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Travelscope U K River Cruise


hinkley

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  • 4 weeks later...

Our trip across Europe on the ‘ARLENE’, courtesy of Travelscope was, like the good old Curate’s egg, ‘good in parts’. But they were the parts that mattered!

This cruise was rather more specialised than anything else that you will find in the relevant T’Scope brochure so I will confine myself to generalisations that will apply to any voyage.

Take-off

We don’t use the coach down to Dover because it usually leaves ones area the day before or very early same morning and takes hours to get to Dover. The alternative - leave the car at their hotel in – that was a reasonably priced addition but be sure to ask for a non-front room because the traffic noise in them was awful.

T’Scope Staff

These deserve early mention. You will be most fortunate to find this team handling things. The two Mikes who drove the 2 Pat’s Coaches [of Wrexham] were great in all those areas that a trip such as this depends. Even to the point of working very humorous ‘double acts’ with their respective couriers. As for the couriers, Andy and Dominiq [the latter is Dutch and highly professional]; Andy is of Yorkshire, [with a quaint vocabulary that enlivened every dull moment]. They were easily the best that we have enjoyed after years of touring. Their hard work and total commitment were the important factors that ensured that despite the many snags produced by a late season voyage across the many locks of the Rhine Danube Main Canal the voyage worked. If you are, like us, boat-buffs of the Waterways of Europe then this voyage is for you. It is at about one half of the cost of the few others that do it. But you’ve gotta like a lotta locks.

The Vessel

In the things that matter, viz.cabins, food, service Arlene was fairly basic. It wouldn’t have worked without a superb staff [apart from the uncommunicative and, evidently inefficient Skipper we started with, who was replaced half-way thru the voyage [!] The replacement, who incidentally appears in the brochure’ was just the ticket.

Cabins

Just about passed muster. All are about 100 sq ft which is the bare comfort minimum but adequate unless you wish to rotate your cat or entertain more than one other[!]. Good and reliable shower output in a room of adequate size but toilet was noisy, as one often finds in these older vessels. Air conditioning was ancient and a little suspect, particularly where we started, which was lower deck. The cabin smelled of slight damp which seemed to be coming from the upper vent of the AC and having once had the dreaded Pneumonia I insisted on a move. The onboard staff couldn’t have been more helpful. We were upgraded to a midships cabin on the upper deck. Same size and similar ablutions, but with a TV[limited channels] and, heaven of heavens, an openable window. A little note here- All, passengers of both decks who had cabins in the back third complained of engine noise disrupting slumbers when our good lady was manoeuvring in the night. [i have been prompted by the distaff side to emphasise that Arlene is the lady in question!] .

Food

The weakest part of the deal without a doubt. Overall there was little choice although most of the limited range was wholesome. Breakfast usually involved an egg in one of its several guises and sometimes sad looking little sausages, sometimes bacon. Beans were an event of some note! Usual cereals but very little fruit. Oh, there was always a slice of ubiquitous Dutch cheese to liven things up. Lunch was a buffet that revolved around the above-said cheese and pressed ham with sliced bread with a little treat (spag,or soup or vol-au-vent] served too long after the rest. No puddings that I recall. Something they don’t advertise was the packed lunch supplied for excursions that spanned midday, very welcome!

Morning coffee and afternoon tea, both with nice bickys, are also unadvertised, as were the orientation strolls provided by our couriers at most ports.

Dinner was described each morning on the notice board, and alternatives were there if you asked then, but lunch[perhaps understandably!] was not.

Taken in a pleasant dining room with good outlook and served by the best kind of waiter [mostly Slovakians, as were our cleaning people, who also gave excellent service. Did’nt stint on their tips when we learned of their wages and conditions].

If you didn’t seek alternatives earlier you got three courses without choice. Average to poor in quality [chicken and turkey was of the reconstituted variety and vegetables were rather limited.] Deserts for diabetics were fruit or a rather dubious ice-cream. No one was impressed with their deserts. The high spot was plonk price. A basic white [bottle] was served at c4-50 pounds a bottle. I challenge anyone to find an uncorked, served wine at that price anywhere!

Entertainment

Was, as always judged in accord with individual taste. But they made the effort with visiting local yodellers, organists, bingo and quizzes. The best judgement is to be found in the fact that the lounge[another comfortable, pleasant room] was usually full of happy voyagers. Uncontrolled smoking was a little problematical.

Overall we found it was a great bargain as long as you didn’t expect Q Mary 11 stuffed shirt standards. Much was down to a first class staff.

An important caveat is that Arlene was advertised as the company’s ‘flagship’. I cannot, of course pass opinion on the rest of the vessels. We will use this line again in the knowledge that we will not get top quality but it is good at the price. The final point [honestly!] is that we will always go for the upper deck in the forward two thirds and hope to enjoy the excellent staff!

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  • 4 weeks later...

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