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Douce France Review

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Douce France
4.0 / 5.0
0 reviews

Pros
Completely rebuilt ship feels clean and modern; all cabins have decent views
Cons
Lack of choice at mealtime; English-speakers a minority
Bottom Line
If you're OK with a foreign line, Douce France offers itinerary choices at value prices

About

Passengers
107

Crew
25

Passenger to Crew
4.28:1

Launched
1997; rebuilt in 2017

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

Douce France Overview

Before you book a trip on Douce France -- or any ship on the Strasbourg-based CroisiEurope cruise line, for that matter – you must ask yourself a few questions: Are you open to new foods and set menus? Do you enjoy being around people who are a different nationality from you? Are you OK being in an environment where English isn't the main language?

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If you can wholeheartedly answer "yes" to these stipulations, then you'll be right at home on Douce France. The vessel, which originally started sailing in 1997, was completely rebuilt in 2017 as one of CroisiEurope's "5 anchor" premium ships. The rebuild brought the passenger load down to 107 from 160 and completely revamped all of the cabins and public spaces. The result is a spacious ship that's remarkably clean and modern, with a youthful color palette that belies the typical passenger (which remains baby boomer and up). Even the lesser-priced Main Deck cabins are pleasant, with stark white walls, lots of storage space and full picture windows that partially open for fresh air. The ship also has a handful of solo cabins.

The largest European river cruise line, CroisiEurope has made a push to expand its offerings to English-speakers around the world, as well as North America. In the service department, the Douce France staff excelled in making the eight American passengers on our Rhine and Moselle cruise feel comfortable and informed. Announcements and activities were in both English and French; a designated entertainment guide gave us English briefings and bar staff remembered our language preferences.

Our fellow passengers, too, were a fun lot, with many attempting to communicate despite the obvious language barriers. We spent an evening in a Rudesheim beer hall with French shipmates, locking arms and singing, even if we could only speak a few words of common language (German in this case). We witnessed some of our fellow Americans conversing with the French about the scenery, as well as the more delicate issues of politics. And, it turns out, everyone knows the words to YMCA.

Perhaps because so many passengers are not traveling long distances to board the ship, Douce France has a wonderfully casual air. Take an excursion (or not); stay out late (or not); take part in the "aperitif games" (or not) -- the staff takes it all in stride, with a laugh and no judgment. While our designated English guide did make a point of checking in with us, the atmosphere was much more laid-back than the go-go-go feel you experience on most river cruise lines. Travelers who are taking the cruise as part of a longer European trip will appreciate the downtime. Type A personalities who want minute-by-minute instruction will not.

The main barrier to CroisiEurope gaining more of a foothold with Americans is the line's approach to meals. The line takes obvious pride in its French offerings, but the fixed menus are definitely unusual for people normally spoiled for choice. For many English-speakers, this alone is a deal-breaker and it's probably the most common complaint we at Cruise Critic hear about the line. The ship's hotel manager recognizes the issue and told us that when larger numbers of Americans are onboard, more buffets are offered. (Likewise, when Germans are en masse, an afternoon kuchen, or cake, break is added.)

That being said, our fellow Americans on Douce France had no problem with the meals as offered. All were on their first river cruise and most were doing the sailing as part of a longer European trip. CroisiEurope does offer some of river cruising's most varied itineraries, with a wide range of rivers and cruise lengths, including three- and four-day cruises. For these travelers, a four-day "teaser" cruise on Douce France, where they didn't have to navigate foreign language menus or make any decisions about what to eat, proved to be perfect. Those who are planning their river cruise as the main European event, though, might have different expectations.

All in all, we found Douce France an extremely pleasant experience. Based on the rebuild, it seems like CroisiEurope is already creating ships that can appeal to an international audience, and we'd recommend a "5 anchor" ship like Douce France to any English speakers who can deal with the line's meal policies.


Top Douce France Itineraries

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Fellow Passengers

As part of an international line, Douce France's passenger makeup can vary greatly, depending on itinerary and season. No matter what time of year, expect to sail with a lot of French passengers. Our sailing had eight Americans; the hotel manager tells us that there can be as many as a dozen English speakers from various countries or as few as two. Other nationalities might be Spanish, German, Italian, Belgian, Argentinian or even Norwegian. Announcements, programs and shore excursions are offered in French, English and whatever other nationality might be onboard. Although nationalities may vary, the age range is the same: baby boomers and older.


CroisiEurope Douce France Dress Code

Douce France is a casual ship, with most passengers wearing clothing for touring during the day, such as jeans, pants, sweaters, T-shirts and sweatshirts (while the French tend to be a little more chic, you can accomplish the same look with a scarf). Good walking shoes are a must for the cobblestone streets, and raingear is a good idea in the shoulder season. The French also tend to bundle up more than Americans – we were told that it was "cold" during mild temperatures. Few people change for dinner. Once per cruise -- even on a short one -- there's a gala evening where people dress up a little bit. Still, you'll be fine with a skirt or nice pants and a collared shirt if you're a man. (Jackets are not required.)

 


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Douce France Ratings

CategoryEditorMember
Cabins4.0N/A
Dining4.0N/A
Entertainment3.5N/A
Public Rooms4.0N/A
Fitness RecreationN/A
Family3.5N/A
Enrichment3.0N/A
Service4.0N/A
Value For Money4.0N/A

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Awards and Recognition

CroisiEurope Douce France Member Reviews

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.

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.

CroisiEurope La Belle de l'Adriatique Cruises to the Mediterranean View All CroisiEurope La Belle de l'Adriatique Cruises
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

CroisiEurope's Camargue, a 148-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.

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

CroisiEurope's Princesse d'Aquitaine, a 138-passenger vessel based on the Gironde River, operates cruises through southwest France. It boasts spacious public areas and an emphasis on its French heritage.

Michelangelo

CroisiEurope's 158-passenger Michelangelo sails Italy's Po River and Venetian Lagoon. It features spacious public areas, as well as complimentary bar drinks during the day and house wine, beer and drinks with meals.

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

CroisiEurope 142-passenger Fernao de Magalhaes operates cruises along Portugal's Douro. All 71 cabins feature convertible double beds and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Vasco da Gama (CroisiEurope)

CroisiEurope 142-passenger Vasco de Gama operates cruises along Portugal's Douro. All 71 cabins feature convertible double beds and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Europe

CroisiEurope's 174-passenger L'Europe operates cruises on the Danube and Rhine Rivers. It offers complimentary bar drinks during the day and house wine, beer and drinks with meals.

Vivaldi

CroisiEurope's 174-passenger Vivaldi operates cruises on the Danube and Rhine Rivers. It offers complimentary bar drinks during the day and house wine, beer and drinks with meals.

Raymonde

Raymonde, one of CroisiEurope's 24-passenger hotel barges, sails the Marne Canal and the Saint-Martin Canal, in Paris. It includes select alcoholic beverages and soft drinks in its fare.

Madeleine

Madeleine, 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.

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

Toum Tiou is operated by CF Mekong River Cruises, a subsidiary of CroisiEurope. The 24-passenger ship's low draft allows it to access remote villages and the Gao Canal that flows into Saigon.

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

Jeanine, one of CroisiEurope's 24-passenger hotel barges, operates cruises along France's canals and rivers. A 2013 refurb made it one of the most modern barges on the water.

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

CroisiEurope's sixth ship on the Douro brings more of the line's European sensibilities and charm to Portugal.

La Belle Des Oceans

French river cruise line CroisiEurope has purchased the former Silver Discoverer and intends to refit it as the company's second oceangoing ship, La Belle des Oceans. It will enter service in spring 2020.

Zimbabwean Dream

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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