Once in a great while, an opportunity comes along that you know you have to say yes to. For me that opportunity came knocking in the form of a wonderful invitation by U by Uniworld to join them on a Seine River cruise in France. My only cruising experience in the past had been on a very large cruise ship which thousands of people, and I decided at that point that was my first and last cruise. However, this river cruise changed my mind about cruising and I plan to be seeing many rivers around the world in the future. The good thing is that U by Uniworld also offers cruises in Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary!
The starting point of the cruise was in Paris, where Uniworld’s B Boat (the only black ship on the river) was docked within sight of the Eiffel Tower. It was impossible to not think about what a fabulous honeymoon this would be. The long boat holds up to 120 guests, and is spacious enough that there is room for intimate moments or wonderful conversations with newfound friends. The upper deck has a large choice of seating to allow you to enjoy the beautiful French evenings, whether at dock or under sail. After spending the evening in Paris, our cruise started and I fell in love with river cruising and with France.
After a great night’s sleep on a ridiculously comfortable bed, I woke to a sunrise on the Seine and miles of country beauty out the balcony window of my cabin. Since it was early, I headed to the bar for coffee and pastries (trying to abstain from too many croissants since brunch would be available in a couple of hours). Sitting on the upper deck, wrapped in one of the blankets available for chilly mornings and evenings, it was hard to believe the difference between this serenity and the hustle and bustle of Paris. Greeting the day in this way was peaceful and pure bliss.
Just after sunrise we arrived in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, which is a commune in the Île-de-France region of north-central France. It is located in the north-western suburbs of Paris, about 12 miles from the center of Paris. That 12 miles had been covered in a 4 hour cruise, with no traffic noise. We were instantly taken back to a much quieter and simpler life. Once docked, we were off the boat in minutes (oh so different from a large cruise ship) and exploring the village. Then back to the boat for brunch, and on to a tour of the Gardens of Versailles and the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette. One of the wonderful things about U by Uniworld cruises is that almost every day there are tours that are included. There are also optional tours available for an additional charge.
With over 1,976 acres of gardens (one tenth of its original size), the Versailles gardens are something to behold. There are delightfully cool tiny gardens, impressively large expanses of lawn, tree lined corridors and everything in between. The sense of history was everywhere and it was great to be able to take the time to let the significance of this place sink in. I also loved that leaving from the boat and taking a short bus ride to get here meant we had avoided hours of traffic to and from Paris! We arrived back at the boat and spent the evening enjoying the company of new found friends at dinner, and on the upper deck, as we cruised to the city of Rouen.
Since it is a larger city, there is much to see in Rouen, so I spent the whole day exploring. Of course there was a visit to a pastry shop and a cafe, but my favorite part of the afternoon was a visit to the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Not only was it free (and air-conditioned), it was almost empty. It was in this environment that I was able to see works by Monet, Renoir and Sisley up close and personal – with no crowds. The architecture of the city is gorgeous, with numerous churches that have workmanship of a kind that man will never see again. After stopping for a wonderful macaroon from a cafe docked next to our boat, it was time to relax before the evening activities.
In the evening, we joined fellow cruisers at a local bar and were then treated to a unbelievable light show on the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. The cathedral is a stunning architectural masterpiece in and of itself, but to see what is essentially a film about the history of the area played on its exterior was truly impressive. After a full day of exploring it was a very short walk back to the boat. It was such a wonderful part of the cruising experience that the location of the docks made getting to and fro so easy. Next week I will share the rest of my wonderful trip with you. For now I will leave you with this video. By now I am sure you are seeing why U by Uniworld just might be the perfect honeymoon for you!