After a good fifty oceanic cruises in about fifteen years, it was time to test a ride along a river. The Covid having limited the capacity to travel, what better way than to choose a departure from Paris, France (the city where I live). CroisiEurope resumed its first cruises on the Seine at the beginning of July 2021, we were able to board the Renoir, with the first passengers after long months of stops.
The Renoir has 54 cabins, for around 100 passengers, spread over 2 decks. On the lower deck, the cabins only offer a window to the outside, while on the upper deck, there is a large bay window, part of which opens with a sliding door. There is no balcony, but leaning on the railing and watching the shores pass by is a hell of a plus.
The 15 m2 cabin is very functional. A double bed faces the bay window. An electrical outlet and storage are present on each side. Quite a number of lockers are placed at the entrance, extended by a plan that can serve as a small office, also equipped with an electrical outlet (European standard), with a small lamp. An armchair and a stool allow you to sit. The bathroom offers a shower, large enough not to bump into it, a basin and a toilet. Not too much storage here, but it’s still a good surprise for this type of boat where you can sometimes find equipment that is much more constrained in terms of space.
A television is hidden in the ceiling and can appear or disappear with a switch near the bed. There are French TNT channels, plus a selection of foreign channels. A channel is dedicated to information on the boat’s activity (meal times, menus, stopovers, activities, etc.). Finally, a channel presents the boat itself and the safety protocols. Good initiative: the volume of this television is limited, which avoids having the sound of the neighbors part of the night!
The Renoir was refurbished in 2018. It is therefore in very good condition. At the front, upper deck, is the living room with a bar, a mini dance floor, and retractable screens with video projectors. A “DJ” corner allows to control the entertainment offered here. At the other end of this same deck is the restaurant which can accommodate all passengers for meals served in a single service.
The Sun Bridge (deck 3) is equipped with deckchairs, tables and chairs (sheltered from bad weather). This is where the cockpit is located. The front and rear ends of this upper deck are not accessible to passengers, reserved for the crew member and for the storage of equipment (such as life jackets, in lockers).
Boarding is announced at 6:00 p.m. Passengers arrive one after the other a little before this time. There is therefore no queue, and barely after 6 p.m., all passengers are on board. A presentation of the crew also provides a reminder of the safety instructions and the progress of the trip. The mask is mandatory when moving inside. Outside, it is not requested, in accordance with the current situation in France.
The first meal coincides with the time of departure. Passengers are divided into tables of 6. You are free to choose your table, but the place is then allocated for the duration of the cruise. The time for lunches and dinners varies depending on the stopover schedule. Breakfast is more free, generally from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., with a self-service buffet (access is as it was before the pandemic, without special restrictions, but with alcoholic gel available and compulsory at the entrance to the restaurant).
The lunch and dinner menus consist of a starter, a main course and a dessert, sometimes with cheese in addition. The last dinner, the evening before the end of the cruise, is a little more sophisticated. The dishes are generally good, inspired by French cuisine. It’s plentiful, almost too much.
Drinks are included. At the table, you have the choice between a few white wines, a rosé and a few red wines, mineral water, still or sparkling. Coffees (including espressos) are also included. At the bar, a choice of some spirits is also included. Some additional alcohol is chargeable. Added to this is a “cocktail of the day”. Bottles of mineral water are available to passengers at all times. The overall choice of drinks is quite limited, but sufficient for this kind of short cruise.
During the first dinner, therefore, the boat crosses all of Paris, like the well-known dinner cruises. Arriving at Chinagora (East end side of Paris), Le Renoir turns around and crosses again all of Paris, at night, and really begins his journey in the direction of Rouen then Honfleur. A moment worthy of interest, which passengers can also enjoy from the upper deck, but under specific conditions. The bridges of Paris being rather low, no question of tarnishing standing. During the entire crossing, you will have to be in a deckchair and not move for 45 minutes. I preferred to enjoy the ride from my cabin.
The Paris-Honfleur-Paris route over 5 days (4 nights) is regulated by the tides. Stopover times are therefore different from one cruise to another, even if the route is the same. Arrivals are therefore not timed to the morning, but can vary enormously (from 4:30 am … to 12:30 pm … for example). On the outward journey, the passage through Les Andelys and Rouen is only used for an excursion that will leave the boat in Les Andelys to end in Rouen. Passengers who do not choose this excursion cannot get off the boat (stopovers do not last long). It will be on the way back.
On the last day of the cruise, cabins must be vacated by 9:00 am at the latest. Passengers must leave the boat no later than 10:00 a.m. The company organizes the reservation of a taxi in advance for those who want it.
The excursions are therefore optional, paying (20 to 30 € on average). The departure is generally by bus, just in front of the boat, just like the return. Apart from the stopovers dedicated to excursions, the descent ashore is free and must respect the return schedules, as on any cruise.
The sailing periods, when they are daytime, allow you to observe a magnificent landscape all along the Seine. This is a real positive point of this route, hence the interest of having a cabin on the upper deck with its opening bay window.
The price for these 5 days / 4 nights was 865 € per person (double cabin on the upper deck). We had a reduction of 195 € per person because this cruise was canceled for the first time in May, and therefore postponed to July. This amount roughly corresponds to the price difference between the cabins on the lower and upper decks. We can therefore consider this as an “upgrade” offered, and therefore a final amount of € 670, or € 167 per person per night.
For a first river cruise, this is very positive. Ideal for a long weekend getaway (from Thursday evening to Monday morning). The meals are at the level of a good brasserie. The public, however, is quite old. At 52, no doubt, I was the youngest on the boat (a crew member aside, of course). The entertainment, according to regulars, was not up to their expectations. It didn’t bother me because it’s not my cup of tea.
The anecdote: while we are told of a flambéed Norwegian omelette at the end of the last dinner, a neighbor at the table, used to CroisiEurope cruises, warns us: although the passengers attend the spectacle of the flambé of 2 omelets, he does not. has never had a slice of that late-cruise classic that tasted like Grand Marnier! First, because there are much more than 2 Norwegian omelettes for all the guests (but were they flamed in secret?). I was able to verify for myself that this expert on the subject was right … a show with great fanfare but a disappointment on the plate 😂
Would I do a river cruise again? Yes, absolutely. There are many companies that offer this kind of cruises on rivers all over the world. I saw a few competing boats on the Seine that looked even more impressive, probably more luxurious. Very much desire to try a cruise on the Mekong or the Danube, for example.