My wife and I were recently aboard the S.S. Joi de Vivre on Uniworld’s Paris to Normandy luxury river cruise.
Being that we have a 23-month old, this was our first vacation in a long time. There are not enough ways to say that we had the trip of a lifetime.
For me, this is the obvious place to start when recapping my Uniworld River Cruise. The captains, chefs, the wait staff and the sommelier took obvious pride in their work and were all universally pleasant and genuine. Special thanks to our Ship Director Astrid and our Travel Director Sharon for always taking the time to check in to make sure my wife and I were enjoying our trip.
The ship, the S.S. Joi De Vivre is beautifully appointed. It’s all polished wood and marble every direction you look. Standouts included a glass and gold chandelier suspended above a floating marble staircase and stately bar in the bow of the ship.
We stayed in a category four room which was about 160 square feet. Sounds small, but it was well laid out with a generous closet and storage under the bed. All that storage allowed us to unpack our bags and carry-on and get our luggage out of the way. Considering we were only in our room to sleep or kick our feet up after a long day, it was plenty big for us.
Not too overuse superlatives, but the food wasn’t just good for a cruise, it was some of the best food I’ve eaten full stop. Standouts included a tender veal fillet, flaky cod in a ginger miso sauce and a baked Alaska that was worth writing home about.
Each dinner (which featured a choice of three appetizers, main courses, and desserts to mix and match) were paired with amazing wine by our onboard sommelier. I know little to nothing about wine, but I know what I like and in my humble opinion, there wasn’t a bad pour on the ship.
I could write several hundred words on the tour portion of the trip, but I’ll spare you the play by play and share my top three experiences from a week filled to the brim with wonderful ones. But one advantage of river cruising that is difficult to overstate is traveling through the night to wake up in a city center or docked 100 yards from a popular tourist site. Case in point, I woke up the first morning of the trip and while getting ready asked my wife, “I wonder how long it will take us to get the chateau this morning?” I opened the curtains of our room and you could see the medieval turret that was part of the chateau grounds sticking up on the horizon.
We made our way to Giverny via a scenic three-mile bike ride. Despite being heavily trafficked by tourists, it was easy to find your own little quiet corner to sit and soak up the garden’s beauty. After a quick tour of the garden and Monet’s home, my wife and I made our way back to the Japanese bridge to find it nearly empty of visitors and the lighting and character of the pond had changed since we were last there. It easy to see why Monet was so inspired by the place.
The Beaches of Normandy
We toured several of the American D-day landing beaches and surrounding areas including Point du Hoc, Sainte-Mere-Elise en route to the American Cemetery. The American Cemetery is a poignant and somber monument to the American troops who died in Europe. The simple white crosses laid out in a grid gives the historical event a weight and relevance that is hard to comprehend without seeing it. The day concluded on Omaha beach overlooking the soaring monument Les Braves as a trumpeter played taps and French children played in the cold surf.
Versailles and the Moulin Rouge
I had to cheat and combine Versailles and the Moulin Rouge to stick to my self-imposed top three. In my mind the Palace of Versailles is linked with the Taj Mahal, in so far this it’s hard to imagine how either place was ever constructed in the first place. They are breathtaking by today’s standards but must have been expressions of wealth and power beyond comprehension for the people of the time.
We ended our last day in Paris with a show at the Moulin Rouge. At nearly $400, it was the only optional experience that we did. And it was worth every penny. Think a Vegas type show with the intimacy of a 900-person theater. A breathless 90-minutes the show featured acrobats, miniature ponies, a women swimming with three boa constrictors and of course the can-can. I was so close to the stage I kept getting hit in the face by feathers, beads and the curtain as performers sprinted off stage.
We ended the evening on the bow of the S.S. Joi De Vivre as the Eiffel Tower lit up in thousands of twinkly lights.
Discover the S.S. Joi De Vivre, and all the beautiful Uniworld Ships, for yourself! LET’S GO! >