With its quaint villages, pivotal landmarks and leisurely pace of life, France is prime for unhurried river cruising. The country is interspersed with a handful of gentle waterways, each carving a path through pastoral landscapes dotted with age-old towns, villages and communes. Of these rivers, none are more enchanting than the Seine, whose banks play host to world-class cities, captivating vistas and romantic villages rich with history and intrigue.
One person who can personally attest to the seductive beauty of the Seine is Scenic UK’s Managing Director, Chris Townson. Chris recently embarked on our Gems of the Seine river cruise, an 11-day round-trip itinerary from Paris to Paris. We sat down with Chris to find out more about his journey — from his first impressions of luxury Space-Ship, Scenic Gem, to his favourite onshore highlights.
Read the full interview with Chris below.
You chose to travel via Eurostar. How did this differ from flying?
You can travel Standard Premier or Business Premier - I opted for the latter and we were through passport control and into the Business Premier lounge within five minutes. The journey took just two and a half hours and we enjoyed a two-course Raymond Blanc lunch with complimentary beverages throughout.
If you live in the south, it makes sense to opt for the Eurostar. This is such a hassle-free and comfortable way to travel to France — sit back, relax and you’ll be ready to depart for your ship in no time at all.
Tell us something you loved about your ship
Whilst the interior, exceptional cuisine and suites are completely flawless, one of the ship’s greatest features is its unique design. This means that, unlike a number of competitor vessels, Scenic guests are able to sail into open seas and dock in the port town of Honfleur. The port had a mix of small fishing vessels and some leisure boats. We were also surrounded by restaurants, many of which offered the freshest seafood around.
So if you want to sample the catch of the day with a crisp glass of white wine, I would highly recommend taking some time to enjoying lunch in one of the many eateries.
What were your onshore highlights?
Cider tasting in Lyons la Forêt, visiting the Normandy beaches where the D-Day landings took place, and wandering the medieval stseet of Rouen were all extremely memorable. Rouen, in particular, was an endless swathe of charming streets littered with hidden bistros and spectacular architecture. I would also recommend taking a coastal walk through the chocolate-box village of Étretat. It’s well worth embarking on the guided tour before taking some time to discover the gems independently.
Did food play a starring role on-board?
Absolutely, we were blown away by the exceptional cuisine and choice on offer. Plentiful breakfast options set us up for the busy day ahead, with light buffet options and made-to-order omelettes both on offer. Teas, coffee, juice, cereal, and hot and cold options cater to all tastes.
Lunches were diverse and delicious, often featuring a number of authentic regional options alongside some home comforts. You can sit where you want and the crew will come to your table to re-fill your glass throughout.
L’Amour was, without doubt, one of the highlights. Every guest gets to experience this intimate dining option at least once. The crew were personable yet professional; all five courses were stunning, and the accompanying wines (especially the French red) couldn’t have been better.
Did you encounter any issues throughout your cruise?
Despite being faced with both oil strikes and high water levels — a real rarity on the Seine — the issues were quickly resolved. Alternative plans were immediately conceived, all guests were regularly informed, and it was amazing to see how hard all the team worked without ever letting the smiles slip from their faces.
Finally, what experience will stay with you the longest?
The Palace of Versailles — wow. I could have spent a whole day meandering the many ornate halls and intricate gardens of this grand historic property.
Visiting the battlegrounds of the Somme was also a very sombre experience. This landmark site played a huge role in the First World War. We also got to visit the Anglo-French memorial and heard many stories of human bravery. If you want to learn more about this pivotal event, which caused more than one million causalities, you can choose to visit as part of the Scenic Freechoice excursion programme.
Interested in following in the footsteps of Chris on your own luxury Seine river cruise? Click here to view our complete range of Seine river cruise itineraries, or call our friendly team on 0808 271 8435 for more information.