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AmaDagio--Paris to Barcelona


mpbmark
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Over the last few months, many people have posted comments regarding their trips with Amawaterways down the Rhòne river. I promised to provide my comments, hence this posting. Hopefully, it's not too personal but rather helpful.

 

July 6, 2014. Today we begin our vacation and right now we are sitting in the new American Airlines Admiral's Club lounge in Terminal Two at Lindbergh Field in San Diego, CA. We have enjoyed some tasty appetizers and drinks while we wait to board our 8:30 pm flight. We are traveling business class on British Airlines, thanks to airline points and spending numerous hours on the phone - it will be a long but pleasant flight.

 

The business class product on BA international flights is really wonderful and I can't imagine what could be done to justify spending points or money for first class. Can't say the same for the European segment. Old equipment and poor seat arrangement. Service was good but frankly, I'd suggest saving your points or money and going economy for any flight from LHR to the continent.

 

We had purchased AMA transfers from ORY to our hotel and I must commend the transfer service. We were held up in London sitting on the Tarmac for about an hour. That put us late for the transfer. Then a bizarre incident at ORY. According to the announcement, there was no equipment available to off load luggage from our flight. All the passengers waited by the baggage carousel for almost an hour before the bags started arriving. All told, we were 2 1/2 hours late for our transfer and it was about 9:00 pm. With trepidation we walked out to the pickup area and there was the driver holding a sign with my name on it. Truly service above and beyond. It was 9:00 pm on Monday, July 7th (we had already advanced our watches 10 hours) and although it was raining, it was still relatively light outside.

 

We chose to stay at the AMA hotel, the Pullman Montparnesse, We've stayed there on two previous occasions (both times on cruises), but it has been updated in some respects. The design of the shower is something we have seen in other travels within Europe - perplexing - a half shower door swings in and out and when the water is on, water goes everywhere. We were delighted to have 24 hour free internet (although it was spotty, at best, which is why I'm just now making my first post and I never did receive an explanation as to why the service kept dropping off).

 

July 8, 2014. Today was exhausting. We took the AMA early morning tour of the city with other river cruisers. We then left the tour and made our way by Metro (subway) to Montmartre, an area of the city which is very Bohemian - rich with artists, musicians and charm. We did our own private tour (turns out there was no one else anywhere in the entire city that wanted to do the same tour, so it really was private. Just the wonderful guide and us. She led us through the cobbled streets and pointed out the outstanding features of the area. We stopped at a wine cafe and tried some wonderful red paired with greens and local cheeses and olives. Our "feast" was interrupted by heavy rainfall and we carried our wine and food inside. The only casualty was the very wet bread which was soon replaced with fresh. We entered the famous Basilica Sacré-Coeur, marveled at the beautiful mosaics with gold leaf and the colorful stained glass windows. The view from the Basilica is most amazing - you can see before you the entire city of Paris with its interesting architecture and historical sights. We finished the day with a visit to O'Chateau, whose owner, Oliver, we had come to know 7 years ago when he was doing wine tastings out of his Paris apartment. I've stayed in touch by email as his business has grown. He and his business partner renovated a historical space with a wonderful wine bar, food establishment and several rooms for wine and champagne tasting. We were treated to a complete tour and enjoyed some wonderful wine and delicious food. We were pretty tired and decided not to take the included Illumination tour which in retrospect was probably a good choice. Sunset in Paris on July 8 was 10:00 pm so I suspect the Illumination part lasted very late.

 

July 9, 2014. Early this morning we started we took another outside (non-AMA tour) to Giverny with 5 other travelers. Our driver, Paul, spoke 4 languages and today he used English and Portuguese. It was rainy all day - as yesterday, but the countryside was lush with growth. Giverny, the place where Claude Monet had his famous gardens was breathtakingly beautiful. The gardens were meticulously maintained and lush. Monet's home and the cemetery where he and his descendants are buried are a grand tribute to the artist and his works.

 

Our lunch at Le Moulin de Fourges was a traditional French affair accompanied by wine and fresh bread. The restaurant was on beautiful grounds complete with a water wheel providing the constant murmur of flowing water and the amazing views from the restaurant.

 

After lunch, we visited Auvers-sur-Oise, a charming and peaceful artists' colony and the location of the Auberge Ravoux, the place where Vincent Van Gogh spent the last 70 days of his life. By contrast, Van Gogh's room was a tiny space in the attic of the Inn and although his paintings reflect light, his attic room had a single skylight. His room at the Inn has been kept as it was and never occupied after Van Gogh took his life there. In those 70 final days, Van Gogh produced 80 works of art. We visited the Notre Dame D'Auvers or the church at Auvers-sur-Oise which was the subject of one of his later works. His grave is also there but is much less impressive than Monet's.

 

Tomorrow, July 10, we wake at the crack of dawn to be transported by TGV to Lyon to board the AmaDagio for the trip down the Rhòne ending in Arles. We will then proceed to Barcelona for a night before returning home.

 

More to follow as time and the internet connection allow. ;)

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We look forward to hearing how you enjoy your river cruise on the Amadagio. We are doing the APT/AMA Amsterdam to Arles starting on the 6th November. Counting the days down. So excited. Hope you have a great trip.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums mobile app

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Hi Mark....

I've been looking toward to your posting...and was glad to see your report this morning. You took me back ( only less than one month since our trip began) to Montmartre and Giverney....I've been re-enjoying our vacation through the 1200 pictures that we took as well.and look forward to the rest of your postings....ENJOY!

 

BTW... we agree that AMA service regarding the transfers was great! Obviously, they keep a close eye on flights and delays to assure their on-time pick up....

 

Susan

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July 10, 2014. We were up and out of our rooms very early this morning. Our luggage had to be packed and put outside our rooms by 6:30 am. We had breakfast and then traveled by bus to the Gare de Lyon train station. After two hours on the train, we arrived in Lyon around noon. After a quick lunch with some newfound friends, we attended a cooking class where we cooked and ate our creations, which included salmon appetizers filled with a cheese mixture of herbs and onions, thinly sliced beef served over piped (using a frosting bag-an interesting concept)mashed potatoes and a dessert of peaches cooked in a wine, butter, sugar, orange rind and orange juice mixture. It was fun - especially the cutting and preparation done by us guys. I remember the comments made by others concerning hygiene but it appeared that sanitation was being utilized as much as possible in a large group. Hand sanitizers were present on each cooking table and were utilized by those doing the actual preparation.

We boarded the Amadagio, unpacked our luggage and headed to the main room to meet the captain and his crew. We also had the safety talk and finished the evening with a delightful meal.

The cabin is a tidy 170 sq. ft. Quite well set up and we have all our "stuff" put away and out of sight. There is under bed storage including a large roll out drawer. We didn't need that so I pushed it up against the wall under the bed and used the remaining space to store suitcases. That being said, I don't think a 3 or 4 person family would be comfortable. The bath room lacks storage space so DW is using the medicine cabinet for her "essentials" and I'm working out of my hanging kit bag. The lighting in the shower is awful. I shave in the shower (have for many years) so I hang my mirror but it difficult to see. Also, I would think it would be close to impossible to shave legs (if you're into that) as the space is pretty confining. Otherwise the cabin is satisfactory and we both slept very well.

Next day is to be spent in Lyon before we set sail in the evening.

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I forgot to mention the most interesting part of the shower. There are 3 separate heads and multiple buttons to control the water flow. My suggestion is to check out your options before you get into the shower. I forgot and went in without my glasses so I had to guess at what each button controlled. Fun times and a somewhat wet floor later :eek:, I figured it all out.

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Great review, Mark, thank you.

I was in Giverny when cruising on board AIDAmar 2 years ago. We were lucky to have a sunny day in Mr Monet´s garden.

Edited by AntjeG
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The cabin is a tidy 170 sq. ft. Quite well set up and we have all our "stuff" put away and out of sight. There is under bed storage including a large roll out drawer. We didn't need that so I pushed it up against the wall under the bed and used the remaining space to store suitcases. That being said, I don't think a 3 or 4 person family would be comfortable.

 

And that is why the limit is two people. ;)

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And that is why the limit is two people. ;)

 

Interesting. I wasn't aware there was a limit but it makes sense. On both of our river cruises, there haven't been any children and if over 18, they book their own cabin.

Edited by mpbmark
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July 11, 2014. We spent the morning sightseeing and touring Lyon by bus. Lyon is the third largest city in France. It is known as a gastronomical and historical city with a vibrant cultural scene. It is also the birthplace of the cinema due to the invention of cinematography by Auguste and Louis Lumiere.

 

The historical area of Lyon lies on a peninsula between the Rhône and Saône Rivers and is strategically located between Northern and Southern Europe. It has been preserved historically and the different architectures are apparent everywhere. The city is also famous for its "trompe l'oeil" - painted walls the appear to be 3 dimensional - and there are nearly one hundred frescos on the façades of buildings throughout the city. In the beginning, the frescos were painted on buildings that were to be destroyed, but that is no longer the case. They are found everywhere.

 

Lyon is also known for its Traboules - passageways. In the early days, there were only 3 streets in the city and it made things difficult and costly for the shopkeepers to obtain goods from the river. Also, inhabitants of the city needed a way to quickly transfer water from the river banks to their homes. The city fathers built narrow passageways to accommodate the demands of the populace and they remain still as a means to quickly move about the city.

 

Lyon boasts a national silk industry which was established in 1466 by King Louis XI to keep pace with the demands of the French fashion industry. Previously the raw silk was provided by the Italians, but production became too costly. Again, the Traboules allowed the silk workers to quickly get from their workshops to silk merchants. Of course, DW had to purchase one of the silk scarves.

 

River cruising is quite different from ocean cruising. It is quiet and relaxing and the number of passengers tops out at about 140 people. This makes for a very intimate and friendly experience and you meet and learn about other passengers at a rapid rate. It is a daily test to remember each others' names and we all joke about it. The included tours have been very informative and the buses have been comfortable.

 

Tonight we and 4 of our new friends had dinner with the hotel manager. An amazing and fascinating gentleman from Lisbon. We were at the table for over 4 hours talking, eating and of course, drinking French wine. We are currently in the Beaujolais district and the wine is terrific. IMHO, much better than what is available stateside. A plus is that it is unlimited at both lunch and dinner so I'm a happy camper. :D

 

We were supposed to leave Lyon in the evening but river conditions required the company to err on the side of caution and so we are spending another night in Lyon. We will be bused to the tours originally scheduled to depart from Belleville and then leave for Vienne in the afternoon.

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July 12, 2014. The Saône was too high to navigate and so today, we traveled by bus to the Beaujolais area of France and stopped at a wonderful winery, Domaine de la Logère. We met the wine maker and learned about the process of making wines, harvest time, protecting the grapes and vines from pests without the use of pesticides and the tools used during the harvest. We tried three wonderful wines, each a little different, and bought a bottle of Beaujolais Blanc made with Chardonnay grapes and a Beaujolais D'Ete which is much better than the Neuvo Beaujolais that appears around Thanksgiving every year. We did more sightseeing in the area, which closely resembled Tuscany in Italy with its rolling hills and lush landscape. We also visited a small enclave by the name of Oingt which dates back to the 1100's. The streets were cobbled and the buildings ancient in their shape, structural and materials, but it was quite beautiful.

 

The AmaDagio traveled only a short distance to the town of Vienne. We actually saw the sun for the first time on the trip. Very pleasant traveling on the sun deck, ducking under bridges and going through the lock. After dinner we decided to do some exploring and Vienne was alive with people and music, much of it American tunes. We later learned Vienne was celebrating its yearly jazz festival. We could hear music from all corners of the town and there was dancing in the streets. Everywhere we looked we saw ancient Roman ruins amidst the many shops, restaurants and bars.

 

On Sunday, July 13th, we had a morning tour of Vienne. It was pouring rain(as usual), but we were accustomed to the wet weather. We basically toured the same areas we had walked the night before but learned about the history and importance of Vienne. It was a Roman town, colonized under Julius Caesar in 47 BC. It did not become part of France until 1450. As Lyon, it is also strategically located on the Rhône River. There are approximately 30,000 residents and almost 9,000 of them travel by train daily to work in Lyon.

 

It is easy to romanticize Vienne, it is charming, beautiful and maintains the reminders of ancient times, but at the same time celebrates the present. The city is lush with greenery and any visitor can see redwood boxes filled with overflowing flowers everywhere, on the streets as well as in window boxes hanging from private homes. It is a must-see if you come to France.

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Thanks for posting in detail....sounds like your trip is wonderful.....and you are enjoying the wine......sorry you are having so much rain.....looking forward to the rest of your postings....

Susan

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Sorry to have been gone so long, but things have been hectic. Lots to see smd little down time.

 

July 14, 2014. Today was the birthday of DW and, fittingly, it was glorious. We have finally been gifted with a beautiful, sunny day. It is also Bastille Day - a very important day in French history and one that is celebrated with fireworks, parties, fairs and parades. I was able to obtain a special gift of chocolate covered strawberries and wine for the cabin and dinner was wonderful with happy birthday being sung and a cake delivered with fireworks.

 

Last night after dinner, we toured the town of Tournon. The town was deserted, but we could hear the soccer game playing from many a window. We noticed the ancient buildings and remarkable church as well as the different colored wooden shutters on the buildings, some open and some closed, all very different but all opening to the street. Again, the flowers and plants were lush and blooming everywhere.

 

The next morning (as we stayed overnight in most ports as opposed to our prior cruise where we traveled at night), the town was active with people and vehicles and there was a parade of fire trucks and police cars, typical of any American small town on the Fourth of July. We are in the Côtes du Rhône region for grapes. The vineyards extend from Lyon to Avignon along the banks of the Rhône River. The different soil (terroir) and climate - more Mediterranean as we head south - affect the kinds of grapes grown. We visit a recently discovered cave and had a lesson in the wines of the region as well as the different kinds of chocolate and how it is made. We taste three different wines, first alone, and then paired with a particular chocolate. Scrumptious.

 

We travel during the day to Viviers, a small walled city from the 15th century. Cruising on the river during the day with the sun shining is incredibly enjoyable and a welcome change from the rain that has accompanied us for the early part of the cruise. After dinner, we take the Viviers ghost walk tour. It is dark as we walk through the ancient city holding flashlights and guided by a local resident dressed in a period costume. The walled city is deserted and dark as we traverse the winding hilly streets. A "ghost" appears occasionally to discuss the issues of the day that were important several hundred years ago. Corny, but fun.

 

July 15, 2014. This morning, we are in Grignan, a magnificent village surrounded by lavender fields. We travel by bus toward Avignon and pass the glorious French countryside. We see field after field of grape vines, lavender and sun flowers. The sun flowers are standing upright with their faces toward the sun as if they are being called to attention by their master. We visit a truffle farm and learn about the fascinating harvesting of truffles. Of course, we taste the truffles (black ones) and the oil and enjoy wine during our tasting. Wine goes perfectly with everything!

 

While we were on our tour, the ship traveled to Avignon. We arrived in the city by bus and the area is very crowded. We see posters everywhere as the month of July welcomes the Festival d'Avignon, an arts festival that takes place mainly in the historic center of the city. We see small groups performing, hear music playing and are confronted by numerous performers passing out flyers for their particular shows. Our included tour visits the Palace of the Popes which was the seat of the Papacy from 1309 to 1377.

 

There are similarities among the places we have visited. There are farmers' markets parading beautiful fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses, candies and flowers. The smells are overwhelming and mouth watering. Another similarity are the Roman ruins and ancient squares surrounded by the more modern residential areas. There are flowers blooming everywhere. Although the ancient squares reflect an architectural style very different from the present, the blooming flowers bring an unmatched beauty to everything. Many of the places have been identified as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

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Hi Mark,

Happy Birthday to your wife.....sounds like she had a great birthday.

You're right, the ghost walk was corny....but nonetheless a fun filled evening. Afterall, how often does one get to explore a medieval village at night.....

 

Thank you for taking the time to post such detailed accounts of your trip....

Enjoy the rest of your trip.

 

Don't recall whether or not this was your first river cruise and wonder how you like it compared to ocean cruises..,.Personally we aren't fans of crowds and enjoy the intimate size of the river cruise and find it a very nice way to see new places.

 

Hope you treat us all to another posting.

SUSAN

Edited by sand74
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Hi Mark,

Happy Birthday to your wife.....sounds like she had a great birthday.

You're right, the ghost walk was corny....but nonetheless a fun filled evening. Afterall, how often does one get to explore a medieval village at night.....

 

Thank you for taking the time to post such detailed accounts of your trip....

Enjoy the rest of your trip.

 

Don't recall whether or not this was your first river cruise and wonder how you like it compared to ocean cruises..,.Personally we aren't fans of crowds and enjoy the intimate size of the river cruise and find it a very nice way to see new places.

 

Hope you treat us all to another posting.

SUSAN

 

Thanks for your response. Wasn't sure anyone was reading. It was a special birthday celebration helped in great part by Luis, the hotel manager. He arranged for the room to be decorated with balloons on the walls and rose petals in the sharp of a heart on the bed. The rest of the duvet was also decorated with rose petals. We tried to sleep without disturbing them but that was of course impossible. :rolleyes:

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Thanks for your response. Wasn't sure anyone was reading

 

You have 1,390 views so no worries about people reading! Thanks for the thorough review. We're taking this cruise on AMAdagio next year, so it was great following your experience.

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Thanks for your response. Wasn't sure anyone was reading. It was a special birthday celebration helped in great part by Luis, the hotel manager. He arranged for the room to be decorated with balloons on the walls and rose petals in the sharp of a heart on the bed. The rest of the duvet was also decorated with rose petals. We tried to sleep without disturbing them but that was of course impossible. :rolleyes:

 

Mark....I'm wondering how many more nights you have left....and "yes" still following and enjoying your posts....You are quite a good writer!

Yes...the crew/ staff was amazing...as I had mentioned about the quick action they took when I mentioned our anniversary to the waiter....

Have you had dinner in the restaurant at the rear of the ship?

 

Just wondering where your next vacation will take you. We don't have anything planned as yet....

susan

Edited by sand74
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July 15, 2014. Somehow I forgot to mention that we ate at the Chef's table this evening. I wanted to do it on 7/14 (DW's birthday) but it was booked up. 6 of us that have been traveling together sat at one table. I think there was room for 24 people. I'm also pretty sure it was the same menu as the main dining room but it is made in the back of the room in which you eat. If you want, you can visit with the chef while he is making the dinners. Picture taking is almost encouraged. The food is prepared in small quantities and the presentation is much more artistic than the dining room. It is well worth doing but book early if you have a special night in mind. Also, there is no extra charge.

 

July 16, 2014. Early this morning we arrive in Arles. We travel by bus to the commune of Le Baux in the province of Provence. High on a hill in the Alpilles Mountains, it has the perfect defensive position with a view of the entire valley to the south. Traces of habitation have been found that date back to 6000 BC. In the fields next to the ruined castle we see a collection of ancient tools of war - enormous wooden structures too cumbersome to move from place to place.

 

Today Le Baux is a bustling maze of tiny streets filled with shops, one after the other, with local wares, Provencal table wear, candy shops, clothing and shoe stores, ceramics, etc. According to our guide the commune of Le Baux survives because of tourists, it has no other industry.

 

We also visit an olive farm. It is fascinating how the olives are harvested and prepared for market. We taste the different types of olives, olives oils and all the other products produced on the olive farm. It is amazing what we see and taste. The philosophy of this olive farm is to create quality, it is the only way they can compete in a worldwide market of olive producers from Spain and Greece. In my opinion, they have succeeded. We will be on the lookout for olive oil from France from now on.

 

After lunch we take a walking tour of Arles which has a history of ardent Christianity. This is apparent everywhere, especially in the arena, the burial grounds, the amphitheater and the Roman baths. The arena is still being used today for concerts and bull fights - but the bull is never killed. Instead the bull is festooned with ribbons and men try to remove the ribbons without being injured. Not exactly my idea of a game or a sport but it's big here. The bulls are specially trained to avoid the men (don't ask me how) but apparently, if the bull is really good at keeping the men at bay, he develops a following and certain bulls can bring in more spectators than others.

 

Works by Van Gogh are apparent on street corners and shops as he spent considerable time in this area. Sadly, France has not a single original work by Van Gogh.

 

Tonight is our last night on the Amadagio and we are sorry to say goodbye, this has been an amazing experience. Tomorrow we head for Barcelona, the first step on our journey home.

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Works by Van Gogh are apparent on street corners and shops as he spent considerable time in this area. Sadly, France has not a single original work by Van Gogh.

 

This is incorrect. There are 25 Van Gogh paintings in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

http://www.vangoghgallery.com/museum/France/Musée_d*Orsay.html

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Mark..

 

I do believe that Arles now has a Van Gogh exhibition. I don't remember if this a permanent or temporary exhibit. Our tour guide mentioned this when we were there. We didn't visit because we had seen his art while in Amsterdam.

Sorry you didn't get to the chefs table. The food was not the same menu as served in the main dining room. The portions were very small ( not that we left hungry) and the presentation was lovely....we passed through a lock while having dinner and it was a different perspective to watch the ship exit a lock instead of entering a lock as we had seen many times from the front of the ship.

 

I'm still trying to lose the three pounds I gained on our trip. It was very difficult to resist the temptation of wine, cheese, desserts etc. at every meal..

 

Again, thank you for the daily updates. Have a safe trip home.

Susan

Edited by sand74
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Mark..

 

I do believe that Arles now has a Van Gogh exhibition. I don't remember if this a permanent or temporary exhibit. Our tour guide mentioned this when we were there. We didn't visit because we had seen his art while in Amsterdam.

Perhaps I should say that I'm providing information received from the various tour guides. I was spending a lot of time taking pictures and may well have mis-heard the information. We did see a large number of pictures and posters of his work but no original paintings.

Sorry you didn't get to the chefs table. The food was not the same menu as served in the main dining room. The portions were very small ( not that we left hungry) and the presentation was lovely....we passed through a lock while having dinner and it was a different perspective to watch the ship exit a lock instead of entering a lock as we had seen many times from the front of the ship.

We did go to a chef's table and I posted my thoughts I post #20. I heard from someone on board that the menu was the same and not like the experience on an ocean cruise and that is true. There simply isn't the space. That being said, whether it was the same menu didn't matter to me as the food was expertly prepared right in front of us to our specifications.

 

IMHO, food is a very subjective and personal experience. I thought it was prepared and presented very well. As for portion size, that also is personal but for us, we never left a table feeling hungry.

 

I'm still trying to lose the three pounds I gained on our trip. It was very difficult to resist the temptation of wine, cheese, desserts etc. at every meal..

I did pretty good with the desserts, but the wine was my undoing. One of my objectives in going on the cruise was to gain more information on French wine and I feel that was partially accomplished. To complete my learning would take several years not too mention much more money than I have.....

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July 17, 2014. We are up really early as the bags for our group have to be outside the door by 6:30 AM. Ugh. A quick breakfast and then goodby to our traveling companions and some of the ship's crew who made this a terrific experience. The bags have been placed on the dock and we have to ID the luggage to ensure it makes it off the ship. We then wait for the buses to arrive (they're about 45 minutes late) and then off to the medieval town of Perpignan in France. We are on our own for about 1 1/2 hours. DW finds something to purchase and we have lunch in a little bistro on the square watching the world go by.

 

We meet at the appointed place and time and while we were gone, the buses from Barcelona have arrived. Our luggage has been transferred to the Spanish bus and we then pickup Spanish guides for the trip into Barcelona. Those passengers that came from Barcelona and are starting their cruise from Arles have done the opposite. My guess is the Spanish don't want French guides or buses in Spain and the French feel the same way about Spanish guides and buses. We're told it has to do with working hours but that seems unlikely. The city stop is about half way between Perpignan and Barcelona, so the drivers are still working the same number of hours.

 

Anyway, we're back on the road and arrive in Barcelona around 4:30 pm. The cruise line chose Le Méridien Barcelona located on La Rambla, the main walking street in the city. There is a very wide pedestrian walk in the middle and narrow drives on each side of the center walkway. The area is very crowded at this time with locals and tourists. We relax for awhile and then venture out for a drink at Boadas, a very small bar about 2 blocks down the street. Next we cross the wide street and have dinner at Santa Anna. I did some research and found both locations very close to the hotel. We enjoyed an early evening as we were only staying the 1 night in order to get home on Saturday. DW thinks she will be able to recover in time to go to work on Monday. We'll see.

 

So it's back to the weekly grind until the next trip. Those are in my signature. This was our 2nd AMA cruise and again, a truly wonderful experience. The weather didn't cooperate during the trip (rain in the beginning followed by overly hot weather toward the end) but you worry about the things you can control and just deal with what you can't. The river cruises seem more expensive than the mass market ocean cruises but they also are more inclusive. Unlimited beer and wine with lunch and dinner. The tours were quite good although as noted, some of the info may not have been completely accurate. Of course, that is probably true on ocean excursions as well. With the exception of the guide on the Spanish bus, all were easily understandable and seemed quite knowledgable. We found out later that the Spanish guide was being trained (there was a second guide on the bus that did seem to be discussing things with him but she never spoke to us directly except to give directions for getting off the bus in Barcelona).

 

The entire river cruise experience is so much more intimate than ocean cruising. You meet everyone within a couple of days. We met a couple on the first day and spent most of the cruise with them. That hasn't happened on ocean cruises as we have tended to meet people on the roll calls before we even board and roll calls are pretty sparse on the river threads. The included tours are usually 1/2 day and generally are only a couple of buses as not everyone takes the same tour. Also, the cruise company provides a listening device which allows the guide to speak into a mic and you hear through an earpiece. This is a great way to tour as you can leave the group for pictures and still hear the commentary. No crowding around the guide. When it works, it's great. Unfortunately, on 2 tours, the guides unit didn't work and you really notice the difference. There is only one sitting for dinner and I thought the meals were good (there's that subjectivity again). The menu was limited, but I never felt compelled to order the "always available" dishes and that has not been true on some of my ocean cruises. In the beginning of the cruise, we ate lunch in the dining room, but switched to the lounge buffet about 1/2 way through. Just didn't want that much food. We were still able to have wine with lunch and once the weather cooperated we ate on the front of the ship as we sailed up the river.

 

The cabins are tight but closet space is adequate for a one week cruise especially when there are no "dressy" nights. Some people did dress a little nicer on the last night for the Captain's Farewell Dinner but we didn't. Just the usual slacks and sport shirt. Some were a lot less formal than that. With the exception of shorts at dinner, almost anything goes.

 

So that's it. I'll try and answer any questions you may have and thanks for reading.

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