Day 4 – CroisiEurope’s Botticelli: Caudebec-en-Caux & The Abbey Trail
Following yesterday’s inspiring visit to Monet’s gardens in Giverny, we spent another morning of scenic cruising as CroisiEurope’s Botticelli made its way down the Seine toward Honfleur.
The relaxed morning on board gave me time to reflect on where CroisiEurope fits in the overall river cruise marketplace. In this post, I’ll provide a few insights to help you determine if CroisiEurope could be the right choice for you.
Certainly, there are cruise companies that offer a more upscale experience than when compared with CroisiEurope — AmaWaterways, Uniworld and Viking River Cruises, to name a few. You’ll want to research those companies on River Cruise Advisor and compare them with CroisiEurope based on your own budget and preferred style of cruising.
Are you a Europhile who wants an immersive experience mixing with Europeans on your river cruise? While CroisiEurope may be a good choice for you, it’s not the only choice. A-ROSA is a European-based cruise line that is also ramping up efforts to attract North Americans.
But while A-ROSA schedules a handful of sailings that are marketed only to North Americans, CroisiEurope’s cruises are never sold exclusively to one demographic, so you will be cruising with Europeans and others from around the world on any of the ships in the CroisiEurope fleet. On our sailing: a mix of English speakers, who hail from as far away as New Zealand, and Europeans, primarily French.
One area where CroisiEurope stands alone, however, is pricing. No other river cruise will cost you less than those offered by CroisiEurope.
Of course, if you’re someone who believes that you get what you pay for, CroisiEurope’s attractive lead-in prices may beg the question, What do you get for per diems of around US$175 per person?
1. A decent stateroom. You get a stateroom on every river cruise. True enough, but let’s begin with the basics. Botticelli features two configurations of cabins: 24 superior cabins upstairs and 51 standard cabins downstairs — for a total capacity of 150 passengers. The most notable difference between the two cabin configurations is that the upstairs cabins on deck 2 have large sliding glass windows. The downstairs cabins have rectangular, fixed windows. I described the cabins in detail, with photos in Boarding Botticelli in Paris: First Impressions.
2. French food. On CroisiEurope, you get something you’re not likely to get on any other river cruiser, at least not on a consistent basis: authentic French food. The chef is French. In fact, of the crew, only the chef, the captain and a few sailors on Botticelli are French. The rest of the crew is primarily comprised of Hungarians, who are warm and gracious in performing their duties. Why not a full French crew? Well, that’s a delicate topic. Let’s put it this way. There are two working groups on strike in France as I write these words: the airline workers, who are causing flight delays and cancellations; and the train workers, who are causing delays in the train schedules. No offense intended against those still residing in the land of my ancestors, but would you really want to rely on a French crew to show up on time and in a cheerful mood?
The dining experience on Botticelli has exceeded expectations. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the food. Each day of our cruise thus far, we’ve enjoyed what one person at our table of eight described as “Country French” cuisine. Today, for example, we enjoyed Cordon Bleu, accompanied by diced, lightly fried potatoes and peas in a creamy sauce. It was delicious. At each lunch and dinner, the main dishes are accompanied by some sort of starter. At lunch, we’ve enjoyed beautiful salads before our main course. At dinner, we had a wonderful pate as a starter one evening.
After the main course, cheese has been served at most meals, followed by desserts that have been delicious and served with an after-dinner espresso or cappuccino. The only buffet is the breakfast buffet. Dining on Botticelli is the type of dining experience you might want to have if you were traveling through France.
3. French wines & open bar. To accompany our French lunches and dinners, we’ve also enjoyed a selection of complimentary French wines. We chose from French whites, reds and rosés, with bottles of wine placed at our table (and the white and rosé wines put in a chilled bucket at our table). All wines have received high marks from my dining companions and from others who I have spoken with this week.
Before or after dinner, or anytime we choose, we have access to an open bar. Beer, wine, sparkling wine, spirits, soft drinks, speciality coffees and tea, juices, sparkling water — all are included at no additional cost. Read more about the beverage policy in this post, Boarding Botticelli in Paris: First Impressions.
5. Complimentary WiFI. As on most all river cruisers, we have access to complimentary WiFi. When it works well, it works well. When it doesn’t, it can be frustrating. Spotty and snail’s pace connectivity is by and large the case on nearly all river cruisers.
6. City centers. Botticelli has one deck less and shallower drafts than many other river cruise vessels. Of the major river cruise operators, CroisiEurope operates the only fleet that can make it into the heart of Paris, under the bridges to cruise past Notre Dame, and, at the other end of the Seine, into the harbor at Honfleur. The ability to offer these experiences gives CroisiEurope something that no other river cruise company can claim.
There are some things you won’t get on Botticelli: a fitness center, bicycles or spa. If these are important to your river cruise experience, Botticelli may not be the boat for you. Nor are tours included on Botticelli, and as mentioned in an earlier post, the cost of the tours is something you’ll need to factor in to the overall cost of your cruise on CroisiEurope. Read more about the cost of tours on CroisiEurope in this post.
Tomorrow, I’ll report on our sailing into the heart of Honfleur. Stay tuned.
I’m cruising on CroisiEurope’s Botticelli from the heart of Paris to the heart of Honfleur. Be sure to follow along in real time on Instagram and Twitter @avidcruiser, using the hashtag #livevoyagereport. You’ll find a listing of each daily report in the calendar below this post.
CroisiEurope, Botticelli, Paris-Honfleur & Return
|Friday, June 20, 2014||Paris, France||Boarding between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Paris. Time to settle comfortably in your cabins before meeting the crew during a welcome cocktail reception. Dinner on board before departing on a cruise by night to tour the sights of the French capital.|
|Saturday, June 21, 2014||Paris, France||Breakfast on board. The day will be dedicated to the discovery of Paris. Morning optional guided tour of Paris, which will begin with famous landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées. Lunch on the ship followed by a free afternoon to stroll round Paris. Dinner and a free evening or go on to a cabaret (optional).|
|Sunday, June 22. 2014||Vernon, France||Buffet breakfast on board before cruising to reach Vernon around 12.30 p.m. Lunch on board. In the afternoon, take the opportunity to visit the Claude Monet Foundation in Giverny, a charming pink house with green shutters which has been patiently restored and reveals the painter’s daily life. As you wander round the house, visit Monet’s huge workshop, bathed in the light that he cherished so much, the blue living room, the yellow dining room and the famous garden full of flowers and finally the Japanese style water garden. Return to the ship for dinner before cruising off towards Caudebec-en-Caux.|
|Monday, June 23. 2014||Caudebec-en-Caux, France||Buffet breakfast on board while cruising along through magnificent scenery and steep cliffs at the foot of which nestle charming little villages. Lunch on board before arriving in Caudebec-en-Caux around 1 p.m. In the afternoon, leave on a guided tour (optional) to discover the abbeys trail beginning with the abbey of Saint-Wandrille, then on to Jumièges, and the ruins of one of the most beautiful abbeys in France, not forgetting the church of St Pierre, one of the finest examples of 10th century Norman architecture. Return to the ship for around 6 p.m. for dinner before sailing on towards Honfleur (subject to the tides).|
|Tuesday, June 24, 2014||Honfleur, France||After breakfast depart on an excursion (optional) to the “Côte Fleurie” (flowered coast) and the towns of Trouville and Deauville including a stop on the way to visit a Calvados distillery and tasting. Return to the ship for lunch. The afternoon will be spent on a guided visit of Honfleur (optional). Lying at the foot of the Côte de Grace, the town will enchant you with its old port, the church of St Catherine entirely made out of wood, its picturesque streets and outer harbour dotted with little fishing boats. Or full day guided tour (lunch included) to the beaches of the Normandy landings (only as a pre-booked tour and a minimum of 30 participants). Departure by coach to reach Pointe du Hoc passing the towns of Omaha Beach, Coleville sur Mer and its American cemetery. We stop in Arromanches after lunch to watch the film “The Price of Liberty.” Return to the ship for dinner and a free evening.|
|Wednesday, June 25, 2014||Rouen, France||Early morning start and breakfast while cruising along a superb valley whose light variations inspired not only the impressionist painters but also many poets, before passing under the splendid Normandy Bridge. Lunch on board before arriving in Rouen around 2 p.m. Depart on a guided tour of the town (optional) to discover the cathedral, its historic quarters and the “Place du Vieux Marché” where Joan of Arc was burnt alive at the stake. Return to the ship for dinner and an entertaining evening.|
|Thursday, June 26, 2014||Les Andelys, France||After breakfast, cruise off toward les Andelys, through the lock in Amfreville, arriving around midday. Lunch on board. The afternoon will be spent visiting the Martainville castle (optional). Discover this rich house, the holiday home that belonged to a wealthy banker of the XVth century. Today it has become the museum of Norman arts and traditions. In the castle you will find a unique collection of objects made and used in Normandy between the XVth and the XIXth century. Return on board. Gala dinner and evening while cruising.|
|Friday, June 27, 1014||Paris, France||Breakfast on board before arriving in Paris around 8 a.m. before disembarking. End of our journey.|