We booked this APT river cruise fairly late when we saw a special offer. It was our fourth trip with APT and our second river cruise with them. The early morning flight arrived slightly early into Marseille and we headed for the information desk after baggage claim as per our itinerary but there was no sign of our guide. We spotted several other APT passengers wandering looking for the guide and eventually found the guide near the baggage hall exit. She was holding a very small badly lit tablet with part of the APT sign displayed so it is no wonder most of us missed her. She told us the bus wasn't here yet so if we wanted the toilet or a coffee we could use the facilities but she didn't specify a time to come back. Consequently when the bus did arrive the guide had a problem rounding everyone up again. When we were all assembled the guide told us that due to works at the airport the coach couldn't pick us up outside so we had to walk to the coach. This turned to be a walk of approximately half a mile to a car park crossing various roads pulling our luggage as no porter's were provided. Given the age profile of the group this really wasn't acceptable.
On boarding the ship in Arles we received a very warm welcome from the captain, second captain and the house manager and a light lunch with drinks was available in the lounge. Our cabins were available from 15.00 and announcements were made when cabins were available.
The food on board was generally good but not great. We were served a cold main course on a cold plate in the chef's table which should have been hot but the head waiter brushed off numerous complaints. The salad looked a bit tired some lunchtimes and the deserts majored in chocolate. I like my beef "well done" with no red meat but most of the meat was served medium in spite of the waiter asking how you would like it cooked.
The service in the restaurant was good but our waiter often served tables randomly so it was a bit of a lottery when you got your food. The wine waiters were really good at topping up your glass. The management of the restaurant was well handled and the house manager was ever present to lend a hand.
Given where we were cruising on the Rhone we expected some really nice wines but there appeared to be only 4 reds available during the cruise and only 2 of these were drinkable.
The "champagne" on offer was at best a sparkling wine and we gave it a wide berth.
The excursions were generally good and well organised but the ship only had 100 passengers. Tour groups were issued coloured tickets but no one checked or collected these so people tended to drift between groups a bit. The wireless communicators worked well with only a couple of problems but guides didn't seem to have spares when a problem cropped up. Most of the guides were good but we did have one that struggled with English and really hadn't done her homework.
The signature event was excellent and the food was really good (as you would expect for a Michelin restaurant) and the portions were also surprising large. Crossing the busy road to the venue was handled very well.
We weren't able to use the upper deck very much as it was roped off. This was due to low bridges and the deck furniture and handrails were all stowed. Thankfully we had our French balcony so you may wish to think about that when you choose a cabin on this river. We did miss not being able to use the walking track however to burn off some of the calories we had acquired.
In conclusion we had a good cruise on a comfortable ship with a great crew and as usual most of the passengers were ok too.
The French balcony grade B cabin we had was on the small side but of course the ship size is determined by the size of the locks it has to pass through so the cabins will be smaller than ocean cruise ships. The layout was however well thought out and consequently it didn't feel cramped. The cleaning staff were really good and somehow knew when we went to breakfast so we came back to a serviced cabin virtually every morning. Our cabin was sufficiently far forward to avoid the engine noise we experienced on our previous river cruise but we did get disturbed a few nights by the ship bumping the sides of a lock. We always take earplugs and i would recommend them on any river cruise. A few of our fellow travelers did have noise issues.