The Seine, Paris & Normandy - Five-star MS Swiss Sapphire

8 Days - River Cruise

Shares

From Paris we slip our moorings and commence our wonderfully scenic cruise along the beautiful and majestic Seine into the heart of one of France’s most historic and picturesque regions, Normandy. With time to enjoy the historic little town of Les Andelys en route, we continue our journey along the Seine’s sweeping meanders, before exploring the delights of Rouen, one of Europe’s finest medieval cities with its stunning cathedral and tangle of atmospheric winding streets. Passing the legendary Jumiege Abbey, we moor in the pretty village of Caudebec with time after dinner for an evening stroll in this most typical of French villages. Then to Bayeux, spared significant war damage, it retains its wealth of splendid buildings as well as the legendary and stunning tapestry for which it is so famed. We also see some of the many thought-provoking monuments and places along the Normandy coast and reflect on the remarkable story of the D-Day landings on our visit to Gold Beach and the remnants of Mulberry Harbour. Our cruise would not be complete without a visit to charming Honfleur - its near perfect waterfront of tall pastel-coloured  18th century houses, traditional shops and maze of streets providing the inspiration for the Impressionist painter Claude Monet to paint here many times. Countless sleepy villages silently drift by as we arrive in delightful Vernon, from where we take the short drive to Giverny visiting Claude Monet’s home and one of the world’s most famous and most painted gardens. Enjoy the quintessentially half-timbered streets of Vernon before we continue on to our final destination, one of the world’s most iconic and romantic cities, Paris. From the Notre Dame to the Arc de Triomphe, the Sacre-Coeur to the Eiffel Tour, the Louvre to the Pompidou Centre, the smart shopping of the Galeries Lafayette to bohemian Montmatre, the list is endless and the variety arguably unmatchable; this breathtaking city never fails to inspire no matter how many times you get the chance to visit.

Highlights

  • · Guided tour of historic Rouen
  • · Visit to Claude Monet’s house and beautiful garden
  • · Explore Vernon, one of Normandy’s most picturesque towns
  • · Guided tour of Paris
  • · See the Bayeux Tapestry
  • · Tour the D-Day Normandy Beaches
  • · Stop in Les Andelys, village of half-timbered houses and twisted alleys
  • · Visit to delightful Honfleur, one of Normandy’s most alluring fishing ports
  • · Cruise through the delightful Seine Valley
  • · Visit Chateau Gaillard, Richard the Lionheart’s huge castle
  • · Price includes full board (except one lunch), from dinner on your day of arrival to breakfast on your final day
  • · Services of a cruise director and tour manager

Inclusions

  • Return standard class Eurostar and return rail connections on selected dates from over thirty regional stations to London, or return flights from selected airports (at a supplement)
  • Full-board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day (excluding one lunch)

Itinerary

Day 1

You fly to Paris, Charles de Gaulle from where a coach will take you to the nearby ship. Moored on the River Seine, the dedicated crew welcome you aboard your first-class floating hotel, ensuring you settle into you comfortable and extremely well equipped cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship.

Day 2

During the night the Swiss Sapphire has slipped her moorings and as you enjoy your first sumptuous breakfast, you rapidly get used to the fascinating sensation of enjoying the most luxurious floating sightseeing experience as the landscape passes serenely before you. Rounding a sweeping bend, so typical of the River Seine, at Mantes la Jolie a huge Cathedral dominates the left bank and then straight ahead is an imposing medieval stone bridge, destroyed during the Second World War, never repaired and the first poignant reminder this region of France has been a battleground for centuries. Beyond Mantes, again typical of the Seine, almost resembling giant’s teeth, the first of the picturesque chalk cliffs appear as the river meanders seawards. Stunningly beautiful villages like La Roche Guyon slide by, interspaced by verdant green countryside studded by countless cider orchards, half-timbered barns and contorted wooden farmhouses. We are truly in the heart of one of France’s historic and stunningly attractive dukedoms - Normandy. The lower Seine Valley is characterised by a huge series of sweeping meanders and as you cruise through the almost tortuous chalk cliff lined valley you’ll find it hard to work out if you’ve seen that hilltop before from another side – all part of the charm of a scenic river cruise. Whilst you are enjoying your first delicious lunch, the captain has skilfully berthed at Les Andelys, dominated by one of the most spectacular sights along the entire valley. The fascinating Chateau Gaillard, a huge medieval castle guarding the apex of this particular river bend was ironically built by Richard the Lionheart to defend Rouen from the French! A much appreciated feature of our holidays is that cruises are well-paced allowing time to really absorb your ephemeral surroundings, so this afternoon you are free to explore the historic little town of Les Andelys as you wish. There’s also the opportunity to join the tour visiting Chateau Gaillard itself, learning about its tumultuous history and enjoy the stupendous views across the river’s bends and over the delightful Normandy countryside, probably the finest of the entire cruise.

Day 3

We awake in Rouen, Normandy’s historic capital, one of Europe’s finest medieval cities and scene of many momentous events over the centuries. Pride of place belongs to its stunning cathedral immortalised by Claude Monet over 30 times! An eclectic mix of architectural styles with its soaring spire briefly make it once Europe’s tallest building and is the final resting place of Richard the Lionheart and Rollo, William the Conqueror’s grandfather. Rouen’s beautiful tangle of medieval alleys are a revelation, wonderfully lined with antique shops, tasteful boutiques -as only the French know how, plus of course countless establishments offering culinary delicacies emphasising the country’s outstanding gastronomic heritage. In the Place Vieux Marche is one of the city’s most poignant spots; a simple garden of wild flowers marks where the legendary Joan of Arc was burned for her beliefs. Our tour sees all this and more.   During another superb lunch we cast off navigating yes more amazing meandering bends through chalk cliffs bisecting steep forest-covered hills designated areas of outstanding natural beauty and the sanctuary of deer and wild boar. Another spectacular sight soon greets us, the magnificent 11th century Jumiège Abbey, one of the highlights of the entire valley and whose consecration was attended by William the Conqueror himself. It’s an amazing sight! Late afternoon, we moor in the pretty village of Caudebec, so after dinner perhaps take a stroll exploring this lovely spot with its typical market square and richly decorated church adorned with stone carvings so fine they are more resplendent of a cathedral.

Day 4

After breakfast you’ll be ready for today’s full day tour to learn about two of the most important aspects of European history, the D-Day landings in 1944 and the Bayeux Tapestry. (Please note lunch is not provided today). Bayeux itself is a delightful town, thankfully spared the ravages of war, so you can marvel at the many splendid buildings including the grandiose cathedral in addition to the wonders of the tapestry itself. Telling the tale of William of Normandy’s expedition to invade England in 1066, this remarkable survivor which is actually embroidery rather than a true tapestry surely needs no further introduction and will bring back “fond” memories of many a school history lesson! The detail of embroidery is stunning and despite its age, the colours have hardly faded and it’s easy to agree this is the finest relic there is from the European Middle Ages.   Mercifully peaceful today, this afternoon we visit some of the many thought-provoking monuments and places, part of the remarkable story of the D-Day landings of June 6th 1944, and the tumult that once rent asunder the now peaceful Normandy coast. We visit Gold Beach where the remnants of the extraordinary Mulberry Harbour are visible and a timely reminder of the ingenuity that was critical to this extraordinary enterprise. After a day recalling such momentous events and the truly remarkable stories that surround them, thoughts turn again to the culinary delights awaiting you in the elegance and refined comfort of the Swiss Sapphire’s restaurant.

Day 5

Today we take the drive to perhaps the most picturesque spot on the northern French coast – delightful Honfleur. Beautifully preserved, its old harbour, complete with both fishing boats and luxurious pleasure craft, is surrounded by a perfect waterfront of tall, pastel-coloured 18th century houses, many converted to seafood restaurants. Along the waterfront, watch the talented artists at work, capturing the delightful view for eternity whilst the intricate maze of streets behind are worthy of some exploration. The eaves of the tall, half-timbered buildings almost touch and on the streets below is an abundance of traditional shops selling all sorts of items such as antiques, books and fine foods. The locals stop, exchange a few words, kiss on both cheeks and continue on their way – archetypical provincial France. Honfleur’s most famous son is Eugene Boudin, the forerunner of Impressionism whose most famous pupil was a certain Claude Monet who painted here many times.   Returning for lunch, the ship retraces the river’s enchanting scenery, its meanders, ever-changing wildlife, country estates and forests all reflecting differing colours in the sparkling waters as the Swiss Sapphire cruises upstream. Villages slip by, birds glide on numerous thermals soaring from the surrounding cliffs and it’s an ideal opportunity to join new friends for a chat as this ever-changing kaleidoscope slips by. Squeeze in a spot of reading on the Sun Deck or simply recline, let the gentle breezes so characteristic of the stately progress of a luxury river cruise vessel lull you into a relaxing doze. By this stage of your cruise you will be totally unwound and modern life will seem very distant.

Day 6

Today we take the drive to perhaps the most picturesque spot on the northern French coast – delightful Honfleur. Beautifully preserved, its old harbour, complete with both fishing boats and luxurious pleasure craft, is surrounded by a perfect waterfront of tall, pastel-coloured 18th century houses, many converted to seafood restaurants. Along the waterfront, watch the talented artists at work, capturing the delightful view for eternity whilst the intricate maze of streets behind are worthy of some exploration. The eaves of the tall, half-timbered buildings almost touch and on the streets below is an abundance of traditional shops selling all sorts of items such as antiques, books and fine foods. The locals stop, exchange a few words, kiss on both cheeks and continue on their way – archetypical provincial France. Honfleur’s most famous son is Eugene Boudin, the forerunner of Impressionism whose most famous pupil was a certain Claude Monet who painted here many times.   Returning for lunch, the ship retraces the river’s enchanting scenery, its meanders, ever-changing wildlife, country estates and forests all reflecting differing colours in the sparkling waters as the Swiss Sapphire cruises upstream. Villages slip by, birds glide on numerous thermals soaring from the surrounding cliffs and it’s an ideal opportunity to join new friends for a chat as this ever-changing kaleidoscope slips by. Squeeze in a spot of reading on the Sun Deck or simply recline, let the gentle breezes so characteristic of the stately progress of a luxury river cruise vessel lull you into a relaxing doze. By this stage of your cruise you will be totally unwound and modern life will seem very distant.

Day 7

We have arrived in Paris and this morning we take a sightseeing tour of probably the world’s most iconic city. Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Élysées, Sacré-Coeur, the Eiffel Tower you see these and much, much more. The grandiose Place de la Concorde, largest square in the city, shows off 18th Century French architecture at its best and just over on the left bank you’ll find the Musée d’Orsay, home of the world’s finest Impressionist art collection. The world famous Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, plus countless other stunning exhibits grace the Louvre. There is the eccentric and yet stylish Pompidou Centre famous for modern art and street entertainment. The Ile de la Cite is dominated by Notre Dame and the delicate spire of the sublime Ste. Chapelle. The variety is arguably unmatched.  After lunch you could visit fine shops such as the Galeries Lafayette and the smart arcaded Rue de Rivoli or perhaps just wander round bohemian Montmartre. Paris is everything you imagine it to be, romantic, inspiring, vibrant even outrageous, but best of all Paris is unique and a fitting finale to a wonderful cruise.  This evening is the Captain’s Dinner, hosted of course by the Captain himself, a delightful experience featuring specialites of the regions through which we have travelled but probably tinged too with a little sadness in the knowledge that it is the last evening of our wonderful adventure.

Day 8

This morning, at the appropriate time you will be transferred to the airport for your return journey.

Life on board

Launched in 2008, one of Europe’s finest vessels the five-star Swiss Sapphire is another of our Swiss-managed ships, a true embodiment of luxurious river cruising of the highest standards as befits its flag. Accommodating just 120 guests in stylish surroundings befitting a top quality hotel, and in contrast many similar ships carrying up to 200 people, you are assured the personal touch and a very spacious atmosphere in cabins and public areas alike. The ship’s talented designers have brought to bear their decades of experience, incorporating a range of outstanding design features in superbly appointed cabins, gracious lounges and restaurants so your river cruise is one to treasure for years to come. Boarding through the elegant lobby, the décor’s luxurious quality, the spacious feel of the public areas and a five-star ambience are immediately apparent. Superior quality fittings, subdued, atmospheric lighting, warm colours, highly polished pink and black marble floors and splendid wrought ironwork and gold banisters ensure that a gentle wander around the vessel promises classic cruising of a very high standard. There is a small boutique for your everyday requirements and forward on Diamond (upper) Deck is the elegant, deep-carpeted lounge and bar with a variety of leather and soft armchairs plus settees so whatever your mood or time of day, you have the ideal space in which to relax. Surrounded by extensive panoramic windows you can fully appreciate the passing scenery’s splendours and the true fascination of everyday river life. All our ships’ lounges offer guests an elegant space to relax in the most genteel of surroundings, a theme that is perfectly evoked here in subtle use of contrasting colour, lighting and décor; the results of using superbly talented interior designers are very well evidenced. Quality also extends to the ‘professional’ behind the bar, happy to prepare simple yet perfectly prepared fruit juices or a sophisticated cocktail - the perfect spot to while away the evenings with the gentle melodies of the ship’s pianist in the background. Or perhaps join your friends for a twirl on the purpose designed dance floor. Aft on Diamond Deck is the Lido bar, probably one of the ship’s most intimate areas, ideal to catch up on some reading, play chess or perhaps have a coffee whilst taking in the view through the panoramic floor to ceiling sliding windows. Descending the regal, wrought-iron staircase, also served by a lift, brings you to the Ruby (middle) Deck where the ship’s main restaurant has the pleasantly wonderful feel of a top culinary establishment – which is exactly what it is! Exceptional tableware and high quality service compliment local and international creations presented at their very best. This is a truly superior fine-dining experience matching first-class restaurants onshore. Our very well-received open dining arrangements mean you can sit with whomever and wherever you wish, at tables ranging in size from four to six so you can be as private or sociable as you like. A staircase leads to the Emerald (lower) Deck featuring a small yet well-appointed fitness centre to help keep you in trim after all those sumptuous meals plus a treatment room for massages if you feel like pampering yourself (small additional fee). Crowning the entire ship is the Sun Deck, the perfect place to relax and wonder at the passing scenery. Here you can practice your swing on the ‘putting’ green, enjoy a game of giant chess, reflect on life from the perspective of the whirlpool Jacuzzi, unobtrusively watch the wildlife or marvel at the masterful way in which the captain and crew effortlessly ease the vessel along the river’s course. Just forward of the wheelhouse is the Forward Sun Deck, a quiet spot where you can enjoy a yacht-like ambience and reflect on just how pleasant life can be. The Swiss Sapphire, where the Swiss service is alive and well, and a really special and intimate cruise awaits you.

  Cost per person: €0pp
  Number of nights:

Tour supplied in Partnership with:

atol iconatol icon
  Call:  01 905 6300