Get More For Your Money
Enjoy a free cabin upgrade from middle to upper deck on July & August 2024 river cruises
All upper deck cabins come with Riviera Plus benefits*
♦ For that extra touch of indulgence your bathroom will b stocked with luxury toiletries
♦ A bottle of champagne will be waiting your arrival
♦ Locally inspired gifts for you to take home
♦ A massage, spa treatment or hair dresser with a 10% discount
♦ 10% off the convenient onboard laundry services
All cruises include:
Spacious and beautiful appointed cabins with full board, All excursions, Return Travel, plus transfers, Services of a Riviera Travel Director
The Blue Danube
8 days from £2499 per person
July & August 2024 departures
Soak up all that Europe’s most cultured river has to offer, with its wealth of grand baroque architecture, medieval cities, picture perfect towns and the sights that inspired Strauss and Mozart.
You fly to Budapest, where a coach takes you to your cruise ship. The dedicated crew are there to welcome you on board, ensuring you settle in and familiarise yourself with this first-class floating hotel.
There’s always a sense of expectancy and excitement on the eve of a cruise and, after an excellent dinner in the stylish restaurant, conversation is sure to revolve around the delights ahead.
Overnight we have cruised upstream to Esztergom, one of Hungary’s oldest towns, a royal capital during medieval times and today the seat of the country’s archbishop. We have a guided tour of the famous neoclassical basilica, standing sentinel over the Danube on the border with Slovakia, and boasting one of the world’s largest altarpieces and a wealth of priceless religious artefacts.
The castle is also worth exploring; it was the seat of government until the Ottomans invaded in the 16th century.
Nestling below are myriad atmospheric churches resonating with the enchanting sounds of choir; this is the best of provincial Hungary and is little changed since Habsburg times. As you enjoy your first lunch on board we gently leave Esztergom in our wake, affording a fascinating opportunity to compare the different landscapes, towns and villages of Hungary on one riverbank and of Slovakia on the other.
This morning we explore Slovakia’s fast-emerging capital city, Bratislava, on a guided tour. Until recently swathed in the drab uniformity of Communism, the city has rekindled the splendour of its imperial past in its beautifully restored Old Town. Equally impressive is the imposing 17th-century castle commanding expansive views across the Danube.
This afternoon we cruise into Lower Austria, a peaceful, bucolic region and home to some of the country’s best wines. By now the stresses of everyday life seem distant as you absorb the ever-changing scenes, we pass children playing on the riverbanks, young couples strolling arm in arm like generations before them, vignerons carefully pruning their vines, and cobbled quaysides lined by half-timbered buildings.
You’ll marvel as the Captain skilfully navigates the ship along the serene river and through locks whose mechanisms never cease to fascinate, as we cruise towards Dürnstein during dinner.
Durnstein is known principally for the ice-blue tower of its abbey, which dominates the view, and the castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192 after being shipwrecked on his return from the crusades.
This morning we take a guided walking tour to explore this memorable city further. Set on a rocky outcrop high above the river, the castle is now ruined, but it’s easy to imagine England’s legendary monarch seething with frustration far from home, while waiting for his family to raise funds to pay his ransom.
After lunch you visit the remarkable Melk Abbey. Nothing quite prepares you for your first sight of this enormous honey-coloured building, standing resplendent above the surrounding countryside. Originally a castle, it was gifted to the Benedictine Order in the 11th-century and, although reconstructed in Baroque style during the 18th century, it has remained a monastic school and monastery ever since.
The Abbey is renowned for its 214-yard-long Emperor’s Gallery lined with portraits, many fine rooms and an ornate library. After we re-join the ship, dinner is served during the final part of our cruise upstream through the pretty Nibelungengau, immortalised in the music of Wagner.
Reaching Linz, you will have the choice to stay in the city and take a guided walking tour, exploring its charming baroque old town. At its heart you’ll see one of the finest squares in Austria, lined by grand pastel-coloured facades with an impressive central Trinity Column of white marble, crowned by a gilded sunburst. There’s also the fortress-like castle, built high above the city by Emperor Friedrich III, now a museum housing a fine collection of nineteenth and twentieth-century artworks.
Alternatively, we drive to Salzburg, once an independent state whose archbishops turned it into one of the most sophisticated cities north of the Alps. Dominating the skyline is one of Europe’s largest stone fortresses, the Hohensalzburg, while beneath its walls church domes and spires rise from the delightful Altstadt, or Old Town. Then there’s the wonderful Hellbrunn Palace and the splendid formal gardens of the Mirabell Palace – a must for horticulture fans.
This morning, discover some of the city’s main sights in the company of an expert local guide, then you’re free to explore as you wish. Everywhere there are sights associated with the city’s most famous resident, Mozart, who played the harpsichord aged three, composed rudimentary music at five and wrote his first opera when he was 11!
Please note lunch is not included on this full day excursion to Salzburg; however, the ship will offer a packed lunch. We return to the ship for another splendid dinner.
For many, today’s visit to Vienna will be one of the highlights of the cruise. The city’s very name provokes images of elegance, fine music, wide boulevards, Baroque architecture and a rich tapestry of peoples who were drawn here from all corners of Europe.
For 200 years until the First World War, Vienna was the cultural centre of Europe and many of the showpiece buildings, galleries, aristocratic palaces and magnificent churches you see today were built to reflect its imperial status. The city’s most iconic monument is the breathtaking Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, whose striking multi-coloured roof and huge Gothic South Tower dominate the skyline.
There’s also the colossal Hofburg, the former royal court that is now home to a collection of museums, the Crown Jewels and the Spanish Riding School, and where the Vienna Boys’ Choir performs. Then there are the lavish Imperial Apartments and an outstanding collection of relics of the Holy Roman Empire, including, allegedly, the sabre of Charlemagne himself. The Kunsthistorisches Museum, which contains the world’s fourth largest collection of paintings, is just across the road.
This morning we have a tour with a local guide offering insights into why Vienna is one of Europe’s great capitals – the seat of the Habsburg emperors and home to some of the world’s finest classical composers, including Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and, of course, a whole family of Strausses.
During the afternoon you’re free to explore as you wish. Take a stroll in the Prater, notable for the huge Ferris wheel that features in several Cold War spy thrillers. Or, for something quite different, visit the Schönbrunn Palace, a former royal residence now housing a range of world-class museums and galleries. Perhaps, though, just take a stroll through Vienna’s atmospheric side streets, or enjoy a coffee and a slice of delicious Sachertorte in one of the lovely coffee houses.
This evening we’ve arranged truly the ‘icing on the cake’: no visit to Vienna is complete without a live musical experience, so after dinner we have a classical recital on board. To hear this exquisite music played in the city of its creation makes a wonderful finale to the day.
Enjoy a leisurely morning as we cruise majestically through Hungary’s peaceful pastoral landscape towards Budapest. After lunch we enjoy a sightseeing tour of this captivating city, which truly lives up to its reputation as the ‘Pearl of the Danube’.
The twin cities of Buda, built around the hilltop fortress, and Pest, with its wide boulevards, were fought over through the centuries. The Ottomans ruled here for 150 years before being ousted in the late 17th century, but their legacy lives on in the many thermal baths fed by hot springs, giving rise to Budapest’s other sobriquet – the ‘City of Spas’.
After the end of Ottoman rule, Budapest became an imperial city of the Habsburg Empire, attracting great cultural and commercial wealth. Castle Hill is Budapest in microcosm: two churches, seven museums and a theatre among streets and squares with their own special atmosphere and a dramatic view across the river to the awe-inspiring neo-Gothic Parliament Building. Budapest’s endless galleries, museums, outstanding Art Nouveau architecture and excellent shopping offer a fittingly elegant end to your Danube cruise.
This evening’s Gala Dinner closes with a Hungarian folklore show, giving you time to bid farewell to your travelling companions and reflect on all the inspirational places, sights and sounds you have experienced on a truly ‘imperial’ cruise.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK.
Rhine River Cruise To Switzerland
8 days from £2649 per person
July & August 2024 departures
Glide past the pretty towns along the Rhine River, experience the breathtaking Alpine scenery on a mountain rail journey into the spectacular Bernese Oberland and discover Switzerland’s most attractive cities.
Arrive at the airport for your flight to Düsseldorf or Cologne or take the Eurostar to Brussels from London St Pancras International.
On arrival, transfer by coach to your cruise ship moored in the heart of picturesque Cologne. The dedicated English-speaking crew will welcome you aboard your first-class floating hotel, ensuring you settle into your luxurious, well-equipped cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship.
As you wake to a sumptuous breakfast, the delights of this river cruise begin to emerge as we drift past the first rolling hills of the Rhine Valley.
The forested Siebengebirge – Seven Mountains – a cluster of ancient volcanic hills that inspired many of the Brothers Grimm’s legends, including ‘Snow White’, act as the overture for even more dramatic scenery upstream.
We cruise past the famous ruined bridge at Remagen, which was captured intact by the Allies towards the end of the Second World War, allowing thousands of troops to cross into Germany’s heartland. Pretty waterfront towns and carefully tended vineyards come into view as we glide gently into our mooring to visit delightful Koblenz for a guided tour.
Founded by the Romans, this historic city is beautifully located at the confluence of the Rhine and its sister river the Moselle. Discover Koblenz’s maze of medieval buildings in the Altstadt – old town – which is studded with a fine array of traditional shops and classic Rhineland cafés.
As you wander, historic buildings appear seemingly at every turn; see a former mint, the Four Towers – 17th-century houses with striking turrets set at a crossroads – and many fascinating squares and churches, including the 9th-century Basilica of Saint Kastor.
Wherever you wander you’re never far from a riverbank, and it’s worth crossing the 14th-century stone Balduin Bridge across the Moselle for fine views back across the spires of the Altstadt.
Tonight, enjoy a meticulously prepared dinner on board, and afterwards perhaps a quiet stroll along the riverside promenade to the Deutsches Eck – ‘German Corner’ – where the great rivers Rhine and Moselle meet.
Slipping our mooring at Koblenz we proceed upstream on the Rhine and soon encounter the impressive Marksburg Castle, a fortress dating back to the 13th-century.
We then weave through the huge looping bend – one of the most impressive on the river – at Boppard, a wonderfully picturesque town known as the ‘Pearl of the Rhine’.
Journeying further, you explore the most famous of all the river’s reaches and a real highlight of the cruise, the dramatic Rhine Gorge: steep vineyards give way to almost vertical rocky outcrops towering more than 600 feet above the sweeping valley sides. Sailing past Saint Goar and the many ruined castles, there’s a real sense of the myths surrounding this historic river coming alive around you.
After lunch we moor in Rüdesheim, a classic Rhine wine village with crooked houses sloping down from wooded hillsides and terraced vineyards.
During this afternoon’s delightful walking tour, witness the bustling marketplace, the half-timbered Klunkhardshof and Bromserburg Castle, which dates from 1275.
After dinner this evening, another sumptuous affair prepared by your chef, maybe sample a small Asbach – the famous brandy distilled in Rüdesheim – while watching the last of the ferries crossing the river in the moonlight glow.
Still sailing upstream, the landscape becomes much wider and flatter, with gently rolling hills and vineyards that are home to the Liebfraumilch wines. Occasionally the excited chatter of birdlife breaks out as we pass oxbow lakes, long deserted by the river flow, which are now havens for over a hundred bird species.
Today we berth in historic Speyer, founded by the Celts and one of Germany’s oldest cities, celebrated for its illustrious past, for an afternoon walking tour. The breath-taking Imperial Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is among the largest Romanesque churches in the world; it’s also one of the finest. Its beautiful four-roomed crypt is the resting place of many Holy Roman emperors and German kings.
Another landmark is the magnificent neo-Gothic Gedächtniskirche, built at the turn of the 20th-century to commemorate the 1529 ‘Protestation at Speyer’, a significant event when a group of Martin Luther’s followers protested against his imperial ban – henceforth Luther’s religious followers were known as ‘Protestants’.
There’s free time to explore here before stepping back on board for another splendid dinner.
This morning we cruise gently upstream, passing through two spectacular locks, whose elaborate engineering never ceases to fascinate. Why not find a comfortable chair and catch up on some reading, play chess or watch the rolling kaleidoscope of scenery from the Sun Deck?
We soon arrive in France and moor in Strasbourg, capital of the Alsace region. This afternoon we have a walking tour of its picturesque Old Town, bisected by canals and made up of a maze of narrow streets lined with timber-framed houses and sculptured portals.
Unforgettable sites include the stupendous Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral, multi-towered Ponts Couverts – covered bridges – and the pretty Petite France quarter of pastel-coloured former artisans’ houses lining the canals.
Don’t be surprised if you’re tempted to linger a while in a typical Alsatian café to sample some of the region’s world-famous wines – a crisp Riesling or that particular speciality of Alsace, spicy Gewürztraminer.
Your final day cruising is spent gliding through the dramatic scenery of the rift valley separating the Vosges and Black Forest mountains.
We arrive at the ancient town of Breisach, whose historic heart is surrounded by stone ramparts and dominated by the impressive Saint Stephan’s Cathedral.
This afternoon you drive through some of Central Europe’s most stunning scenery – the Black Forest Mountains. This is a fabled landscape of rugged valleys, white-water rivers, cascading waterfalls and rolling hillsides covered with huge, densely packed pine trees – exactly as you expect it to be. Our destination is the idyllic village of Titisee, nestling on the shores of its crystal-clear lake.
Rejoining the ship, we resume our stately passage upriver. As the sun sets and the riverside lights begin to twinkle there are wonderful views over the imposing Vosges massif. You enjoy this evening’s dinner en route to Switzerland and our next mooring at Basel.
Back on board this evening there’s a truly memorable occasion – the ‘Captain’s Dinner’, featuring delicious specialities of the countries and regions we visit during our cruise.
Today we take the short drive to Lucerne, often considered Switzerland’s most beautiful city, spectacularly situated among stunning mountain views.
It has been attracting well-heeled visitors for two centuries, including our very own Queen Victoria. Highly recommended is an invigorating stroll along the Chapel Bridge, a unique covered wooden walkway crossing the lake, supported by stilts and lined with colourful flower-filled window boxes. Not only is it the city’s most iconic structure, it’s a superb way to absorb Lucerne’s regal atmosphere.
As you enter the Bernese Oberland in central Switzerland, the views become quite literally breath-taking! This is the grand alpine heart of Europe with some of the finest mountain scenery on earth, described by the composer Mendelssohn as ‘the most wonderful of all in this unbelievably beautiful country’.
On viewing the legendary snow-capped peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau you’ll be quite simply awestruck. We then ascend by mountain railway for more extraordinary vistas, with the crystal-clear lakes reflecting the meadows and forests below. This truly magical landscape is sure to enchant you.
Later we’ll descend again by mountain railway before returning to the ship. Please note, temperatures will be significantly lower at altitude, even during the summer months, so it’s advisable to pack suitable clothing. Lunch is not included on this full day excursion; however, the ship will offer a packed lunch.
Today we transfer either to the airport for your flight home or the railway station to take the TGV to Paris, connecting with the Eurostar service to London St Pancras International.
Burgundy, the River Rhône and Provence River Cruise
8 days from £2599 per person
July & August 2024 departures
One of Europe’s best kept secrets, explore the sleepy villages and medieval towns unchanged for centuries, amongst the breathtaking rolling hills and terraced vineyard slopes of the stunning Douro Valley.
Fly to Lisbon or Porto, where we’ll meet and transfer you to your five-star cruise ship in Porto.
From the moment you board, the welcoming crew are at your service. In no time you’ll be settled into your luxurious, thoughtfully furnished accommodation and familiarising yourself with all the first-class aspects of this floating boutique hotel.
As dawn breaks over Porto the adventure begins as our elegant vessel commences her stately passage upstream. Your first delicious breakfast is served by the attentive crew and whilst you linger over another coffee, you can really start to unwind as we leave the city skyline far behind. Head up on deck to appreciate the changing landscape in all its splendour as the river weaves its way between the lush hillsides; from the first morning on board, it’s very apparent that the Douro is one of Europe’s most photogenic river valleys and the topography has prevented the building of extensive riverside roads.
After another superb lunch on board, we cruise into the small town of Peso da Régua, from where we visit the grounds of the splendid Mateus Palace. Anyone familiar with Mateus Rosé and its characteristic ‘squashed’ bottle will recognise the palace from the label. Whatever your opinion of the wine, it is an impressive 18th-century Baroque edifice, mirrored in its stunning pond, surrounded by landscaped French gardens.
This evening we take the short drive to the 126-acre Quinta da Pacheca for dinner. Enjoying dramatic views over the Douro, it dates back to the 18th-century and is simply one of the most beautiful and distinguished properties in the region. It is also notable as being the first quinta – in 1738 – to bottle wine under the name of its owner, the aristocrat Mariana Pacheco Pereira. You have time to wander through part of the estate.
Tonight, as you enter the restaurant for the Welcome Dinner, feel free to choose your table. Later we will see a celebratory vintage port wine opened in the traditional way. We are moored in Pinhao overnight.
As dawn breaks, early risers can witness the ship’s graceful departure. Relax over a leisurely breakfast whilst the ever-changing scenery idly slips by through the restaurant’s superb panoramic windows. The Douro was once a wild river, notoriously challenging to navigate, especially for the traditional flat-bottomed boats, which often foundered in its waters. Today it has been tamed by a system of dams and locks, which have raised the water level to produce a topography reminiscent of Scotland’s lochs that enhances the valley’s charm.
As we cruise into ever more rural territory towards the Spanish border, the river here is at its most peaceful. It’s the perfect time to take a refreshing dip in the Sun Deck pool – a rare treat on a cruise ship – or catch up on some reading, perhaps with a cool pre-lunch glass of vinho verde, the local, gently fizzy white wine. Portuguese wine is simply outstanding, but production is low, so the best is rarely exported.
Our on-board wine list includes some excellent regional wines, and the friendly and attentive restaurant staff will gladly guide you through them. Do experiment a little and you’ll be greatly rewarded. This afternoon we visit Castelo Rodrigo, a delightful 12th-century walled village tucked away in the picturesque highland ranges bordering Spain. Its church was a resting place on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela and it is said that Saint Francis himself stayed here. The views are simply stupendous, stretching across almost-deserted ochre hillsides.
This evening after dinner we will see a celebratory vintage port wine opened in the traditional way, then head up on to the sun deck to listen to the unmistakable sound of crickets and breathe in the scents from the surrounding valley slopes that pervade the warm evening air.
Today we visit historic Salamanca, one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this journey, regarded by many Spaniards as their nation’s most beautiful city. Founded by the Romans, who erected its 389-yard-long bridge, Salamanca is mostly built from local sandstone that emanates a gorgeous rose-coloured glow in the sunlight. Perched on a hill on a bend in the serene River Tormes, the city is a picture of tranquillity, but its history is turbulent, having been successively fought over by Hannibal, the Moors, then the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon.
Salamanca is dominated by its two cathedrals and its university. Founded in 1218, the university is the oldest in Spain and was one of the civilised world’s most important seats of study for over 400 years. The Spanish Inquisition’s records are still kept here, and as early as the 16th century it boasted some 12,000 students. Seeing its immaculately preserved lecture halls with their vaulted ceilings, it’s easy to conjure an image of Christopher Columbus addressing the learned men of the day or legal experts constructing the international laws that originate here.
On arrival in Salamanca, you are free to explore as you wish. You may choose to linger, admiring the ornate interiors of its cathedrals – the more recent dates from the 16th-century – or explore its tiny streets, medieval squares, traditional shops, gardens and marketplaces. The main square, the Plaza Mayor, was built in the 18th-century in Spanish Baroque style with colonnaded walkways all around at ground level, ideal for finding a shaded spot to sit and watch the locals pass by. Over lunch you enjoy a traditional flamenco show.
This afternoon we enjoy a guided tour of the city seeing the main sights.
One of the benefits of life aboard a river cruise is the sheer sense of relaxation it brings; our elegant ship slips its moorings during breakfast, after which there is plenty of time for a spot of pampering in the on-board spa, or simply watch the seamless changing of the riverbank scenery passing by from the comfort of a cosy seat in the lounge.
We’re in port wine territory, where the lush hillsides have largely given way to a patterned landscape of terraced vineyards. Inland from the Atlantic, the climate has changed, too; it’s noticeably warmer and drier, while the area has a Mediterranean appearance with orangey, earthy colours replacing verdant greens.
We arrive later in the pretty little town of Peso da Régua. We enjoy a visit to a local historic quinta to learn all about the stages of wine production, from the planting of the vines, harvesting, the wine-making process and finally tasting and labelling. No visit would be complete without sampling some of their excellent produce of course, so we enjoy a tasting before returning to the ship.
This morning after breakfast we take a short drive to historic Lamego, home of Portugal’s sparkling wine, Raposeira, and one of the first places to be reclaimed from the Moors in the 12th century. Situated atop the hill overlooking this lovely town is the ancient Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies church, its stairways adorned with attractive azulejos, the country’s characteristic painted ceramic tiles. By the time we return to our ship, our chef and his team will be adding the finishing touches to another delicious lunch, ready to be served as we depart for Cais da Lixa.
After lunch there’s the perfect opportunity to take to the sun deck to enjoy the kaleidoscope of Douro views – or perhaps a spot of reading in the lounge over a cup of tea. This evening is the Captain’s Dinner, a truly memorable experience featuring exquisite regional specialities, followed by a colourful performance of traditional Portuguese folk music by a local cultural group.
There’s a perfect opportunity to avail yourself of some of the ship’s range of five-star facilities this morning – maybe a little gentle exercise in the fitness room before heading up to the sun deck to enjoy a coffee whilst chatting with newly-made friends as our ship makes a graceful arrival in Porto once more, passing under the city’s spectacular bridges.
Porto is of course synonymous with wonderful port wine and all the famous port producers are here, such as Cálem, Sandeman and Ferreira, so a visit here would not be complete without a tour of one of them. You’ll learn about this fortified wine’s fascinating history and its close British connections. Port is made from grapes still pressed in the traditional way – by feet – then lovingly matured, sometimes for decades, before you can enjoy its subtle flavours. Of course, you’ll get the chance to sample various port styles at the end of our visit.
After lunch on board, we enjoy a guided tour of Porto. Strategically overlooking the Douro as it empties into the Atlantic, Portugal’s second largest city was originally a Roman town, but its wealth derived from its knowledge of the sea routes to India, with fortunes made from trading spices, silks and other fine goods. Our tour unveils some of its major and more surprising sights.
You’ll have the rest of the afternoon to explore the truly fascinating city; so perhaps return to the terraced streets of the old town and wander the sloping maze of winding, cobbled alleyways, soaking up the atmosphere whilst stopping to admire the lovely architecture, soaring bell towers, fine baroque churches, golden rooftops and beautiful tiles of this slice of traditional Portugal. Stop for a drink in a cosy café and be tempted by an array of delicious cakes and pastries – perhaps sample a pastel de nata, the traditional Portuguese custard tart.
This evening, enjoy a final dinner on board expertly served by our restaurant staff under the supervision of the maître d’. Afterwards, perhaps settle into the lounge to chat into the evening and reflect on the splendours of the remarkable River Douro – over a glass of port, of course.
After breakfast, you’ll be transferred to the airport at the appropriate time, with memories of one of the most unspoilt corners of Europe to savour for a long time to come.
The Seine Paris and Normandy River Cruise
8 days from £2514 per person
July & August 2024 departures
Cruise through the heart of Normandy along the majestic Seine visiting historic sites that have shaped the world today.
Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras International to Paris or fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
On arrival, transfer by coach to your cruise ship moored on the River Seine in the heart of the city. The friendly crew will welcome you on board, helping you settle into your spacious and exquisitely furnished accommodation – you’ll immediately feel at home.
This evening you enjoy your first sumptuous dinner, served in the ship’s restaurant.
During the night our ship slips her mooring and, as you enjoy breakfast, the landscape passes by serenely and you quickly get used to this luxurious sightseeing experience. Rounding a sweeping bend so typical of the Seine, we reach the town of Mantes-la-Jolie with its imposing church – so large and architecturally impressive it could be a cathedral – while straight ahead is a medieval stone bridge. The central section of the bridge was destroyed during the Second World War and never repaired – it’s the first of many poignant reminders that this region of France has been a battleground for centuries.
Beyond Mantes we encounter another typical feature of the Seine as it flows seaward – picturesque chalk cliffs, almost resembling a giant’s teeth. Beautiful villages like La Roche Guyon slide by, surrounded by bocage countryside of lush pastures and high hedgerows, countless cider orchards, half-timbered barns and ancient wooden farmhouses. We’re truly in the heart of one of France’s historic and stunningly attractive dukedoms – Normandy.
While you’re enjoying your first delicious lunch, the captain has skilfully berthed at Les Andelys, a small town dominated by one of the most spectacular sights along the entire valley – Château Gaillard. This afternoon we discover the story behind this remarkable castle, with entrance fee included. The remarkable Château Gaillard guards the apex of the river bend and was built by Richard the Lionheart in the 12th-century to defend Rouen from the French.
Besieged many times during the turbulent history of northern France, Château Gaillard is now one of the most dramatic ruins in the region. Should you wish, why not arrange to visit the wheelhouse, the Captain is always delighted to explain to those interested how the highly sophisticated navigation and safety systems operate.
We awake in Rouen, Normandy’s capital, one of Europe’s finest medieval cities and scene of many momentous events over the centuries. Pride of place on our guided tour of the city belongs to its stunning Gothic cathedral, which was immortalised by the great Impressionist Claude Monet in a series of 28 paintings showing the facade at varying times of day and in different weather conditions. Briefly becoming the world’s tallest building when the soaring spire was added in the 19th century, the cathedral is also notable for the recumbent statue reputedly containing the heart of Richard the Lionheart.
Rouen’s beautifully tangled alleyways are a revelation, lined with antique shops, tasteful boutiques and, of course, countless restaurants serving exceptional local cuisine emphasising the country’s outstanding gastronomic heritage. The Place du Vieux-Marché is one of the city’s most poignant spots; a large cross marks the point where the ‘Maid of Orléans’ Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for her beliefs.
During another superb lunch we cast off to navigate through yet more twists and turns, chalk cliffs and a landscape of forest-covered hills that are designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty and sanctuaries for diverse wildlife, including deer and wild boar. Another highlight of the valley soon greets us – the ethereal ruins of Jumièges Abbey. Founded in the 7th century, it was consecrated in the presence of William the Conqueror and was an important political and religious centre until it was sacked in the 16th century.
In the late afternoon we moor in the pretty town of Caudebec-en-Caux, so after dinner why not take a stroll to explore this lovely spot, with its typical market square, richly decorated church and the Maison des Templiers, one of the oldest houses in Normandy.
After breakfast you’ll be ready for a full-day tour exploring two of the most important aspects of European history – the Bayeux Tapestry and the D-Day landings. (Please note lunch is not provided today.)
Bayeux itself is a delightful town with a historic core that escaped the ravages of war, so you can marvel at its many splendid buildings including the grand Gothic cathedral. But, of course, Bayeux is most famous as the home of the tapestry telling the story of the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 in glorious detail. Among its 75 scenes are the coronation of Harold following the death of Edward the Confessor and his subsequent demise at the Battle of Hastings, which led to William of Normandy invading England and becoming king.
The 230-foot-long tapestry is made up of nine panels of extremely delicate embroidery – gazing at its wonderful depictions of the battle and the period’s architecture, weapons and everyday life, you’ll appreciate why the Bayeux Tapestry is arguably the finest relic of the Middle Ages.
This afternoon we drive to Arromanches, where you will have free time for lunch. Then enjoy a visit to a museum dedicated to the ‘longest day’ where you can still see remnants of the two Mulberry harbours constructed for the landing craft.
Leaving Arromanche, we continue to the British Normandy Memorial – unveiled in 2021, the 77th anniversary of the D-Day landings. From here you have best point of view to Gold Beach, one of the five main landing sites on D-Day, when Allied forces surged into Normandy to begin the liberation of occupied Europe. Casting your eyes across the sand to the water’s edge, it’s sobering to consider that on 6 June 1944 around 25,000 British troops came ashore on this one beach with 400 killed by the defenders. We will then drive back to the ship moored in Caudebec.
After a day recalling such momentous events and the stories surrounding them, thoughts turn again to the culinary delights awaiting you in the refined comfort of the ship’s restaurant.
Honfleur is often regarded as the most picturesque spot on the northern French coast, and after breakfast we make the short journey to this delightful town and enjoy a guided tour. Its old harbour, sheltering both fishing boats and luxurious pleasure craft, is beautifully preserved and surrounded by a perfect waterfront of pastel-coloured 16th- to 18th-century houses, many converted to seafood restaurants.
Watch the talented artists capturing the captivating views along the waterfront, while the intricate maze of streets behind is also well worth discovering. The eaves of the tall half-timbered buildings almost touch, and on the streets below is an abundance of traditional shops selling antiques, books and fine foods. Honfleur’s most famous son is Eugene Boudin, one of the forerunners of Impressionism and a friend of Claude Monet, who also painted the harbour many times.
After returning to the ship for lunch, we slip our mooring and begin our passage back upstream, retracing the river’s winding course, its huge variety of wildlife, enchanting scenery and forests, all reflected in differing colours in the sparkling waters. Villages slip by birds glide on thermals rising from the surrounding cliffs and, as this ever-changing kaleidoscope slips by, it’s an ideal opportunity to join new friends for a chat. Squeeze in a spot of reading on the Sun Deck or simply recline, letting the gentle breezes lull you into a relaxing doze.
By this stage of your cruise, you’ll be totally unwound, and modern life will seem very distant.
One of the great delights of river cruising is the magical sensation of waking up in a different place from where you were the night before. This morning the ship has moored in delightful Vernon, and we take the short drive to Giverny to visit Monet’s garden and house.
The artist himself called his garden his ‘most beautiful masterpiece’, and it’s certainly one of the world’s most photographed and painted, ideally viewed in the delicate morning light. In the Japanese-inspired water garden, shaded by great weeping willows and surrounded by bamboo, rhododendrons and azaleas, is the lily pond where he painted his extraordinary Les Nymphéas (Water Lilies) series. There’s ample time to wander here, absorbing the tranquil atmosphere while marvelling at the light bouncing off foliage of every hue and the magical reflections dancing off the water.
After another leisurely lunch on board, you can explore Vernon’s quaint buildings before embarking on our cruise to Paris. As the sun sets on the shimmering Seine and the Norman countryside recedes into dusk, it’s a perfect time to reflect on your few days cruising among the creamy chalk cliffs and charming villages of this splendid river.
We have arrived in Paris and this morning we take a sightseeing tour of this amazing capital, one of the world’s most iconic cities. The Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Élysées, Sacré-Coeur – you’ll see all these and much more. The grand Place de la Concorde, the largest square in the city, shows off 18th-century French architecture at its best, and just over the Seine on the Left Bank you’ll find the Musée d’Orsay, home of the world’s finest Impressionist art collection.
Then there’s the eccentrically modern and yet stylish Pompidou Centre, famous not only for its exhibits but also for street entertainment. Notre-Dame Cathedral and the delicate spire of the sublime Saint-Chapelle dominate the Ile de la Cité, while the exquisite Tuileries Gardens are perfect for a stroll.
After lunch on board you could visit fine shops such as the Galeries Lafayette or those in the smart arcaded Rue de Rivoli, or perhaps wander around the café-lined streets of 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. Featuring specialities of the regions through which we have travelled, it’s a truly memorable experience.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight or the station for the Eurostar service home.
Book between 28 August and 31 October 2024. Offer is available on river cruises departing between 15 July and 31 August 2024. Standard cabins only. Not available on Douro river cruises. All prices are per person based on 2 sharing. Offers are subject to availability and can be changed or withdrawn without notice. Terms & conditions apply.
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