Rendezvous with Tauck in Paris for a Journey on the Seine
Monday, October 9 & Tuesday, October 10, 2017
When I look back on all the river cruises I’ve taken, some of my most memorable experiences have been on my sailings with Tauck. From an after-hours tour of the In Flanders Fields museum in Ieper, Belgium to the private dinner and reception at Lobkowicz Palace in Prague, Tauck deals in special moments on every one of its river cruises. They seem fanciful and cinematic in retrospect. In many ways, I can hardly believe I was there.
I landed in Paris, France yesterday morning on my way to another adventure with Tauck: a nine-night Rendezvous on the Seine river cruise that will take me to parts of this country that I’ve never seen before, from the beaches of Normandy to the quiet respite of Giverny, where artist Claude Monet called home.
Starting with a two-night stay at the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel hotel – just blocks away from the Eiffel Tower – Tauck’s Rendezvous on the Seine itinerary shifts to the river for a seven-day cruise aboard the ms Sapphire. Newly refitted for the 2017 season, Tauck has actually reduced her passenger capacity down to just 98 from 112 – far less than other river cruise ships of her size. That reduction allowed Tauck to add 20 Category 6 staterooms that are 225 square feet, complete with marble baths and rainforest showers; along with almost a full deck of 300 square foot, Category 7 rooms.
The full itinerary:
From Paris to Normandy with Tauck
|October 9, 2017||Paris||Arrival in Paris; check-in to Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel hotel.|
|October 10||Paris||Tour of the Opera Garnier|
|October 11||Paris||Tour of the Palace of Versailles; embark ms Sapphire|
|October 12||Rouen||Guided tour of Rouen; evening chateau reception, dinner and music|
|October 13||Caudebec-en-Caux||Visits to Etretat and Honfleur|
|October 14||Caudebec-en-Caux||D-Day history in Normandy with visits to Omaha Beach, American Cemetery & the Arromanches Museum|
|October 15||Jumieges||Visit to Jumieges Abbey ruins|
|October 16||Les Andelys||Chateau Gaillard tour; cider & calvados tasting; scenic cruising|
|October 17||Vernon||Giverny and Monet home visit; farewell reception|
|October 18||Paris||Disembark ms Sapphire|
A Room with a View
After clearing immigration and customs at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, I met my waiting driver, arranged by Tauck, who transferred me to the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel hotel. Traffic is kind of a nightmare entering Paris, so the entire drive took an hour, most of which was spent either stopped or crawling along.
Inside the hotel, I was greeted by a Tauck desk, positioned front and center, with three smiling women behind it. Gabrielle, Sofia and Emilie are the Tauck Directors that will accompany us for the next nine days, and they’ll be joined by a fourth representative on the ship. That’s four people for just 98 guests; most river cruise lines assign just one or two for up to 200 guests.
My biggest travel pet peeve is when I check into a hotel where the cruise line says, “There will totally be a letter there waiting for you that explains what we’re doing.” Of course, when you get there, there totally isn’t any letter, and you get a lot of shrugged shoulders as a response.
Not so with Tauck: Gabrielle handed me a personalized manila envelope filled with all the necessary information. She also pointed me downstairs, to the dedicated room just for Tauck guests, where complimentary tea, coffee, juices and sodas were available.
I’ve actually stayed at this great property before, back in April with Viking River Cruises. Viking is considerably less expensive than Tauck, though, so I was excited to see what that extra money buys you.
Tauck guests, including myself, are placed in one of the hotel’s larger balcony rooms that overlook the city and the Eiffel Tower. With Viking, I had a very nice, very comfortable room, but it was smaller and overlooked the rear courtyard. I looked out over the Mercure hotel; not the Eiffel Tower.
The sight of the Eiffel Tower by day and night is worth the price of admission – not to mention how ridiculously close to it we are (one city block). From my room, I can even lay in bed and still glimpse the tower outside my windows.
The Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel is a great hotel. Rooms offer North American and European power outlets, comfy beds (maybe too comfy!), complimentary bottles of sparkling and still water, in-room coffee and tea, and a bathroom with a great rainfall shower. Just watch the toilet: a door stopper is placed right at the base of it, and you’re going to stub your toe at some point.
Because so many groups from different companies use the hotel (during my stay, by Tauck, Viking and Monograms Tours), the elevators require a bit of patience. Ditto for the absolutely amazing breakfast buffet, which is frequently crowded but offers a wonderful array of French delicacies. Good news though: Tauck guests get their own private breakfast buffet on the Lobby level, within the hotel’s Frame Restaurant and Bar. It’s quiet and oh-so-tasty, offering an assortment of meats, eggs, pastries, and smaller breakfast items like cereals and fresh fruit.
Paris, In the Fall
When I arrived in Paris yesterday, my hotel room wasn’t ready. Since most flights from North America arrive early in the morning, this will probably happen to you, too.
That’s actually a great thing, as it forces you to get out there and really get to know this magical place. Paris might be the most written-about, idolized, idealized and loved city in the world. Visitors will overlook its flaws (the rust-streaked Eiffel Tower; the constant strikes and protests) because Paris is just so darn wonderful.
Once I found out I couldn’t access my room, I stored my luggage with the hotel, grabbed a map and my camera, and went for a walk. You might think going to the top of the Eiffel Tower or visiting The Louvre is essential in Paris. I’d argue it’s not. What you definitely need to do is lose yourself in its cobblestone streets.