Been there? Done that when it comes to cruising?
Here’s something you haven’t done: six- and eight-day itineraries along the Loire River, with visits to the region’s storied palaces — on a modern-day paddle-wheeler.
I just stepped off of the new Loire Princesse in Nantes, France.
The vessel is an innovative one designed to navigate the shallow waters of the Loire River. With paddle-wheels protruding from each side, the Loire Princesse can push upstream in water measuring only a little more than two feet deep.
There’s never been a “hotel” boat on the Loire, and during our voyage, locals came out to cheer us on and snap photos. We were as much a spectacle to the people and places along the banks as they were to us.
Owned and operated by Strasbourg-based CroisiEurope, the Loire Princesse has a decidedly French onboard ambiance. I was one of two Americans on board. The other, a wealthy and well-traveled 85-year-old, said he had chosen Loire Princesse because of the quality that he felt CroisiEurope offered.
Indeed, my stateroom was comfortable, featuring a bed (on deck two) facing the balcony, a point of differentiation that Avalon hangs its hat on.
Storage space was generous with two closets, and my bathroom, with its glass-doored shower, was large by river cruise standards. Loire Princesse can carry up to 96 passengers spread across two decks, with deck one featuring large windows and deck two featuring balconies. All measure about 150 square feet each.
Dining is French-inspired, with local wines poured, including Muscadet, a white wine from the Loire region. In fact, on CroisiEurope, wine, beer, spirits, soft drinks, specialty coffees and bottled water are served at no charge 24/7.
That’s not to say that CroisiEurope is all-inclusive, however. Excursions on our cruise ranged from €37 per person to €71 per person. If a couple did all the excursions on our Loire itinerary, they would have paid an additional €353 each.
Still, even with all excursions added to the cruise fare, CroisiEurope comes out to be the price-leader, but that’s partly because Loire Princesse is the only game in town when it comes to cruising the Loire.
Rates for this season begin at less than US$2,500 per person, sans excursions. The cost of excursions becomes irrelevant in 2016, as CroisiEurope will include tours ashore. Rates for next year’s eight-day Loire Princesse sailings begin at $2,979 per person, with all shore excursions, so effectively, you’re still paying for them – they’re just bundled in. The per-diem rate works out to around $372 per person.
Loire Princesse departs Nantes, a gorgeous city on the Loire that deserves a couple of nights either pre- or post-cruise. I rented a bicycle for 10 euros a day in this bike-friendly city and explored the city and its surroundings. Nantes is the home to the late writer Jules Verne and the attractions known as Les Machines that are a tribute to his vivid imagination and sense of adventure.
On its six-day and eight-day itineraries, Loire Princesse heads first to the sea to visit Saint-Nazaire and its famous shipyards, about a half day’s chug downriver.
Afterward, the river cruiser begins an overnight push upriver, with stops in Ancenis and Bouchemaine. Excursions are launched into the Loire region from both places.
The highlighted excursion was the full-day visit to the Châteaux of the Loire Valley, an included excursion, with lunch at a local restaurant, for all guests sailing on the Loire Princesse.
We visited three châteaux, including one that inspired the fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty.
How would I rate this cruise? If you’re someone like me who has done the Danube, rode the Rhine, meandered along the Moselle, well, the Loire River presents something new, even pioneering in a way.
The châteaux are beautiful and worth the trip alone. Nantes is a gorgeous city, with lots to do, and only a little more than two hours by high-speed train from Paris (or a 40-minute flight).
The Loire Princesse? It is an innovative ship, with comfortable accommodations, good food and drink, and a French ambiance. If a little cultural immersion is your thing, you’ll likely enjoy a cruise along the Loire as much as I did.
Contact one of our consultants today to be one of the first to enjoy this exciting new river cruise!