This may be the first review of the Monarch Countess, one of Gate 1 Travel's own river cruisers. I was looking for reviews prior to our trip but was unable to find any. If I'm not mistaken, this ship was formerly the Avalon Felicity. Being rather new to river cruising, we've only been on a four-day Yangtze river cruise, and a week-long Nile cruise, on other carriers. We opted this time for Gate 1's river and canal cruise around Holland and Belgium at tulip time. It was a bit early in the tulip season but we were still rewarded with lots of color, especially at Keukenhof, which was spectacular.
Something I learned on this cruise is that river cruises tend to travel by night. This makes sense since you're in different ports each day, but my previous river cruises did include daylight travel.
We chose this cruise because it seemed like a good value, and as it turned out, it was a good value. But beyond that, the ship is lovely, the crew is attentive, and the food was very good. If I were to do another river cruise, I would definitely consider Gate 1.
We would have liked to have had a cabin with sliding doors and the juliet balcony. There was an up-charge depending on cabin location, and we would have opted for an upper-level cabin, but when we booked they were all sold out. Our cabin was in the lower level and we were wondering how that would be. Due to the above-mentioned nighttime travel, it was just fine. The view out the window is inches above the water level, but we didn't find it to be an issue. The only issue on the entire cruise was that there was a pungent intermittent and sporadic odor of diesel in the cabin. I queried a couple other travelers if they noticed this but I didn't hear of anyone else commenting on it. Perhaps it was only evident in the lower level; I don't know. But it was the only real negative experience of the whole cruise.
Ports of call were interesting and beautiful. The included shore excursions were very good, as were the tour guides. Our tour director, Dominique, was terrific. I'll admit that tipping got a bit tiresome as the week wore on. At the end of the cruise, tips are collected for the crew, tour director, and activities director. But during the week, each time there's a different tour guide or bus driver or any other service person, you find yourself continually fishing for tips. I suppose this is standard on river cruises.
All in all, the Gate 1 river cruise was very good. It also happened to be our first Gate 1 tour of any type. We know lots of people who rave about Gate 1 and we'll probably try a land-based Gate 1 tour to see what they're like.