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Deborah Review

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Deborah
4.5 / 5.0
2 reviews

Pros
Well-designed cabins; modern decor; outstanding French food, wines and cheeses
Cons
Limited exercise and entertainment; shore excursions can fall flat
Bottom Line
An outstanding introduction to barge cruising with international passengers and value fare

About

Passengers
22

Crew
6

Passenger to Crew
3.67:1

Launched
2016

Shore Excursions
0
Sails To
Sails From
CroisiEurope Cruise Deals
Chris Gray Faust
Cruise Critic Managing Editor

Deborah Overview

Passengers are drawn to barge cruises for several reasons. One, they want the intimate setting and personal service that a vessel holding fewer than two dozen people provides. Two, they like the idea of lazing around as the boat drifts down a countryside canal, taking life at a slower pace than you'd expect on a typical river cruise. And three, they expect outstanding regional food and drink.

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Deborah, a hotel barge launched by CroisiEurope in 2016, more than fits the bill on all accounts. Deployed on the quiet Upper Loire canal in the center of France, the 22-passenger boat is well-designed, with a cohesive bilingual staff and some of the best food and wine we've had on the water. Cabins are tight, as you'd expect, but attractively modern with features like above-headboard storage and USB ports next to the bed. It's a step up from CroisiEurope's other cruises, even those that are also deemed five anchor (which is reflected in the price -- a barge cruise is almost twice the cost of a river cruise). Yet even with the higher fare, Deborah is still a bargain compared with competitors that charge double (albeit with fewer passengers onboard).

Our cruise on Deborah had a bilingual passenger base, with six Americans, two Brits and one Australian making up the English-speaking group and six French speakers, four of them from France and the other two from Switzerland. Usually on a boat so small, Croisi tries to keep all the passengers on the same language -- you'll never be the only English speaker on any Croisi ship -- but we found the international staff able to move back and forth between the groups easily. Contrary to stereotypes, the French-speaking passengers were friendly and wanted to interact with us, and we all did the best we could to form friendships, despite language barriers.

Plus, having French passengers onboard contributed to the immersion that we felt by sailing with Croisi. The French-owned line takes pride in its food and drink, and it goes all-out on its barges. Mealtimes follow the French model, with a scrumptious, but relatively light breakfast, followed by an elaborate four-course meal with paired wines and the most exciting cheese plates we've ever seen at lunch. Dinners begin on the later side and are also three courses (with the exception of the gala night, when you have five). Unlike Croisi's river cruises, though, Deborah provides snacks and nibbles in the late morning and before dinner. You certainly won't go hungry; in fact, you may wonder if you'll ever feel hunger again!  

Our issues with Deborah are piddling, but nonetheless need to be mentioned. We expected to be able to spend our afternoons biking along the canal to help work off all that food, but the unevenness of the towpaths caused passenger injuries in Deborah's first year and so the boat restricted bike use in 2017. While we were allowed to take bikes around once we docked and there was one afternoon where we were blissfully set free, overall, we and others were disappointed by the limited cycling options.

The shore excursions, too, weren’t quite what we expected. The charms of the Upper Loire Valley are quiet, mostly centering on wine towns such as Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire. While we liked the places we went, we found that the hired local guides weren't as confident in their English as the Deborah staff, and many spent much more time on very small details of churches and monasteries than most English-speaking passengers would have liked. If we could tweak the program, we'd build in more free time in towns like Briare, Sancerre, La Charitie-sur-Loire and Nevers, preferably when shops were open.

Likewise, the boat is pretty sparse on evening entertainment or enrichment. Afternoon activities when the boat is cruising are limited to sitting outside and watching the scenery go by; the appearance of a lock causes much excitement. (We did love the onboard wine tasting that the staff organized when a visit to a farm fell through; based on passengers we talked to, this type of enrichment should be added to every sailing.)

Despite these issues, we count our trip on Deborah as one of the best we've experienced in Europe. Barges travel slowly at 4 mph; we found that we, too, reduced our speed, taking time for lengthy conversations, convivial meals and long evening walks around small towns. The Frenchness of it all has an effect; we already enjoyed cheese, but after seeing the love and attention that the staff lavished on it, we'll never put a cheese plate together the same after this trip. Plus having more passengers onboard than other barges meant we weren't stuck talking to the same two people all the time. For those who are looking to give French barging a whirl, at a reduced price compared to other companies, Deborah is practically perfect.


Top Deborah Itineraries

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Fellow Passengers

Like all CroisiEurope ships, Deborah attracts international passengers; you'll be almost guaranteed to have French passengers onboard. CroisiEurope tries to make sure that more than a few English speakers are on sailings together, as the line wants to avoid a situation where only two people speak a language. English-speaking travelers are typically American, British, Australian or South African. Announcements, shore excursions and meals are presented in both English and French and all staff are bilingual. Most passengers are baby boomers, aged 60 and up. 


CroisiEurope Deborah Dress Code

Deborah is a very casual ship. During the day, passengers wore jeans, T-shirts, capris, shorts and pants, and often the same clothing was worn at dinner. You'll want good walking shoes for excursions and wandering in the small towns after docking. Once per cruise, there's a "gala" night where people dressed a little nicer -- sweaters, dresses, collared shirts -- but no jackets, formal dresses or heels are required.

Deborah Inclusions

Deborah includes quite a bit in the fare. The price includes shore excursions, transfers to the ship from Paris and back, most alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks (with the exception of premium wines and liquors), use of bikes and Wi-Fi. Gratuities are not required on CroisiEurope. The currency onboard is the euro.


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Deborah Ratings

CategoryEditorMember
Cabins4.54
Dining5.04
Entertainment2.03
Public Rooms4.55
Fitness Recreation2.03
FamilyN/A
Enrichment3.04
Service5.05
Value For Money5.05

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Awards and Recognition

CroisiEurope Deborah Member Reviews

jcwer
Sail Date: Aug 2019
We opted for the barge Ms Deborah, which cruises on the canal de la Loire, with the Briare to Nevers’ route.... Read More
greatsloer
Sail Date: Jun 2018
We chose this cruise because our travel operator came to our development and presented this cruise to us. We were a group of 12 friends and neighbors. Even though the ship has cabins for 22 passengers, I would... Read More

CroisiEurope Fleet

Gerard Schmitter
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

4 reviews

A modest but comfortable ship that carries 176 passengers in 88 simply furnished cabins and offers a very French set menu at lunch and dinner.

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Indochine
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Launched in 2008 and completely refitted in 2012, Indochine is owned and operated by CroisiVoyages, part of French-owned and family-run CroisiEurope.

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La Belle de Cadix
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

The Belgian-built La Belle de Cadix is dedicated to the Guadalquivir River and Gulf of Cadiz, actively cruising through all but high-summer months.

La Belle de l'Adriatique

CroisiEurope's La Belle de l'Adriatique, a 198-passenger oceangoing vessel, was purpose-built for coastal cruises and sails to Greece, Croatia, Montenegro and Cyprus.

Infante Don Henrique

The 142-passenger Infante Don Henrique is one of three CroisiEurope river vessels that sail on Portugal's Douro and measures 246 feet in length.

Victor Hugo

The 98-passenger Victor Hugo is one of a pair of smaller ships in CroisiEurope's fleet of European river cruise vessels designed for shallower rivers.

Lafayette
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Lafayette is a sleek and stylish vessel and a departure from CroisiEurope's usual style in that its 84-passenger capacity is lower than the usual 100 to 180 range.

La Boheme

The 160-passenger La Boheme, which sails on the Rhine and Danube, CroisiEurope's 160-passenger Leonard de Vinci, which sails on the Rhine and Danube, offers French-inspired meals and an all-inclusive open bar.

Loire Princesse
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

CroisiEurope was the first to design a river cruise ship to navigate the Loire River, and the result is the spare but stylish Loire Princesse.

Gil Eanes
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Offering competitive prices and French flair, CroisiEurope's 132-passenger Gil Eanes sails on five- and seven-night cruises out of Porto.

Leonard de Vinci

CroisiEurope's 160-passenger Leonard de Vinci, which sails on the Rhine and Danube, offers French-inspired meals and an all-inclusive open bar.

Cyrano de Bergerac
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

CroisiEurope's MS Cyrano de Bergerac cruises the Gironde estuary out of Bordeaux, sailing the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers, principally to visit wine-growing areas.

Beethoven

The 180-passenger Beethoven, which sails the Rhine and Danube, is one of five vessels in CroisiEurope's large fleet of European river cruise ships that measure 360 feet.

Douce France
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

CroisiEurope's Douce France, a 160-passenger vessel based on the Rhine, operates eight-night cruises between Amsterdam and Basel, travelling through Holland, Germany and Switzerland.

Modigliani

CroisiEurope's Modigliani, a 160-passenger vessel based on the Rhine, operates eight-night cruises between Amsterdam and Basel, travelling through Holland, Germany and Switzerland.

Monet

South Beach Miami vibe with lots of outdoor spaces, nine eateries, condo-style cabins and a five-slide waterpark; other highlights are low-cost Wi-Fi and full-sized bowling alley.

Symphonie

CroisiEurope's Symphonie, a 162-passenger vessel based on the Rhine, operates eight-night cruises between Amsterdam and Basel, travelling through Holland, Germany and Switzerland.

Botticelli

CroisiEurope's 151-passenger Botticelli operates on one of Europe's most famous rivers, the Seine. It boasts spacious public areas and an emphasis on its French heritage.

France

CroisiEurope's 160-passenger France operates on one of Europe's most famous rivers, the Seine. It boasts spacious public areas and an emphasis on its French heritage.

Renoir
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

CroisiEurope's 158-passenger Renoir operates on one of Europe's most famous rivers, the Seine. It boasts spacious public areas and an emphasis on its French heritage.

Seine Princesse

CroisiEurope's 138-passenger Seine Princesse operates on one of Europe's most famous rivers. It boasts spacious public areas and an emphasis on its French heritage.

Camargue

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Mistral

CroisiEurope's Mistral, a 158-passenger vessel based on the Rhone and Saone, operates cruises through the South of France. It boasts spacious public areas and an emphasis on its French heritage.

Princesse d'Aquitaine

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Michelangelo

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Mona Lisa

The 98-passenger Mona Lisa is one of CroisiEurope's smaller ships, designed for shallow rivers. It operates cruises on the Tisza, Elbe, Danube and Rhine Rivers.

Fernao de Magalhaes

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Vasco da Gama (CroisiEurope)

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Raymonde

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Madeleine

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Anne Marie

Anne Marie, one of CroisiEurope's 24-passenger hotel barges, traverses the canals of Provence, following the wine route from Avignon to Sete, and stopping at villages along the way to sample local foods and wines.

Toum Tiou

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Toum Tiou II

Toum Tiou II is operated by CF Mekong River Cruises, a subsidiary of CroisiEurope. The 28-passenger ship's low draft allows it to access remote villages and the Gao Canal that flows into Saigon.

Lan Diep

Inspired by the Mekong's ancient tradition of riverboat building, the 44-passenger Lan Diep boasts a traditional Colonial style with wood finishing and a metal hull.

Jeanine
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

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Elbe Princesse
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

CroisiEurope's vessel is powered by two paddlewheels with an shallow draught of four feet to enable sailing the tricky Elbe and Vltava Rivers between Berlin and Prague.

Indochine II
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Launched in 2017, Indochine II is a small river ship dedicated to sailing itineraries along the Mekong in Cambodia. Styling is classic with modern amenities.

Deborah
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

CroisiEurope's 22-passenger barge ship built in 2016 offers decadent dining and pleasant accommodation traveling through France's Loire River canal.

Amalia Rodrigues

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La Belle Des Oceans

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CroisiEurope's newest vessel on Africa's Chobe River allows for European-style comfort while sailing one of the world's most often-overlooked waterways.

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