My husband and I took the Paris-Normandy trip on the River Baroness in June, 2009. This was a great trip with a good combination of busy and down times. We loved sitting up on the top deck watching the countryside go by as we cruised on the Seine River. The top deck had a glass-enclosed space for chilly evenings and lounge chairs for sunning. The passengers were a mix of Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, British and U.S. citizens.
The cabins are on the small side, but very efficient. There were two twin beds that could be pushed together or kept apart. Suitcases fit nicely under the beds and there was a large drawer under each bed. There were 3 drawers in the closet and a large shelf towards the ceiling that went over the bed area and shelves and reading lamps on the side of each bed. There was a chair and a stool and a low table with another shelf below that held the water bottles, ice bucket and glasses . Behind the door there was a large full-length mirror with a plug next to it. There was also a dual voltage plug next to one of the beds.
The bathroom was built for one person and there is a shelf above and below the sink and another plug. There were built-in containers of L’Occitane shower cream and shampoo in the shower and body lotion by the sink. 2 washcloths, 2 hand towels and 2 bath towels were replenished as needed. There was a hair dryer provided. I used my dual-voltage curling iron with an adaptor with no problems. Nightly turn down service with chocolates was provided each evening while we were at dinner.
Breakfast and lunch were both served buffet style with lots of options. Made-to-order omelets were available each morning along with the buffet. Lunch always featured soup, sandwich and hot items along with salads, cheeses and dessert. Dinner featured a choice of 2 starters, 2 soups, cheese and 2 dessert options. There were usually two main course options along with a 3rd Vegetarian option. There was always the option to have Steak or Chicken Breast, fries, salad, ice cream or fruit plate if the regular menu wasn’t to your liking. The food was very good. Wine and soft drinks were complimentary during dinner. Seating was open and you usually had a 1 ½ to 2 hour window for each meal time. There was ‘tea’ served every afternoon and when you came back from a shore excursion, the crew was waiting with juice and warm towels for everyone as you came back onboard.
The crew was great and all seemed to get along like one big happy family. There was no self serve laundry onboard, but service laundry was available. Prices were about 4 euro for pants, 3.5 euro for a shirt, 1.5 euro for a t-shirt, for example. In the ‘patio’ area there was an ice & water machine and a coffee, tea and hot chocolate machine along with iced tea that was available 24 hours a day. There were 2 water bottles in each room that could be refilled each morning from this area to take on excursions. There was a piano player who played every day during tea and before and after dinner. On 2 different nights local entertainment was brought onboard.
You were welcome to board the boat any time on Sunday – a light lunch buffet was served during the afternoon. We boarded about 3 pm and were shown to our cabin immediately. The boat is docked in Paris across from Parc Andre Citroen. Some people walked up to the Eiffel Tower (about 2 miles) before the boat sailed at 6 pm. We sailed all night and went through 5 locks on the way to Les Andelys – a lovely little town. We were docked right in town, although it was a Monday and not much was open. The included excursion was to Chateau Gaillard up the hill. You could either hike up or take the bus. The boat departed at 3:30 to sail to Rouen where we arrived about 8 pm. Again we were docked right in town so you could go for an evening stroll thru the town. Rouen is a large town and there was a walking tour on Tuesday morning and time to go back into town in the afternoon to do some shopping. There was an optional tour that afternoon to Chateau de Vascoeuil (48E) – no feedback available. The boat stayed docked in Rouen that night and then on Wednesday was the full-day excursion to the Normandy Beaches which was a very special day. About 7 pm we set sail to Caudebec where we arrived about 10:30 – it was lovely to sit out on deck after dinner and see the houses along with river. On Thursday morning we boarded the buses to go to Honfleur – a seaside village – where we were taken on a walking tour of the city. There was an option to go back to the boat at 12:30, stay in Honfleur til 2:30 when a bus would come back to pick you up or go on an optional excursion to a cider farm/lunch/Deauville (57E). We did not go on this excursion but everyone who went said that it was a great afternoon – good lunch and Deauville has a casino. At 6 we sailed all night back to Vernon. Friday brought the included tour to Giverny – the poppies and roses were in full bloom. While we were at Giverny the boat sailed to Mante-la-Jolie where we boarded for lunch. After lunch you had the option of staying on the boat while it sailed to Conflans or to go on an optional excursion to Versailles (53E). We went to Versailles and toured the palace with a guide and then had an hour or so to see the gardens. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to go out to the Hamlet or the Trianons, but that would take all day to see the whole place – next time! When we arrived back at the boat it left again for Paris where we arrived in time to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle at midnight. On Saturday morning we went on the included City Tour of Paris where we stopped for a photo op down from the Eiffel Tower and a stop at Luxombourg Gardens where we walked through part of it with the guide. That afternoon there was an optional excursion to the Louvre with a guide (53E). On Saturday evening there were two optional tours available – Dinner at Altitude 95 at the Eiffel Tower (159E) or an evening at the Lido (142E). On Sunday morning you needed to be out of your cabin by 8 am but were invited to stay on the boat as long as you wanted to during the day. They scheduled transfers to the airport all during the day.
Each evening before dinner the Cruise Manager gave a short talk about the next days activities and the daily program was in your room when you returned from dinner. There was a morning exercise scheduled each morning and a small fitness center. On Monday night was the Captain’s Welcome Dinner where the crew was introduced. On Friday night was the Captain’s Farewell Dinner. Most people dressed up a little for these two nights, but nothing too fancy. Other nights most men wore sports shirts and slacks and the women wore sun dresses or slacks – pretty casual really. Umbrellas were provided in case of rain. There was wi-fi most of the time and there was a computer for use for a nominal charge. There were 2 movies shown continuously during the day on the TV and there was English language CNN plus many French channels available.
We had a wonderful time on this trip and are sold on river cruising. We extended this trip with 2 days in Paris before and 2 days in Paris after which gave us enough time to do a few other things in Paris. Many on the trip were also combining this with the Burgundy & Provence cruise making this a 2 week journey.