How magical does a river cruise on the Seine River in Paris sound? Not that anything Paris related doesn’t sound magical, but there’s just something about river cruises that are so enchanting. I had the pleasure of taking Vantage’s MS Venture river boat from one of the Northernmost parts of France; Normandy Beach, down to Paris, and it was absolutely breath taking.
Aside from spending a week in charming little cities in Northern France, I also wanted to take this particular Vantage river cruise because it included a historical World War II tour of Normandy Beach. My grandfather landed on that same beach during World War II, and after fighting in the area for some time, was captured and made a Prisoner of War by the Germans.
It was heart-wrenching, yet heart-warming to see the very place where my grandpa and so many other young soldiers fought for freedom. But that was only the first stop on my week long tour with Vantage! All of the cities we stopped at were absolutely adorable, and the MS Venture was like my own little charming moving home for an entire week!
So if you’re thinking about a whimsical vacation that also includes a tribute to America’s past, check out the Vantage cruise from Normandy to Paris that I did below!
After I arrived in Paris, a driver drove me to meet the MS Venture where it was docked in a little city called Honfleur. Honfleur is the epitome of a charming little French town, and in fact, is where many big city folk come for weekend vacations! Honfleur is best known for its delicious seafood, which, while I was there in late October, was mussels and scallops!
The town is comprised of cobblestone streets that twist and wind until they all meet at the center square and marina. No matter how many times you see this quaint town square, it’ll never stop looking like a painting. The cute little sailboats rest easily on the calm marina bay, while the colorful cafes that line the docks reflect perfectly onto the dark waters.
Everywhere you go people will be eating at one of the dozens of sidewalk cafes, or if it’s in between meals, a coffee or wine will do too. Honfleur was probably one of my most favorite places to see on the Vantage tour, because it made me feel like I was really in an authentic, non-touristy part of France!
2. Normandy Beach
From Honfleur we took a really nice motor coach to Normandy Beach for the World War II & D-Day tour. As I mentioned, this was especially meaningful to me, and I even brought my grandfather’s ex-Prisoner of War hat to wear while I was there. We started at the World War II cemetery; a site that will give anyone, no mater what country they’re from, the chills. Row after row of identical white marble crosses (some with a Jewish star on top) stood proudly and peacefully above the 200,000 grave sites.
Our ship brought a memorial wreath to lay at the foot of the WWII memorial statue, and several people asked if they could take a photo of my grandpa’s hat. It made me feel honored that even strangers honored my grandpa, and made me even more proud of him than I already was.
After the memorial, we went down to the actual beach area where the troops first arrived, invading enemy territory. Seeing the remnants from war, the memorial statues, and the craters in the Earth left from war bombs made history seem even more real than it ever has been for me.
After departing from Honfleur, we set sail on our (not so) little river boat to another tiny little French town called Rouen. Here we had an early start for a city tour, starting with a grand cathedral that mostly captivated my attention with the life-size statues inside that I very much enjoyed Face Swapping with on Snapchat.
To be completely honest, I lost the rest of my tour group briefly because I got distracted by a really good sidewalk sale at a vintage store that had faux-fur vests for only 15 Euros. Of course when I went to pay, I couldn’t help but notice the stunning red floppy hat inside, and thus, now you know where the hat you see in most of my photos came from!
That being said, Rouen was the perfect little shopping town! It had everything from my little vintage store, to name brand designer shops, and everything in between! It also had a very notorious restaurant that I got to eat at called La Couronne, which was where Julia Childs had her first French meal!
4. Conflans and Van Gogh
In the morning we began sailing into Conflans, which for me was another major highlight of the cruise. You get to pass by the cutest little towns and waterfront houses, many of which had people on the docks waving as we passed by! The trees lining the shore were changing colors for their fall debut, and every so often we’d pass a flock of floating white swans.
Once docked in Conflans we had the option to go on a tour of the tiny city where Van Gogh spent his last months, and created some of his most popular pieces. We got to see the house that he lived in, and the tiny little space he called his room. We saw the town church that was the inspiration for one of his pieces, and later, the cemetery where he’s actually buried, even though he’s Dutch.
Technically this Vantage tour starts and ends in Paris, but since I joined the tour while it was already in Honfleur, I didn’t get a chance to see Paris until the end. The tour does offer an optional extension or day trip in Paris though, which I of course had to opt for.
In just a few hours I was able to have a delicious meal at a random French restaurant, complete with the best escargot I’ve ever tasted, massive scallops, and some French Chardonnay. I made it to the Eiffel Tower just in time for sunset, and moments later it turned into a glorious glittering gem that I couldn’t help but to take tons of photos of.
6. Overview of the MS Venture Ship
This was my first time taking a river cruise boat, and I found it to be very accommodating and pleasant. My room was spacious, complete with a queen sized bed and small sitting area, and a sliding window-door that I could open up and lean out of in front of the railing. I was particularly impressed with how many new movies were available, and also with how well the wifi worked the majority of the time!
Each meal was delicious and of course included, and the restaurant staff were typically the highlight of my evenings! They even put on a show for you towards the end of the cruise! I do have to mention that the typical guests on this tour tend to be “Boomers”, but in my honest opinion, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that!
I loved hearing stories from the awesome 90 year old solo female traveler, Mrs. Powell, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never felt so “famous” as I did when a group of women asked me about my blog and if they could take photos of me. This would have been a tour I would have LOVED to take my mom on (she wanted to go but was getting shoulder surgery), and if he were alive, I would have definitely taken my grandpa!
Another thing that I liked and really appreciated was that Vantage offers free single supplements, which means you won’t get charged a fee for traveling solo (that’s so lame), and they give discounts to Veterans! For more information, check out their site: Vantage.com
Disclaimer: This post is obvi in collaboration with Vantage Travel, however all opinions, words, photos, etc. are my own!
Alyssa is a self-made, full time travel blogger who loves adventure and typically travels the world solo. She's been to 53 countries and 6 continents so far, and believes she has mastered the art of chasing waterfalls, traveling solo, wine drinking, and making budget-traveling look good. Curious to know how she started this career? Check out the About section above!