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boblerm

Trip Report- Uniworld's Grand France

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My wife , Jeannie, and I just returned from an unforgettable trip on Uniworld’s “Grand France”, which was a combination of 2 cruises, the Seine on the SS Joie de Vivre, and the Rhône on the SS Catherine, with 2 nights pre-cruise in Paris.  I have done several live trip reports from ocean cruises in the past, but in our previous experience on river cruises, the days were pretty well packed, and I thought that the time available to do a reasonable report from the ships would be rather limited.  So I thought that instead, I would wait until I got home and do a day to day report, which is what I am beginning now. It was a good decision!  Our days were so packed with touring, that for the sake of (what’s left of) my sanity, any leisure time available needed to be spent on, well, leisure,.  I would be more than happy to answer any questions.  The bad news is that there is an excellent chance that I will not remember the answer.😒  The good news is that there is an excellent chance that Jeannie will.😁

 

By way of background, Jeannie and I have done a fair amount of ocean cruising, our favorite lines being Regent and Crystal.  We have done 2 river cruises before, the Danube, and the Rhine-Moselle, both on Tauck.  We absolutely loved our experiences with Tauck, and looked to do the rivers of France with them,  however they did not seem to have a cruise on both rivers, and could not seem to be able to arrange a back to back.  We have heard good things about Uniworld, so we thought we would give it a go.  We got very good pricing on flights through Uniworld, and also took their 2 day pre-cruise add on, so we had all transportation included as well.

Here is our itinerary:

Day 1- Paris (Embark)

DAY 2: La Roche-Guyon, Vernon Giverny

DAY 3: Rouen (Normandy Beaches)

 DAY 4: Caudebec-en-Caux (Honfleur or Étretat)

DAY 5: Rouen

DAY 6: Mantes-la-Jolie (Versailles)

DAY 7: Paris

DAY 8: Paris (Disembark), Transfer to Lyon via High-Speed TGV Train (Embark)

DAY 9: Mâcon (Beaune)

DAY 10: Lyon

DAY 11: Tournon (Tain-l’Hermitage)

DAY 12: Viviers

DAY 13: Avignon

DAY 14: Tarascon

DAY 15: Avignon (Disembark)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 1 May 17  Arrival in Paris

 

We flew out of JFK, New York last night.  When we got on the plane, I checked my email on my phone one last time, and saw that I had received a message that was titled “From Uniworld-URGENT”.  Not good.  I tried to open the message, but the signal was not strong enough for the message to open, tried multiple times, no luck.  My wife tried, no luck.  I noticed that my travel agent had been copied the message, so I called her.  She told me that it is important, but not really all that urgent, they had changed our pre-cruise hotel.  We were supposed to stay at the Hotel du Louvre, but it had been under renovation, supposed to have been reopened, but oops, not yet.  We have been switched to the Grand Powers Hotel.  We had never heard of it, neither had our agent, but she assured us that Uniworld would not use a sub-par accommodation.  OK, whatever.  As it turned out, we liked this hotel a lot.

 

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We were greeted at the airport by a Uniworld rep and transported by private car to the hotel   It is a small boutique style hotel located in Paris’s “Golden Triangle”, near the Champs Elysees . Best of all- we arrived at 7AM and our room was ready!  Happy days!.  We were able to crash for a bit before setting out to explore Paris.

 

We had lunch in a nice place across the street from the hotel.  We have been to Paris a few times before, and have done most of the major attractions, museums, etc, so we decided to spend our time in Paris just wandering.   Come to think of it, wandering around Paris is one of its major attractions!

 

We walked down the Champs Elysees....

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...to  the Tuilleries Gardens.  I seem to remember there being more brilliant flowers the last time we visited here, but that was in April, different flowers were in bloom.  Still, not too shabby.

 

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Uniworld had a cocktail reception at the hotel in the evening.  The Uniworld rep at the hotel, a delightful young lady named Sylvie, introduced the guests to each other.

 

We had dinner at a seafood restaurant near our hotel that the concierge recommended, called Le Pichet de Paris.  We had a wonderful meal there.  Jeannie had seafood soup and sole meuniere, I had escargot and poached cod.

 

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A great first day in Paris!

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Looking forward to your review. We have yet to do the Rhone, as our trip was canceled (and changed to Paris-Normandy). Looks like a great first day.

 

Robin

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Looks like a great trip already!  Thanks for taking the time to do a review, looking forward to the next installment....

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Bob, good to see you here on our other favorite cruise line (besides Silversea) - Uniworld!

 

That's a delicious-looking dinner on your first night in Paris. And you two don't look too bad despite the jet-lag! 😄

 

We actually passed through DeGaulle the day after you did (May 18th) but we were only there a few hours, transiting through on our way to Ukraine for a week of independent travel. You are far more organized than I am, as I haven't started my blog at all yet. Better get going...

 

We cruised on SS Catherine in 2015 (second half of your itinerary) and really loved it. We flew into Paris, spent a day and a night wandering around, then took the TGV from Paris and walked from the railroad station, across the bridge, and directly to the ship. Looking forward to the rest of your story!

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Posted (edited)

Thank you for taking the time to do this, Bob.  Great narrative and pics.  As you found out, Uniworld is a first class operation.

 

Roz

Edited by Roz

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We did this cruise(s) in May 2016 and it was a fantastic experience.  I'm enjoying your observations and pictures.  Were you lucky enough to Thierry as your cruise director? 

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Robin, need2travel1,JP, Rozand capriccio,

Thank you for reading and thank you for your comments.

Capriccio, our cruise directors were Florence on the JdV and Adrian (AJ) on the Catherine.

 

Uniworld definitely knows how to take care of it's passengers.  We were impressed with the way that they were able to secure first class accomodations for us at the last minute. We were greeted warmly at the airport, and had a private transfer to the hotel.  The rep, Sylvie at the hotel did a great job at the Meet and Greet the first night, introducing people to each other and facilitating people getting to know each other.  I will be elaborating more about the service that we received as this report progresses.

 

I can also say that the overwhelming majority of our fellow passengers seemed to be repeat Uniworld guests and seemed to be very loyal to this company.  I think that we were among the very few Uniworld "virgins" onboard!😁

Bob

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Bob

 

Also following along with great interest!

Uniworld and a Paris sailing is on my radar. Hotel looks fabulous!

 

Bob

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The photos are awesome Bob. Just from the tone of your first two postings I can tell you and Jeannie had an amazing time. We’re also Uniworld virgins and will be on the Douro with them in a few weeks. Thanks for posting. 

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Thanks Bob and Got2Cruise.

 

We spoke to some folks who have done the Duoro with Uniworld, and they said that they loved it.

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Day 2 May 18  Arrival in Paris

 

Included in our pre-cruise Uniworld package was a morning tour of the Palais Garnier (Opera).  We had breakfast buffet at the hotel and headed out.  On the way, we started down the Champs-Élysées, and encountered this- _DFC0112.thumb.jpg.81f35fa4b1e3341d84f5fe7f83d71487.jpg

 

Apparently, Saturday is the day for the yellow vest protests.  Lots of police presence, and the avenue was closed at the Place de la Concorde.  We had to take a bit of a circuitous route to the Opera.  We did not see any protests while we were there, and have heard that they are starting to peter out.

 

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To say that this place is over-the top lavish is an understatement.

 

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Marc Chagall's ceiling

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The placard says "Loge du Fantôme de l'Opéra."😱

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Jeannie and I attended a performance of a ballet here about 10 years ago, it was a truly magical evening!

 

After the tour, we were bussed back to the hotel, going by some sites of Paris.

We had lunch in a nearby restaurant that some of our fellow guests had recommended when we met at the social hour last night.

 

French onion soup, chef's salad, and frog's legs

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After lunch we wandered up to the Seine and just strolled around

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The Flame of Liberty , a full-sized, gold-leaf-covered replica of the flame of the torch from the Statue of Liberty, at the Pont de l'Alma.  It is thought of as an unofficial memorial to Princess Diana, who was killed in a tunnel beneath in 1997

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Being a pedestrian in Paris is not for the faint of heart!   One of our tour guides said that a red light is merely a suggestion.

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We had cocktails in the hotel bar before dinner

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Then walked to the Plaza Athene Hotel, where we had dinner at another restaurant recommended by fellow guests, called Le Relais Plaza.   

 

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Jeannie had pea soup and the special plate of the night, which was a combo of 3 fishes in a saffron sauce with fingerling potatoes. I had plate of veggies with goat cheese, basil sauce and olive puree ,and saddle of veal with a tomato sauce.

Everything was prepared perfectly. 

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Tomorrow we board the SS Joie de Vivre.

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Thanks for ruining my plans to diet today, with all of those food shots. Love those cuisses de grenouille! The more garlic and butter the better!

 

Agree about l'Opéra...it's amazing! We went there for our first stop after the red-eye a few years back. All that glitz and glitter really woke us up!

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Yikes, just realized that my last post was mislabeled- obviously, this was day 2, May 18.

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2 hours ago, boblerm said:

Yikes, just realized that my last post was mislabeled- obviously, this was day 2, May 18.

 

I had the Phantom of the Opera sneak up and fix it for you!

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We thoroughly enjoyed the Grand France experience in 2015, at about this time of year. We were on the old River Baroness before her dramatic makeover, and the beautiful SS Catherine. Due to high water on the. Rhone we had to be bused from port to port so the Catherine was our floating hotel. We had a great time anyway so I'm looking forward to your report. 

 

(Our favorite ocean experience was our one cruise on the Regent Voyager.)

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10 hours ago, jklc123 said:

We thoroughly enjoyed the Grand France experience in 2015, at about this time of year. We were on the old River Baroness before her dramatic makeover, and the beautiful SS Catherine. Due to high water on the. Rhone we had to be bused from port to port so the Catherine was our floating hotel. We had a great time anyway so I'm looking forward to your report. 

 

(Our favorite ocean experience was our one cruise on the Regent Voyager.)

jklc123.

I can understand about the high water on the Rhone, it seemed that the top deck was closed pretty much the entire time that we were cruising, and from my vantage point, it seemed that there were some tight fits! But truly, the attraction of this itinerary is the ports, while cruising down the Rhone is pleasant, it is not spectacular cruising as in, say, the Rhine Moselle or Danube. So I don't think that your loss was all that great.

 

(Glad that you enjoyed Regent!)

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Day 3 May 18  Boarding the Joie de Vivre

 

We had breakfast at the hotel, and then just relaxed as we waited for our transfer to the Joie de Vivre.  Sylvie accompanied us on the bus, and handed us over to Cruise Manager Florence.

 

Jeannie and I have a long standing cruising tradition.  Whenever we board a ship, the first thing that we do is to toast the cruise with a glass of champagne with Grand Marnier.  It just crystalizes in our minds how truly fortunate we are to have our health, and be able to go on such wonderful journeys.

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We had lunch onboard, and then had an unexpected treat- cruising down the Seine to see the sights of Paris.  But not on the Joie de Vivre, which is too tall to be able to fit beneath les ponts de Paris.  We were bussed to the foot of the Eiffel Tower, where we boarded a bateau for our cruise.

 

The Louvre

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La Conciergerie

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The Orsay Museum

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Palace of the Legion of H onor

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National Assembly

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😥

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For me, some sights just never get old

 

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Here is tonight's dinner menu

 

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Duck terrine, mustard soup, and prime beef entrecote

 

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Excellent meal, excellent first day of our cruise!

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Let's have a little look around the Joie de Vivre

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This is the main lounge, Le Salon Toulouse

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The main restaurant, Le Restaurant Pigale

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There is another lounge at the stern, that has a dual function of sorts, by day it is Club L'Esprit, with a swimming pool, by night, it is Claude's with the pool covered up

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Other than to take pictures, we did not use this venue.

 

There is an alternative dining venue serving a limited meun forward of the main lounge, called Le Bistro

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We did not dine there.

 

Another dining venue, holding a cooking class plus dinner at an additional charge is La Cave du Vin

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Nope.

 

This is the fitness room

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Did not even think about going there.

 

Various and sundry

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Posted (edited)

Our room was a large suite.  How do you like the decor?

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For me, it is a little much.  Just out of curiosity, I googled "french bordello" and found this image

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Just sayin'.

 

With the shades drawn, it is even better/worse depending on your point of view

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But I did get used to it after a while.

 

They call this a French Balcony.  I call it a Big WIndow

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But all kidding aside, this was a very comfortable room!

 

 

Edited by boblerm

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33 minutes ago, boblerm said:

This is the fitness room

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Did not even think about going there.

 

Lol. I like your philosophy! Plenty of time to exercise once back home.

 

I usually like the decor on Uniworld but I agree, the suite is a bit intense. Those huge windows are nice, though. We've had those rooms on SS Catherine and Antoinette, and used them a lot.

 

Will be interested to see what you think of SS Catherine, which I don't think was decorated so boldly.

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My husband calls it the "brothel" decor, but the mattresses...oh, so comfortable! And, I see you had the drop down TV as well. The good news is, IIRC, your suite was closest to the bar:-)

 

Robin

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I agree with Robin, the comfort of the bed is exceptional.  And when your eyes are closed during your blissful sleep you can't  see the decor.

Yes the decor is a bit much, and it is nothing like my house, but it always make me feel like I am somewhere special, and not in an Ikea store.

Enjoying your report.  Brings back memories of our first river cruise on the River Royale when it was brand new.

RB

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9 hours ago, jpalbny said:

 

Lol. I like your philosophy! Plenty of time to exercise once back home.

 

I usually like the decor on Uniworld but I agree, the suite is a bit intense. Those huge windows are nice, though. We've had those rooms on SS Catherine and Antoinette, and used them a lot.

 

Will be interested to see what you think of SS Catherine, which I don't think was decorated so boldly.

JP and Chris, yes, I did think that the decor on the Catherine was more kind on the eyes, will post photos later.

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8 hours ago, acwmom said:

And, I see you had the drop down TV as well.

Yes, I had  meant to show is, it is pretty neat.  However we never actually used it.

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8 hours ago, acwmom said:

The good news is, IIRC, your suite was closest to the bar:-)

Robin, you do remember correctly.  However, if we needed a drink, we didn't have to drag ourselves to the bar!😁

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Just kidding,  I don't know what was in these, they were just labeled "scotch, vodka and cognac", we preferred to chose our preferred brands.😉

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