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Traveling Through France on French Rivers and Canals via Four Cruise Lines
BY STEVEN STERN MONDAY SEPTEMBER 10, 2018 10:21:15 AM  
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Traveling through France on French Rivers and Canals via Four Cruise Lines

 

 

            We began our goal of covering all of the major waterways of France in the fall of 2017 when we cruised on the SaĂ´ne and RhĂ´ne Rivers on the  Swiss Emerald of Tauck River Cruises. During the summer of 2018, we continued our adventure cruising on the rivers in the Bordeaux region on Scenic River Cruise's Scenic Diamond; the River Seine from Paris to Honfleur on Croisieurope River Cruise's Renoir; and the canals of the upper Loire Valley on Croisieurope's  Barge Cruise's Deborah, a 22-passenger barge.

 

            Our cruise on Tauck's Swiss Emerald was covered in detail in an article I wrote   last year which appeared on Face Book and Linked in, still appears on my website, and is repeated at the close of this article.

 

            Our 2018 journey commenced with our flight on a relatively unknown French airline, La Compagnie. This airline offers "all business class" accommodations from Newark N.J. to Paris Orly airport for an average of $1,500 round trip.  From Orly, we took an Air France flight to Bordeaux and stayed overnight on our own at  Hotel Intercontinental Bordeaux. Since the hotel was located centrally in town, we had an opportunity to explore Bordeaux  both on the evening of our arrival and the following morning.

            Located on the Garonne River, Bordeaux is one of the world's most important wine-producing areas with over 100,000 vineyards. The most famous regions are the Medoc, St.Emillon, Pomerol, Graves and Sauterne. In this area are such revered wine producing estates as Chateau Lafit-Rothchild, Chateau Mouton-Rothchild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau LaTour, Chateau Haut-Brion,  Chateau Petrus, and many others. We were look ing  forward to visiting several chateaux  on our upcoming cruise.

            With limited time, other than walking around the colorful city, and indulging in some French cuisine, we were able to visit three fascinating museums: Musee des Beau Arts located in the center of the city with its impressive collection of works by French and Dutch artists; La Cite du Vin, housed in a unique architectural building featuring  exhibitions and movie projections covering wine across the ages; and the Wine and Trade Museum,  where we enjoyed  an organized tour  of  the wines of Bordeaux along  with a  wine tasting.

            Early that afternoon we boarded the 167- passenger Scenic Diamond for our seven day journey through this spectacular region. Our ship cruised  along the Garonne, Gironde and Dordogne rivers. Built in 2009, the ship subsequently has been frequently renovated.

            Our stateroom was one of the 205 square-foot balcony suites on the second passenger deck. The majority of staterooms were similar to ours and featured unique balconies separated from the room by glass doors. The upper half of the floor to ceiling windows facing the river opened, giving one the feeling of being outdoors.

             Our stateroom was attractively appointed with a mini bar/refrigerator, a private safe, a large flat-screeen TV with internet access, numerous cable stations and movies, bed-side reading lamps, bottles of water, a hairdryer, robes and slippers. There was no lounging area because the glass-enclosed balcony occupied  space that would otherwise have been available for  an indoor sitting area.  In addition to a glass-enclosed shower with multiple spray nozzles, the bathrooms had a toilet, a single vanity and some storage area below the sink.

            The fourteen cabins on the lowest deck, though a bit smaller, were similar to ours without the balcony. For an additional cost, guests could opt for one of the four 250 square-foot junior suites, one of the four 315 square-foot Royal Suites, or one of the two 325 square-foot Royal Panorama Suites with separate bedrooms and sitting areas.

            All of the accommodations enjoyed butler service which included valet, shoeshine, in-suite beverage service, cocktails and morning tea and coffee. Those on the top deck  received two items pressed daily, and those in the Royal Suites could get all of their laundry done gratis. For the rest there was a charge for pressing and laundry, and dry cleaning was not available on the ship.

            Scenic promotes itself as "all inclusive". For this cruise line "all inclusive" includes: unlimited premium spirits, wines and liqueurs, French champagne, soft drinks, specialty coffees, a fully-stocked mini-bar, all tips and gratuities, butler service, complimentary Wi-Fi, TVs with internet, cable and movies, special meals ashore, and all tours. For an add-on to the cruise fare, airfare, pre-cruise hotel stays and airport transfers are available.

            Public facilities included, the Crystal Dining Room, venue for all three meals; the Panorama Bar and Lounge at the front of the ship, the site for  before and after dinner cocktails, port talks, enlightenment lectures, entertainments, and the hub for most ship activities; the Observation Lounge at the back of the ship where a simpler, buffet-style breakfast and lunch were served; L'Amour, an intimate fine dining French-style restaurant located at the front of the lounge; and La Rive where each evening twelve passengers who booked accommodations on the top deck are treated once each cruise to a multi-course, gourmet, French tasting menu.

            Both  a red and white wine are offered at lunch and dinner and champagne was available for mimosas at breakfast. As pointed out earlier, all alcoholic beverages (except certain premium brands and expensive wines) are gratis throughout the ship.

            In our opinion, dining on Crystal Diamond was among the very best we had experienced on any riverboat or ocean-going cruise ship, as was the service. Not only in the dining room, but throughout the ship, the entire staff was extremely efficient, courteous and anxious to meet any and every request.

            Atop ship on Sun Deck were the wheelhouse (a riverboat's version of "the bridge"), deck chairs, tables and a walking track. A fleet of electric bicycles was available for passengers wishing to take a leisurely ride at the various stops, as well as for organized tours, including excursions from Bourg to Blaye, throughout the city of Bordeaux, and in Pauillac to the wine châteaux.

            We missed not having a fitness facility with a treadmill, exercycles and cardio equipment, a pool or whirlpool, a card room/library with board games, and a self-service laundry. Some of these facilities can be found on the Scenic ships built during the past few years.

            Following the dinner each evening, we wandered back to the Panorama Lounge where there was romantic piano music for listening and dancing. On several evenings, music groups were brought on board for an evening performance. Later in the evening,  the pace picked up for some more serious partying for the few that were still around. There was virtually no afternoon activities (apart from the tours, a wine tasting and  and cooking exhibitions).

            An enviable feature of this cruise line is the fact that it offers passengers an assortment of multiple tours each day, referred to as "Scenic Free Choice." Included among the numerous excursions were wine testing at chateaux in Sauterne, Medoc, Saint-Emillion,  and  at Remy Martin in Cognac; visits to oyster and duck foie gras farms for an additional tasting, walking, hiking, and bike excursions, visits to castles, a  a bird sanctuary and exploration of several towns along the way.

            Our visit one evening to Chateau Giscours was especially enjoyable. After a tour of the Chateau with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, we enjoyed an excellent four-course dinner which featured all of the wines produced at the Chateau, and was accompanied by a classical concert.

            Another memorable experience was our morning tour of the Medoc topped off with a wine tasting at Chateau Lagrange and Chateau Gruaud Larose. This was heaven for oenophiles.

            All itineraries in this area are designed especially for those who enjoy wine and wish to learn more about the wines of this region. On most days, at least one excision was to a wine chateau or involved a tasting.  Of course, a nice selection of wines from the Bordeaux and elsewhere were available aboard ship.

            The downside of cruises in Bordeaux is that these rivers are not as picturesque as some others in France and not much time is spent actually cruising.  At times when the tides were not favorable, we were taken to destinations on bus rides that were longer than would otherwise have been required had the ship been able to traverse the river. As pointed out earlier, this cruise is designed for those more interested in sampling and learning about wine than viewing scenery.

            Overall we enjoyed our cruise and were most impressed with the dining and with the excellence and attentiveness of the entire staff. Scenic's "all-inclusive" cruises throughout Europe are among the best in the riverboat industry and receive my highest recommendation.

           

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            At the close of the week, we took a train from Bordeaux to Paris in anticipation of our second cruise on Croisieurope River Cruise's Renoir.  We had a day to kill in-between cruises so we checked into a lovely hotel not far from where we were to meet the bus that would take us to Honfleur to board the ship.

          Our seven day cruise would call at  Duclair, Rouen,  and Vernon, with several days in Paris. Among the excursions offered were:  A drive along the Cote Fleurie visiting   the glamorous  coastal city of  Deauville with its shops and casino, followed by  a visit to Chateau du Breuil touring its famous Calvados distillery;  a visit to Claude Monet's house and gardens in Giverny;  a guided tour on the Norman Abbey circuit; a guided tour of Rouen visiting the Museum of Fine Arts which houses the largest collection of impressionists outside of Paris, the  Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the place where Joan of Arc was burned; a guided tour of the Palace of Versailles or a bike tour through the Palace gardens; Marmottan Museum in Paris with its large collection of works by Claude Monet; a guided tour of the important historical and architectural sites of Paris; a tour up to old-time Montmarte and the  Basilica of Sacrè-Coeur and other historic sites.

          Originally built in 1999, the 105-passenger Renoir underwent major refurbishments in 2018, reducing the number of cabins and thereby increasing their size. The ship is 361 feet long and 37.5 feet wide and has two decks both above the water line. The upper deck has 20 cabins, one for passengers with reduced mobility; and the main deck has 34 cabins, three are singles. Four cabins can accommodate a third passenger. All cabins are air conditioned, 160 square feet, and have French balconies (sliding-glass doors that can be opened), twin beds or a double bed, satellite televisions, radios, hairdryers, safes, showers, w.c. and wash basins. Storage is somewhat limited.   Electrical outlets are 220V.

           Croisieurope with a fleet of 55 ships (45 of which they own) is the largest riverboat line in Europe (based upon number of ships). Since 2013, the line has been promoting itself in North America; and announcements are made in French and English. About half of the passengers are French and many are from Germany and the U.K. In addition to French, the staff speaks English and other languages.

          The cruise is all-inclusive including wine, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and shore excursions.  Tipping is discretionary; however, Americans tend to tip more generously than Europeans.  Dress is casual except for one gala evening. The on-board currency is the euro and there is no currency exchange facilities.

          The three-course  menu for lunch and dinner is set but can be modified for dietary restrictions. The cuisine is largely French classics prepared by French chefs (rarely found on other riverboat lines). Meals are in a single sitting and seating arrangements are arranged on the first day. You keep your place at the same table throughout the entire cruise. Breakfast is served buffet style.

          Public areas have panoramic views and include the restaurant, the main lounge, bar and dance floor, a small shop and the sundeck. There is no fitness room, self service laundry, pool or whirlpool. The ship is equipped with WiFi and there is a tablet available to access your e-mails, all at no charge. Smoking is allowed only in a designated area on the sun deck. Bicycles were available for riding in  port and on specific excursions.

          The limited entertainment includes  quizzes, games and occasional music and dancing.

          The biggest advantage of Croisieurope riverboats is that they are less expensive than on most other riverboat lines. 7-day cruises run from $1,790 to $2,300; whereas fares on many of the major riverboat lines range from $3500 to $5,000, and more for a suite.

 

 

 

 

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            Upon disembarking in Paris, we spent two nights at Maison Albar Hotel Pairs Celine, a marvelous hotel conveniently located within walking distance of most museums, the Tuileries Gardens and the Champs-Elysees. For our barge experience on Croisieurope's Deborah, we met near the Gare du Nord (train station). From there, we were transferred by bus to the town of Nevers for our 6-night cruise to Briare on the upper Loire Canal in the center of France.

          The 22-passenger Deborah was launched in 2016.  At 126 feet long by 16 feet wide,  the barge is somewhat larger than many French barges, thereby accommodating more guests.  The restaurant, lounge and bar are located on the upper deck and  lounge chairs and a hot tub on sun deck.

                    There are ten 110 square-foot cabins on the main deck, and one on the upper deck for passengers with decreased mobility. All cabins have twin beds, televisions, individually controlled air conditioning, safes, hair dryers,  WiFi and ensuite bathrooms with showers. As would be expected, space  and storage is at a minimum.

          The crew speaks French and English. The international mix of  passengers were ……. and between the ages of …………..,  We found the French passengers friendly and anxious to interact with us.

          One of the highlights of the cruise was the outstanding cuisine prepared by superb French chefs. Guests can indulge in three/four course lunches and dinners, offering a variety of French and regional dishes that complement the region in which they are traveling. Guests also enjoy a selection of wines with their meals, as well as at the bar. Delicious regional cheeses are offered at lunch and dinner. Unlike on the riverboat, snacks are offered  in the late morning and before dinner.

          Dress throughout the cruise is casual. Jackets are not required; however on "gala night" guests dressed a bit nicer.

Bicycles were carried aboard; however guests were only allowed to use them when the ship was docked.  On most barges, guests are permitted to ride along the  towpaths while the barge proceeded from one town or lock to the next. Activities and entertainment on board were non-existent, other than wine and cheese tasting.

We enjoyed the following itinerary:

Day l;        After the welcome aboard cocktail party and dinner, we were escorted on a romantic evening tour of Nevers.

Day 2;  The morning walking tour of Nevers  included a visit to the Ducal Palace, a stroll through the old quarter to the Nevers Cathedral,  a visit to the pottery quarter and a tasting of local products.

 

Day 3: Today we toured by coach to the Fontmorigny Abbey, a privately owned French historical monument, and to the beautiful  village of  Apremont-sur-Aller to view its floral garden .

 

Day 4: We left by coach for a tour of La Charite-sur-Loir and an authentic French farm with an assortment of animals.

Day 5: Today's coach  excursion visited Puilly-sur-Loire where we visited the Tour de Puilly Fume, a wine tourism center, and viewed its vineyards and  wine cellar as well as enjoying a tasting.

 

Day 6: We set off on an excursion to Sancerre and visited a goat farm with a tasting of its trademark cheeses and the local Sancerre wine. That afternoon we cruised through the Briare Aqueduct built by the same architect who designed the Eiffel Tower.

 

Day 7: The other passengers disembarked for their coach ride back to Paris. We had an early plane to catch so we had to charter a private taxi and leave at 6:00 in the morning.

 

Here again, one of the factors that works for Croisieurope is that the  fare on their  barge cruises is considerably less than on other barges.

 

          After a hectic three weeks, we especially appreciated the slower pace of this barge cruise. The two most memorable facets were the incredible French cuisine and the opportunity to communicate with the French and other European passengers on an informal basis.

 

          This had been a most special four  weeks immersing ourselves in another culture. Although each of the vessels offered a different experience, I can enthusiastically recommend all three.

 

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    2017 Cruise with Tauck Riverboats' ms Swiss Emerald

          It had been several years since we had taken a riverboat cruise with Tauck. With found memories of previous trips, we were most anxious to sign up for Tauck's 14-day adventure that started with  two nights in Monte Carlo, followed by a 10-day cruise from Arles to Lyon and climaxing in an additional two days and nights in Paris.            

.         Upon arrival at Nice airport, we were met by Tauck representatives and  transported  along the picturesque coast of  southern France  to Monte Carlo for a two night stay at the glamorous Fairmont Hotel. From our suite we could look out at the mega-yachts that anchor in the harbor and watch the amazing fleet of cars -- Porsches, Lamborghinis and Ferraris-- that park in front of the opulent Grand Casino and Hotel de Paris.

          That evening the Tauck representatives held a welcome reception and dinner at the restaurant on the top floor of the hotel with stuning views out to the sea. After dinner we were on our own to explore Monte Carlo and try our luck at the casinos. The casino in the Fairmont was more to our taste than the European-style Grand Casino in the main square; however the minimum required to play was out of our league.

          `After breakfast the next morning our Tauck guide conducted an orientation tour of Monte Carlo before leaving us time to explore the colorful streets and shops. Lunch and dinner were not included during  on day two. Therefore we ventured out in search of a suitable restaurant within our budget. We were surprised to find that most restaurants specialized in Italian rather than French fare. We had to give up our search for a quiche or a croque monsieur and settle for pasta and pizza.

          On day three, we were taken by bus to Nice for a two hour visit. We strolled along the palm-lined promenade with its fashionable shops, sidewalk bistros and beach clubs set along the sea.

           Following lunch on our own, the bus transported our group to Arles, where our riverboat, ms Emerald,  awaited our arrival.  After being greeted  with a welcome glass of champagne, we were escorted to our stateroom. Our luggage had already arrived, so we proceeded to unpack and settle in.

          Our ship had been reconfigured in early 2017 reducing the total number of cabins from 59 to 49 in order to enlarge all of the staterooms on the middle deck (Ruby Deck) to 225 square feet. Overall capacity dropped from 118 passengers to 98. We had one of these 225 square-foot cabins.  On Diamond Deck above us were fourteen 300 square-foot suites. The nine on Emerald Deck below us, though recently redecorated, were still only 150 square feet.

          Our stateroom, and 81% of the others,  had  floor to ceiling windows with a  door that opens out to a protective railing but no balcony. We had a queen bed that could be separated into two twins with satin bed linens, puffy white duvets, and hypoallergenic, 90% down-filled pillows,  an electronic safe,  a mini-bar stocked with complimentary water and soft drinks, a bathroom with a glass shower, terry cloth robes, slippers, a hair dryer, numerous shelves for storing toiletries, angled mirrors  and Molton Brown bath products, a flat-screen TV, in-room movies and Wi-Fi, a table and two chairs,  two closets with adjustable shelving and 110-volt and 220-volt outlets. The 300 square-foot suites on Diamond Deck had walk-in closets and larger sitting areas, but otherwise were similar to ours.

          At the top of the ship on Sun Deck were numerous lounge chairs and tables, many with protective canopies, a putting green, a tiny Jacuzzi, a walking/jogging track and the Captain's wheel house. A fleet of bicycles was available for tours as well as leisure rides.

          The public areas were at the front half of the ship, whereas the passenger decks were at the rear half. The reception area, entrance to the ship and Panorama Lounge and Bar (the venue for  before and after dinner cocktails and cordials, lectures and entertainments) were located forward between the top and middle decks. The main dining room was located forward between the middle and lower passenger decks.  This staggering of decks resulted in many stairwells. Many of the steps were unduly narrow requiring passengers to be vigilant when negotiating them. This was especially apparent when climbing up to the Sun Deck. A small elevator connected Emerald and Ruby Decks.

          Before dinner each evening, at cocktail hour, our knowledgeable tour directors gave orientation talks preparing us for the following day's excursions, as well as background information covering the places we would be visiting. On Tauck cruises  all excursions, meals ashore and tips are included in the price, and there are unlimited  complimentary beverages aboard ship, including fine wines, beer, premium spirits, soft drinks, bottled water and specialty coffees. I was amazed at the selection of expensive French wines (some premiere cru) which were ours for the asking.

          Dinner reservations for the Compass Rose dining room could be made for groups of seven to 12 people wishing to be seated together; otherwise there was open seating and reservations were not required. We found dinner time an excellent opportunity to get to know other passengers. Each evening's menu included appetizers, soups, salads, a meat, fish, fowl and vegetarian selection for a main course, several desserts and a selection of cheese. Steaks, chicken, salmon, and

caesar salad were always available as alternatives to the nightly menu. Special dietary requirements were also accommodated.

          Service in the dining room and throughout the ship was excellent. We noticed that many of the staff had dual functions. In fact, everyone including the hotel manager and front desk people could be observed waiting tables in the dining room and serving drinks at the bar. It was explained to me that there were limitations as to the number of staff that could be carried on the ship; and therefore everyone pitched in to help each other. I had never seen this procedure previously on a river boat. 

          After dinner, we made our way to the Panorama Lounge  where a talented piano player entertained throughout the evening. Some couples got up to dance, others just enjoyed their after-dinner coffee or cordials. On other evenings there were audience participation games, a crew show and musicians from ashore. 

          The next morning we hit the fitness center before breakfast and were delighted to find two treadmills, two exercycles, free weights, as well as a massage facility.

           Breakfast was served buffet style with a wide selection of fresh fruits, juices, cereals, pastries, egg dishes, breakfast meats, pancakes, es and specialty dishes from the kitchen. Arthur's, a lounge/bistro at the stern of the ship, featured  reduced menus at breakfast and lunch, as well as specialty coffees, teas and cookies around the clock.

          After breakfast, we were divided into groups, each with its own knowledgeable tour guide, for an exploration of Arles. Here we found the amazingly well-preserved Roman Amphitheater constructed in 46 B.C seating 26,000 spectators, and, presently a venue for bull-fights, concerts and operas. Nearby was the Theater Antique, a semi-circular theater dating back to the first century B.C. Outside the city were the excavated baths of Constantine built along the Rhone River during the fourth century, and Alyscans, site of a vast Roman Medieval cemetery, the subject matter of paintings by Van Gogh and Gauguin.

          In the  afternoon we joined an excursion to the Camargue region, famous for its black bulls and white horses. The highlight was an owner hosted Provencal lunch  at a private ranch where  we were entertained by cowboys dodging the feisty little black bulls that were raised there.

          That evening was the Captain's welcome cocktail party with champagne and delicious hors d'oeuvres. Both the captain and hotel director introduced themselves and presented a run-down of what we could expect on the cruise. After dinner the ship pulled into Avignon and guests proceeded to the Sun Deck to enjoy the lights of the city while an excellent according player entertained us with romantic French songs. 

           Avignon is  a city that sprang to prominence when it became the papal residence during the 14th  and 15th centuries. Our walking tour the next morning concentrated on exploration of the Papal Palace and the three miles of 14th century ramparts which completely encase the city.  Another attraction was the ruins of  the Bridge of St. Benezet which was destroyed by wars and became the  subject of the children's song, "Sur le Pont".

 After the tour, we wondered along the Place de L'Horage, in the heart of the old town with its ancient bell tower, city hall and numerous cafes and boutiques.

          That evening, guests dressed up for  a royal treat at the Duchy D'Uzes. The visit included a guided tour, a cocktail reception and a gala dinner in this 12th century duke's castle with its myriad of influences from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the 17th century and modern times. The dinner was excellent; however there was a very strong wind which rendered sitting outside very uncomfortable.

          The following day, while docked in Avignon, we were offered a morning tour to  Saint Remy de Provence whose picturesque setting is immortalized  in more than 150 of Van Gogh's paintings. After lunch, we attended a wine tasting of Rhone wines at one of the select  vineyards permitted to produce Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines. We were able to compare five vintages while receiving  an expert lecture covering the  wines and the region.

          We docked in Tain l'Hermitage the next morning. We were offered a choice  of a guided walking tour of Vienne with its impressive Roman ruins or a guided bicycle tour along the river with a stop at Saint Vallier for a cafĂ© and croissant.

          The following morning we were docked in Macon. For our tour we were driven to Cluny for a visit to Cluny Abbey Benedictine Monastery. This was followed by a dressage  demonstration with a skilled horse and rider at  the Haras National equestrian center. Lunch was served at Chateau Pruzilly set in the heart of the Beaujolais and Burgundy wine regions.

          We woke up the next morning in Chalon-Sur-Saone where for our first tour we sampled local culinary offerings at a bakery, an artisan chocolate boutique and a mustard shop. That afternoon we selected a wine tasting with the owners of a private vineyard on a grand family estate in Rully. In the alternative, a walking  tour of Beaune was offered featuring a visit to the Hospices of Beaune, founded in 1443 as a hospital for the poor.

           At Tournus, our next stop, the morning excursion  was a drive through the landscapes of southern Burgundy to the 17th Century Chateau de Cormatin with its towers, turrets and drawbridge. We toured its famous gilded rooms and  garden before returning to the ship for lunch and an afternoon cruise to Lyon.

          Our final day on the ship was spent in Lyon,  the third largest city in France, known as the gastronomic paradise and gourmet heaven,  the location of many of the very best restaurants in France. We passed on the morning bus tour. We set out on our own strolling through one of the lovely parks and through the cobbled streets of old Lyon with its numerous shops, boutiques, restaurants  and bistros. We visited the Musee des Beaux-Arts, France's second-largest fine arts museum with its outstanding collection of 19th- and 20th-century  paintings, and the old Roman Theater, the oldest in France, built in 19 a.d.

          An interesting stop when touring Lyon is a visit to Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, the most famous indoor food market in France, if not the world. Here we found  over 60 stalls selling countless gourmet delights including some of the best cheese we ever sampled. (Yes they will let you sample before you buy). Although there are several restaurants at the market, we chose to select some of the amazing fresh cheeses, inviting pastries and a bottle of wine for a picnic on our own. What we did not realize is that Tauck planned on making a stop at the market on the way to the train to allow us to purchase food to eat during the trip.

          After breakfast the following morning we disembarked our ship, took a bus first to Les Halles and then to the train station,  and boarded  the high-speed TGV for a fast trip  in first class to Paris.

          Upon arrival in Paris, we enjoyed an overview of landmark sites on an orientation bus tour of the city before arriving at our hotel, the Paris Intercontinental Le Grand. That evening we were on our own and elected to dine at CafĂ© de la Paix, the excellent restaurant at the hotel.

          The next day we were given a choice of  three tours: Musee du Louvre, home of the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Winged Victory; Musee National de l'Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens, location of the Water Lilies murals created by Claude Monet; and  the Opera House. We selected the Musee de l'Orangerie, having visited the Louvre on previous trips. That evening we were treated to our farewell dinner at Fouquet's on the Champs-Elysees, a celebrity brasserie dating back to 1899.  It was some incredible day.

          Our 14 day cruise and land package ranged from $6,390 to $8,840 per person depending upon your cabin category. On several other dates in June and August, the price range for a similar package ranged from $6,990 to $9,940.

          Transportation to the airport for our trip home was provided. Sadly we bid farewell to the staff and our fellow guests after having experienced one of the better river cruises  we had taken to date. The pampering staff, the fine cuisine, the exceptional tours and many extras offered, make a cruise with Tauck (as the French say)magnifique.

 

post script:

          Tauck operates eight riverboats that are owned by Scylla, a Swiss shipping company; however the ships were constructed to Tauck's specifications and are operated exclusively by Tauck. Four of the ships are 361 feet in length similar in size to the Emerald and four others  are 443 feet in length with the capacity to hold 130 guests.

All of these ships are somewhat smaller and more intimate than competing riverboat lines and afford better service.

          Tauck offers a vast array of cruise itineraries including cruises on the Danube, the Rhine, Rhone/Saone Mainz Canal, Moselle,  and Seine extending from 7 to 28 days. Tauck Tours are well known for land based tours all over the world.

 

by Steven B. Stern

 (author of Stern's Guide to European Riverboats and Hotel Barges and Stern's Guide to the Cruise Vacation)

         

 

 

 

 

 


 
 
     
 
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