Chris Parker, vice president of sister company All Aboard Travel recently returned from an Avalon river cruise on the Seine River (Paris to Normandy’s Landing Beaches itinerary). Here is his personal account:
I recently experienced an Avalon Waterways river cruise on the Avalon Creativity cruising the Seine River. It was amazing to experience France’s beautiful countrysides, meet fascinating people, enjoy fantastic cuisine and excellent service and take in all the great history this itinerary provided.
Let me begin with the vessel, food and crew. I found the Avalon Creativity to be satisfactory, clean and well run. It was clear that all crew members knew exactly what the duties were each day and the cruise was flawless. They were constantly painting and cleaning, but they never seemed to disrupt the cruise or the guests. The cabins were well appointed with enough room and storage for seven nights or longer. Although I never watched TV, the in-room movies were free but the channel choices were minimal. The food was satisfactory for breakfast and lunch (they had two choices for lunch – a light meal or full buffet) and dinners were excellent. They also offered a day to enjoy lunch on the deck which was a nice touch. For dinner, the choices were always fish, chicken or steak along with a vegetarian option. They also always had salmon as an additional selection. Beer and wine were included at dinner and our glasses were always full.
The cruise began in Paris with two nights in the City of Lights. On our second day, we selected the optional Eiffel Tower tour for $29 Euro per person and felt was worth it because we were able to go to the second level of the tower to get a better view of Paris from several hundred feet and did not have to wait in the long lines. Bolder travelers can also take the elevator to level three, but I had no intensions of going any higher. We also visited the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, and Champs Elysees. The afternoon was open to explore Paris or take an optional tour to the Louvre Museum.
On Day 3 we sailed to Conflans arriving in the afternoon and walked through this quaint little town and experienced the short life of Vincent Van Gogh and many of his unique paintings. The other choice for a shore excursion in this town was the Napoleon and Josephine’s Chateau de Malmaison. Purchased by Josephine Bonaparte in 1799 (while Napolean was fighting in Egypt), this large country estate required extensive renovations after the war and her aim was to make this the most beautiful and curious garden in Europe. A nice touch with Avalon is whenever we returned from an off ship event they always had a cool drink (usually a local flavor) and a moist towel to refresh yourself.
Day 4 was off to Vernon where we visited Claude Monet’s house and stunning gardens. There was some time to walk around the town and then off to the ship for an early afternoon departure for Rouen.
Day 5 was a day to explore Rouen the capital city of Upper Normandy best known for its connection with Joan of Arc, who lived, was imprisoned and burned at the stake in 1431. We enjoyed a guided tour which included walking though the medieval quarter with its half-timbered, glazed-tile houses, and the Gros Horloge, an astronomical Clock dating back to the 16th century and the gothic cathedral once the tallest building in the world. The afternoon was open to explore this city.
Day 6 was the day to explore the history of Normandy Landing Beaches, the Pointe du Hoc and the America Cemetery. This is an all day tour and the highlight of our vacation. We were fortunate enough to have a World War II veteran and prisoner of war in our group that enhanced our experience with his interesting stories and perspective of the war.
On day 7 we visited Les Andelys and took a guided walking tour up to the Chateau Gaillard, considered the most imposing structure on the Seine River, and afterward enjoyed exploring this little town.
Day 8 we arrived back in Paris, took a cab to the airport for our flight back to the states.
Overall I love river cruising (and Avalon’s was one of the best) because it gets you into the heart of a country where you can experience the true history and culture of the region all the while meeting great friends from all over the world.