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A royal home on the river Loire

by Mike

7 April 2015 • In France they call the river Loire "un fleuve sauvage", a wild river. The water is often very shallow and the strength of the current unpredictable. For the first time a river cruise ship has been developed, especially for the Loire.

I was delighted to receive an invitation from CroisiEurope to attend the namegiving ceremony and inauguration. With a fleet of 43 ships CroisiEurope is Europe’s largest river cruises company.

The naming of LOIRE PRINCESS on April 2nd.

LOIRE PRINCESSE, the new ship, is quite revolutionary. Instead of a conventional screw propulsion she is powered by two paddlewheels, one on each side. This solution makes it possible to have a draft of only 70cm, which is perfect to navigate the Loire as far as Angers.

Because she will be based in Nantes it was logic that the namegiving ceremony took place in this city.

With only 48 cabins I considered myself lucky to have been invited, and to be able to stay onboard for three nights. The ship only has two interior decks. My cabin 111 was downstairs, and had panoramic windows which could not be opened, but which gave a great low-angle view over the water. The cabins on the main deck 2 are equipped with small balconies.

I like the layout of both cabin and bathroom. Small but functional.

The restaurant and the bar lounge were designed in a very pleasant modern style.

Before casting off we received a guided tour through Nantes. That was a major surprise. I had been in Nantes before but never had the time to really discover the city. As LOIRE PRINCESSE was berthed on the so-called Ile de Nantes or island of Nantes (where there used to be a famous shipyard), we started our discovery tour there. What I really like is how the city treated the former site of the shipyard. Instead of quickly selling it to real estate promoters they decided to give themselves some time for reflection and maturing. This strategy created the necessary foundation for a creative approach, with architecture, land art etc…

We followed a part of the green line painted on the ground. This green line is a visual guide through the city, allowing you to discover without even needing a map.

One of the main atttactions on the “island” is the “Les Machines de l’Île”, well-known for its huge mechanic elephant.

Lilian Bourgeat, Mètre à Ruban. Part of the permanent art in the city.Surprising architecture.Manny building, with "The zebra crossing" from Angela Bulloch .Comes rain or comes shine. This terrace is ready for it.Shopping in the Passage PommerayeRue d'OrléansFortifications around the Castle of the Ducs de BretagneNantes is well-known for its "Petit Beurre" cookiesWe had a drink and some "Petits Beurre" cookies in the old "LU" cookie factory, now a fantastic hotspot for culture and a great meeting place.

This wonderful visit of Nantes was way too short. I’ve already decided to come back to discover more. Time to set sail with the LOIRE PRINCESSE.

Patrick Schmitter, member of the ship-owning family is delighted by the movement of the paddlewheel.Our first dinner.

We arrived in Saint-Nazaire during diner. The day after we were invited on a tour of the STX shipyard where the biggest cruiseship in the world is under construction, the HARMONY OF THE SEAS.

Afterwards we went to the former German submarine pens, which now houses a remarkable museum dedicated to the world of ocean liners.

Inside the submarine bunkers

In the afternoon we were ready to go back to Nantes, and after some rainy days it was good to see the sun reappear.

In the lock of Saint-Nazaire.Ready for the Loire estuary.The famous bridge in Saint-Nazaire has a length of 3.5km, and is one of Europe's longest suspension bridges.View on the paddlewheel.An unusual wake, because of the paddles.

Sailing upstream in lovely spring weather made us discover the natural beauty of the Loire river, as well as the surprising art installations. During the five-hour journey two guides explained all the highlights. I am very enthusiast about the different pieces of land art.

Villa Cheminée, by Tatzu Nishi. If you want you can book a night in the tiny little house.Misconceivable, by Erwin Wurm. The sailboat bends over, as if attracted to the water.La Maison dans la Loire, by Jean-Luc Courcoult. Land art of the highest quality.Back in Nantes.

I hope that through my pictures and words you were able to feel my enthusiasm, not only for the paddlewheel ship, but for the Loire estuary and its vibrant surprises.