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River Venture Cruise Preview
Rolling on the River Seine

by Linda Coffman

March 2014: While our cruises are usually ocean-going voyages, we’ve stepped out of our comfort zone once again to experience a second river cruises with Vantage Deluxe World Travel. This time we were aboard River Venture for its 4-night Inaugural Seine Sailing. After settling in, we easily fell in step to the casual comfort that cruising on European rivers provides.

Once underway, it was apparent why river cruising throughout the world is one of the travel industry’s fasted growing segments. Unlike a bus tour from city to city, River Venture was our home for the journey and we unpacked once while our vessel delivered us to intriguing destinations. Shore excursions, included in the fare, were scheduled around meal times and we were free to dine on board or try the local cuisine ashore. For the more adventurous, bicycles were provided for independent touring—and a bit of a workout ashore, although there was also a small gym on River Venture. Need a manicure or haircut? Again, that was no problem as there was a “one chair” beauty salon on board as well.

Is a river cruise the best choice for you? We weren’t certain after our first trip, but our second one convinced us—it’s the only way to see the parts of the world where the big cruise ships can’t venture.

The River Venture
Launched in 2013, River Venture carries only 134 passengers with 36 crewmembers to care for them in comfort and a style that I call “boutique elegant.” Smaller and more intimate than some of the other boats on European rivers, she measures 360 feet in length with three interior passenger decks and an open air Solaris Deck on top.

At Home On Board
Accommodations range from staterooms for single travelers at 125 square feet with a twin bed to double staterooms at 165 square feet with either a French balcony—a feature found on 78% of accommodations—or a picture window. Suites, either a Deluxe Suite at 250 square feet or the Owner’s Suite at 330 square feet, offer the ultimate in personal space and amenities on board.
We found our category C stateroom 328 to be a restful retreat, although we honestly didn’t spend much time there as we found so much to do elsewhere. While a compact space, it was efficiently laid out with a small sitting area and table alongside an extremely comfortable double bed. Along one wall, a vanity/desk, a second chair, and ample storage in a dresser with four large drawers and enclosed shelves rounded out the cabinetry. Above the dresser a large flat-screen television featured an infotainment system featuring international news channels, a music station, and movies on demand. Two closets were ample for our wardrobe and would have held much more than we packed.

In all categories, a hair dryer is provided and US and European plugs are located alongside the vanity desk, which also featured a clock radio that doubled as an iPod/iPhone docking station. Bottled water was also provided upon our arrival. An ice machine just down the passageway was available to fill the ice bucket.

As expected, bathrooms were also compact; however, they are more than large enough for one person’s use at a time. A surprisingly generous sized shower had a glass door—no steaming up the entire bathroom during a hot shower and no shower curtain to cling to your limbs. L’Occitane de Provence amenities lined the glass shelf above the sink. Enclosed storage for our own toiletries below the sink was also more than large enough. One of our favorite features was one we have at home—a shaving/makeup mirror with a magnifying side that extended above the sink.

In addition to more space, all suites naturally feature French balconies and a larger sitting area with table, a mini-bar, bathrobes and slippers for use on board, and upgraded amenities. The Owner’s Suite is particularly plush, featuring a sitting area adequate for four with a dining height table, a U-shaped desk area, a separate vanity, a spacious bath with tub and shower, and storage galore. Room service is also a suite-only perk.

River Venture Lobby
River Venture Latitude 52⁰ Lounge
Public Spaces
Only steps away from any accommodations location, River Venture’s public areas are light filled and airy.

The triple-height lobby is where the reception and hospitality/concierge desks are found. Two display cases are filled with River Venture logo items, jewelry, and accessories for purchase at reasonable prices

On Deck Two are the gym and beauty salon. Forward on Deck Three is the Compass Rose restaurant, which also features a buffet area for breakfast and lunch.

Deck Four contains the most public spaces. Forward is the Latitude 52⁰ Lounge and bar where cocktail receptions, lectures, cooking demonstrations, and evening entertainment are on tap. Along one side of the lounge entry is the complimentary refreshment station featuring coffees, tea, hot chocolate, and fruit around-the-clock; a small library with books and board games is located inside the other entry. Forward and through the lounge an open air veranda with wicker chairs and tables overlooks the bow.

Aft on Deck Four is the Captain’s Club where casual meals are served and another refreshment station is located. Overhead, a glass roof floods the room with light and can be retracted when the weather is fair. All the way aft is another outdoor veranda with tables and chairs for dining and it’s also where menu items are grilled—burgers, chicken, hot dogs, and sausages at lunch and steaks at dinner.

Atop River Venture is Solaris Deck, the sun deck with loungers, tables and chairs beneath shade awnings, a deck chess set, a jogging/walking track, and of course the ship’s wheelhouse. Solaris Deck is the only spot on board River Venture where smoking is allowed at tables where ashtrays are provided.

Something that fascinated us on our river cruises is that the entire wheelhouse can be lowered into a space on the deck below when the boat passes beneath low bridges. At those times the railings and awnings are also lowered and chairs and table collapsed. During those periods, River Venture passengers who wish to sit outside find the forward and aft verandas particularly pleasant—they are not spaces found on all river vessels.

There are presently no computer stations for passenger use on River Venture—Vantage found that the majority of passengers bring along their own devices to utilize the complimentary ship-wide WiFi. However, each Vantage river ship will have several iPads available for passenger use (they can be requested at front desk) and there will also be a computer available for those who have not brought along their own devices.

River Venture Compass Rose Restaurant Buffet
Captain's Club Grill
An early risers breakfast for passengers overcoming jet lag is available in the Latitude 52⁰ Lounge and Captain’s Club. Compass Rose restaurant is the ‘formal’ dining option aboard River Venture for all meals on an open seating basis—dine with whom you please. Full breakfast and lunch are served in a combination buffet/table service style and dinner is totally table service. The daily program features lunch and dinner menus for the Compass Rose restaurant, with appetizer and soup selections and at least two entrees, including a vegetarian choice. Local dishes are also featured as are choices for health conscious diets. Complimentary wine is served with dinner on French river cruises, as well as those in Portugal and Asia. For all other river cruises, wine is served at the Captain's Welcome and Farewell dinners.

While onboard dress is casual, jeans and shorts are not permitted in the restaurant at dinner. For Captain's Welcome and/or Farewell dinners, men may wish to wear a sport coat, and women might choose a dress or nice pant outfit.

A casual option for lunch and dinner is offered in the Captain’s Club where the buffet features fruit, salads, soup and hot and cold selections. Aft on the terrace you will find the grill where a variety of meats and poultry might be on the fire at lunch and steaks and stir-fry are just a sample of the dishes prepared to order at dinner. Due to its popularity, reservations are required for dinners in the Captain’s Club, but an effort will be made to seat you if you fail to make a reservation.

Included in each port, complimentary shore excursions are led by knowledgeable local guides and range from escorted walking tours from the dock to sites in town to locales further away that are reached by coach. Audio headsets with receivers insure that participants don’t miss any of their guide’s commentary.

Before leaving the boat, passengers turn in their room keys at the reception desk and receive a “boarding pass” and color-coded tour card that corresponds to their guide’s paddle or coach window card. Tables beside the gangway have complimentary bottled water—much appreciated during time ashore. Upon returning, just hand in the cards and retrieve your room key from reception. There are no additional security procedures necessary—no passing through metal detectors and running personal items through an x-ray machine. The process is very civilized. Go ahead and bring that bottle of French wine or loaf of bread on board, no one will stop you.

Vantage’s river voyages also include Cultural Connections, which enable passengers to experience firsthand the culture of the region they are visiting by sharing a meal in a local’s home, attending a concert ashore, or sampling local wines or culinary specialties.

Captain's Club
River Venture Aft Deck
Independent exploration is always an option when a scheduled tour doesn’t interest you or free time is available on the schedule and Vantage’s new Concierge Service can help guide your way and give directions to restaurants, shops, and museums ashore. The concierge can also arrange private tours and make reservations. Working hand-in-hand with the ship’s cruise director, the concierge is often present at nightly port talks in the lounge to answer questions about the next day’s port call and tours.

The River Experience
Where’s your riverboat? Berths for docking in some ports of call are limited in number and you might find that to reach your vessel you have to pass over or through another vessel. It isn’t uncommon for riverboats to “raft” together in those instances.

For the mobility impaired, River Venture has a small elevator that reaches all interior decks. To access the Solaris Deck there is a lift chair. A passenger on our cruise used a scooter and crewmembers assisted with getting it ashore for him. Another passenger with a walker was also assisted on the gangways.

That leads us to the level of service onboard. In a few words, it was personal and caring. No matter where we were—in public rooms or on outside terraces or the Solaris Deck—crewmembers were always just steps away to fulfill orders for beverages or assist in any way. In addition, there is a Captain's welcome reception on all cruises, with canapés and complimentary drinks.

We discovered that for the most part our fellow passengers were well traveled seniors who travel in groups, but a young family with three delightful and well behaved children was also enjoying the cruise. Our advice, if you wish to include your children and grandchildren on your river cruise, would be to examine their interests and lifestyle. For instance, an infant or toddler probably would be out of place, but inquisitive youngsters and teens would likely be delighted with a riverboat cruise. First of all, there is a fresh place to see every day and complimentary Internet on board for them to share their travels with their friends back home through social networking.

Learn more about Vantage river cruises, “the best kept secret in deluxe river cruising,” at Vantage Deluxe World Travel.

Cruise Diva's River Venture Blog:

Rolling on the River Seine Aboard Vantage River Venture
River Venture Visits Ports of Call on the River Seine

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