AMA Waterways Paris & Normandy

River Cruise

My personal cruise on the Seine river aboard the AmaLyra was an unforgettable experience! Everyone should see Paris, such a magical city! This was my second river cruise and I am now even more convinced that river cruising is an amazing way to see Europe! It is literally a luxury hotel/stateroom that moves – for this trip, from an incredible city (Paris, with unlimited offerings) to spectacular towns and villages – including Normandy. Please allow me to share my experience!

Fun in Paris – love the Eiffel Tower!


I arrived in Paris, France a day before boarding this cruise (I did not want to risk being late for my cruise due to a delayed flight ;). Arriving a little early also gave me a chance to see a few sights  (like the Eiffel Tower, taking the stairs to the second level is the best!!) and recover from jet lag before embarking the next day. I also began my culinary venture with Paris meal #1 (French Onion soup, Camembert cheese and Escargot) – it exceeded expectations (even though I almost flung the snail across the room in my effort to act like I knew what I was doing removing it from the shell)!

Setting Sail on the AmaLyra

On Day 2, our scheduled transfer took us effortlessly from our hotel to the AmaLyra (after a day in Paris, so we arrived about 3pm, just in time for check in)! Note: You can arrive earlier, snacks and activities are available. We were met at the car by some of the amazing staff who insisted on taking our luggage, directed us up the walkway onto the ship where we were quickly escorted to our cabin – no waiting! Accommodations were fantastic! The AmaLyra is a bit smaller than some of AMA’s ships, but that also equates to fewer passengers – so it is easy to get to know people from all over the world! (one of my favorite things about river cruising) After unpacking and settling into our cabin, we made our way to the Welcome Cocktail party where we met the captain, the cruise manager, hotel manager, others in the crew and fellow passengers. We took a moment to select the (included) excursions we preferred for the week, then were off to the first (of seven) incredible dinners – each designed around the area we were visiting. I promise, you will NEVER be hungry :)! To offset all the irresistible food, AMA has a new fitness program with so many options – our host on this trip was Selina Wank (she impressed me in so many ways; so knowledgeable of all aspects of fitness and impeccable people skills). I adored the walks and workouts! Back to our departure … after dinner, with passengers on the Sun Deck, we detoured back a bit on the Seine to get a spectacular view of the Sparkling Eiffel Tower and replica of the Statue of Liberty.

The light show is incredible!

Day 3, found us sailing into Vernon, arriving around 10:30am, after a fabulous breakfast in the main dining room (you can dine from the buffet or order from the menu). There is a Late Riser’ option of pastries in the Lounge too (normally, this is me – but considering where I was, I couldn’t resist rising early). This day was breathtaking! Vernon is known for its vicinity to Giverny and Monet’s house – hint: check out the movie “Midnight in Paris”. The walk to Monet’s house and gardens was a treat and the story mesmerizing. The gardens were SO MUCH like the paintings! I am ready to return! Wonderful history is shared by AMA along the way (no spoilers from me :).

The gardens were so spectacular!

Day 4 brought us to Caudebec-en-Caux, the westernmost point of the cruise. A Farmers’ Market is located steps away from the dock! We did the afternoon Honfleur Excursion – a picturesque port, characterized by the pastel, slate-fronted houses (painted often by artists). The photos were exquisite and the area incredible! This is a great place to sample Calvados (a pear and apple-based brandy from the northern part of France – with a history dating back nearly 500 years, the region has a long tradition of distilling their ciders into delicious and complex spiritis). The day wrapped up with a lecture on World War II and D-day. This made me think even more about what our United States and world would be had that battle not occurred – so very surreal.

Day 5 took us to the Normandy Beaches and details about the battles of D-Day in 1944. Such an experience, everyone should have it – I really cannot describe. Pretty sure it’s something different for everyone, amazing for me (family and friends offered stories when they learned I was visiting). In addition to the immersion in history, the cheeses we dined on were out of this world!

An experience I will never forget

On Day 6, we awoke in Rouen – the historic capital of Normandy, it is like a walk through history with elegant spires, a restored medieval quarter, the soaring Gothic cathedral, galleries and antique shops. We started the day with a Guided Bike tour – in the rain (but, it was still an excellent experience!). We saw a Plague Pit, where students were excavating bones that were buried during the time when the plague claimed many lives – it was fascinating. Another great lunch and we were (somehow) off in the afternoon to a Gourmet Tour in Rouen – so much local cuisine to try! We learned about Joan of Arc and retraced her last steps. There were guest musicians in the Lounge after dinner, then an unforgettable Light Show at the Rouen Cathedral – the show was like nothing I have ever witnessed (such a unique treat!).

Day 7 brought a morning of sailing along the Seine River – to picturesque Les Andelys, through the lock of Amfreville (the locks are incredible). Upon arrival, we were able to tour the ruins of Richard the Lionheart’s Castle, Chateau Gallard (perched high on a hill overlooking the Seine Valley – what a breathtaking view!

Day 8 (this is such a wonderful trip!) finds us in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine and off on another great biking Tour to Herblaye. We learned more about Vincent Van Gough and Josephine & Napoleon Bonaparte and enjoyed our last full day of this adventure. The evening included a Farewell Cocktail event and a fantastic Farewell Dinner, where we enjoyed sharing memories of the week with our new friends and adding them on Facebook :)!

On Day 9, our cruise came to an end (or in my case, it was just time to plan the next one!) – AmaWaterways made disembarking as easy as embarking. We were off to explore more of Paris! After dropping bags at our hotel, we activated our Paris Pass and started with the Hop On Hop Off Big Bus – to get an understanding of the city layout and the location of the sights we wanted to visit!

It took a while to locate the Mona Lisa, the Louvre is massive!

It was impossible to see everything in our remaining two days (I will definitely return to this spectacular city), but some of the highlights were: Climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, walking along the Avenue des Champs Elysees and dining at a wonderful sidewalk cafe, exploring the Louvre (the Mona Lisa was so much smaller than I envisioned), wine tasting, visiting Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, Musee d’Orsay, Musee de l’Orangerie, the Montparnasse Tower 56th Floor and the Pantheon. We strolled through the Latin Quarter, experienced the tube and wrapped up our visit lounging on the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower sipping Champagne. A truly magical vacation!