Tim & Anne’s CroisiEurope Seine River Cruise (July 2015)
by Tim Larison, CLIA Certified Master Cruise Counselor (MCC)
with comments by travel agent Anne Larison
Our best river cruise yet! That’s what we concluded after taking a wonderful 7 night Seine river cruise. The picture above of the beautiful French countryside was just one of many sights we were treated to on our voyage.
Precruise stay – Paris!
One of the best features of the cruise was that it departed from a dock in the heart of Paris – within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower. We had never been to Paris before so we made sure to add to our trip with two “precruise” nights in the City of Lights.
We just loved our stay at the Hotel D’Aubusson – a boutique hotel in the center of Paris. The breakfast here was excellent, we dined at several nearby restaurants, and we were able to walk to a number of major sights – such as the Pantheon where we met our guide for our walking tour of Paris
We stayed here on a recommendation from the travel supplier we use for Paris City stays for our clients. Their advice was excellent! In addition to this hotel the transportation they arranged was seamless. We were greeted at the Charles DeGaulle airport by our driver for a 45 minute ride to the hotel, and we later had transfers to our cruise ship, and back to the airport after the cruise.
We could stay in Paris for weeks visiting all that this city has to offer. We only had a few days, so instead we spent much of our time with “hop on – hop off” bus tours that we had booked before the trip. We saw many famous sights from the top of a double decker bus, like the Arc De Triomphe, while listening to the English commentary through headsets provided. This was an excellent way to get a quick overview of the city. We took notes on places we wanted to spend more time at on our next visit.
No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to nearby Palace of Versailles. Our Paris tour contact arranged for roundtrip transportation from our hotel to see this royal chateau. Here we are at the impressive Hall of Mirrors.
As Tim said, a few days in Paris is definitely not enough but even a few days is worth the time. One of my favorite things we did was just walk along the Seine and enjoy the architecture, art and people watching. There are so many side-walk cafés it is easy to just take a seat when you are ready for a break and enjoy a drink. The weather was extremely hot when we were there and even if a restaurant says ‘air conditioned’, we found that they leave their doors open, so it doesn’t really help to cool off.
There were many different types of cuisine so no matter where we were around lunch and dinner time we were able to find a restaurant that was unique. Of course the bread and croissants at the boulangeries was amazing.
Our CroiseEurope River Cruise
We said goodbye to our Paris hotel and boarded the CroiseEurope Botticelli just before dinner on our third day in the city.
We were given the opportunity at the start of our river cruise to purchase an excursion at each stop along the way. We bought them all and we were not disappointed! Overall the excursions were excellent with very knowledgable (and English speaking) guides.
Day 1 – Paris at Night
Our first night on the cruise was memorable as we were treated to a night time cruise on the Seine, seeing the lights of Paris from the top observation deck. To view the historic Paris landmarks all lit up, like the Notre Dame Cathedral above, was impressive!
The ship went under the many bridges through Paris and all the passengers were comfortably settled in lounge chairs. At a few points they warned passengers not to stand or even sit up as it was only a minimal clearance between the ship and the bridge. The lights were magical and there were hundreds of people along the river bank enjoying the music, entertainment and watching the boats, like ours, passing by.
Day 2 – More of Paris
Our first full day onboard CroisiEurope’s Botticelli we stayed docked in Paris for a day of touring. We were able to walk off the ship to a nearby stop for our “hop on and hop off” bus tour. We saw different parts of the city than from our previous days – the hop on hop off bus company had several different routes.
Day 3 featured a tour of the Claude Monet Foundation in Giverny. We got a glimpse of the painter’s daily life with the lily pad covered lakes on the grounds and Monet’s pink house with green shutters. Inside the house were displays of Monet’s art.
It was crowded the day we visited but we were able to spend time in the gardens and enjoy the lily pad lake. The house is interesting but the stairs and hallways are narrow, so navigating the crowds made the tour of the house a bit more challenging.
Day 4 – Caudebec-en-Caux. guided tour of the “Route des Abbayes” (the Abbey Trail)
The abbeys were impressive and the guides did a great job of giving us information and answers to all our questions. They split the groups so we always had an English guide who used a headset microphone that matched up with our ear-bud receiver so each guest could adjust the volume and walk at their own pace.
Day 5 – Honfleur and the Normandy Beaches
Day 5 featured our best excursion of the cruise – an all day tour of the Normandy beaches and the D-Day sights.
Seeing the actual beaches where the landings occurred was impressive and brought to mind how brave the Allied soldiers were that day. The tour started with a short circle vision film that explained the history of D-Day very well. The movie showed footage from June 6, 1944, sights we would see in person a few moments later.
The Omaha Beach American Cemetery was extremely well maintained – a fitting memorial to the US soldiers who died that day and later in the Allies conquest of Europe. We saw the graves of the brothers featured in “Saving Private Ryan” and of Theodore Roosevelt jr. (eldest son of Teddy Roosevelt).
I have always been interested in World War II history. This excursion was one I had looked forward to for months and it exceeded my expectations.
This was an overwhelming experience. The beauty of the surroundings and the significance of each of the beaches we visited was moving. The tour included a delicious lunch in a lovely restaurant.
Day 6 – Rouen
The largest city we visited since leaving Paris was Rouen.
“Heroes remain forever in the hearts of the people”
We saw the famous La Couronne restaurant, where Julia Child said she had “the most exciting meal of my life” that led to her career as a celebrity chef. This spot was featured in the movie “Julie & Julia’ with Meryl Streep as Julia Child savoring lunch here.
The city of Rouen is a treat for history buffs, foodies and shoppers. One of the other passengers on the ship needed new shoes and was told by many crew members on the ship to wait for Rouen. There were many shops, restaurants, churches and beautiful historic buildings.
Day 7 – back to Paris
Life on board – CroisiEurope’s Botticelli
In addition to all the wonderful port stops we enjoyed relaxing on the upper deck as we sailed down the Seine, watching the scenery go by. Commentary was provided by CroisiEurope to describe the sights.
The CroisiEurope onboard staff kept us entertained with a variety of activities during the cruise. Pictured above is Anne participating in morning exercise on the top deck, and playing a “match the pictures” game with a French passenger. We were the only Americans onboard – it was different and fun interacting with passengers from all over the World (most were from France, along with a number of Aussies, Russians and Brits)
I did enjoy sitting on the top deck and reading or watching the passing cities. At times the entertainment staff also provided commentary over the loud speaker about what city we may be passing and its significance and/or highlights. Some evenings local entertainers boarded the ship to entertain the passengers.
Being in France the pastries and croissants were excellent and I ate plenty of both! The buffet breakfast was the same each morning, but there was a nice variety. Tim and I have been on a previous river cruise and many ocean cruises, so the difference in dining styles took us by surprise. The fact that you sit at your assigned table with the same passengers was different, but we truly enjoyed getting to know our table mates. The quality of the appetizers, entrees and desserts at lunch and dinner was great, but it is good to know in advance that it is a set menu and everyone eats the same meal (there is no menu with additional choices). The menu is continuously updated on the information channel on the tv in the stateroom so you can check out what is being served at an upcoming meal.
Would you enjoy a river cruise, on the Seine or elsewhere in the World? We can help! Contact us for more information or for a no obligation price quote.