March 15th 2016
Arriving at the ship, we were greeted by the Captain and Cruise Director and enjoyed a welcome drink whilst our luggage was whisked away to our staterooms. My stateroom was a lovely Panorama Suite with floor-ceiling windows across the entire width of the cabin, which opened up giving an open-air balcony. L'Occitane toiletries are replenished daily in the spacious en-suite with a large shower and snuggly white bathrobes.
All meals are included on board and are of a very high standard. There is a huge choice at the breakfast buffet with a chef at hand to prepare eggs 'your way'. Lunch has an extensive buffet with a la carte options. Dinner has a delicious 4 course a la carte menu including regional wines, beer and soft drinks. All the food I had was beautifully presented and it is amazing what the chefs can produce from what must be a very small kitchen. There is a Club Lounge at the rear of the Sapphire Deck which has teas and coffees available 24/7 and is a lovely place to relax. Or you might prefer to watch the world go by from the Sky Lounge on the top deck.
Excursions are included on along this journey on the River Seine, but Avalon have free time also, allowing passengers to take more optional excursions, or relax on board the ship, or explore the local town on their own with the map provided. The first excursion for me was a much-anticipated visit to Claude Monet's Gardens and House at Giverny. The gardens were very peaceful as we got there quite early in the morning and I enjoyed seeing some of the views made famous from his paintings. Back to the ship for lunch and we were off sailing to our next stop, Les Andelys. I chose a walking tour up to the Gaillard Castle Ruins of Richard the Lionheart. From here we got great views of the River and surrounding countryside.
The next morning, we woke up in Caudebac. My first excursion was the Route Des Chaumieres (Thatched Cottage Route) and a visit to Vieux Port with many original 'squat houses'. After lunch on board the ship, I chose an optional excursion to the historic port of Honfleur. We had a mixture of a short guided tour and some free time, although it was raining so a trip to a local coffee shop to warmed us up nicely! Back at the ship there was a lecture on the Normandy Landings to prepare us for tomorrow's full day included excursion.
Waking up the next morning to beautiful sunshine in Caudebac, it was an early start as we headed towards our first stop on this UK/Canadian tour, the British Ranville War Cemetery, which has about 2,500 graves including some Commonwealth soldiers. I was impressed by how beautifully kept the cemetery and gardens are. Next we went to Pegasus Bridge on the River Orne, which British Paratroopers captured before the Landings. After lunch, we visited Juno Beach and a Canadian War Cemetery to end a very moving day, and I think my favourite excursion.
All excursions are led by English speaking guides using the 'whisper guides'. You are provided with headsets and a small base unit so you can tune into your guide's channel, whilst they have a microphone so they can talk at a normal volume.
Although the rest of the ship had a further 3 days to enjoy the itinerary, my introduction to the world of River Cruising had come to an end and it was time to leave and head back to Paris and a flight home to the UK. All in all, a very enjoyable trip which I would thoroughly recommend. A very relaxing way of enjoying the countryside without having to live out of a suitcase. I will be back!