We recently returned from a wonderful holiday with CroisiEurope - MS Belle de Cadix cruising the Guadalquivir and Guadiana rivers. The weather was 'scorchio' and the ship very comfortable. Cabin 247 was just right - no engine noise/vibration and close to the bar! We had a most relaxing time. I thought I would put down some thoughts about the holiday, rather than just write a blog of what occurred.
The first thing to say is that CroisiEurope is the only company we've ever travelled with that delivers more than it says it will in the brochure.
1. A significant choice of drinks is now included in the price (photos attached). Wine and some top label spirits are omitted, but we were more than satisfied with the drinks listed. Wine was available in large quantities at mealtimes. Strangely, there was no opportunity to purchase 'better quality wine' - we think this is only available via an additional paid for drinks 'upgrade' option; we were never asked whether we'd like this, but we wouldn't have taken it up, anyway. The purser told 'all-inclusive' was a new policy on all CroisiEurope ships.
2. Face flannels are provided, and changed every day, despite them being specifically mentioned in the pre holiday literature as NOT being provided.
3. Special, large blue towels are provided for use on the sun loungers.
The crew were unfailingly pleasant and attentive. Food was excellent, although there was no choice for any course; the menu was "Table d'hôte". This is not really surprising given that it's a French ship. That said, there was nothing we didn't eat - we eat anything! Of course, there were some people who did not like that day's choice of food and the kitchen readily provided an alternative - and not just a boring omelette. One guest in particular was royally treated. He has an intolerance to wheat (not a full coeliac) and he had NOT notified CroisiEurope before travelling. Nevertheless, the kitchen looked after him wonderfully - special bread cooked for every meal, special croissants for breakfast, all sauces specially made avoiding use of flour etc.. Everyone was very impressed with this level of service.
The dining arrangements were slightly unusual - it's single sitting and all the English (12 of us) were seated on two assigned tables. We were free to move between these two tables, but nowhere else. We were not even allowed to mingle with the Americans! Not sure what would happen if, say, there were only two English - isolated on a table for two all week??
Also, the Guadalquivir holiday doesn't really seem like a river cruise. True, it goes down the river from Seville to Cadiz, but then it's a sea crossing to the Guadiana River and this all seemed like a bit of an add on - we entered the Guadiana at about 0700, motored up it until 1030, had 1½ hours to walk around Alcoutim and then motored back down the river again! An overnight stay in a very boring town and then another sea crossing back to (almost) Cadiz again. All this is clearly explained in the brochure and on your website, so we knew exactly what we were getting, but it's not a river cruise in the same way as - say - going up the Douro or the Rhine. For the last two days in Seville the ship acted as a floating hotel more than a ship. But we had a lovely holiday - we're only telling you this if someone should ask Blue Water for their opinion of the holiday.
We did not go on any trips, not even the included one. The general feedback from our English group was that the trips were too long and/or the balance within the excursion was wrong. Granada was a 14 hour day, including 3 hours each way on the coach. Gibraltar 11½ hours and Cordoba 11 hours. On the trip to Sanlucar de Barrameda (the home of Manzanilla sherry) they spent 45 minutes each way on the coach, a very short time in the sherry bodega and quite a long time at a horse show. That's what they meant by the balance being wrong. However, the moorings were always very close to town/city centres. We had a wonderful time just wandering around these places (Vila Real excepted - it really is very boring). We did not expect Cadiz to be so vibrant and interesting, El Puerto de Santa Maria was fascinating and Seville just breathtaking. We spent over 3 hours in the Alcazar and only came out then because it was getting so hot. This is real Spain - cost of eating and drinking was very low. 2 café con leche on the terrace for €2.20, about £1.76 for the two of us. Costa Coffee eat your heart out!
Finally, we do not intend - if it's humanly possible - to ever transit via Brussels airport again. The walking is endless, and the signage dreadful. We ended up on the wrong side of the transit tunnel and had to be put back into the correct area by a very grumpy policeman. We have never gone astray in an airport before in all our years of travelling. Expensive, too.
So, in summary, Judy and I are hooked on CroisiEurope. It's a quirky company but we really liked the laid back atmosphere, the friendly crew, the food and the included drinks. We also liked the freedom to go on trips or do our own thing; we explored Seville very thoroughly and it's a beautiful city. We certainly intend to explore other CroisiEurope cruises. And to all the Blue Water staff involved in our holiday, Salamat, which is 'Thank you' in Filipino! (we learnt that on board, would you believe).