Day 1: Paris (Embark)
Arrive at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship.
Day 2: La Roche-Guyon, Vernon (Giverny)
Today is a celebration of Northern France’s natural beauty, with an excursion to a splendid chateau and gardens situated in an equally grand setting, plus a chance to immerse yourself in the very landscapes that inspired Impressionist master Claude Monet.
Visit the hilltop Chateau La Roche-Guyon, surrounded by beautiful gardens and offering sweeping views over the Seine. Later, you can visit the home and gardens of Impressionist master Claude Monet—the inspiration for many of his most beloved works. Or, take in the beautiful French countryside in a more invigorating way, with a guided bike ride from Vernon to Giverny.Featured Excursions:
Troubled history at Château La Roche-GuyonFrom cave dwelling to fortress to castle to palace: This is the history of Château La Roche- Guyon (the Rock of Guy), which takes its name from its medieval lords (traditionally named Guy) and its location, a limestone outcropping—a rock—above the Seine. Medieval knights kept watch for marauding Vikings from the tower high atop the hill and later defended the double wall around a 13th-century manor house; successive lords added to the buildings over the centuries, so you can see not just troglodyte chapels but Renaissance rooms where kings Francis I and Henry II were entertained (and, legend says, Henry IV pursued a lovely chatelaine without success) and handsome 18th-century state apartments. Enlightenment thinkers met with the Duchess d’Enville, who owned the château before the revolution and who had the huge kitchen garden laid out according to Enlightenment principles. You might think, as you walk through the elegantly designed garden and beautifully paneled rooms (mostly without furniture these days, so you can appreciate the Gobelins tapestries without distraction) that the residence’s military function was in the far distant past, but Rommel made his headquarters here during WWII, precisely because the ancient fortications and caves were so secure.
Monet’s gardens at GivernyMonet often painted the little riverside town of Vernon, so you are likely to recognize scenes the master rendered in oils on your way to his home in the village of Giverny, where he lived and worked for more than 40 years. When Monet bought the property, most of it was an orchard; he transformed it over the years into the enchanting visions immortalized in his paintings, essentially creating each work of art twice: once as a living garden and again as a painting. As you stroll through the grounds, you’ll see the famed Japanese bridge and water garden shaded by weeping willows. Monet’s house, which you will also visit, remains furnished as it was when the leader of the impressionist school lived here, complete with his precious collection of Japanese engravings.
Note: Giverny will be closed during the March and November cruise departure dates.
“Let's Go” bicycle ride to GivernyThe country roads between Vernon and Giverny offer easy—and pretty—biking. Hop aboard your bike and pedal about three miles to the village where the artist lived for decades. You’ll pass the church and cemetery where Monet is buried and the Hotel Baudy, where his painter friends often stayed, and arrive at the artist’s home and garden for a tour.
This evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.
Day 3: Rouen (Normandy Beaches)
The Normandy coast will forever be associated with the Allies’ D-Day invasion, a day that comes vividly to life on today’s excursion to the beaches of 1944. Or travel even further into the past with an up-close look at the thousand-year-old Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the Norman conquest. Immerse yourself in the tactics, desperate courage and horrendous human cost of the 1944 Allied invasion of France, the first step in the ultimately victorious land campaign against the Third Reich. It began here, on these Norman beaches, each of which was assigned a code name by the Allies as they planned their attack.Featured Excursions:
Full day Normandy Beaches with Utah beach, Sainte-Mère-Église and Pointe du HocThis tour encompasses the major areas of the American assault: Utah Beach, where the first American infantry units came ashore; Sainte-Mère-Église, the first village freed from the Germans and home to a museum dedicated to the Airborne divisions that suffered 2,500 casualties in the battle; Pointe du Hoc, a strategic high point controlled by the Germans and captured by a Ranger unit; and Omaha Beach, the second landing site, where the Americans encountered much stiffer resistance than they did at Utah. At each location, you can see the actual equipment used for the invasion—tanks, landing craft, bombers, gliders—and get a feel for what these young men experienced.
Full day Normandy Beaches with Juno BeachWhen the Allies prepared to invade Normandy, they assigned a six-mile stretch of beach to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division under the command of Major-General Rodney Keller. The Canadians trained for their assault in Scotland and were generally regarded as the best-prepared of any of the invading forces. Unfortunately, preliminary bombing had failed to eliminate German battlements, so Canadian troops were met with well-prepared German resistance, and several companies suffered heavy casualties. Walk the shoreline where so many died, and visit Juno Beach Center, dedicated to the Canadian war effort. One million Canadians served during WWII, and 14,000 participated in the landing. Exhibits describe both life at home during the war and the service of—and sacrifices made by—the men who fought.
Full day Normandy Beaches with Bayeux and ArromanchesBayeux, the first French town to be liberated in 1944, is home to the Bayeux Tapestry, an astonishing millennium-old textile listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. The tapestry tells the story of the Norman conquest of England; it was probably embroidered by monks in the south of England in October 1066, a few months after William I’s troops overwhelmed the island’s Saxon defenders. Take a guided audio tour of this remarkable textile, which details the story of the conquest in 58 distinct scenes with Latin annotations.
Note: Because the Tapestry Museum is a popular attraction in summer, the order of events may change to accommodate scheduling issues.
Day 4: Caudebec-en-Caux (Honfleur or Étretat)
Golfing? On a river cruise? This delightfully unexpected excursion—a Uniworld exclusive—features a dramatic links course atop Normandy’s Alabaster Coast. In a word, magnifique. Not into golf? Stroll through seaside Honfleur, captured on canvas by generations of artists. Caudebec, a lovely little town on a serene loop of the Seine, is your base for one of two very different excursions. You could drive through the beautiful Calvados countryside to Honfleur, a delightful seaside harbor and city of painters, or head to the windy cliffs of Étretat for a game of golf.Featured Excursions:
Honfleur old port walking discovery tourA walking tour of the fishing village begins at the former smugglers’ harbor of Vieux Bassin—the most frequently painted scene in Honfleur—which looks much as it did a century ago, though now the boats in the harbor are more likely to be pleasure craft than fishing vessels. Your local guide will take you down tiny lanes, where houses stand shoulder to shoulder in a jumble of styles: narrow 19th-century slate-roofed townhouses, 15th-century fishermen’s cottages, and tall and elegant mansions— many adorned with figures of chimeras or saints. You’ll also see St. Catherine’s Church, built in the 15th century by shipwrights who gave it an oak ceiling that looks like the hull of a boat.
“Let's Go” golfing in ÉtretatIt would be hard to find a more spectacular location than Étretat’s clifftop course, which is ranked as one of the best in France. Originally laid out in 1908 and substantially redesigned in the 1990s, it offers a multitude of challenges: Two nine-hole loops take players right to the cliff’s edge, the wind can be a serious challenge in and of itself, and the 10th through 14th holes offer formidable tests of a golfer’s skill. Spend the morning on the course, lunch on your own in charming Étretat and explore the seaside village that so many artists, including Monet, rendered in paint, or return to the ship for lunch and a leisurely afternoon onboard.
Note: Golf excursion is open to a limited number of golfers.
Day 5: Rouen
Walk in the footsteps of greatness in Normandy’s medieval capital, a city with a historic quarter that remains amazingly intact. From the cathedral Monet painted dozens of times to the cross marking to spot where Joan of Arc was martyred, Rouen is a treasure trove for the culturally curious. The medieval capital of Normandy, Rouen has managed to preserve much of its historic core, despite being turned into a battlefield numerous times. The roll call of famous people who lived or died in Rouen is long and varied— Richard the Lionheart, Joan of Arc, Gustave Flaubert and Claude Monet are among them.Featured Excursions:Rouen capital of the dukes of Normandy
Day 6: Mantes-la-Jolie (Versailles)
How did France’s rulers live over the centuries? Step into the private rooms of the Palace of Versailles, the lavish palace built by the Sun King, to find out.Featured Excursions:
Versailles Palace secret apartmentsIt was the official residence of the country’s kings and queens from 1682 until the revolution, and though the monarchy possessed other palaces, Versailles stood alone in magnificence. Tour the royal apartments, which still look much as they did when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette fled in 1789. In these rooms, you’ll find lush silk draperies, exquisite marquetry tables, gilded beds, Aubusson carpets and porcelain ornaments that reveal the elegance of the 18th-century royalty’s lifestyle, as well as the extravagance that helped fuel the rage leading to the revolution. Climb the great staircase and enter the jaw-dropping Hall of Mirrors, where the absolute ruler of France held court for the ambassadors of Siam, Persia and the Ottoman Empire, along with all the great seigneurs of France. Ladies intrigued behind their fans, plots were hatched, and careers were made and destroyed beneath the sparkling chandeliers here.
"Lets Go" biking: Versailles Gardens and the queen's hamletA special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
Day 7: Paris
Whether you’re a first-time visitor to the “City of Light” or you’ve been here many times before, there’s something for everyone today in Paris. Enjoy a panoramic overview of the city, join a local expert for a walk through two much-loved neighborhoods, or pedal your way along the Left Bank, a fresh and fun way to take in the sights. You have a host of options for exploring incomparable Paris: See all the important sights via boat and motorcoach, explore the heart and soul of the city on a walk from Notre Dame to the Latin Quarter, or bike along the quays with a knowledgeable guide.Featured Excursions:
Paris city of lights panoramic tour“Do as the Locals Do” Île de la Cité and Latin Quarter walking tourAs a true Parisian would, take the Métro to the Île de la Cité and the great cathedral of Notre Dame. Henry IV said that Paris was worth a Mass when he converted to Catholicism—and he made that conversion official here, in the center of Paris. In fact, Notre Dame is officially the center of France; facing its main entrance is Kilometer Zero, the location from which distances in France (including those of the French national highways) are traditionally measured. An expert in the history and architecture of this magnificent cathedral is your guide as you explore both inside and out. Begun in the 12th century and finished about 200 years later, Notre Dame is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in Europe.
After you’ve admired Notre Dame’s stained glass, flying buttresses and idiosyncratic gargoyles, cross the Archbishop’s Bridge to the Left Bank and the Latin Quarter. Wander through the narrow streets where for centuries artists, writers, philosophers and the Sorbonne’s students have lived and worked, argued politics, painted, sipped absinthe and lived the bohemian lifestyle for which the district is famous. Matisse, Picasso, Rimbaud and Sartre, as well as American expatriate writers Hemingway and Fitzgerald, are just a few of the notables who made this district home. Take some time to meander through the area’s little squares, perusing the shop windows and perhaps relaxing with a drink at a classic café.
“Heart of Paris” Seine river cruiseHemingway called Paris a moveable feast: Once you’ve experienced it, you will take it with you wherever you go. If you are experiencing Paris for the first time, this tour will introduce you to the City of Light’s most cherished landmark. Paris, after all, grew up along the banks of the Seine, and its principal civic and historic buildings line the river; the Louvre, National Assembly, Conciergerie, Hotel de Ville, Place de la Concorde, Notre Dame—you will see them all as you cruise through the heart of the city. Onshore, you’ll head via motorcoach from the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate his Grand Army’s 128 victories, down the Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde. These broad 19th-century avenues and stately buildings were created by Baron Haussmann in a great urban development that eliminated the cramped, crazy-quilt medieval city and gave Paris its modern form. You’ll pass the magnificent Opéra Garnier, the Place Vendôme (home to designer salons), the legendary Louvre and, on the Left Bank, the Sorbonne University and the Panthéon. Stretch your legs at the Luxembourg Gardens, then take in the École Militaire before arriving at the manicured grounds of the Champs de Mars, the perfect vantage point from which to see Paris’s most iconic structure—the Eiffel Tower.
“Let's Go” Seine riverbank bike rideThe Seine’s quays may be protected by UNESCO for their cultural importance and significance in the development of Paris, but they are also the scene of a host of fun outdoor activities: games for kids and grown-ups, a climbing wall, a running track, yoga classes, even a beach in August—and an inviting bike path. Join a guide to pedal along the Left Bank, crossing the bridges that link historic Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis and getting a close look at the heart of the city’s origins. Bike to the Esplanade des Invalides (Napoleon’s tomb is one of the monuments here) and along the Quay d’Orsay to the Champs de Mars, one of Paris’s largest green spaces . . . which just happens to have one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower in the city. It’s a fun way to take part in the life of the city while also getting some exercise.
Day 8: Paris (Disembark), Transfer to Bordeaux via High-Speed TGV Train (Embark)
Disembark the magical S.S. Joie de Vivre and transfer to Bordeaux via high-speed, first-class TGV train. Your next ship, the breathtaking S.S. Bon Voyage, is conveniently docked right in the heart of the city. If time allows, why not stroll to the nearby food markets or take the tram to the popular Saint-Michel flea market, which is just a few stops away?
Note: Ship schedule and order of sightseeing may change throughout the itinerary. Tour to port of destination by motorcoach and substitute visits to other sites may occur during your trip due to the impact of water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors.
Day 9: Cruising the Garonne River and Gironde Estuary, Cussac Fort Médoc, Pauillac la Fayette
The legendary Médoc region abounds with prestigious wine châteaux in a dizzying array of architectural styles, as well as miles of grapevines stretching to infinity. Take a scenic drive to the tip of the peninsula, followed by a wine tasting at a beautiful wine estate. Enjoy the waters of the Garonne River and the Gironde Estuary before heading to the pretty town of Pauillac, gateway to the storied Médoc wine route, the Atlantic coast and remnants of the Atlantic Wall erected during WWII.Featured Excursions:
Médoc Châteaux route with exclusive wine tastingBunker Archaeology tourA special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
Day 10: Cadillac
The French phrase “la douceur de vivre” is an accurate description for time spent in Cadillac.Featured Excursions:Sauternes vineyard with exclusive artisanal wine-tastingChâteau de Cazeneuve
Day 11: Blaye, Bourg-sur-Gironde, Cruising the Dordogne River, Libourne
The Route de la Corniche Fleurie…could this be the most beautiful road you’ve ever traveled? Find out today on the drive to Blaye Fortress, passing through one impossibly picturesque hamlet after another, with exotic flowers (brought here by local sea captains) all along the way. Sail across the peaceful waters of the estuary, where fishing huts rise above grassy marshlands edged by limestone cliffs, as you make your way to the town of Blaye. A visual feast awaits you on a storied road named for the many flowers that line it.Featured Excursions:
Scenic drive along the Route de la Corniche Fleurie with Blaye FortressThis little road between Blaye and Bourg-sur-Gironde winds through picturesque hamlets with equally picturesque names—Pain de Sucre, Marmisson and Roque de Thau among them—limestone cliffs on one side, the Gironde on the other. Fishing huts on stilts stand above the waters of the estuary; charming 19th-century stone houses built by sea captains sit tidily along the road. Many of these captains traveled to far-off places and returned with exotic plants, which they planted in their gardens and along the road (hence the route’s name). But the history of these cliffs extends far beyond the 19th century—people have inhabited the area for thousands of years.
Upon returning to Blaye, your guide will take you through the 17th-century demilune-shaped citadel built by famed military engineer Vauban. This fortress design was the one Vauban, Louis XIV’s favorite military engineer, found most satisfactory, and he built some 300 of them in the Sun King’s realm. The citadel contains the ruins of a medieval castle, houses, squares, streets, even a convent, all enclosed within stark walls. If you stand on top of those walls, you will have a terrific view of the estuary— this view was the field of fire, giving the citadel command of the river.
This afternoon your ship sails to Bourg-sur-Gironde, which you may explore on your own. Climb the steep stone stairs rising from the riverbanks to the top of the village for a view of the confluence of the Gironde and the Dordogne, and be sure to check out the medieval gates and the Moorish villa.
"Let's Go" bike tour: Corniche FleurieRendez-vous chez Rémy Martin
Day 12: Libourne (Saint-Émilion)
The medieval town of Saint-Émilion is an ideal place to linger. Wander its cobblestone lanes, lined with wine shops and bakeries, and stop to admire the amazing rock-hewn church that extends beneath the city’s streets. Another treasure awaiting you underground? A wine tasting in the cellars of a premier Grand Cru estate. With Libourne as your base, travel to nearby Saint-Émilion and immerse yourself more deeply in the region’s history and wine culture.Featured Excursions:
Saint-Émilion walking discovery tour with wine tastingHilltop Saint-Émilion offers both exceptional architecture and historic vineyards. The Romans were the first to plant grapes here, and this was the first vineyard region to be protected by UNESCO because of its history. Shops brimming with wine and wine tools line the steep cobblestone streets; medieval ramparts that bore witness to battles for control between French and English monarchs still stand; and vineyards encroach upon the village. Of all the sights, however, perhaps the most extraordinary is the 12th-century church carved into a cliff. Only the tower is aboveground; the rest of the church is subterranean. Its numerous underground galleries provided refuge during periods of strife, and include the grotto where St. Émilion, for whom the town is named, lived out his life in the ninth century. You have to see it for yourself—you’ll be amazed by its almost unfathomable construction. After touring Saint-Émilion, you’ll visit the cellars of a premier Grand Cru estate where you’ll taste some of the world’s most highly rated wines.
Day 13: Libourne, Bordeaux, Cité du Vin
The French insist that the key to their superb wines is the soil in which they’re grown, the terroir. That same terroir also makes for extraordinary produce—the foundation for the country’s acclaimed cuisine—as you’ll discover today at a local farmers’ market.Featured Excursions:
Libourne “Village Day” with farmers’ marketHow could you visit this rich agricultural land without delving into a farmers’ market? Libourne’s market is the heart and soul of the town; everyone comes here to choose the freshest vegetables, the ripest cheeses, the most luscious fruits, the loveliest flowers, and to chat with the producers and growers. Check out the stalls brimming with produce in the market square, then duck into the covered market and savor the enticing aromas of bread and cheese, fish and meat. After exploring the market, you and a small group of other travelers will be invited to push open the doors of ateliers, homes and shops, meeting the artisans who make some of the goods arrayed so enticingly in the market.
Cocktail party - Island of PatirasChocolate and Wine tasting onboard
Day 14: Bordeaux (Quai des Chatrons)
For Francophiles who are all Eiffled out, the city of Bordeaux is a delightful find, as elegant and sophisticated as big sister Paris, but with a younger and hipper vibe. Discover its many charms today, either on foot with a local expert or on two wheels, the locals’ preferred way to navigate the city’s charming back streets. How to spend your last day in Bordeaux? You have a wonderful selection of exclusive opportunities to see this magnificent place, whose seamless blend of classical and neoclassical architecture led to its being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “Do as the Locals Do” with a walking tour of the city, or venture out on a bicycle ride through the city. Either way, you’ll have an up-close and personal view of one of the world’s most bustling and dynamic cities.Featured Excursions:
"Do as the Locals Do" Bordeaux Heritage walking tourCatch a tram at the Quai des Chartrons to the Place de la Comédie, the heart of Bordeaux’s Golden Triangle. Though Bordeaux was the capital of Aquitaine in the Middle Ages and has its share of Gothic churches, it reached its apex in the 18th century: The splendid honey-colored stone buildings from this era make up a city core that UNESCO has designated a World Heritage Site. (This is the district that inspired Baron Haussmann when he redesigned Paris at Napoleon III’s behest.) Trade with the French colonies built this handsome district, furnishing vanilla, sugar, spices and cocoa to inventive chocolatiers and bakers, who used these goods to create iconic desserts. Chocolate, once a Spanish monopoly, became part of Bordeaux’s culinary heritage when banished Spanish Jews brought the art of chocolate-making to France. What are Bordeaux’s present-day residents enjoying when they step inside the luxurious food halls and elegant shops in this neighborhood? Find out as you sample the delicious handiwork of Bordeaux’s bakers, as well as cheeses and chocolates—learn a few recipes, too! You’ll also visit one of the city’s wine bars and see firsthand how they wines of the many local châteaux are enjoyed by today’s sophisticated clients.
”Let’s Go” biking in Bordeaux backstreetsHop on a bike and wheel with your expert guide along the Quai des Chartrons, a riverfront neighborhood that was the purview of British wine merchants back when they dominated the wine trade. It fell on hard times in the 20th century, but the tall merchant houses have since been reclaimed; now they house welcoming shops and cafés. Pedal past the antiques shops of Rue Notre Dame and the Church of St. Louis on your way to major city squares such as the Bourse and Parliament before heading back to the ship along the banks of the Garonne. Of course your outing will include a stop for refreshments at one of the delightful cafés you pass.
Bordeaux walking tour with caviar tastingA special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
Day 15: Bordeaux (Disembark)
Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Bordeaux-Mérignac International Airport for your flight home.