Cruise ship review: The Loire Princesse
Date Posted: 15/04/2015
Group Leisure editor Sarah Holt was one of the first passengers given access to the new Loire Princesse. Here’s what she thought of it…
On Thursday 2nd April, the Champagne bottle was cracked against the hull of the new Loire Princesse, during the ship’s official launch ceremony in Nantes, north west France.
The vessel’s creators, CroisiEurope, christened three other river boats that week, but it was the Princesse that stole the limelight with both the press and the public.
And rightly so. This boat is the first ever cruise vessel with cabins that has ever cruised down the Loire. Sailing between St Nazaire in the west to Villandry in the east, it opens up an entirely new region to the cruise market.
Built from scratch at the Saint Nazaire shipyard, the Loire Princesse has been modelled with its location in mind. Aquarium-style windows line the ship’s bar and restaurant, so you can see every inch of the Loire’s banks as you sail.
The upper deck cabins have balconies, too – and not ones that are post-box narrow, but ones with room for two chairs where you can soak up the scenery with stretched legs.
With 48 cabins, including double occupancy rooms with separate beds, the Loire Princesse feels less like a cruise ship and more like a private members club. A sense of exclusivity comes with its size, which would only heighten if your group was large enough to take over the whole thing.
The atmosphere of entitlement that comes with the ship’s vital statistics is furthered by the interior design. CroisiEurope is a family business, and it’s the wives of the owners that have taken charge of the interior styling.
It’s clear that they’ve not had to cut through any corporate red tape in deciding how the ship looks, and the result is soft furnishings by Missoni, whose cushions alone come with a £80 price tag, a blush colour scheme throughout, and finishing touches like copper pendant lights and strategically placed sculptures..
There’s one restaurant, which serves the French cuisine that CroisiEurope is making a name for itself with. Weekly menus will feature everything from foie gras and brioche to veal and camembert cheese.
The dining room doesn’t have the heirs and graces that can be found on some cruise ships. The tables are dressed in white linen, but there’s no dress code in place. Many of the cruise ship traditions are still adhered to, like the baked Alaska parade, but even that has an element of the je ne sais quoi that infuses the rest of the ship. The dessert was set alight as is customary, but there was no gawdy dancing or booming sound track as it cooked.
When I visited the ship, the weather in the Loire Valley was overcast, as it was slightly out of season. But the Loire Princesse has a huge sun deck that will come into its own in summer. My advice if you’re sailing in summer? Order one of the kir cocktails that are included in the cost of a cruise, claim a lounger – of which there are plenty – and prepare for a bon voyage.
Choose your cruise
Croisi Europe is currently offering two itineraries on the Loire.
The eight-day Royal Legacy departs from Nantes and travels to Saint Nazaire, Ancenis, Angers, Saumur and Bouchemaine before going back through Ancenis and Nantes.
The six-day Royal Legacy follows the same route, without stopping in Saumur or Bouchemaine.
Bookings are currently being taken for cruises up until the end of October 2015, with more dates being released soon.
Guided visit of Nantes – takes you around the historical quarter where you’ll find the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany and 18th century Theatre Graslin.
The Chateaux of the Loire Valley – discover the 15th and 16th century pads of France’s bourgeoisie.
Guided visit of Guerande – explore the region’s salt marshes.
For more information about the Loire Princesse visit www.croisieurope.travel/en-gb.
Pictured: 5th century wooden house in Nantes.