Uniworld River Cruise: Paris & Normandy

I recently sailed on Uniworld’s newest ship, the S.S. Joie de Vivre, for a memorable week of exploration along the Seine between Paris and Normandy. Accompanied by a fun group of travel friends and colleagues, I experienced the best this part of France has to offer while enjoying the many wonderful amenities of luxury river cruising.

Uniworld's Joie de Vivre
Excited for my journey on Uniworld’s S.S. Joie de Vivre
Moule frites and rose
Moules frites and rosé in Honfleur
Eiffel Tower view from Uniworld's Joie de Vivre
Quite a view from the Joie de Vivre

Why Uniworld?

Family owned and operated, Uniworld delivers an outstanding river cruise experience across the board.  With 17 ships in its fleet (each one unique in style and design and tailored to the destination it serves), Uniworld is the most all-inclusive river cruise line in the world. In addition to some of the standard inclusions one would expect such as all meals, beverages and activities, both onboard and onshore gratuities are also included.  Once a guests embarks, the only thing left to decide is what to eat and drink and which activity to choose for the next day.  Cruising heaven!

Top deck of the Joie de Vivre
River cruising is truly this “chill” – enjoying sunshine on the top deck

The inclusions that set Uniworld apart from the competition however, are in-suite butler service, 24 hour wifi, award winning farm-to-table cuisine and most impressively, over 80 Uniworld exclusive shore excursions.  Each day, I had a number of unique activities to choose from – it was never an easy decision!  Biking to Giverny and a tour of Marie Antoinette’s estate at Versailles were two of my favorite “out of the box” experiences.

Giverny bike tour
Bike ride to Giverny
Giverny, France bridge
Scenes from Giverny
Marie Antoinette's home, Versailles
On the grounds of Marie Antoinette’s home at Versailles

With the highest staff to guest ratio in its class, Uniworld’s crew is known for being best of the best, and my experience confirmed this to be true.  Everyone was warm and polite, service oriented, and very willing to please – no request too large.  From the pasta dish served to me on a night when that’s what I was in the mood for but it wasn’t on the menu, to the lighter breakfast I requested served in my cabin each morning instead of the buffet, every request was met with a big smile and delivered flawlessly.

Uniworld crew
Uniworld’s outstanding crew make all the difference
Uniworld's Joie de Vivre
The S.S. Joie de Vivre’s French influence is reflected everywhere
On board Uniworld's S.S. Joie de Vivre
My group with the S.S. Joie de Vivre’s captain and other senior crew members

My Journey Along the Seine

After a pre-night in Paris, our journey started with a visit to Chateau La-Roche Guyon.  With sweeping views of the Seine, this hilltop fortress has a long history and eventually became military headquarters for the infamous Nazi general Erwin Rommel (otherwise known as “The Desert Fox”).  He took up residence here during the later part of WWII and made the castle his temporary home and office.  My Uniworld guide brought the story of this amazing place to life in a way that only a highly trained and experienced guide can do.

Uniworld docking on the Seine
Scenic docking to see Chateau La-Roche Guyon
The Chateau de la Roche-Guyon
Chateau de la Roche-Guyon
Private guide through Uniworld
One of Uniworld’s outstanding guides

Next up was Giverny, Monet’s home and inspiration for so many of his famous paintings.  Uniworld offers multiple ways to experience this special place. I opted for the bike tour from Vernon (where our boat was docked), and it was definitely one of the highlights of the cruise for me.  Biking through the charming village of Giverny and touring his breath-taking property and gardens made for a truly magical afternoon.

Giverny, France
A day to remember at Giverny
Water lilies of Giverny
Lovely Giverny
The home of Money at Giverny
Monet’s home

We cruised further north to the town of Rouen, the capital of Normandy.  During our walking tour, Uniworld’s locally hired guide (also outstanding – like every guide I had during the cruise) spoke about the city’s dramatic and interesting history, including stories of its almost complete devastation during WWII.  The spectacular Rouen cathedral miraculously survived the war’s ruthless bombings – walking inside this stunning piece of architecture was a special moment indeed.

Beautiful Rouen Cathedral
Rouen Cathedral
Rouen Cathedral
One of many gorgeous stained-glass windows inside the Rouen Cathedral
La Couronne, Rouen
Memorable lunch at La Couronne in Rouen, inspiration for Julia Child

The Normandy beaches and American cemetery were our next stop.  I find it difficult to describe just how moving and amazing the experience was to be there, walking on the same beaches where so many soldiers lost their lives to bring the world freedom.  I will never forget my day there and am grateful to Uniworld for designing such a well-executed and respectful experience.

Normandy beaches
The beaches of Normandy
American Cemetery in Normandy
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

The charming towns of Bayeux and Honfleur rounded out the itinerary, with a final night back in Paris.  Bayeux is a lovely small town and and also the official home of the Bayeux Tapestry.  An 11th century masterpiece depicting the events leading up to the Norman’s conquest of England, it’s a must-see when in town. (Understandably, no photos are allowed so you must go to see it for yourself!)

Beautiful Bayeux, France
Exploring beautiful Bayeux…with a yummy baguette
Bayeux architecture
Typical Bayeux architecture
Honfleur, France
Honfleur’s scenic harbor
Honfleur oyster stand
Fresh oysters for sale in Honfleur

For my final activity, I chose the tour of Marie Antoinette’s estate on the grounds of Versailles.  Seeing where she lived and played really brought this tumultuous time in French history to life for me.  Such a unique tour!

Marie Antoinette's hamlet
Marie Antoinette’s “hamlet playground”
Hamlet of Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette and her servants would play “peasant” here
Marie Antoinette's hamlet at Versailles
More scenes from Marie Antoinette’s hamlet

Why Do You Need A Virtuoso Advisor Like Me When Booking Uniworld?

Uniworld offers a large array of sailings in many parts of the world (23 rivers in 24 countries to be exact).  I work with my clients to identify which destination and itinerary best fits their needs.  And even if you already know where you want to sail, my firm’s affiliation with Virtuoso means I’m able to offer a $200 per person shipboard credit on all sailings plus unique Virtuoso Voyages benefits on select sailings such as an exclusive full day shore event.

Paris cafe
My final day in Paris – more rosé, foie gras and shopping!