Relaxed travelling? Oh yes, I urgently need a break. The best way doing it, is usually taking a ship. Have the landscape passing by and enjoy various amenities at the same time.
Because I love the Indian summer, I did not opt for the South (for example a trip on the river Rhone from Lyon to Avignon), but for a trip on the French Seine from Paris to the Atlantic coast near Le Havre.
Especially at this time of the year, there are attractive money-saving offers from various tour operators. Well, you have to accept any weather conditions, but therefore you avoid crowds and queuing in front of sights.
Very quickly I found what I was looking for: NICKO CRUISES offered a trip on my preferred dates and I decided for the tricolor painted “Seine Comtesse” (3.5 decks, built in 2001), especially since this ship was recently completely renovated. https://www.nicko-cruises.de/flotte/schiff/ms-seine-comtesse/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIr4vdg-zG5QIVzsjeCh0VewP3EAAYASAAEgIMffD_BwE
Anyway, PARIS as starting and end point of the 8-day journey sounds magic. Furthermore, I always wanted to visit Rouen, the city where once Jeanne d’Arc (also known as the Virgin of Orleans) was burnt and enjoy the artists’ villages Giverny, Honfleur and Etretat. All three are/ were strongholds of famous painters like the impressionists Monet, Renoir, Degas and Boudin. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionismus
Just come along with me and enjoy an interesting two-part river cruise.
However, before leash off, Paris is waiting for me. Here you have the option of booking a bus transfer directly from door to door to Quai Grenelle / A. Citroen or travelling independently by train. Since I live in the Southwest of Germany, I have optimal ICE and TGV connections to Paris. After just 3.5 hours train ride I arrive at the Gare de L’Est on a sunny Saturday noon. Everybody knowing me understands that I still have a special program for the rest of the day. Such as, a visit of the “Opera Garnier”, a short stroll through the Quartier Latin or Saint Germain, passing by the Pantheon and the Sorbonne with a final visit of the “Musee Curie” (free entry).
So let’s take a taxi to the Opera House, which is only three kilometers away. Oh la, la, Paris … there are always any demonstrations going on which intensifies the dense traffic even more – uff. The first taxi driver therefore requests a lumps-sum payment of no less than 80 Euros for this short distance (otherwise max. 25.-). Thank God the bus stop of Line 32 (direction Porte d’Anteuil) is only 20 meters away. I simply pay the driver EURO 2.- and here we go. Almost perfect the route leads along the Boulevard Haussmann with a stop near the Opera Garnier. At the back entrance the visitior queue to the palais (independent visits for EURO 12.- and special guided tours) during lunchtime is short and I dive into the monumental-pompous world of gold and red velvet (similar to Versailles). At a few places beautiful ballet costumes and gala dresses are exhibited, elsewhere you can take a look behind the scenes (auditorium, stage, rehearsal rooms, tailoring etc.).
Unfortunately, time is running and I have to postpone my picturesque city walk till next time, but a short rest with a glass of champagne is a must. Since the opposite “Cafe de la Paix” is being renovated, I choose the bar of the Opera House. Freshly motivated I continue my ways. The bus stop “Auber” is exactly located between the elegant shopping galeries “Lafayette” and “Printemps”, with its golden cupolas. What a bustle, but always impressing. A helpful lady has the decisive connection tip: near Trocadero simply change into bus Line 30, and after no more than 5-6 stops you arrive at Quai Citroen Javel, the jetty of the “Seine Comtesse“. By the way, this bus line also crosses the Champs Elysee and allows a view of the Triumphal Arch. If you have time, better take the bus than the metro; overground is better sightseeing and you can buy the tickets directly from the driver.
As soon as I approach the 114 meter long “Seine Countess”, it is like coming home with a carefree package. Right at the gangway you are welcomed and the check-in is quickly done. Just mention your name at the reception and you get the coded cabin card, your table number and the info that a soup snack, coffee and cake is waiting for arriving guests.
Although my spacious mid-range cabin does not have a balcony, it has a sliding window front just above the water surface. The deluxe cabins one deck higher even have a full glass front down to the floor (a balcony effect on the entire width of the cabin without airstream). Room safe, hair dryer and TV (7 German channels, bow camera), mineral water – everything is available and the bathroom area with shower and mirror board is optimally structured. My few things are quickly stowed. Also very pleasing is the (individually controllable) air conditioning system, which is not draughty blowing from the ceiling, but from the ground.
But now it’s time for a discovery tour on board: Shop showcases, WLAN access, salon with live music, library, games corner etc. From the upper deck you have a magnificent view of the Eiffel Tower (324 m high), which is still on my program on the early evening, because the ship leaves only at 22.45 hours. Just have a look:
The water shines and the autumn leaves are glowing in all colors. Near the pier you can walk along “swan island” right in the middle of the Seine to reach the Eiffel Tower (about 1.8 kilometers).
On such a day, however, it is advisable to make an advanced reservation for the lift (alternatively take the staircase to the first platform), because the visitor queues are long. Another reason is that all visitors have to go through a security gate (cost for expedited admission with guided tour is EURO 34.- per person). Incidentally, an ice rink will be installed on the first platform at 57 meters height during winter-time. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiffelturm
Meantime it’s getting time for dinner on board. Everything is delicious and above all very flexible and perfectly organized in “one session”. Also for breakfast, you get everything you want: from salmon and egg dishes to fresh fruit and croissants to various yoghurts, cereals and, and, and. Of course, special / dietary requirements such as decaffeinated coffee or gluten-free bakery products are taken into account. Speaking of diet, you should interrupt or postpone this issue for later; resistance is useless.
The daily menus can be viewed at the menu board or at the table. In addition, the “Maitre” is always available for questions. For lunchtime you also have the choice between a quick buffet in the front salon or a served lunch in the dining room. During breakfast you simply choose your preferred main courses (meat, fish, poultry, vegetarian), so that the kitchen can plan the daily needs and as few food as possible is thrown away. Basically, a menu always consists of appetizer, soup, main course, dessert and coffee (sometimes plus cheese). Personal highlights were the sauces, especially the orange sauce for the duck breast! … in my opinion only the dessert quality is still expandable.
The booking of a so called “beverage package” is no obligation – as on many other ships. So you can also pay each drink individually or add it onto your cabin account (total amount to be paid at the end of the journey). In addition you can still decide for the beverage package on board.
“Ging-gong” – you can’t miss nothing. According to a good old cruise-tradition, each cabin has a (individually adjustable) loudspeaker to receive important informations. Everything else you should know, is posted on the bulletin board. Thus the “Jingel” is not only ringing for meal-times or excursions, but also for receptions like the captains cocktail and the compulsory rescue exercise. Do not worry: nobody has to get into lifeboats. The only boat on board is located on the rear and is mainly used to wipe the windows from outside.
Well, much to my regret, there is no kind of dress code. Some passengers could have really changed the “lumberjack shirt” for a jacket in the evening.
What struck me: Almost everything on board happens with a smile and attentive courtesy. In general, the 38 crew members (from eight different nations) seem to be more motivated than colleagues on most other ships. However, the positive working atmosphere and team spirit depends on some extras – as I will learn a little bit later.
An exclusive look behind the scenes and more details about the ports along the journey such as Rouen, Les Andelys / Giverny, Caudebec-en-Caux/ Honfleur and Etretat on the Atlantic coast I like to report about in the second part of my travel blog next week.
For going ashore, an “excursion package” is offered, but also not a booking obligation. You can also book each destination individually or leave the ship on your own (the piers are always centrally located). But of course you have to be back on time! For safety reasons, everyone receives a boarding pass when leaving the ship showing the ship’s name and a telephone number for emergencies.
Oh yes, there is one more undisputed advantage of a river cruise: there is no swell. And a quiet, individual place can always be found on each ship and on all river routes. Sail away !!
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