte for Europeans. This makes perfect sense as we found many of the UK and French passenger have already been to some of the destinations and just wanted to relax on the ship while in port. For US passenger “Classic Tours” are included, for an additional fee you can purchase the “Discovery” package which has more exotic tours. On our cruise the only “Discovery” tour was a Jeep tour of the Camargue which evidently was great but on other cruises it could be helicopter tours and other very unique tours.

The tours on our cruise were very good however you don’t have the luxury coaches that many cruise lines have that follow the ships around, such as Crystal and Scenic. The guides are knowledgeable and fluent in English. Several days we actually had two tours. Several tours were four hours on a coach and joining the ship up river with truly spectacular scenery. The high light was the Ardeche Gorges, which have to be the Grand Canyon of France. Our only walking tour was in Avignon at the Pope’s Palace which is a must. Bottom line, tours were good and keep you running on the entire cruise. You honestly felt like you were doing a 7 night cruise in 5 days and always only had 30 minutes or an hour until the next event or function. This would be great for many of our incentive groups packaged with a 1 or 2 night stay in Paris pre or post.

For all passengers you have an open bar and of course French wines with meals. You do not have a refrigerator in the room or room service except for breakfast. You do have bar service in the lounge and on the Sun Deck. Wifi is also included and seemed to always work well. Gratuities are not included in the rates and are shared by all crew members. There are welcome and farewell receptions. On this short cruise there was a crew show and nightly dancing to a good variety of music and the French do love to dance.

Food and dining is handled a bit differently if you are traveling as a group, however as a charter the rules all change. First, you are assigned a table for the entire cruise for all meals. Breakfast is your typical buffet style affair with a decidedly French flair, which is a good thing. Lunch and dinners are mostly from a daily changing fixed menu. One lunch during our cruise was a buffet while all others were fixed menus. The menus are posted daily and should you wish to request something different you can. There is one gala meal which really is a very nice dinner. We requested several different things at both lunch and dinner and always got them just to test the system. On charters the menus can be expanded to offer choices. The food is good but certainly not Michelin star quality, nor is it trying to be. If you don’t like buffets you’ll love this river ship.

Overall this was a great European experience with a French flair. To compare this to an ocean ship experience would be in line with a contemporary cruise line versus a premium or 5 star cruise. This short cruise or the other 5 or 6 night options should put Europe in many people’s budgets even when you add a 1 night pre or post in this case Paris. A special compliment to the crew who did a great job and handled American, Brits and French passengers and made all of us feel very special.

This report was prepared . The views expressed as solely those of the author and not necessarily those of WWTCA.