Travel Scene: Seine River cruise
Next summer's Post-Bulletin sponsored cruise, a voyage along the picturesque Seine River in the heart of France — considered by many to be one of Europe's most scenic waterways — is full of stops that should be on everyone's list.
Couple that with a with a stay in London on the front end of the trip and two days in Paris to wind up the journey, and it's a trip worth taking.
These other major additions only make the trip even more memorable:
• A day at the Normandy invasion site on the French coast that will note the 70th anniversary of the Allied D-Day landings.
• A trip from London to Paris through the English Channel tunnel via a high-speed Eurostar train. The tunnel, commonly known as the Chunnel, is one of the world's most notable engineering accomplishments.
These are the highlights of a trip that is scheduled for next summer, from June 9-21, 2014. This trip by necessity had to be scheduled well in advance — and preliminary bookings are necessary by Aug. 1 to guarantee your cabin on the vessel. That's due to the extreme popularity of the celebrations that will take place in Normandy because of D-Day's 70th anniversary.
These festivities will take place during much of the month of June throughout the region and will attract thousands of persons from around the globe, including dozens of political notables. The influx of visitors are signing up early for the many specialty tours and cruises that are being offered, with some sell-outs already being reported. The actual D-Day landing occurred June 6, 1944. The majority of the trip, from June 12 to June 19, will be aboard one of AmaWaterways' premier river cruise ships, the AmaLegro. The 150-passenger vessel, christened in 2007, features what the cruise line describes as spacious staterooms, most with French Balconies, along with internet/WiFi access and a variety of other amenities. On-board entertainment is focused in the Main Lounge and the Aft Lounge. The vessel also features a massage, hair and beauty salon, fitness room and sauna, plus a whirlpool and walking track on the Sun Deck.
Before boarding the AmaLegro in Paris, the P-B group will fly from Minneapolis-St. Paul International to London, leaving the U.S. on June 9 and arriving on June 10. There will be time for various optional trips in and around London both on June 9 and 10 — and a night in the London theater district attending a Broadway show is always attractive. Two nights at a first class hotel in London are included.
On June 12, the group will take the high-speed Eurostar train through the fabled Chunnel rail link that connects the United Kingdom and France. The Chunnel runs some 250 feet beneath the waters of the English Channel at speeds up to 185 mph. At 23.5 miles long, the Chunnel is the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world. Ideas for a cross-channel link date back to 1802 but British political pressure stalled attempts, according to news accounts. The eventual successful project, organized by Eurotunnel, began in 1988 and opened in 1994. Once the digging started, crews crept forward 100 feet a day until, in June 1991, French and English workers broke through and shook hands midway across the Channel. Many call the Chunnel project the 1990s version of the Panama Canal, as another remarkable example of human engineering.
On arrival in Paris, passengers will board the AmaLegro for the next portion of the trip — cruising the Seine. On the way to the Normandy beaches the vessel will stop at several towns and villages, plus pass by stunning scenery. The provincial town of Vernon is one stop and will allow cruisers to visit Giverny and the home and gardens of impressionist master Claude Monet. The artist lived there for more than four decades and immortalized his ponds and flower gardens. The next day a visit to Rouen, the historic capital of Normandy is programmed to see the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral among other attractions. The cathedral was painted numerous times by Monet, along with the square where Joan of Arc was martyred. Roulen and the Normandy beaches are highlighted the next day, June 15. Three different excursions are offered. "D-Day Remembered" is a full-day excursion to the U.S. sector, Omaha and Utah beaches. Other stops will be visits to St. Laurent-sur-Mer, the U.S. cemetery at Omaha Beach, and the Ranger monument at Pointe du Hoc. Alternatives include tours of the Gold, June and Sword beaches in the British and Canadian sectors, while a third option is a trip to rural Normandy, including visits to the Pays d'Auge and "Routes duj Cidre" (the Cedar Road). This alternative includes visits to several traditional Norman towns and villages.
Heading toward Paris
After Normandy, the cruise heads back toward Paris for three days of more excursions with stops at Les Andelys and Conflans the features. These stops include visits to the ruins of Chateau-Gaillard, the former stronghold of Richard the Lionhearted that changed hands a number of times during the Hundred Years War, a visit to Chateau Malmaison, former home of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife, Josephine, and the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, famous for the impressionist painters who lived there in the 19th Century.
The conclusion of the trip is all about Paris, the City of Light. There will be visits to Paris' many attractions, museums among them. The city has much to explore: landmarks, cafes and shops. Some of these can be seen on your own or through organized tours. There will be two nights included in a Paris first-class hotel before the P-B group flies home on June 21.
An informational meeting with trip details is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, July 25, at the Ramada Hotel, 1517 16th St. S.W. Persons can attend without obligation but should RSVP Bursch Travel ahead of time. Cost of the trip can only be partially estimated at this time, since air fares have not been set as yet. However, Bursch Travel estimates the total land/cruise package — which includes transfers, hotel stays in London and Paris, the Chunnel trip, and all meals and shore excursions aboard the AmaLegro — at $5,375 per-person.
Early booking is virtually a necessity for this trip, since preliminary reservations must be made by Aug. 1 to guarantee your cabin. AmaWaterways does not guarantee space after Aug. 1 at this point in time, and cabins may not be available then. It will depend upon the status of the ship's cabin inventory.
Cabins still available on S. America cruise
Two other P-B sponsored cruises will occur prior to the French waterways cruise. One, in late September-early October, is from Moscow to St. Petersburg in Russia and that cruise is at capacity.
Another cruise, Jan. 17-Feb. 3 around South America, still has open cabins -- some 42 persons have signed up so far. It will be aboard the Celebrity Infinity. Reservations are available at Bursch Travel, 1201 S. Broadway and phone 281-3652 or 1-800 243-3652.