This was our second Uniworld cruise (our first was on the Rhine) and my first time in Paris! I don't think it's possible to not have a great time when you start and end in Paris.
The boat was beautiful! Not everyone likes the Uniworld decor but I felt it was reflective our where we were touring. The food was delicious and service was great. I thought the cruise director, Theirrey (I'm not sure that I spelled his name incorrectly), was very good and encouraged us to take a few tours that really made our trip (motorcycle side-car tour of Montmartre). I'd also like to thank, Augustine, who was professional, pleasant and witty, and always served our late night drinks with a smile.
Overall, our fellow travelers were very friendly and social. Our party made friends with a great couple that we keep in contact with and will see this year in Florida. Groups seemed to mix very well on this trip. There was a lot of socializing after dinner and the entertainment for two nights was very good and had the dance floor packed.
This was a very tour intensive trip. I did not realize that the Masterpiece Selection tours were going to be available, albeit for an extra cost. There were so many noteworthy things to see as I have outlined below. Unlike the Rhine, there did not seem to be a lot of traffic on the river. Most of the time, there were no boats visible as we were cruising.
We arrived a day before embarkment and stayed in the beautiful St. Germain area, or 6th arrondissement, at the Hotel Esprit St. Germain. We loved this boutique hotel and we stayed for a reasonable price, probably due to it being the end of August. We walked to the Jardin du Luxembourg, walked by Notre Dame and toured Sainte Chapelle right before closing, so it wasn't busy. We ended the day dining outdoors at the restaurant recommended by the hotel.
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast with our travel companions at Cafe de Flore. After that, we headed over to the boat around 10:30am. Apparently, everyone else had the same idea. While it wasn't on the agenda for the day, we went on a cruise of Paris on one of the main tour companies, perhaps because so many people showed up on the early side. Unfortunately, it was very hot, over 90 degrees and the boat was very crowded. No fault of Uniworld but this would have been much more enjoyable on a different day, when the temperatures were more moderate and the crowds lessened.
Day 2 of Seine Cruise: We had two excisions with the first being Chateau de La Roche Guyon, an interesting castle first built in the 12th century with additions in the 14th and 18th centuries. In 1944, Rommel requisitioned the castle and used it as his headquarters.
After the tour, back to the boat for lunch and then a short bus ride to Giverny to visit Monet’s house and gardens. Some folks from the cruise biked about 4 miles along the Seine to the property. Beautiful!
Day 3 of Seine River Cruise - Normandy Beaches
The Normandy beaches were a three hour bus ride from where our boat was docked but was well worth the trip. We visited two of the five landing beaches of the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, Utah and Omaha Beaches (the American landings). The Canadians in our group visited Juno Beach. We also visited Pointe du Hoc, the highest point of the American landings which was scaled by rangers, Sainte Mere-Eglise, and the American cemetery.
Day 4 of Seine River Cruise - Golfing at Etretat and shopping in Honfleur
The guys golfed at Etretat, a course with spectacular views of the Normandy Coast while the ladies chose to visit Honfleur, a picturesque village, the subject of many painters. Loved Honfleur! We finished the day off by walking to the cathedral at Rouen at 10:00pm, to watch an amazing light and sound display. Rouen is the city where Joan of Arc was martyred.
Days 5 & 6 on Seine River Cruise - Mont Saint-Michel and Versailles
Drove several hours to UNESCO site, Mont Saint-Michel, an island that is home to a medieval Benedictine monastery and a former pilgrimage destination. We took the shuttle but independent travelers, not on our cruise, can hire a guide to walk in during low tide, which is dangerous due to quickly changing tides and quick sand!
The following day we visited Versailles. No lines and we toured the private apartments. Only 3 kings lived at the palace, Louis XIV, XV and XVI.
Final Day of Seine River Cruise - Retro Sidecar in Montmartre and an evening at the Moulin Rouge
No history or culture today! Started the day with a little shopping and stroll along the Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. Headed back to the boat to take our motorcycle-sidecar tour. Loved the ride and our brief time in Montmartre. Returned back to the area at night to go to the Moulin Rouge. Quite an experience! Sorry, photos of the show are not allowed!
We spent a few more days in Paris after the cruise and toured the Louvre, L'Orangerie (to see Monet's waterlily panels), Jardin de Tuilleries, and ate at the Jules Verne restaurant in the 2nd platform of the Eiffel Tower (made a reservation months prior).
My theory on river cruises is that so many different things can impact your experience. The weather, crowds, water levels, people on board, service,... However, so far, we've had two great cruises on Uniworld and are booked for the Danube next year. The River Heritage Credit for being return customers and the early booking, pay in full, 10% discount has made Uniworld and attractive option for us (plus a couple of complimentary bags of laundry). I hope future travelers have a great experience on the Joie de Vivre as well! Bon voyage!
We chose the same size room as our Rhine cruise - 194 sq. ft. which is adequate. I believe it was the Deluxe French Balcony. There are only French Balconies on this ship. We were hardly in the room. We paid more to be on the higher level but I would advise the same sized French Balcony room one deck below for a better value.