Viking’s Seine River Cruise takes guests from Paris to the Heart of Normandy
Viking’s “Paris and the Heart of Normandy Seine River” cruise is more than a leisurely escapade through the scenic glories of France from Paris to Normandy. In myriad ways, it is a pilgrimage for personal passions on a luxurious longship purpose-built to navigate the winding river.
For art lovers, Paris may be “the City of Light,” but the elusive, changing light of rural and coastal France lured Impressionist painters to hone their metiér. Among their famed works displayed in the Louvre and museums around the world, the cycle of Nyymphéas Water Lilies by Claude Monet – seen today in L’Orangerie – inspires people to follow the Seine to his home and gardens in Giverny. Along the way, they’ll see the ornate Rouen Cathedral, industrial buildings, bridges, and rural pastures dotted with haystacks, all of which Monet painted in varying hues of light.
For culinary and culture aficionados, the Seine meanders through France’s basket of gastronomy, verdant valleys scattered with vineyards, farms fenced for cows that produce milk for rich cheeses, and apple trees used for the heady Calvados Brandy. At the Seine’s end, where its waters spill into the English Channel, the medieval seaport town of Honfleur remains a testament to its Norman past, its cobbled streets lined with original, timber-framed houses. Acclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Honfleur is renowned for delicious local specialties, including fish, seafood, and delectable crepes.
Viking’s Seine River cruise can be an emotional pilgrimage, particularly for history buffs, those whose loved ones survived D-Day and WWII, or those who perished and lay in battlefield cemeteries. The D-Day invasion happened on June 6, 1944, when about 156,000 Allied soldiers landed on five beaches on the Normandy coast. The Americans landed on Omaha and Utah beaches; the British and Canadians on Gold, Sword, and Juno beaches. Viking’s tours to American and Commonwealth sites include the landing beaches, the cemeteries, and museums. On my Viking Skaga sailing, the program director personally researched the cemetery resting places of any person guests requested and provided locations.
Whatever your passion, cruising the Seine aboard Viking Skaga is pure delight from the moment you board at Port de Grenelle, Viking’s exclusive docking privilege, a short walk from the Eiffel Tower. Launched in 2022, the 168-passenger Skaga is one of four identical longships purpose-built with customized hulls and engines to navigate the Seine River. Thanks to its popularity, a fifth will debut in 2025.
Skaga’s premium rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows opening to walk-out balconies. Its interior is designed with a decidedly contemporary Scandinavian flair for congenial mingling, Skaga’s exterior spaces – including the forward Aquavit Terrace – invite guests to imbibe the panoramic scenery while enjoying meals or drinks. The top sun deck is arranged like a resort garden with plenty of chaise longues, shaded sofas, tables, and chairs.
The eight-day itinerary includes two overnight stays in Paris, plus guided tours in ports along the way. Enchanting beyond expectations from the first night, when the Eiffel Tower’s sparkles illuminate the Seine, the voyage gives an authentic essence of France. At the quintessential historic village of La Roche-Guyon, I loved lingering on the platform where Renoir, Pissarro, Cezanne, Braque, Lauvray, and Monet – among other Impressionists – painted scenes in the changing lights of day. In Giverny, guests – realizing dreams of seeing Monet’s gardens and home – snapped a zillion photos.
En route, Viking Skaga treated guests to sumptuous regional cuisine. Among my favorites – often with Côtes du Rhône wines – escargots, goat cheese soufflé, Sea Bass, salmon, roast duck breast, beef tenderloin, tarte tatin, and chocolate molten dessert.
While returning to Normandy’s beaches, passengers lingered on deck in brilliant sunshine, relaxing, photographing, or sketching picturesque scenery. Culminating with an included visit of Chateau de Malmaison – the splendid estate of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and Queen Josephine – and an optional tour of the Palace of Versailles, Viking Skaga berthed at Port Grenelle for a final night to explore the City of Light.
Tips for Viking’s Seine River Cruise:
*Take advantage of Viking’s efficient, economical, and seamless transfers between the airport, hotel, and ship.
*It’s worth arriving at least one day before boarding to acclimate yourself to Paris and avoid the last-minute rush.
*Viking’s optional, 3-day pre-cruise Paris hotel stay includes complimentary breakfasts plus transfers between the airport, hotel, ship, and airport on return, as well as a guided tour of Paris. As a solo traveler, I appreciated feeling confident and safe with this service.