There's nothing fancy about a CroisiEurope cruise, though some of the line's latest ships have noticeably ramped up the design and interior decor that, until recently, tended to be stuck in the mid-1990's. Staterooms are smaller on average than many competing lines and amenities are nothing to write home about, but CroisiEurope leaves the completion in the dust when it comes to diverse itineraries, and price. Few lines can touch CroisiEurope's affordability, with voyages in the under-$1, 000 range. Once exclusively a European product, Croisie has turned its focus on the U.S.
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market in the past few years, making this the line to take if you're looking for a true cultural immersion cruise at a price that will make you think it's a typo.
Value: CroisiEurope is the price leader in Europe, and voyages can often go for a fraction of the line's more well-known counterparts.
Original Rivers/Itineraries: One way that CroisiEurope is trying to better compete in the dog-eat-dog river cruise industry is by charting new and unique rivers in Europe, including recently the Loire River. It also often goes further along certain popular rivers than other lines, such as further up along the Seine River.
Prime Docking Spaces: When you've been around for four decades, you're awarded certain privileges. CroisiEurope is one of the few lines able to dock right in the heart of ports like Strasbourg, France, while other lines are stuck miles away in nearby Kehl, Germany.
European Experience: CroisiEurope attracts a mix of Europeans and English speakers and the onboard experience has a decidedly French flavor.
Spartan Accommodations: Staterooms on CroisiEurope's older ships are below industry standard, and many still have separated Pullman-style bunks that cannot be made into a queen-sized bed.
Frumpy Decor: The line's older ships, which are the majority of their vessels, have a curious 1993 vibe going on. We're talking looks that went out of style around the time Jazzercise did.
Uneven Inclusions: Some voyages include all beverages, like beer, wine, and premium spirits, in the cost of the cruise. Other voyages include comparatively little. Check before booking.
Lack of Choice: CroisiEurope famously has traditionally offered only one entree option for dinner (though it's working to add more choices), and it has a single dining venue per boat. It also does.
Not have the same variety of shore excursions and activities as other lines.
Melting Pot: As mentioned above, while some might love the fact that they're sailing with people from France, Germany, the U.K. and Spain, others might find the announcements in multiple languages annoying and the inability to necessarily converse or connect with the other passengers limiting.
This is river cruising Euro-style, which is a different experience than river cruising built for Americans by American companies. Meals are European in taste and delivery, service is of a European standard, and entertainment has a European flair. You have to be up for the different way things are done across the pond.
CroisiEurope is run by three generations of the Schmitter family who founded the Strasbourg, France-based company in 1976. The Schmitters know river cruising and the European waterways well. And they also know they have some changes to make if they are going to continue to successfully court the U.S. market.
Since turning its focus more seriously towards the American market, CroisiEurope has been building and renovating ships that are more in line with the higher-quality interiors and amenities that Americans are coming to expect from river cruises. The company starting building a new generation of vessels that kicked off in 2014 with the launch of the 84-passenger Lafayette on the Rhine this new class of CroisiEurope ships feature sleek and modern interiors with colorful accents such as Missoni-printed blankets strewn across the beds and funky chandeliers. The new generation includes the 96-passenger Loire Princesse that launched in 2015 and the 80-passenger Elbe Princesse launched in the spring of 2016. CroisiEurope is also investing in offering greater variety in its onboard meals and giving passengers more choice in general, such as with some new included excursions.
CroisiEurope's main competitive selling points are lower prices and finding new and often unique port stops. The company is able to keep its pricing below standard U.S. market rates because all of its operations are done in-house (as opposed to contracting things such as food and beverage services, or nautical operations, out to third parties). And it's able to sail new waterways because of a recent idea to construct vessels powered by paddlewheels that allows them to have lower drafts and thus sail in shallower waters the company has already launched its small, sleek paddle-wheelers on France's Loire River and Germany's Elbe River, and has plans to do the same on other rivers that it is still keeping hush-hush. Croisie also operates ocean-going vessels.
Perhaps because of its more accessible pricing, CroisiEurope tends to attract a younger clientele,
Passengers in their 40s and 50s with the average age being about 50 years old. As mentioned, it's an international mix, with about 20% coming from North America, 30% being English speakers from elsewhere (such as Brits and Australians), and 50% European passengers, mostly French and German speaking.
Itineraries are so varied that simply choosing where to go could be problematic. The line offers sailings along the Danube, the Rhine, Main, Moselle and Elbe, along with voyages throughout France (both barge and river cruises), Portugal and Spain, Italy, and Vietnam and Cambodia. CroisiEurope also offers hybrid voyages that explore the coast of Europe along with its inland waterways; these sail to Croatia, Greece, Italy and Montenegro.
CroisiEurope vessels have one main dining room, which serves French and European cuisine. Breakfast is served buffet style, and lunch and dinner are served as sit-down, three-course meals paired with complimentary wine. In fact, all beverages including water, juice, coffee, tea, beer and wine are complimentary. The food has been notoriously so-so compared to other river cruise lines, but it was improved greatly on our last cruise (it tasted like French home cooking, which is a compliment in our eyes). The company traditionally offered one entree at lunch and dinner, compared to the overabundance of options on other river cruise lines, but that, too, is changing on some of its ships.
CroisiEurope offers lectures and demonstrations during its cruises. When groups that speak different languages are traveling on the same vessel lectures will be provided according to language (so a Spanish speaking group will be offered a presentation or demonstration on a given topic at one time, and an English speaking group will be offered a lecture at another time). As for shore excursions: The line offers walking excursions alongside more active options like cycling tours.
CroisiEurope allows children as young as infant and toddlers on board but does not provide cribs or any special equipment to cater to young children, so passengers are encouraged to bring their own. The company offers a discounted cruise price for kids under 10, and also has several family-friendly cruises during the summer months there are kid friendly menus on these sailings, and active excursions such as hiking trips.
Evening entertainment is offered in the form of local entertainers that board at select ports of call, or from the ship's onboard pianist. Like other river cruises, entertainment options are limited compared to ocean cruises.
Service aboard the ships of CroisiEurope is friendly and personable, if not polished. In hotel terms, it's closer to a family-run B& B than the Ritz-Carlton and that's perfectly fine. Smiles are genuine, and the local crews are exceedingly helpful.
The CroisiEurope fleet consists of 45 ships, six of which are dedicated river barges sailing the canals of France. The company's newest vessel is the Elbe Princesse, which uses a unique paddlewheel propulsion system to send her down the shallow Elbe on voyages from Berlin.