Cruising The Heart of Normandy With Viking

Cruising The Heart of Normandy With Viking

Paris In The Springtime

Eiffel Tower | Photo: Steve Leland

We sat in a French sidewalk cafe, the chill of an early spring morning mitigated by a piping hot cafe au lait and croissant. To the left, the iconic spire of the Eiffel Tower. Directly in front of us, the longship Viking Radgrid preparing to welcome us on board. As we watched the bustling sideshow of Parisian street life, our thoughts drifted to the week ahead: cruising the Seine River through the heart of Normandy. 

The 7-night journey begins with a full day and a half in Paris. Viking’s all-inclusive format includes complimentary shore excursions in every destination, and this cruise kicks off with a panoramic tour of the City of Lights. Although the city is currently preparing for the upcoming Olympics, taking a look at the rebuilding of Notre Dame, a stroll through the Latin Quarter and a panoramic drive through the city rekindles our fascination.  

Sailing The Seine

Viking Radgrid | Photo: Steve Leland

Bidding adieu to the city, Viking Radgrid navigates through the first of a series of locks on its way to our first port, La Roche-Guyon. This small village is home to a marvelous chateau positioned directly beneath a medieval hilltop keep. Strolling the streets is as picturesque as one can imagine, with locals brandishing freshly baked baguettes under their arms as they pass the sidewalk cafes and small shops.

Following lunch, guests are transported through the pastoral countryside of Normandy that served as inspiration for artists such as Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. A guided excursion through Auvers-sur-Oise explores the town that was home to Van Gogh prior to him taking his own life. In his final 70 days, he created 75 paintings and more than 30 drawings capturing the colorful village.

Back on board, the captain hosts a welcome cocktail party for guests followed by a dinner of regional delicacies. Viking’s inclusive program features complimentary wines and beers with lunch and dinner and coffee and teas are available 24/7. As in all public areas and accommodations, the Restaurant displays tasteful contemporary design. The Aquavit Terrace provides for dining in a glass-enclosed conservatory. A program of nightly entertainment in the welcoming Lounge caps off days immersed in local history. 

Sailing past riverside villages in the morning, Viking Radgrid arrives in the city of Rouen for an afternoon excursion exploring narrow streets lined with timber-framed homes, old market squares, and monumental gothic churches.

The following day’s highlight is a full-day excursion to Omaha Beach, recounting the incredible events of the D-day incursion that eventually liberated France from Nazi occupation. A solemn visit to the American cemetery, the Caen Museum, and the landing beach itself is more than an excursion. It is a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. 

Chateau de la Malmaison | Photo: Steve Leland

The ship navigates back upstream to Les Andelys, with the imposing ruins of Chateau Gaillard towering above and the church bells heralding Easter Sunday mass. A morning stroll along the Seine’s river bank embraces the serenity of village life. On the final day, guests tour Chateau de la Malmaison, the elegant residence of Napoleon and Josephine.

Viking has established themselves as a major player in both river and ocean cruising by never veering from high cruise standards. The pride that they take in their immaculate ships and attentive staff is well-justified. Previously, we were thoroughly impressed on a pair of Viking Ocean cruise itineraries , but it had been several years since river cruising on the Volga. This French itinerary proved to be just as memorable as those and shows why Viking enjoys such loyalty from past cruise guests. 

Cruising the Seine is like floating into a time capsule filled with history and images of life along its shoreline. Viking has positioned four of its vessels for these week-long river forays into the treasures of Normandy. With dozens of the company’s other vessels plying the rivers of Asia, Egypt, Europe, and even America, it’s easy to immerse yourself in the wide world of Viking.

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