If taking a river cruise in France isn’t on your bucket list, it totally should be! Seeing France on a Seine river cruise is an unforgettable experience like no other. You will go to sleep in one historic city and wake up in a completely different part of France. From enjoying delicious French cuisine to wandering the halls of a beautiful Chateau, there is plenty to do and see on a French river cruise. We have put together some things you should know about taking a river cruise in France so you are fully prepared for the memorable journey you are about to experience!
15 Things To Know Before Taking A River Cruise In France
1. River Cruises In France Offer A Once-In-A-Lifetime Way To See The Country And
Amawaterways Offers The Luxury Of More
Imagine yourself sitting in your stateroom with a French balcony overlooking the French countryside. You are sailing along the Seine en route to your next destination and relaxing in a comfortable robe after a delicious dinner filled with French-inspired dishes. That is basically how you are going to feel when taking a cruise in France! A river cruise in France affords you the chance to see parts of the country from the water that only a small handful of people ever get to see.
Our first Seine river cruise was with Amawaterways and we couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Amawaterways is proud to offer “the luxury of more” which means that they include more than expected for the price. From more excursion options to more options to include each budgetary price point, we really did enjoy our Amawaterways Seine river cruise experience.
2.Your River Cruise Will Dock Right In The Center Of Town; No More Shipping Ports For You
Raise your hand if you have been on a cruise and the place you dock is a shipping port and the city and beaches are miles away. Yeah, us too. When taking a river cruise in France, your cruise ship will pull up to the center of town! Back in the day, French towns were built right near the river so citizens could have easy access to water. Guess what that translates to for you? Being right in the heart of a cute French village the minute you step off the boat. This was a fantastic experience because you could explore without going on an excursion at all!
If you wanted to go for a morning run or you forgot to grab a souvenir later in the evening, all you have to do is walk right off the ship into the heart of the town you are visiting. This was one of the best things about taking a river cruise in Europe. The accessibility of the port towns is truly enjoyable to experience.
3. You Won’t Get Seasick And You Hardly Know You Are Moving At All
A big fear people have when considering a cruise vacation is the fact that the boat will rock from the waves and that they might get seasick. We have done our fair share of ocean cruises and we have been on some pretty crazy seas [10-15 foot waves, anyone?] We are here to tell you that if this is a fear of yours, consider taking a European river cruise. Since you are cruising along rivers, you are smoothly sailing on glassy waters with no waves in sight! When cruising the seine in France with Amawaterways, we were actually shocked how smooth the process was! Sometimes we didn’t even know we had left the port to move to our next destination until we looked outside and saw how fast we were moving.
If you are afraid of sinking or other [unlikely] catastrophes that could possibly befall a cruise, rest assured that the French rivers are so shallow if the boat did sink you could just climb to the top floor until help came [as per our Amawaterways Captain!] This made us feel super safe because the Seine River is very shallow and the riverbanks are right there! In the unlikely event of an emergency, we don’t have far to do! If you are prone to seasickness, a river cruise in France is the perfect way for you to enjoy being on the water without all the waves and rocking.
4. All Excursions And Tours Are Included And You Can Even Do Multiple Tours A Day At Some Ports
When taking a river cruise in France, you are going to want to spend time exploring the stunning ports. On Amawaterways, all excursions and tours were included in the price of the cruise. This means that for an 8-day river cruise in France we had 6 days of tours and excursions to choose from. At some ports, you can even do two tours if time allows! Unlike other cruise experiences where you have to pay individually for tours, a French river cruise on Amawaterways includes it all in your fare.
At the beginning of the cruise you will receive a paper detailing all the excursions in France to choose from, what they involve, their difficulty level, and the times they go out and then you circle them and turn them into your cruise manager. This way you don’t have to worry about a single thing for your entire river cruise in France! Some excursions leave in the morning at 9am and are back by 11am which leaves you time to grab a bit to eat and be ready for an afternoon tour should you be interested! If you like to relax in the morning like we do, simply choose an afternoon tour to fit your schedule!
5. You Can Also Take Out Bikes For Free Or Join An Active Bike Tour
After a week of [attempting] to figure out the Paris city bike system, we loved being able to use Amawaterways bikes for free anytime we wanted! Sadly, many river cruises in France no longer carry their own bikes on board. Instead, they contract out with local bike outfitters [for a fee] at each port the ship visits. During our Seine River cruise, we had the opportunity to experience historic cities such as Rouen by bike. At each port, the crew had the bikes lined up outside the ship and all you had to do was request a helmet and bike at the front desk and you were on your way.
Amawaterways also offers both relaxed and more active bike tours where you can really get a workout [hello 9-mile ride!] We opted to not do a bike tour but many people on our French river cruise really enjoyed them! Instead, we chose to explore on our own and loved the freedom the bikes gave us. They even came with a built-in lock that is easy to use so if you want to run into a store or beautiful church, all you have to do is easily lock the bike and go!
6. River Cruises In France Are Actually More Affordable Than You Might Think
The biggest rebuttal we here when we tell people we went on a river cruise in France is “but isn’t it expensive?” Here is the thing, you have to factor in all that is involved and add up the prices and then you can tell us if you think it is worth it! For example, on Amawaterways all excursions and tours were included in the price of the cruise. This means that for an 8-day river cruise in France we had 6 days of tours and excursions to choose from.
Now let’s compare this to an ocean cruise that doesn’t include a tour. An 8-day ocean cruise with a balcony room generally costs about $800-$1000 per person. Now, what if you want to do an excursion? Tack on around $90-$150 per excursion per person and what if you want to do two in a day? Add an additional few hundred dollars per person. Want to drink beer and wine? $50 per person per day for a drink package. Want specialty dining? Factor in an extra $35 per person. On Amawaterways you get a fine dining experience at ‘The Chef’s Table” included in the price of every passenger. Don’t even get us started on the astronomically high price of internet. On an Amawaterwasy cruise in France, unlimited wifi is again included. When it is all said and done, the price of a river cruise in France really isn’t that much more expensive than a regular ocean one.
Before writing off a river cruise in France as something you could never afford, simply sit down and compare the costs. You will quickly learn that the all-inclusive nature of a Seine River Cruise with Amawaterways can be more affordable than you once thought!
7. Visiting The D-Day Beaches Is The Highlight Of A Seine River Cruise
When we decided on a river cruise in France, we knew we wanted to visit the D-Day Beaches in Normandy. Amawaterways offered two tours, one to the American landing beaches and one to the British and Canadian landing beaches. Being American, we chose the former. This is an experience every single person, young and old, should have. This is not a “history buff” tour or a “Veteran tour” this is an experience everyone should have. The tour was over 10 hours but it was one of the best and most moving things we have ever experienced in all of our travels.
The Amawaterways guide was local to the area and actually had personal ties to D-Day invasion which made the experience even more informative. We visited the American cemetery, Omaha Beach, an area where there were still German gun bunkers, and a second beach there the allies built a makeshift port. We cannot begin to stress that visiting the D-Day invasion sites will be the highlight of your river cruise in France, if not of all of your travels. If you think it won’t be interesting or that it “isn’t for you” we urge you to reconsider because this experience, especially with a local guide, is one you won’t soon forget.
8. You Will Have The Chance To Dine On Locally Inspired French Food Every Day
They say the food on a river cruise in France really is better, and we have to agree! Depending on what part of the country you are in, Amawaterways will serve locally inspired dishes for lunch and dinner. If you are near the English Channel, perhaps mussels will be on the menu. Our Seine River cruise went through Normandy where local cheese is very popular. Each day for lunch and dinner, we received a selection of at least 5 cheeses, crackers, baguettes, and jellies to sample.
The daily lunch and dinner menu always included one vegetarian option and food allergies were accommodated. Each lunch and dinner you had the option for a full four-course meal, five courses if you include a little pre-dinner cheese. Each meal, locally sourced beer and wine selections were also served, making for a delicious pairing with the meal of the day.
If you don’t want to eat in the main dining room, that is okay! In the lounge, there was always a smaller selection for lunch and dinner in the event you wanted something more simple and quiet than the main dining room. If you are looking for one of the best French river cruises, make sure to consider Amawaterways because their food was truly delicious.
9. The Smaller Ship Size Means You Won’t Be Surrounded By Thousands Of People At Every Turn
For our river cruise in France, our ship could hold a capacity of 150 guests. If you are more introverted, just love a quieter setting, or want to focus on yourself and your traveling mate(s) a Seine River cruise is the way to go. The setting is quite intimate because the ship is small. It is actually more like taking the sleeper train across Canada than taking a regular ocean cruise. While the hustle and bustle of an ocean cruise can be fun, a change of pace, especially as a couple, was super nice! There were no staterooms over a pounding night club or loud comedy club to avoid and there were no super long lines for food or drinks to wait in.
The intimate atmosphere was quite calming and relaxing after a long day exploring a port so you won’t have any trouble winding down after a long day!
10. Each Stateroom Is Spacious Comes With An Apple Computer And TV
Do you love staying connected to your friends and family back home? We loved that on our river cruise in France with Amawaterways, each and every stateroom came with a massive Apple computer that doubled as your stateroom TV! We even discovered that you can print as many documents as you want for free which made printing our train passes a breeze right from our own stateroom!
We also want to take a moment to talk about the bathroom! The bathroom in our Amawaterways stateroom was so fancy and massive! The shower was full-sized and you didn’t feel like you were even on a tiny river cruise ship when in that bathroom! The tile work was beautiful and the stateroom itself was understated and relaxing without being over-the-top.
11. You Will Love The Subtle Attention To Detail
When choosing your river boat cruise in France, you may not even consider the little bits of attention to detail that will be given to everything you do. For example, there are two custom umbrellas in every stateroom for you to take when you leave the ship. It rained lightly during two of our excursions so having the umbrellas was a fantastic touch! In addition, during the cruise, Amawaterways will give each guest a little gift to take home. Victoria received a pink and gold scarf which she loves and Terrence received an Amawaterways Logo hat! From the turndown service to the custom tour options, the attention to detail is quite enjoyable without being stuffy and overdone.
12. Chances Are You Will Make Friends With The Staff
If you are worried about going on a river cruise in France because you don’t want to be waited on hand and foot, you are not alone! This makes many people uncomfortable. Amawaterways offers a more relaxed Seine River cruise experience, with attentive staff who are friendly and there when you need them. They aren’t rigid or distant like you may experience at some 5-star hotels, but are kind and warm and delighted to help you. It is safe to say that everyone on board our cruise in France made friends with some of the staff!
13. You Can Enjoy A Soak Under The Stars When Taking A River Cruise In France
The hot tub on the top deck was one of the best parts of our French river cruise experience. We were shocked to find out that Amawaterways is actually one of the only cruise lines that even still offers a hot tub on board. We used it every night and there is nothing more magical than sailing past small French villages while relaxing in the warm water with the cool air flying against your face. Don’t worry, you will receive a towel and slippers to use so just put them on, hop in, and enjoy watching the world go by! We love that Amawaterways still has a hot tub for guests making it one of the best French river cruises in our book, even for that reason alone!
14. If you are on a Seine River Cruise, You Will Have The Chance To Go Through Locks
Okay, give us a moment to geek out a little here! In case you didn’t know, a lock is where boats go to be raised lower or higher when traveling on a river. They are built in a place where the height of the water suddenly changed by where there used to be rapids or a waterfall or a place that was generally impassible. For example, the Panama Canal is made up of a lot of locks to connect the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. When going on a river cruise in France on the Seine River, you will have the opportunity to go through a variety of locks.
Your boat goes into a lock and then either a ton of water [we are talking 15-20 feet] gets filled in and you raise up to meet the water level on the other side, or a ton of water is drained out until you meet the lower water level. It is actually quite fun and a little crazy to experience first hand. Even if you aren’t super into seafaring [neither of us are into it] it is still a fun little highlight to experience and to tell your family and friends about! Seine River cruises go through quite a few so you will have plenty of opportunities to document the fun.
15. A French River Cruise Is A Photographer’s Dream
Okay, we aren’t going to lie, a river cruise in France offers fun for everyone, but it is a particularly unique experience for anyone who likes photography. Being on a river cruise on the Seine offers a unique perspective to photograph landscapes and cityscapes from the water. In addition, you will never see the same thing twice! One day you will get to photograph stunning churches, the next a Chateau, and the next beautiful white cliffs. A French river cruise is always surprising you with what is just around the river bend [bonus points to anyone who knows this reference!]
Have you ever done a river cruise in France? What about a European river cruise? Who did you cruise with and how did you like it? Let us know in the comments!
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Please note: We were provided with a European river cruise for two by Amawaterways in order to be able to provide an open and honest review. All opinions you see are our own and we truly loved our experience!