PHOTO: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s S.S. Joie de Vivre docked in Giverny, France on a foggy morning. (photo by Jason Leppert)
This week onboard Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s latest S.S. Joie de Vivre, I am sailing the line’s Paris & Normandy itinerary.
Along the way, I am exploring areas of France new to me while experiencing the brand and its touring style for the very first time as well.
Most group cruise tours are primarily the same: The guest complement is divided up into several individually paid shore excursions of varying subjects and exertions.
River cruises are a little different. In general, they carry fewer guests than ocean ones and thus offer fewer choices, though many are included in the fare.
Most are complimentary on Uniworld, with only a handful of optional tours costing extra.
It’s nice how they are frequently broken down into three categories: regular, active and gentle walking. Regular is the default tour type set at a standard pace while the other two require signing up but are also free including bike use.
Also featured on the majority of tours are Quietvox listening devices that broadcast the guide’s narration to an earpiece for each guest via transmitter while strolling off the bus.
The kind employed on the Joie de Vivre have a pinpoint scanner at the bottom of the lanyard-hung receiver. Provided keycard holders include a small card with colored numbers corresponding to tour groups that must be scanned in order to dial the right channel.
As they say, the system is great when it works, (and it does the bulk of the time).
However, the means to select the channel has always been a bit cumbersome with these units. The best is really the alternate model that allows you to manually toggle up and down the numbers without any additional paraphernalia.
Other than that, tour organization is simply a matter of selecting a numerical card to serve as a ticket upon reaching the matching guide outside.
Such tours have already included seeing the incomparably beautiful gardens and home of Claude Monet in Giverny, France. The water lily ponds the impressionist painter depicted on canvas are still maintained for visitors to this day, and they are stunning. This was one tour easily accessible to regular tourists as well as gentle walkers.
The hike to the castle ruins of Chateau Gaillard in Les Andelys, France, was far more active. I mistakenly heard the approach described as a gradual slope. In reality, it was a vigorous incline that worked off many calories but was well worth the effort.
The mysterious remains of the edifice were indeed intriguing.
Still coming up for us are a full day of the Normandy beaches, a walking discovery of Honfleur, visiting the Palace of Versailles or Chateau de Rueil Malmaison and Parisian city shore excursions. Golfers can even appreciate a couple of opportunities to hit the links along the way.
Also on our particular sailing are themed “connoisseur” tours delving into food and wine topics at no additional charge. Counterbalancing the aforementioned hike was certainly the exclusive Julia Child’s tea time tasting at La Couronne in Rouen, France where we devoured a delightful Tarte Tatin.
Remarkably, only “bespoke” and concierge-curated tours cost extra, though there are not that many additional choices remaining. Options may extend to a Paris city roofs tour or the Moulin Rouge cabaret and dinner, for instance. Of course, the staff is always on hand to personalize something special to your specific desires.
There has still been plenty of time to relax in between.
This post first appeared on TravelPulse.