This summer I tried something I had never tried before, a river cruise. Not just any river cruise, but one aboard AmaWaterways, along the River Seine from Paris to Normandy and back. Europe in itself over summer months is a magical experience, but seeing it from the waterways is something altogether different.
Embarking on this kind of trip is always different for everyone, but that I think is what makes it so unique. I truly didn’t know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised but so many aspects of this voyage.
Walking onboard the ship from day one, I was immediately taken aback by the warmth of the ship aesthetically and in terms of hospitality. Every need was catered for one what was essentially a 5* hotel on the water, from a champagne arrival to luggage that awaited me in my cabin.
The cabins themselves were quaint, like the ship; comfortable with floor to ceiling windows on one wall that gave me my own breathtaking view of the river and all the sites we would pass on the upcoming week. It was hard to believe that so many of these rooms could fit on a boutique hotel sized vessel. Incredibly, despite traveling with the same people for one week, not once did I feel my privacy was compromised; far form that I felt a sense of calm and relaxation in the luxury of my cabin.
Onboard the ship we embarked form Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world, as guests savored an exceptional meal at one of the two restaurants on board, serving locally inspired dishes that changes each day, paired with incredible wines each night. After dinner, there was the gorgeous bar and front terrace to take a cocktail out and wade away the night gazing at the glittering Eiffel Tower.
Over the coming days, tours allowed guests to discover the picturesque landscape of Normandy, each day awaking at a new breathtaking destination. Tours embarked from the boat, guiding guests to historic spots and towns where we could browse local markets, try the wine or bike along the River Seine.
A gourmet breakfast buffet, and light lunch was always served with the option in the evening between the main restaurant and the infamous Chef’s Table, where course after course the chef would suprise you with cuisine from freshly prepared meats and fish to a range of cheeses, wines and pastries. In the evenings entertainment from classical violinists to Edith Piaf performers would take to the stage on ship, and bring you an unforgettable end to the night.
Destinations over the week included Giverny and the enchanting home and gardens of Impressionist master Claude Monet, as well as the Impressionist Museum. There was also a stop at the old fishing village of Caudebec, where you could visit Honfleur (famous for being the subject of Courbet’s, Boudin’s and Monet’s paintings) as well as the Normandy Beaches, where guests were able to visit the landing spots of WW2 soldiers. Rouen was a particular personal favorite – a gorgeous medieval town rich in history to bike around, before we headed to the picturesque Les Andelys, with it’s dramatic cliffs to hike up and the former stronghold of Richard the Lionheart crowning the peak.
On my last day back in Paris, with the options including a visit to Château Malmaison, “Artists’ Walk” tour or just to explore all the magic Paris has to offer, I found myself saddened at the prospect of leaving this unforgettable experience and all the people I had met behind.
It didn’t matter, who you were or what you decided to do, being aboard the Amalyra through Normandy, had it’s own impression on everyone. The world class service and hospitality I had received from the team onboard, the friends I had made, and the places I had seen, all created memories to last a lifetime. I may have just have become a river cruiser. So where to next?