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MS Van Gogh


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CroisiEurope's Van Gogh, which cruises from Lyon on the Rhône and Saône rivers, visits ports like Avignon and Arles, where passengers can visit some of the same spots the ship's artist namesake used to haunt.

Completely refurbished in 2018, the ship sports a new cabin reconfiguration, offering more space and lots of welcome innovative amenities. It accommodates 105 passengers, in 20 upper deck cabins and 34 main deck cabins, all of which are generously proportioned and offer full views of the river. The new décor throughout the ship is a big departure from its former bright, and perhaps slightly dated, colour scheme. Now it features a sophisticated and chic taupe colour palette with little pops of colour. Artwork throughout pays homage to Van Gogh.

With such an intimate number of passengers, cruisers quickly get to know each other and friendships often spring up quickly. The general vibe is convivial and relaxed. Other than the daily excursions off the ship and a few activities offered onboard, there is not a lot to do other than relax and watch the world go by.

Thoughtful and attentive crew members go above and beyond to make sure everyone is happy, learning guests' names and drink and food preferences within a day or two. Other than a few specialty items, all alcohol is included, so passengers know that the all-inclusive rate is truly all-inclusive.

CroisiEurope is a French line, and the majority of the passengers are French. Onboard announcements are tailored to the nationalities of the passengers, however, and the front desk staff are all fluent in French, English, Spanish and German. On our cruise, we were the sole American onboard and the charming purser often called me out by my name during announcements.

The meals are French too, with a fixed menu. Expect three-course meals at lunch and dinner, with a very French bent, such as duck confit with potatoes and carrots or rack of veal with shallots and tarragon. People with food allergies or special dietary needs can be accommodated, but you'll need to make your preferences known.

Other than the final "gala" evening, when passengers pull out their ties and heels, casual clothes -- even jeans -- are the order of the day. No official dress code is specified by CroisiEurope, but they suggest passengers will be comfortable in "smart casual" clothing, except for the gala. Other than perhaps changing into slightly nicer shirts and shoes at dinner, comfortable clothing dominates (we packed several cocktail dresses that we never ended up wearing after realizing how casually everyone else dressed).

Van Gogh Inclusions

CroisiEurope has an all-inclusive price, which includes everything from food to excursions to most alcohol (Champagne and top shelf liquors cost more). Beverages include mineral water, fruit juice, tea, coffee and a large selection of house wine, beer and liquor. In addition, depending on the cruise, transportation to and from the ship may be included.

The first evening of the cruise, there is a welcome drink served in the lounge and the entire crew is introduced. Depending on the cruise, a lecture on the river (or rivers) is usually offered, as well as an evening with local musicians and a crew show, where staff might perform anything from dances to magic tricks. Each evening, the entertainment director also plays DJ for those who might want to cut a rug.

Shore Excursions

All excursions are included and CroisiEurope offers two options: the "Classic" or the "Discovery" package. You choose which type you prefer when booking and there is some overlap. Classic excursions are described as being based on culture, architecture and history. The Discovery excursions are billed as original tours on foot, visits to out-of-the-way sites, local tastings, bike tours and the like. For example, in Avignon, the Classic tour is a guided tour of Avignon and the Papal Palace, while the Discovery tour is a hike along the Pont du Gard and a visit to the museum.

All the tours include a guide and transportation, if necessary. Some city tours are on foot, leaving right from the port where the ship is docked. Depending upon the excursion, food or beverages may be included. Most tours are generally a half-day, but sometimes morning and afternoon tours are offered.

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

Offerings vary by cruise, but passengers can count on at least one trivia game and perhaps a lecture on local wines or the history of the river. There also might be a dance contest for passengers. The crew show pulls in passengers as participants to everyone's general amusement. With many of the excursions lasting several hours, there isn't a lot of time for other entertainment and passengers seem happy to enjoy their down time with a drink and conversation.


This depends on the cruise. Most of the enrichment comes from the excursions.

Van Gogh Bars and Lounges

There is just one bar and lounge area, which is tastefully decorated in a taupe and blue colour scheme. Couches and tables ring the room, with a dance floor in the middle. There are a few seats at the bar as well. High-tech touches include drop-down screens in the lounge, utilized when there are special lectures offered about the rivers and other topics, such as wine regions.

A new addition in the lounge is a self-service coffee and tea area, open 24 hours a day. This is quite popular with guests who are early risers. The three meals served onboard daily are at set times and room service is not offered, so being able to enjoy coffee or tea when you want it is nice. Large bottles of still and sparkling water are also set out here for guests to take. The other main common area is the sun deck, which sports lounge chairs and tables. When the weather is warm, this is where many passengers congregate.

Van Gogh Outside Recreation

The sun deck features both lounge chairs and regular chairs and tables for guests to relax and watch the river go by.

Van Gogh Services

The front desk is always manned with helpful staff and, in the lobby area, there is a small gift shop display with local souvenirs, stamps and postcards. Local maps are put out each day with information about the port the ship is visiting. Passengers can borrow a few different board games and cards if they want some diversion. One table in the lounge is decorated as a chessboard and the crew can give you the pieces to use to play. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship.

Van Gogh does not have a spa or fitness facilities.

There is just one dining room on Van Gogh, where all three meals of the day are served. The timing of the meals depends on the day's cruising schedule, but generally breakfast is served between 7:30 and 9 a.m.; lunch around 12:30 or 1 p.m.; and dinner around 6 or 7 p.m. Seating is set by the steward, so you'll be at the same table the entire cruise.

Breakfast is a buffet, with coffee, tea, juice, pastries, breads, a variety of sausages, cold cuts, eggs, fresh fruit and yogurt set out. Lunch and dinner are three-course meals, with a very French menu, with classic dishes such as duck confit with potatoes and carrots and rack of veal with shallots and tarragon. Desserts range from crème brûlée to chocolate cake. While the menu is fixed, people with food allergies or special dietary needs can be accommodated. Wine and other beverages are included.

Tables in the dining room are well spaced out and everyone can enjoy the views from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Service is efficient and staff keep the wine flowing.

Other than bar snacks, such as pretzels, there is no food available other than at meals. You can grab a piece of fruit or crackers at breakfast in case you want a snack later.

Van Gogh has no room service.

All cabins boast full floor-to-ceiling windows, with beds placed opposite for maximum enjoyment of rolling views as you lounge. The 20 upper deck cabins and the 34 main deck cabins are all approximately 165 square feet in size. Of those, there are three single cabins and one accessible cabin. Overall, there is plenty of storage space, though the placement of the safe in the main closet makes it difficult to hang longer items. There is also a small work desk and chair.

If you want to enjoy fresh air and completely unobstructed views, book one of the 20 upper cabins, which have sliding doors that open. A welcome addition in the cabins are new remote-controlled televisions that drop down from the ceiling. When you aren't watching TV (and why would you be with the lovely views of the French countryside?), with one click, it disappears, so nothing obstructs your view. Another nice perk are two USB ports, so if all you're travelling with is a smartphone, you don't need to pack an adapter.

Bathrooms are a little tight, with showers and bare-bones amenities. Bring your own shampoo and conditioner, if you are particular about them, as well as a washcloth. There is a shelf to store your bath items, as well as a cabinet.

All cabins are equipped with hair dryers, safes, air conditioning and complimentary Wi-Fi. You'll also find a headset and earbuds to bring along with you on excursions, so the guides don't have to shout and you can hear what they are saying easily.

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