My Viking River Cruise Along the Seine: Part 2

This is Part 2 of my 8 day Viking River Cruise trip from Paris & The Heart of Normandy along the Seine River in France. Viking invited me on this cruise and I am happy to share my trip experience with you.

Embarking on a Viking River Cruise along the Seine River in France

If you haven’t read my previous post about the first three days of the cruise from Paris to Vernon and Giverny.

Map-of-Port-Stops-on-Paris-to-Heart-of-Normandy-Viking-Cruise

The river cruise started outside of Paris in Le Pec and then we traveled north on the Seine to Rouen, where we stayed for two days. While docked there, Ed and I took two excursions. One to the picturesque 17th century harbor town of Honfleur and the next day to the US D-Day beaches along the Normandy coast.

The next two days, took us to Les Andelys and Mantes-la-Jolie.

Viking River Cruise buses that take passenger's on day excursions off the ship.

EXCURSION & TOUR TIP: When on a river cruise, you can decide what you want to do in each port before the trip. Viking has a detailed list of all the excursions and tours you can take. Seven were included in the price of the tour. 8 others are “optional” where you pay a separate price. I wanted to go on all of them, but you can only pick one a day or maybe two if they are half day tours, not all day excursions. We had two all day excursions scheduled that we went on via a Viking River Cruise bus. Both of these were optional tours,

I was a little sad not to get to go on all the seven offered tours. Happily, at dinner, when everyone was back onboard, we got to see photos and hear about the tours we didn’t take. There were lots of cell phones getting passed around to see photos of what we missed.

Going Through River Locks While on The Ship

Cruise-on-the-river-Seine

One thing that I didn’t realize about river cruising is that the ship has to go through many locks, where the water level of the river changes. We went through a few, most at night.

Going through a river lock

It was fascinating to watch.

in a river lock on the Seine in France

I watched from an outdoor deck of the ship as we transited this lock. It took about 10 minutes for the water to rise to the top and then the gates opened and we were cruising again.

View on a ship going through a lock on the Seine river.

When inside the ship and depending on how wide the lock was, some were a pretty tight fit as you can see from my photos.

It was all very smooth and was quite an education for me. :-)

DAY 4: Rouen & Honfleur

View of Rouen France from a Viking River Cruise ship.

On day four and five of the cruise, we docked in Rouen for two nights. This was my least favorite port as we were docked right near the highway. It was noisy.

Rouen is the capital of Normandy. It is called the “City of a Hundred Spires” with many churches, the largest being the Notre Dame Cathedral that make its presence known with its tall spire.

I learned that there are a lot of Notre Dame Cathedrals in France, not just the one in Paris.

While in Rouen, there was a Rouen Walking Tour to the medieval quarter, and a Farm & Countryside Tour that were both included with the cruise.

Honfleur Harbor with boats, shops and restaurants.

We opted to pay extra and take the optional day bus tour called: Picturesque Honfluer on Foot.

Outdoor cafe along water in Honfleur France

Even though it rained while in the 17th century harbor town of Honfleur, we enjoyed walking around the coastal town where historic houses line the quay amid quaint galleries…

Chalkboard menu outside a restaurant in Honfleur France

…and many eateries, all with chalkboard menus outside.

Outdoor cafes in the rain in Honfleur on the coast of Normandy

I had to imagine how nice it would have been on a sunny day to sit at one of these outdoor cafes watching the boats move in and out of the harbor.

Outdoor cafes in the rain in Honfleur on the coast of Normandy

Some of the seating was very stylish.

Restaurant in Honfleur France

Everywhere I looked, there was something pretty. Flowers along rooflines…

Hotel in Honfleur, France

…and cobblestone streets all over the town, including a patchwork of them in front of the Les Maisons De Léa hotel.

17th Century Cobblestone street with sewage area in center.

Most of the cobblestone streets from centuries ago are still intact and used every day. Although the medieval sewage system has been replaced. :-) No more middle of the road channel in the road needed.

Wooden Church of St Catherine in Honfleur

We toured the very old wooden Church of St. Catherine.

Red storefront in Honfleur

And bought chocolate at the local Chocolaterie.

Basket filled with green bottles of French wine.

Our tour guide told us all about the region’s apples and the liquor Calvados and cider made from them. For apple brandy to be true Calvados, it must be produced in the Normandy region of France and must be aged in oak casks for at least two years.

Drinking Calvados apple cider and brandy in Honfleur

We stopped to get a taste of the cider and a small shot of Calvados with an apple tart. All were delicious.

Outdoor cafe in Honfleur

We had plenty of time after our tour to walk around the town on our own. I would have liked to stay in Honfleur longer so we could enjoy eating at a few of the cafes…

Cobblestone street in Honfleur

… and leisurely browse the shops.

Honfleur Harbor near the coast of Normandy.

It was a colorful, charming town where centuries old meets present day and all blends together beautifully.

TIP: When going on the bus tours you can safely keep your belongings on the bus when you leave it to tour. I took bottles of water (Viking hands these out when you leave the ship to go on tours), an extra jacket and umbrella. I was glad I did as we did get wet. I was happy to have a dry jacket for the ride home.

The bus tour back to the ship in Rouen was about an hour. Some of the trip was through charming towns and the rest was on the highway. I found both interesting.

DAY 5: Normandy D-Day Beaches US

To get to the Normandy coast, we took another bus tour. This tour was the most popular on the cruise.

Getting to go to the beaches at Normandy was one of the highlights of the trip for many, including me.

It was somewhere I would have liked to go with my dad. He had always wanted to go back to remember when he arrived as a 19 year old onto Omaha Beach in 1944, two months after the D-Day invasion. He spent the rest of the war in France and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. My brother and he had talked about going, but never did.

Like me, many of the passengers took the cruise to see the D-Day museum, memorial and cemetery.

View of channel off the coast of Normandy

The bus with a tour guide took us all around the coast where the American beaches were located. There was another tour that went to the Canadian landing beaches.

TIP: Wear sneakers or your most comfortable shoes as you will be walking a lot. A pair of binoculars will help you see the remnants of the war infrastructure out in the water and in far off areas along the coast.

We got off the buses at a few different stops. The first was in Arromanches, where we toured the D-Day museum and walked around the town and enjoyed its stunning views of the coast…

Interesting homes along the English Channel in France.

… and beautiful homes.

Cobblestone street along the Normandy beaches.

It was a quiet and quaint, yet open and airy town. The residential area was up on the hill.

Flowers along a cobblestone street on the coast on the northern coast of France

Large clusters of sea air loving flowers everywhere.

Arromanches Debarkment D-Day D-Day Museum and gift shop

The tourist stops were found in the lower section of the town.

A section of the WW2 protable temporary Mulberry Harbor that moved a huge volume fo troops from landing craft and ships to the beaches at Normandy.

All over the town you’ll find remnants from the war, each with signage explaining their importance and how they were used. This is a section from the genius, portable Mulberry Harbor that moved huge volumes of cargo and troops from the water to land.

Photos of WW II GI's from 1945 on walls in current day Normandy France

After leaving Arromanches, we headed for the German bunker area of the coast.

On our way, we passed many large black and white photos displayed on walls and buildings. All were taken during the war. I found them fascinating, seeing the actual road, building, wall and town in the photos that are still standing today.

Touring the Normandy  Dday beaches

When we arrived at the German bunker area, things got a little quiet. There were many signs and plaques to read explaining the significance of the landmarks.

Touring the D-Day Landing beaches in Normandy.

If you have seen the movie, Saving Private Ryan, then you have seen these bunkers on the big screen. Having seen the movie along with, The Longest Day, I felt I had been here before. Both movies depict the area well.

Machine gun in WW2 bunker on the beaches of Normandy in France

Even though these guns are destroyed, just knowing what they did made me take pause.

Cemetery at US Normandy Beaches

As did walking through the resting place of 9400 American service men and women. It was sobering to think that if my dad had come 2 months earlier to France, I might not even be here today.

Normandy and American Memorial in France

The skies were gray, but even if it had been sunny, the mood around the memorial would have been somber.

Touring the American Beaches at Normandy in France

Many of the tourists were older, which made me think they came to remember, just like my dad wanted to do.

Walking path at the WW2 memorial in Normandy.

We had plenty of time to walk all over.

Maps of Allied Ships getting ready for D Day Invasion of France

I love studying maps and this one taught me a lot about the D-Day invasion that I didn’t know.

At-Memorial-service-in-Normandy

At one point in our tour, they called all of the veterans forward. There were more than thirty and Ed even found two other Naval Academy alumni, albeit from an earlier class. Everyone sang the Star Spangled banner, followed by a playing of Taps. Many tears all around.

9400 white crosses at the Normandy American Cemetery.

We walked around, reading names and noting where each service person was from and in most cases, the shortness of their lives.

Walking along a path at the American D-D landing cemetery.

The entire cemetery and memorial is along the rocky coast. There were viewing areas all along the paths so visitors could get a good look at the staging area of D-Day.

Retro Tour Normandy in a Motorcycle and sidecar

When we were walking back to the bus, seeing this Retro Tour touring motorcycle with sidecar put a smile back on my face. What a fun way to explore the area. You can find out more at: retro-tour.com.

Omaha Beach in Normandy, France

Our last stop along the coast was to Omaha Beach.

WW 2 monumnet

Again, a somber place with a memorial built right on the beach.

Scooping up sand from Omaha Beach in Normandy

Many of the passengers including us, collected a little bit of the beach in a small glass jar that was given to us on the tour bus. I gave it to my nephew who knows more about WWII than most veterans. I knew he would honor it.

DAY 6: Les Andelys

On day 6, we headed back the way we came on the Seine. It was an overcast day, but no rain so we could do everything we planned.

On a Viking River Cruise along the Seine in the Normandy region of France.

This section of the Seine was the most scenic. As we got closer to Les Andelys, white chalk cliffs came in view.

The most scenic castle ruins on the Seine River valley in Les Andelys France

Then the ruins of the Chateau Gaillard came into view. It was the most stunning site.

Normandy Viking Cruise port stop in Les Andelys, France

We stopped here for the day. There were two tours. One was an included walking tour of the ruins. The other was an optional tour of La Roche-Guyon Castle and village.

Map of the what the Chateau Gaillard once looked like.
What the Chateau Gaillard looked like back in the 12th Century

We went on the walking tour to see the castle ruins, but decided to do it on our own and not wait for the tour.

Looking down on the Seine in Les Andelys France ruins of the Chateau Gaillard

It was a long steep uphill walk. We kept looking back down to the river as we climbed higher and the ship appeared smaller.

The Seine River valley in Les Andelys, France

The views of the area were far and wide.

The Seine River valley in Les Andelys, France

We could understand why Richard the Lionheart of England, also known as the Duke of Normandy, built this stronghold fortress on this hill back in the 12th century.

Chateau Gaillard in Les Andelys France

As we got closer to the ruins, I had to keep reminding myself that this was not a Disney attraction, but the real ruins of a medieval castle…

In the ruins of a moat at the Chateau Gaillard

…that probably had a moat around it.

The gate at the Chateau Gaillard

It was truly amazing to walk around and touch the stones.

Inside the ruins of the Chateau Gaillard

As we walked around the ruins, I tried to imagine what each section once held.

Diane of In My Own Style by the ruins of the Chateau Gaillard

Out here must have been the the guard shacks. :-)

Blogger Diane Henkler in France on a Viking River Cruise along the Seine

Touring the ruins was quite different from the beaches and other sites we had seen so far on the cruise. It is one of many things that I liked about traveling with Viking. Every day was something new and different.

The 12th century town of Les Andelys, France

Walking down the hill brought us back to the town. We walked around a little to take a closer look at the ancient buildings.

a Town in France from the Middle Ages still vibrant

Some centuries old, right next to 20th century new.

a door to no where in Les Andelys

Others, like this door to an outdoor section of a restaurant were charming.

Antiques store in Les Andelys France

To the first antique store I have ever been in that is older than some of the antiques being sold inside.

DAY 7: Mantes-la-Jolie

The last day of the cruise, we docked in Mantes-la Jolie. This was a busy town, not too far from Paris.

The tours starting from this port were to Napoleon’s Chateau and The Palace of Versailles.

Shopping in a charming town in Normandy.

Ed had been to Versailles on a previous trip to France and I was happy just walking around the town, so we didn’t go on the tours. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the French people living everyday life out in their town.

Wood braces in place to secure a 16th century Tudor style building.

We saw more old and new, some old with a little new assistance needed.

Old centuries old tower in France

Other old and new, seamlessly working together.

Ed putting on the Viking River cruise ship putting green.

After 7 days of touring and 4 days in Paris before the cruise, we were happy to go back to the ship and enjoy the top deck where Ed practiced his putting.

Herb garden growing on the top deck of a Viking River Cruise ship.

And I sat back and relaxed with a glass of wine.

Dinner on Viking River Cruise

Soon it was dinner and then back to our stateroom to pack for home.

DAY 8: Back to Le Pec & Paris

From start to finish, Viking took care of everything to get us from the ship to wherever we were going. This was the case when we left to go home, also.

Once we had our bags packed and tagged with our name, they were taken out to a luggage staging area. When it was our time to depart, Viking had a car waiting for us to take us to the airport. No stressful taxi ride, subway or Uber needed.

If you want to extend your trip, Viking offers what they call EXPLORE MORE packages where you can extend your journey in Paris, Oxford & Highclere Castle (the real Downton Abbey) or the Loire Valley.

We didn’t take advantage of this as we booked our trip late in the season and they were all booked. We ended up making our own plans to tour Paris for 4 days before our trip. I highly recommend taking the time to see more if you can.

MORE CRUISE INFORMATION:

This Viking Cruise was a first for Ed and I and I hope it won’t be our last. You can find out more about Viking and all the cruises they offer, both on rivers and oceans all around the world on their website.

If you have questions about anything or something I didn’t cover, please ask in the comments.

If you would like to see more of the European River cruises Viking offers, there are many, head over to my friend, Kelly’s post, where she is sharing: What It is Like to Take a Rhine River Getaway Cruise.

If you missed my other trip to France posts and would like to read them, you can find them, here:

My Must-Have’s For Effortless Travel

This post contains affiliate links which means if you purchase an item I recommend, I will make a small commission.

When going on a river cruise you might want to consider taking travel size binoculars, a lightweight cardigan, crossbody handbag and compact luggage that will fit in a closet or under a bed.

Click on the items below for more details:

What to see and do on a Viking River Cruise along the Seine in the Normandy region of France

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33 Comments

  1. One more thank you for these wonderful posts. Your lovely photos, comments and suggestions are much appreciated, especially for some of the small towns I previously knew very little about. My husband and I are scheduled for same cruise in May 2021 and plan to spend a couple of pre-cruise days in Paris. Hoping our plans aren’t just wishful thinking! Apparently Viking now has some new ships that are specifically designed for the Seine, so we should be able to embark from the Paris pier near the Eiffel Tower. (This may also depend on river levels.)
    Thank you again !

    1. Hi Catherine – You will truly enjoy the cruise. I am longing to take another. I read yesterday that Viking has cancelled all the cruises for 2020. So sad for the company. I hope they can recover once we get a handle on the virus and you get to enjoy your trip in May.

  2. Thank you for posting this informative article on your Normandy cruise. I am going with my family in September. Our father spent five years in Europe and Africa during WWll. You said you purchased two excursions during the trip, but I only noted the Honfluer on Foot; what was the other one? Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. My siblings don’t travel much, but were motivated to cross the Big Pond to tour Paris and Normandy.

    1. Hi Kathleen –

      The two excursion packages we bought were: Monet’s Garden by Bicycle and Honfleur on Foot. You are going to love the cruise, the tours, the staff…food everything. It was a fabulous trip. Enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions. I will be happy to answer them for you.

  3. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your review and spectacular photos from your recent Viking cruise. One of your photo captions really startled me. You said your dad landed on Omaha Beach in 1944 two days after D-Day. My Dad was in the CB’s and landed on Omaha Beach one day after D-Day. I grew up hearing many stories. Still hope to get there one day.

    1. Hi Suzanne – My dad arrived in France, 2 months after D-Day. My siblings and I, especially as we got older heard many stories from my dad about his time in WWII. My nephew became quite knowledgeable about the war as he and my dad were close and spent a lot of time together. I am so happy I got to see the coast and learn a lot I didn’t know about D-Day. It was truly an amazing feat to have accomplished. I hope you can travel to see it.

  4. I know it’s very tacky to talk about money, but approximately what would this trip have cost, do you know? It’s just amazing, and I would love to do something like this one day. Just beautiful… Your pictures are great and I’m thinking you should moonlight as a travel blogger!

    1. I was wondering the same thing as we’ve seen advertisements before and have thought about going…

      1. Hi Margaret – I am not sure if my reply to Sara about the cost of the Viking cruise would get to you, so I am responding to your reply to her comment directly to you.

        The prices of the cruises vary by time of the year, stateroom and length of the trip. On the Viking Cruise site, you can find what each cruise costs. Viking also has deals on airfare that could save you money on your flights.

        The cost of the cruise I went on varies in price by the time of year. For a basic stateroom $2549. A Veranda Stateroom that I stayed in $4249. To stay in one of the Explorer Suites where you have more than one room $6749. There are also always special deals that you can get in on that will save you money. Let me know if you have anymore questions.

    2. Hi Sara –

      The prices of the cruises vary by time of the year, stateroom and length of the trip. On the Viking Cruise site, you can find what each cruise costs. Viking also has deals on airfare that could save you money on your flights.

      The cost of the cruise I went on varies in price by the time of year. For a basic stateroom $2549. A Veranda Stateroom that I stayed in $4249. To stay in one of the Explorer Suites where you have more than one room $6749. There are also always special deals that you can get in on that will save you money. Let me know if you have anymore questions.

      I would love to be a part-time travel blogger. :-)

  5. Love your pics! My husband and I are going to France in April of this year. Question ….. Are you wearing a Poncho or a wrap? I’m trying to decide what type of outerwear to take with me. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Denise – I had a light wool poncho. I also had a wrap for when we went out to dinner. I wanted to feel a little dressier. I wore the poncho, wrap or had a long sleeve shirt on during the entire trip. I am not sure what the temps are in France in April, but I would suggest taking a light jacket and a cardigan… and one of those plastic rain ponchos that fold up into a neat little envelope. If it rains while you are out touring, you will be very happy to have it.

  6. Love your pics! My husband and I are going to France in April of this year. Question ….. Are you wearing a Poncho or a wrap? I’m trying to decide what type of outerwear to take with me. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Linda – I had a light wool poncho. I also had a wrap for when we went out to dinner. I wanted to feel a little dressier. I wore the poncho, wrap or had a long sleeve shirt on during the entire trip. I am not sure what the temps are in France in April, but I would suggest taking a light jacket and a cardigan… and one of those plastic rain ponchos that fold up into a neat little envelope. If it rains while you are out touring, you will be very happy to have it.

  7. Thank you for sharing your wonderful trip! I enjoyed all your beautiful photos . Although I traveled extensively through Europe in the early 1990’s…so many years have passed and I am now going to take my daughter to Paris this summer. What arrondissement section would you recommend we book our hotel? There are several well known near the louvre…however, I have read so many wonderful experiences in the latin quarter as well…but since it will just be my daughter and I…no tour company…I am concerned about safety. Thank you so much!!

    1. Hi Cynthia – When I was in Paris in the fall, we stayed right on the border of the 5th and 6th Arrondissements. I felt very safe. It is right between St. Germain and the Latin Quarter. Anywhere around the Louvre would be nice also, but more crowded. We rode bikes all over and I liked the St. Germain area the best.

  8. Diane thanks for sharing! You described the entire trip in living color!!!! Hopefully one day we will be able to enjoy a Viking River tour. Thanks again!!!

  9. What a lovely time you enjoyed! I’m terrible on tours because I want to know EVERYTHING about what I’m seeing. These photos are just lovely and I appreciate your sharing them!

  10. Diane, I thoroughly enjoyed reading all your posts about your trip and cruise. Thanks so much for sharing. We are going at the end of September. We will start trip will start in Paris, and then we have a private guide for the week taking us to LeMans, Mont St. Michel, Mere St. Eglise, Arromanches, Utah and Omaha beaches, Deauville/Trouville, Honfleur, Rouen and Vernon/Giverny. Finally, we have an extension of our trip on our own to Bruges and Brussels. I appreciate all your tips. Of course, seeing all your photos makes me look forward to seeing it all in person.

  11. Thank you for such a detailed account of your Viking cruise trip! We have been thinking of going on one and you answered many questions I had and your photos are fabulous.

    1. Hi Margot – Happy to hear my post and photos helped you learn more about what taking a Viking Cruise is like. We enjoyed the trip very much and look forward to going on another one.

  12. Diane, Bill and I enjoyed meeting you and Ed in this cruise. You did a great job capturing the beauty of a Viking trip . Thanks for sharing. Becky

    1. Hi Becky – Thanks. It is hard to believe we took the trip back in the fall. We are looking forward to taking another Viking cruise again, the hardest part is deciding which one to take, there are so many to choose from. Hope you have a nice weekend.

      1. The Rhine is a very pretty river. Lots prettier than the Seine. But you can’t beat Paris

  13. Diane, so fun to read about your cruise as well as Kelly’s. She went on the same one we did last May. Didn’t you love your Viking cruise. We can’t wait for the next one in September!

    1. Hi Rhoda – The cruise was such a grand adventure, unlike any other trip we have taken before. We are looking forward to another and heard many on our trip that have been on quite a few. I think once you go, you kind of get hooked exploring the world in comfort. Where are you headed in September?