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7 Vantage Paris Cruise Reviews

Let me begin by saying I chose this cruise for two reasons. One, it had a great itinerary to Normandy. Second, Vantage offers single fares without paying double the cruise price. I took advantage of a 3 day pre-cruise extension to St. ... Read More
Let me begin by saying I chose this cruise for two reasons. One, it had a great itinerary to Normandy. Second, Vantage offers single fares without paying double the cruise price. I took advantage of a 3 day pre-cruise extension to St. Malo, France on the English Channel. The old walled city of St. Malo is surrounded by a lively beach resort with many restaurants, hotels, and a casino. We stayed at the Oceania Hotel which was ideally located just a 5 minute walk to the old city. We had a full day tour to Mont St. Michele which everyone should visit. From St. Malo, we traveled to Paris with a stop in Chartres to visit the cathedral and wander around the city. We arrived in Paris and boarded the River Venture. I was pleasantly surprised to find I had been up-graded to a French balcony cabin. My cabin was beautifully decorated with plenty of drawer space and a closet. The bathroom was small but well laid out. The shower was large with a glass door enclosure. The cabin came with bathrobes, slippers, a reusable water bottle (to take home), a large bottle of Evian water, a desk, and a small table with two chairs in front of the French balcony. I loved it! The River Venture carries 136 passengers. The dining room was on the main deck and the lounge was on the upper deck. There were areas forward and aft where you could go outside as well as topside. My last ocean cruise was on the NCL Breakaway with over 4000 passengers, so being on this river cruise was a nice change. Of course river cruises do not offer the activities that ocean liners offer, so keep that in mind. We had local entertainers at night and a French Cabaret show one night which was quite lively. There were guest lecturers and we were shown the movie "The Longest Day" the night before we toured the beaches of Normandy where the Allies landed on June 6, 1944. On river cruises, the shore excursions are all included and I enjoyed all of them. There were a few optional tours that you could purchase. Dining on the River Venture was an epicurean delight. We started our day with a buffet breakfast and omelet station. At lunch we could order off the menu or eat at the buffet. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, fruit, and cookies were available throughout the day. Dinner was elegant and delicious. Each night we had 3 entrees to pick from as well as salmon or chicken which were offered every night. Everything was done perfectly. The service and the staff on this boat were the best! The cabin stewards, wait staff, front desk, and officers were always polite, helpful, and friendly. There was one stand out and it was Tessa, our Cruise Director. She did an excellent job of taking care of us during our cruise and she did it with a smile always. She is a credit to the Vantage organization. This cruise enabled me to cross two items off my Bucket List, Mont St. Michele (on the pre-trip extension) and the beaches of Normandy. Our visit to the American Cemetery was an emotional experience with veterans on our cruise placing a wreath at the statue while our National Anthem was playing. After our anthem, they played Taps while we were looking out at the 9387 white headstones of those who had fallen during the invasion of Normandy. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
Just returned from Paris after a wonderful cruise. The meals ,service,and attention to the the travelers was excellent . We had cruised with most river cruise companies in Europe before and we can say Vantage compares with the best . ... Read More
Just returned from Paris after a wonderful cruise. The meals ,service,and attention to the the travelers was excellent . We had cruised with most river cruise companies in Europe before and we can say Vantage compares with the best . We always felt safe given the recent terrorism situation in Paris. We had wonderful tours and many extras. The employees we had contact on the ship were very friendly and service oriented .The tour director, the concierge the waiters in the dinning room everybody onboard contributed to our memorable experience. The cabins and the ship was kept clean. We joined every activity that was offered. We were fortunate to be able to take the Paris extention free of charge. For entertaiment we had twice Roberto Colleta a high level entertainer, he was wonderful . We feel we needed a pianist for pre and post dinner music. We traveled with another couple , also seasoned travelers they agree with above mentioned comments. As a result we will be doing the Gateway to Eastern Europe sometime this year Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
This was the first time with Vantage. From the customer service to the final flight home everything was perfect. The crew was just so wonderful. They couldn't do enough for you. Our Cruise Director Marie was superb. The food was ... Read More
This was the first time with Vantage. From the customer service to the final flight home everything was perfect. The crew was just so wonderful. They couldn't do enough for you. Our Cruise Director Marie was superb. The food was very,very good and the Chef most accommodating. I am an old Director of Catering and I have seen a lot of kitchens in my day. His kitchen was spotless. I was very impressed. The ship was most comfortable. Being an older person river cruising is a great way to travel. The ship is your hotel. The towns along the way were so picture perfect and Normandy was most stirring. We all cried at the memorial service. We were in Paris the day before that awful shooting so, of course, our families were worried. Vantage made sure they called every family to let them know we were on our way and all safe and sound. That is what I call customer service....good job Vantage I have booked two more trips. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
This 10-day cruise was the second of the 20-day back-to-back Treasures of France: A Grand River Journey from Normandy to Provence Vantage River Cruise. We sailed down the Saone and Rhone Rivers visiting the ports of Chalon Sur Saone ... Read More
This 10-day cruise was the second of the 20-day back-to-back Treasures of France: A Grand River Journey from Normandy to Provence Vantage River Cruise. We sailed down the Saone and Rhone Rivers visiting the ports of Chalon Sur Saone (overnight,) Tournus, Macon, Lyon (2 overnights,) Vienne (overnight,) Viviers/Avignon (2 overnights) and Tarascon, (overnight.) We flew home from Marasilles, France. After a five-hour coach ride from Vernon, France that included a stop for lunch compliments of Vantage, we arrived at our deluxe ms River Discovery II, a 179 passenger, 46-crew riverboat docked in Chalon Sur Saone, France. The boat entered service in 2012. Our staterooms were ready immediately and staffers carrying our luggage escorted us to our rooms. We enjoyed light refreshments in the Captain’s Club. Then, we explored the charming town and its attractions on our own, within walking distance of our boat. A Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party followed by safety, ship and port briefings with the Captain, Hotel Manager and Cruise director were held in the Peppermint Lounge. After dinner, we unpacked and took a stroll outside. The ship was lovely and the public areas were quite attractive and comfortable. Our French Balcony 165 sq, feet Stateroom #307 (same number as our previous cabin) was well appointed. It contained plenty of storage with two large wardrobes, deep drawer and shelf space. Two end tables flanked the comfortable bed covered with two fluffy comforters and additional pillows. Two chairs, a desk, small table (with ice bucket and complimentary bottles of water daily,) wall artwork and plenty of lamps with good lighting completed the decor. There was a safe and hair dryer in the room. The bathroom containing a large shower had a generous replenished supple of high quality shampoos, conditioners, soaps, shower gels and body lotion. The towels were fluffy and replaced as needed twice daily. The only thing missing was a mini fridge. Our very friendly cabin steward, Kevin was efficient, very accommodating and kept our stateroom spotless. Nightly chocolates on our pillows were a nice touch as was the elephant towel animal one night. The boat has complimentary ship-wide Wi-Fi. Coffee, hot chocolate and ice are available at conveniently located 24 hr. machines. Complimentary bicycles are available for passenger use in ports. The boat has an elevator or a hydraulic lift chair between decks for passengers with special needs. Unfortunately, the riverboats are not wheelchair accessible due to the width of gangways in European river ports. We did have one wheelchair bound passenger and the staff accommodated him nicely to his satisfaction and that of his aide. There are no medical facilities on board although there is an AED defibrillator. As President Club members, having traveled with Vantage on at least three trips, we received a laundry allowance, which was an excellent benefit that we appreciated and used. Our food on board was delicious; the presentation was artistic. Breakfast was always a buffet with a few different items each day. Lunch was also a buffet but most days you could also order off the menu. I always ordered the delicious chilled soups and pasta dish when available and went to the buffet. Spaghetti Carbonara was a standout for me. For dinner there were several delicious choices in addition to the standby entrees always available such as Salmon, Chicken, a Vegetarian dish and Steak. Our party of four was completely satisfied with the food offerings. The service was always very friendly, professional and efficient. Complimentary wine, soda and beer are freely available at dinnertime. Open Seating Dinner in the elegant Compass Rose Restaurant is served at 7 pm. The Captain’s Club has alternative lighter dining by reservation. This more intimate dining area has a retractable roof and beautiful views of the river. President’s Club members and Owner’s Suite and Deluxe Suites passengers may use in-room dining. Special meal requests are honored but must be received prior to sailing. Special occasions are celebrated in a grand way at dinnertime. Dress for dinner was casual except for the Captain’s Gala Dinner when most men wore jackets. We all enjoyed an included local lunch off the boat on our port stop in Tournus. Although very port intensive, the staff found time for some interesting onboard activities A Galley Tour, Wheelhouse Tour, Introduction to French Language and Culture Talk, French Waterways Presentation, Cheese, Wine and Bread Presentations (with tasting and sampling,) Santons (local high quality figurines -not a buying opportunity) Lecture & display and a Silk Painting Demonstration. The Crème Brulee Presentation and tasting was fun with recipes hand out afterwards. Guest lecturer Olivier Pachot gave an interesting lecture on France Today that evoked many questions and comments by the packed audience. There was some outstanding entertainment on board including the extremely popular, Gypsy Night, dancer and musicians, the wonderful classical recital with La Strada, a lively French Evening with accordion music, and energetic dance music with the “Party Band.” One night we also had “The one and only ms River Discovery II Crew Show“; another night a movie was shown. A popular and fun activity was the after dinner Pub Crawl in Avignon with our lively Cruise Director, George and Concierge, Maya. The highpoint for me and for many others was the scenic sunset sail with commentary into the magnificent city of Lyons. We all gathered in the Peppermint Lounge, aft deck or the Captain’s Club to photograph the sights along the way. On such a small ship, we became quite friendly with all the passengers and the entire staff including the senor officers. My husband thought that this was the best thing about the cruise. It certainly added to our enjoyment. George did a suburb job as Cruise director; he was everywhere and always available for conversation or help. Service throughout the ship was excellent from the front desk, to the dining room, the lounges and housekeeping. The passengers were mostly older Americans with some younger passengers as well. Complimentary Quiet Vox Audio Headsets were perfect on all the sightseeing tours. Most tours - 17 between the two cruises including those on coaches were included. Not only were they worthwhile and educational, they were just plain fun and we looked forward to them daily. I took two exceptional optional tours to Pont du Gard in Avignon ($65) and the Medieval Village of Perouges ($59.) in Lyon. Our most unusual tour was a visit to a local goat farm that included a wine tasting with goat cheese. Visiting the Pope’s Palace and taking the Secrets of Avignon were other highlights as was our city tour in Lyon. We saw beautiful cathedrals, chateaus, castles, vineyards, quaint medieval cities, towers, abbeys and bucolic countrysides as we sailed along the winding waterways. Maya, our competent Concierge was on board to help passengers handle individual arrangements or dinner reservations in each of the town. How did this cruise differ from the previous one? Well first, the weather was warmer and sunnier as we headed south. We did more daylight sailing. There was more wine tasting, too and visits to vineyards. Of course, the cities differed and we passed through 14 locks as we navigated the rivers. Both cruises were equally rewarding. I highly recommend this Vantage river cruise. Vantage was the only company that offered this combination of two back-to-back river cruises through France for a total of 20 days in France. By combining the two cruises we saved $789 per couple than if purchased separately. Both cruises exceeded my expectations and I looked forward to a future trip with Vantage Deluxe World Tours. My one disappointment was that the included ride on the famous TGV high-speed train to Dijon & guided walking tour for our connection between the two cruises did not materialize and hadn’t been done for at least three years. Vantage needs to remove this from its literature. Using the Smart Pay Plan, we saved 10% off the cost of our cruise. Vantage offers the lowest price per day of all the river cruise companies that we compared. Passengers receive a 5% Travel Reward that may be used on a future trip. Vantage will add the newest luxurious 6-star ship, ms River Voyager in 2016. If you have not taken a river cruise, I hope that this review motivates you to consider one. There are different river cruise companies to choose from and from what I heard talking with passengers from the different boats, all are excellent. Remember that river conditions may affect your cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Our Seine River cruise with Vantage had everything we were looking for. Our stateroom and meals were comfortable, clean and inviting and the meals were varied and met all our needs. My wife is a diabetic and facilities were available for ... Read More
Our Seine River cruise with Vantage had everything we were looking for. Our stateroom and meals were comfortable, clean and inviting and the meals were varied and met all our needs. My wife is a diabetic and facilities were available for refrigeration for her meds and the menu, with Healthy Options met her needs in selecting foods that her diet demanded. But we were there for the chance to see some of the culture of Normandy and the history there. All the overnight stays were in sites which offered us chances to become involved in the Impressionist art scene, historic abbeys and cathedrals, sites with historical references to the Vikings, the conquest of William of Normandy, and artifacts related to Richard the Lionheart. The more recent history involving the D Day Invasion and other World War II sites are also there. The day at the Normandy Beaches and the American Cemetery were enhanced by our guide Richard who was excellent. The little towns of Vernon, Giverney, Les Andlys, and Honfleur were picturesque and made you feel like you had stepped back into the past. Our trip to Etretat was very interesting. Top all this off with Paris, Versailles, and the Louvre and what more could you ask of a trip to France. My wife took over a thousand pictures. How much price can be put on sailing into Rouen and see the Cathedral lit up at night, watching the Eiffel Tower twinkle from the top deck of the ship, just being to step back into the past and walk down streets lined with half timbered buildings? This trip was all we were looking for. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We booked our trip with Vantage 8 months in advance. We were traveling with 2 other couples and we were told there were only 3 cabins available for the cruise we wanted to take which would be close to D-Day. On the ship, we heard similar ... Read More
We booked our trip with Vantage 8 months in advance. We were traveling with 2 other couples and we were told there were only 3 cabins available for the cruise we wanted to take which would be close to D-Day. On the ship, we heard similar stories from other travelers. Vantage keeps their prices low because they don't use travel agents - you book directly with them. Their customer service has improved since 2009 when we traveled to China with them. You no longer have to wait on hold for hours to speak to a customer service representative. We booked the Paris extension and were put up at the Hotel Meridien Etoile. Our plane arrived at 7:30am from the U.S. and we were in our rooms by 11:30am. The hotel is located across the street from the Metro -great for getting around Paris. Headed out to lunch then on to Montmarte, Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees, Arc de' Triomphe , shopping at Louis Vuitton (bring your passport if you want a VAT refund). The second day in Paris we booked a dinner cruise (through Vantage cruise director at the hotel) on the River Seine which I highly recommend! See the City of Lights at its finest and see the flickering lights at the Eiffel Tower at 10 while it's sparkling in all it's glory. Sumptuous buffet at hotel with bags out at 7:30am to be transported to River Venture. On the Museum D'Orsay to see exhibits while staff on River Venture is saying goodbye to last cruisers and getting ready for the next one. Arrived on boat at 12:30pm. Cabins were surprisingly spacious Magnifying mirror (3x) in bathroom, I home radio which will charge early model iPhones and iPads. Large screen tv. Large shower for river boat and strong water pressure. Good wifi, Le Occitane products, sewing kits - everything you could possibly need. Dinner was shrimp cocktail, cream of broccoli soup, choice of chicken, halibut - mousse ice cream or cheese plate for dessert. Always a vegetarian choice too. Day 2 - Vernon - everyone is assigned a bus, yellow, blue or green that you board throughout your trip. Depart at 9:15am for Giverny for a guided visit to Monet's house and gardens. Guide was an ex-pat, Lexi, who was most entertaining. Gardens and house were breathtaking, as well as ponds and lily pads. Lunch on boat at 12:15 then at 2pm depart for a home hosted visit. Very informative and fun to see how the French live. She served apple tart and hard cider - and some of her husband's private liquor stash. . . way better than the cider. Upon our return we were supposed to have a walking tour of Vernon but it was cancelled. Another fabulous dinner - sirloin or river trout, tiramisu, always ice cream or cheese plate. Day 3 French lesson for 1/2 hour followed by a lecture on Impressionism. Lunch then a walking tour of Rouen. Lots of stores closed in town because it's Ascension Thursday and most French take a 4-day holiday. Saw where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake and a few French churches. Two hour walking tour, then back to boat for Captains Gala Dinner. Free Drinks during cocktail hour. Dinner was Chateaubriand, followed by Benedictine and an impressive Creme Brûlée. Nice Gypsy Jazz Ensemble in the lounge following dinner. Day 4 Arrived in Caudebec-en-Caux about 8am, departed at 9am for two Abbeys, one was a ruin and the other is still inhabited. Optional tour to Alabaster CoastOne and a half hour bus ride there. Those who opted not to go were given cash by our guide, Ken, to buy cheese and wine for an impromptu party on the top deck. Lots of bakeries, little cafes and cute shops. Supposed to have a pub crawl, but were told there are no pubs to visit. Day 5 LeHavre/Honfleur Vantage claims to be one of the few ships to be able to dock in Honfleur, but the truth of the matter is they have never docked in Honfleur. Dock in LeHavre- 1/2 hour from Honfleur - quaint town with lots of ships, amazing architecture, gigantic farmers market going on - so much to do. We opted not to return to the ship at noon but to stay for lunch in town till 2pm - hundreds of restaurants overlooking the harbor. Returned to ship for an informative lecture on D-Day to prepare us for the Normandy beaches tomorrow. International night for dinner and movie "The Longest Day" complete with popcorn. Day 6 Normandy Beaches Depart at 8:45am for a 2 hour bus ride (wouldn't have been as long if we had docked in Honfluer). Most touching to see the vast sea of crosses of American soldiers who lost their lives in an effort to keep democracy alive. Vantage arranged for a ceremony honoring the people in our group who served in the military. Not a dry eye in the place. Had lunch in a restaurant where they could feed all of us in less than an hour, red and white wine, poached white fish, carrots and rice with a cream sauce and apple tart for dessert. On to Pointe du Hoc where you could see the impact of the bombs, lots of bunkers bringing the war to life. Finished the day at a museum at Arromanches. Lots of French re-enactors in American jeeps and uniforms. Good place for D-Day souvenirs. Guide passed out Madelines (sponge cakes, like twinkles without the cream) for the two hour bus ride back to River Venture. Dinner at 8pm. Day 7 Two hour bus ride to Bayeux to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame and toured Bayeux Tapestry museum. The tapestry is a woven cloth which tells the story of William 11. Local guide gave us each 15 euros for lunch on our own, then back to ship. Day 8 - Les Andelys 9:30am Apple Tart demonstration by chef. Docked in Les Andelys, a picturesque little town, followed by a walking tour to Chateau Gaillard, a medieval castle, overlooking the town - or you could opt for a gentle walk of the town. Galley tour at 4pm and bus departs at 6pm for LaGrange DeBourgoult, a private reception country estate where we were to have dinner. En route we stopped on a high hill with breathtaking views of the town and a tasting of Calvados. Nice touch Vantage!!! Views of the farm were incredible, we were greeted by the Normandy Folk Dancers who performed complete with accordion and fiddle. Food not great, but I think it gave the staff on the ship a little respite. Day 9 Versailles Lunch at 11:15am due to early departure - bus to Versailles at 12:30pm. Versailles was so crowded, difficult to see much due to massive numbers of people. Made aware of pickpockets and scammers. Returned to Conflans for Captains Farewell Reception - free drinks in the cocktail lounge. Day 10 Coach tour of Paris, including Notre Dame (4th or 5th Notre Dame we visited). Louvre tour not as crowded as Versailles. Mona Lisa was waiting for us. Great guide - only 6 people to a guide which made it very enjoyable. Day 11 Full breakfast starting at 5am. Luggage out of our room by 5:30. Everyone out of their rooms by 9am so they can get ready for the next group who will be boarding at noon. Great trip by Vantage - Staff couldn't have been nicer and Vantage personnel (guides) did everything to make our experience memorable. Wouldn't hesitate to recommend this trip to everyone!!!!   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
This is our second river cruise and I think we are hooked. This was an excellent cruise: great boat, great excursions, and good food. Only the disembarkation marred the trip. Pickup at the Airport We had Vantage provide the air fare and ... Read More
This is our second river cruise and I think we are hooked. This was an excellent cruise: great boat, great excursions, and good food. Only the disembarkation marred the trip. Pickup at the Airport We had Vantage provide the air fare and they picked us up at the airport. Had to wait for an hour which was a bit of a bummer. Got to the ship, grabbed lunch, and then walked about our docking area. It was in the Citroen area, about a mile from the Effiel Tower, and a half mile from a Metro station. It's a commercial area with ship docks and a cement factory. Seems pretty safe and with Metro access, you can get anywhere in Paris. The Boat New in 2013, the River Venture spent its first year in German rivers to be close to component manufacturers - a shake down year. Now, it's pretty much running back and forth on the Seine. This is a very good example of what a small footprint boat can be. The rooms are relatively spacious, tastefully done in wood and high quality fabrics, enormous amount of storage, a shower you can fit in, comfortable bed, two 110v outlets, and storage under the bed for your luggage. Great A/C with excellent adjustments. Hair dryer. No irons on boats. In-room safe, but instructions are incorrect. TV had a bunch of movies and international channels, many in English. A note about the 110V outlets: the one in the bathroom won't run a curling iron and it won't fit a night light; the one on the desk is also shaped funny and wouldn't fit a night light. I always carry a small extension cord and this proved helpful for our electronics. Did I mention that they have high-quality WIFI? Nice! Rooms are on the 200, 300, and 400 levels. 400 level also has suites. There is a central area in the boat on the 300 level with the concierge/tour director and main desk. Forward of this is the dining room - above it and forward is the bar/meeting room. On the 400 level on the aft of the boat is the Captains Club, a small dining area (and outside deck) serving limited menus for lunch and dinner. With its outside seating, sunroofs, and some grilled items, it was very popular. On the 200 level is a small fitness room and beauty parlor. The fitness room has a bike, e-trainer, and treadmill, all good quality. Because of the low ceiling, your head will hit the ceiling on the e-trainer if you are over 6 feet tall. A large TV is provided as is a single yoga mat for stretching (thanks Vantage!). Five of us used this room. We had room #301 and we liked the position - right next to the center of action and atrium, but it was not noisy. The Staff Ninety percent of the staff on the shakedown came on along to France - they work well together. The officers and staff are not Vantage, they are contracted as are the tour director and theieceirge. The Captain is not comfortable with English, but if you catch him alone (as we did at breakfast, at his invitation) he is quite personable. The hotel manager has the gift of gab and is the face of the ship. He calls his crew the "beehive" and indeed, they are. Most important to your trip are the tour director and concierge. We had Eva and Virginia respectively. They were both excellent. Their arrangements and interface with us were terrific. Great excursion details the night before and great handouts. The folks that manned the front desk were fine. Vantage has an annoying procedure that you turn in your room card for a paper card when you leave the ship. This is time consuming - other boats have an electonic check out. The front desk will convert your dollars into Euros and also make change - helpful for getting tip money for the guides and drivers. The wait staff in the restaurants were friendly, efficient, and willing to help you out with special needs. The Passengers Almost 100% American with the exception of one or two Canadian couples. Just about everyone was in their 60s-80s and as friendly as can be. We had one family of four generations that included kids. That was Stan Newman's family, a WWII fighter pilot who always wanted to go the Normandy beaches and his family joined him. Google Stan to read about his career. We also had a group of 40 from New Jersey, lots of fun. Many passengers did pre-voyage trips and after voyage trips, sponsored by Vantage. Some did back to back river trips. The Food and Beverages The food was good, not great. We were disappointed that we did not have more French food. Portion sizes were small, which was good because you are getting upwards of four courses each meal. Breakfast was your standard cruise fare with buffet eggs, meats, cereals, fruit, baked goods, juices and yogurts. The omelette station was excellent. Lunch featured another buffet or you could order specials off the menu. Specials were not always up to their standards. Burgers were only fair. All their soups were terrific. You could also have lunch in the Captain's Club. You pay for alcohol at lunch. Dinners were always at 7pm, open seating. Travelling by ourselves, we made a lot of new friends by sitting at different tables. Each night featured new appetizers and three entrees, meat, fish, and veggie. Usually choice of two deserts. Could also order a standard dinner of salmon, steak, or veggie, and standard appetizers and deserts. Beer and wine are complimentary. The beer was German and good. The wines changed every night. If you didn't like it, you had other free options. Nice. Our favorite meals were: lobster, lamb shank, fettucini cabonara, and eggs benedict. Unlike other cruise lines, you are free to bring alcohol on board the River Venture. And there is an ice machine to cool your beverages. Sailing The Seine OK, I did not expect the beauty of the Seine - big hills with chalk-faced cliffs, surrounded by stunning farmland and picture perfect towns. By all means, try to spend some time on top or on the forward area or on the aft deck. Because of the time zone, it stayed light very late. Intriguing also were transversing the locks, going through commercial areas, and docking at the huge port in La Harve. Kudos to the French who take meticulous care of their homes, business, and commercial plants. The Itinerary and Excursions Cannot ask for a better itinerary of French towns and Normandy WWII beaches - that's why we chose this tour and we were not disappointed. Most excursions were via large, comfortable buses - three buses for our boat, each with its own guide. Eva got everything organized and hopped between buses to see that everything went smoothly. Vernon Our boat was parked right near the center city. Guided tour of Monet's house in Giverney and gardens, including the famous lily ponds. A great tour, if a bit rushed and crowded. A superb gift shop. Look for the seed packages. Some folks signed up for having a bite with a French family and had a great time in the PM. We decided to walk around Vernon and found a cherry festival. It was fun. Rouen It was Sunday and we got up early and went to the 8am Mass at the cathedral. If you are Catholic, you MUST go to a Mass in one of the European cathedrals. (They are all name Notre Dame in France of course). After lunch, we had a guided tour of Rouen. Fabulous old houses, some crowding over the streets. Back to the cathedral for more commentary. Tomb of Richard the Lionhearted (at least part of his body - did you know he was really French). Nice chapel dedicated to Saint Teresa of the Little Flower (my grade school). In contrast to the cathedral, we visited a modern church in the shape of a ship. There, the tour ended and we stopped at the La Terresa brassarie for a drink. Caudebec-en-Caux We visited two Benedictine Abbeys. The first had ruins and a timber newer (and operational) church. The second was just ruins - but it was stunning. Our guide was Olivier, who was excellent. He brought to life the history and dynamics of these ruins. We had an excellent time. That night was formal night with a special dinner. Nice. La Harve and the Beaches of Normandy We were supposed to dock at Honfluer (a nice tourist town) but docked at La Harve instead. We were told that it was because of French bureaucracy. Hmmm.... that put us in an industrial setting 30 minutes farther from our excursions the next two days. (And here I would say, any cruise/boat trip can have issues, so just deal with most of them). An expected bonus was that the Russian cadet training four-master docked near us and we could tour it. We did get some time in Honfluer and it was a nice tourist town. We found the merchandise to be pricey. The restaurants were nice and there was a lot of them. We noticed that no river cruise boats were docked there. Our first day was huge - a two hour trip to the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach. Our guide was Alex (a Brit living on the coast) and he was five stars. I am a fan of WWII history and well read - he told me things I had never heard of before. If you have not been to the Normandy beaches, please go and celebrate those brave men. The cemeteries will make you cry. We had a ceremony where Stan placed a wreath at the cementary and all vetrans joined him. Wow. We walked around the cemetery, then headed to Omaha beach. Strangely silent, it's hard to imagine the death and destruction on 6/6/44. We then headed down the coast for an average lunch (hard to feed 120 folks great food, but they did have lots of wine). Then, off to Pointe du Hoc, where the Rangers assaulted German guns atop 100 ft cliffs. This is one of the few places where gun emplacements are still left. The French removed most of them as they were a blight on their country. Then, we stopped at Arromanches, where the Brits (God bless them) created one of the Mulberry harbors. Still some remnants. We went to the museum which had a Brit film, not that good, skip that and look at the good exhibits. Check out the History Channel for something better. Note: the shops around this area are way overpriced. If you must have a D-Day hat or T-shirt, buy it here. Otherwise, wait until Les Angeles for trinkets. What a day! We passed a countless number of monuments and museums. I would like to go back for a week! If you take this trip, your enjoyment will be enhanced by reading one of the great books on D-Day. My favorite is the one by Steven Ambrose. Read this and you will recognise a lot of the small towns that were involved in D-Day and the battles after that day. Also try the books by Beevor and Ryan. If not, just rent "The Longest Day" based on Ryan's book. Our boat showed the movie topside the night before. Know your history folks... Day Two from La Harve Another long drive, this time to Bayeux. Toured the cathedral and then lunch on our own. Found a wonderful restaurant with pate. Yum. Walked up to the British cemetery and then toured the Bayeux Tapestry. Had lunch at La Petit Normandy (great pate!). If I had to do this day again, I would have skipped Bayeux and toured some more WWII monuments and museums. Some folks took a side trip to Mount St. Michelle, but it was a long trip. One of the days in La Harve gave us an opportunity to walk around. Some of the old dock warehouses were turned into a modern shopping mall with clothing stores, shoes stores, a huge grocery store with wine and beer, and a garden center. This gave us a taste of French life outside of the old cities we visited. Les Andeles OK, I am hooked. This is my favorite French town. It's small, beautiful, and friendly. I'll go back. We had a walking tour way up to Chateau Gaillard, built by Richard the Lion Hearted. It's not a bad hike, 20 minutes, but some of our old folks had some minor problems. They also offered an easy walk just in town. The castle and its history were excellent. Once again, Eva paid for all our admittance. An easy walk down and then we were on our own. We stopped at a patisserie to smell the bread and buy a morsel. Yum! When you leave the main dock, walk towards the town and make a left at the main street. There are a couple of nice shops with quality merchandise and good prices. Also, a nice brassarie to have a capacino or beer (Le Cafe du Petit Andeley). Try a beer you have never heard of - you will be rewarded. That evening, we left our boat (it moved down to Vernon) and we bussed to a large farm where we had dinner in a barn with folk dancing. Um, not my cup of tea. Food was mediocre and two hours of the same song sung different ways was painful. Better off to buy your dinner in Les Andeles and stay on the boat. One positive part of this side trip was that we drove up to the castle so those that did not walk up could see it. On the way we passed a 1959 Buick convertible and a shop specializing in older American cars. Go figure.... Conflans This is near Paris where the Seine and the Oise rivers meet. A blue collar town with boat crews. They were having a festival of the boats and they paraded the boats and had lots of land stuff to do. Lots of fun to walk around and see how the French enjoy themselves. Paris Back to the same docking as when we first joined the boat. We have been there before and seen the major sites. We went to the Metro, got a one-day pass (about 6 Euros), visited three museums, and found a restaurant we visited 14 years ago. A great day. By all means, be adventuresome and take the Metro - it's cheap and easy to use - lots of walking however. Our concierge had great maps and advice. For a great time, try the Arts and Meiters Museum. On Board Lectures etc - French lesson - Lecture on impressionism - Lecture on D-Day - Showing of the movie "The Longest Day" - Nice tour of the kitchen by the head chef - Virginia has lots of good handouts and maps at every stop Entertainment - nice piano guy in the bar all the time - other guest musicians brought in, including a woman who sounded just like Edith Piat - skits by the staff which were pretty good Disembarkation This did not turn out well. We departed on Monday and the French rail strike was already two days old. Folks that normally taking the train to the airport drove. Our bus should have taken 50 minutes but it took three hours. Traffic was gridlocked everywhere. We missed our flight. I fault Vantage for this. They were well aware of the strike and were actively working to schedule bus trips for those who were scheduled on rail to other destinations. They should have scheduled the airport trips earlier. To Vantage's credit, they had a rep at the airport who booked us into a hotel near the airport, paid for that, and paid for the E200 extra fee for missing the flight. One poor chap was separated from the Vantage rep and ended up paying full fare to get home. Don't know if he was reimbursed. This incident was preventable and has soured me somewhat on Vantage.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
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