EnROUTE TO THE AmaDAGIO — As we prepared to depart Barcelona, we were suddenly faced with the need to change direction. We had purchased train tickets from Barcelona to Arles weeks before, but on our final day in Barcelona we were contacted by AmaWaterways and advised that the Celebration of Wine cruise was now going to depart from Lyon, instead of Arles.
It seems Mother Nature had intervened and drenched southern France in a deluge over several days causing the level of the Rhone River to rise to the point where it was not safe to embark passengers in Arles.
AmaWaterways staff was obliged to improvise “on the fly” so to speak, to salvage our cruise; part of the solution they developed involved boarding in Lyon. So far, it appears they have handled this “act of nature” with impressive efficiency and thoroughness. We took a taxi to the Barcelona hotel where AmaWaterways’ pre-cruise guests were staying and joined them for a motorcoach trip to Montpellier, France where we all boarded the TGV for Lyon.
Taken to our vessel, docked on the Rhone embankment, we were boarded by 6 p.m. and after a warm welcome and initial briefing in the lounge, settled into our cozy, but well-laid-out and appointed cabin. Our luggage arrived within a half-hour and we headed for dinner at 7:30.
Only that day had the river level dropped to the point where AmaDagio could be repositioned—she managed to clear one bridge by 2 centimeters! The staff had reconfigured our itinerary to accommodate our situation: we will cruise down-river to Arles, then return to Lyon on the scheduled day, making some intervening stops while heading down-river, others on our return, but we are advised all excursions will be available. We sailed at midnight.
Our Cruise Manager, Kriss is French-Canadian and speaks flawless Canadian English. Most of the crew in hotel operations seemed to be Hungarian or Bulgarian, the Captain and operating crew, French. All speak English well and mostly with pleasing accents—it gives an international flavor but without communication obstacles. We do not envy Captain Boucher and his crew their task of cruising twice the normal distance this week in high water conditions, but are confident they are up to it.
Our schedule looks to be very full. Frequent excursions all look appealing. Based upon our dinner the first night aboard, including the excellent (and plentiful) local wine served, we will not want to miss any meals. Several wine lectures are scheduled on board as well. So, finding time to explore the vessel, visit with fellow passengers, not to mention to sleep, may prove challenging. What a problem.
We’ll report next on the revised itinerary and our first excursion–a visit to a truffle farm.