I got a little ahead of myself when I spoke about our tour to the Artist Experience. I neglected to tell you about our ship, the Ama Dagio.
We had been on the newer AMA Primo the year before and for the cruise up the Rhone, we were to be on their oldest ship. I had been told that it was in great shape, which it was, but on first glance, it left me a little wanting. Before on the Prima, our bedroom had a small little round table with chairs by the French balcony. Our stateroom on the Dagio did not have that or a mini refrigerator. We had bought cheese anticipating a refrigerator. Also, on the Sun Deck (the top deck) there was a hot tub,not the small pool that we had on the Prima. There was also less furniture and groupings than on the Primo where there were many rattan sofas and chairs as well as loungers and chairs with canopies and screens to shade you. The only seatings under the umbrellas on the Dagio were loungers. We had to move some chairs so we could sit and have shade while we were playing cards. A reoccurring problem for us on the Dagio was the very loud dining room. On our first night we could barely hear our table mates. The Prima had a divider down the middle with booth seating. I think that might have absorbed some of the noise. We found out the next night that if we sat in a rear corner near the doors where the food comes out, that the noise was much more tolerable. That’s where we sat for most of our meals.
What made up for some of these minor problems was the crew. I have never had a better cruise director than Rachel Couto Gomes. Not only did we learn French in an amusing way, we learned a little French etiquette. We all left her daily briefings with a huge smile on our faces. She was really a part of “us” – she participated in the dancing one night, came along to some of the tours, helped with problems that were not cruise related as well as helping with cruise related questions. I would follow her on any AMA cruise and to be honest, before I booked another cruise, I would email her to see what her schedule would be. Every single crew member went out of their way to be helpful to all of us.
On one of our first cruise days I learned why our staterooms were as small as they were – the locks! I could open our French balcony and touch the lock wall. There were no ships on the Rhone that had regular balconies because of these narrow locks. Also, for many of the times that we were cruising during the we were not allowed on the top deck due to the low bridges that we would be sailing under. In fact, while we were on our cruise a Viking cruise line ship’s bridge was not lowered (and no one knows why yet) and it was flatten and torn off the ship with the occupants inside killed. That made our captain’s decision to close off the Sun Deck even more meaningful to us.
Something new on the Dagio from the previous year was when we boarded the ship, our photograph was taken, like an ocean cruiser. Whenever we left the ship, we had our room key card scanned so they could be sure it was us getting off and us getting on. They were increasing the security because of events that had been happening in Europe this past year.
We found the food to be delicious and there was always something that we wanted to eat. What we especially liked was that their food was lighter than our American food. The Fettucine Alfredo’s sauce was delicious and light – unlike the heavier versions that I have tasted. The same with their salad dressings. I asked the Maitre ‘d for the recipes and he complied. I look forward to making some of these recipes.
We did have dinner one night at the Chef’s Table on 3rd deck aft. It was a beautiful view as we sailed down the Saone on our way back from a winery to Lyon. It was a fixed menu and it was received mixed reviews from those on the ship. It was more like a tapas meal, small offerings and there are a few choices you can make. The service was outstanding as they only have a few tables and stagger their reservations. I’m not a seafood fan and felt that there was a lot of seafood. On the other hand, Blogger Hubby loves seafood and pates and he was in seventh heaven and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not sure that I would do the Chef’s Table again though some people did enjoy it. The experience was worthwhile to me. My only suggestion is to look at the menu before you book
I did book myself a massage on the ship and although the massage was fine the room and location where it was done was not good. The hairdresser and the masseuse share a room, a tiny room at the back of the ship. There was no room to change into or out of clothes and barely with the chair for the hairdresser, the room was tight to open up the folding massage table. Throughout most of the 60 minute massage I listened to the boat rattling and the sounds of a ship that was moving. I asked if this was unusual and she replied that it wasn’t. It did distract from the relaxing environment that I had envisioned for my hour long massage. Before I book again, I’ll take a look at the room where is done.
Our first night on the ship, we had a very special treat. If you read my previous blogs, you will recall that this weekend was the Festival of the Harvest of the Rice. This area of France, the Rhone Valley, is known for the mistral winds. They are a strong, cold, northwesterly wind that blows from southern France into the Gulf of Lion (a gulf of the northern Mediterranean but can reach about 115 mph. It is most common in the winter and spring, and strongest in the transition between the two seasons. The Rhone Valley is particularly susceptible to these winds and in fact the winds get faster as they go through the valley on the way to the coast. Seems like the mistral winds went through this area on Bastille Day in July and they were not able to have the fireworks for their national holiday.They “saved” the fireworks and chose to combine them with the fireworks for the Harvest of the Rice festival. As it got dark, we all headed up to the Sun Deck (or maybe Star Deck) to grab a chair and watch the festivities. We had the BEST seats in the entire area, at least in my opinion. We were on one side of the river and the fireworks were shot off directly opposite of us. It was amazing and rank up in my mind with fireworks that I have seen in both Boston and Washington DC on the 4th of July.
We looked forward to more experiences and memories like these.