This was our first river cruise (we've taken many ocean cruises). We (my husband & I) traveled with another couple. We chose Avalon, and this particular itinerary, because we had friends who had sailed with them about a year and a half ago (yes, fall of 2021) and recommended it. I also did my research and chose Avalon because of the various excursion choices that are included in the cost of their cruise. Some other river cruise providers include one excursion per stop and charge extra for the ones that we wanted (and were included) on Avalon. We arrived at the cruise port around 10:30 a.m. and intended to drop off our luggage, have a quick lunch, and explore the city until the 4 pm - be back on board time. We were greeted at the vehicle by the crew, who took our luggage, and proclaimed, "You are on holiday. We will take care of everything." And they did! After a quick check in process, the crew member told us that housekeeping would be advised that we had arrived and our room would be expedited. By the time we had briefly explored the ship, someone from the crew came and found us and told us our rooms were ready. We unpacked, had lunch, and were off the ship for exploring before noon!
Our boat spent the first night still docked in Paris (the itinerary had been reversed because it was Holy Week - Easter, and in anticipation of some issues related to labor strikes). The following day, we had a Highlights of Paris tour (on a bus) in the morning and a trip to Versailles in the afternoon. Versailles was the only excursion that we paid extra for, and I feel like it was totally worth it. We had English-speaking guides on all our tours, which we could hear well using the Whisper devices that are provided to each passenger. These are portable Wifi hot spots as well as speakers (with ear plugs) for hearing the tour guides. The Wifi signal is not great - so don't expect a lot. They worked fairly well when onboard, but we mostly used our cell plan when we were off the boat on excursions.
We had a free morning the second day, and then had chosen Malmaison (Napoleon and Josephine's home) to visit in the afternoon. It was interesting, but you will probably enjoy it more if you see it prior to Versailles. :)
We appreciated the size of our cabin. Our only regret was that during those extra days in Vernon, we were docked to the Viking ship side and had the view of the other balcony for three days. We were in 3**.
We ended up (because of a "broken" lock) spending three nights of our river cruise docked here. Our cruiseline (and the six others "stranded" there) bused passengers to multiple locations from here - Roeun, Normany, Honfleur. It was relatively convenient as a hub for those locations. Monet's home and gardens is located in Vernon - a ten-minute bus ride away. It was so crowded the day we visited there that I honestly looked forward to getting back to the ship. The gardens are beautiful, but the crowd was not. We encountered some pretty rude people there.
We visited Rouen via bus from Vernon (because of a lock being broken). I really enjoyed the history of the town. We had limited access to the church because our visit was on Good Friday. We saw the place where Joan of Arc was executed, and the church built that bears her name - very unique building style. The shopping in the area is pretty good, too. We managed to purchase a unique French Panadora charm. The sales clerk was very sweet and spoke English better than we speak French. By the way, our tour guide (one of our favorites of this trip - Natalie) kept referring to places that were bombed by the Allies; however, the people of Rouen (her grandfather included) were so thankful for the Allies' help in removing the Germans from their country, they didn't seem to be resentful of the damage and accepted it as necessary.
Our visit included stops at Port du Hoc, the American Cemetery, and Omaha beach. At Port du Hoc, we were able to enter some of the bunkers. We did get to place flowers provided by the cruiseline at the memorial in the cemetery and were there when the National Anthem and Taps were played. It was a respectful, quiet visit.
My husband expressed surprise at the "normalcy" of Omaha beach. There were families there with children enjoying a "day at the beach." There are beach homes facing the water - it resembles an American east-coast beach.
We also spent an afternoon at nearby Honfleur - which our friend referred to as the French Gatlinburg (if any Americans can relate). It was a very nice little town - with lots of shops.
We spent a few days in Paris ahead of our cruise, but I won't include any of those activities here. On cruise day, we had a Highlights of Paris tour in the morning - with a few off-the-bus stops for photos. The afternoon of our Paris cruise day, we did an optional (aka cost extra) excursion to Versailles. I cannot recommend this highly enough. The gardens are breathtakingly gorgeous! I would have spent the money for the excursion for just the gardens, but we also got to tour (with an English-speaking guide and our Whisper devices) the private apartments, plus the regular public areas. LOVED Versailles!