The “Paris Escape” is an optional, 3-night extension to the 15-day river cruise:
- 18 June – Arrival at Crowne Plaza hotel in Paris; evening cocktail reception with tour director. Dinner not provided.
- 19 June – Sightseeing tour of Notre Dame de Paris, Place de la Concorde, Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. Breakfast provided; lunch not provided. Dinner in the Montmartre area.
- 20 June – Free day to explore on your own. Breakfast included; no lunch or dinner.
- 21 June – Coach to Amsterdam (via Belgium). Breakfast provided; lunch not provided.
When we arrived at the hotel, the cruise company had a welcome table with two tour directors who gave us a timetable and some maps.
We were asked to come to the Welcome Briefing at 7 pm. There are nearly 120 people on the Paris Escape, so most of the passengers on the cruise are here.
The 7 pm session was informative, particularly to some who seem to be first-time international travellers. We were warned about pickpockets and one of the people present had already been approached by one. We received a welcome letter and name tags. Wine, beer and water was served.
6:30 am – Breakfast at the Crowne Plaza was fairly comprehensive, with plenty of selections both cooked and continental.
Paris Bus Tour
8:15 am – Paris sightseeing bus tour followed by a Seine river cruise. The bus tour had a couple of photo stops and we saw the rest of the sights fairly clearly from the bus, whereas the boat had a covered (clear) top that didn’t help with photography. The boat leaves from near the Eiffel Tower but we didn’t visit the tower itself. Continuing the brand confusion, our bus was marked Scenic Tours.
Tip: There are more attractions on the right side of the bus than the left, but the bus comes back on some roads, so both sides will get to see the sights.
Lunch – own arrangements
Dinner at Montmartre
3:45 pm – depart for Montmartre, including dinner. A bus took us to the Pigalle, below Montmartre and we boarded a small Disneyland-like “tram” and chugged our way up to the peak of Montmartre. After inspecting the basilica of Sacre Coeur, we had dinner at La Bonne Franquette – some liked the selections and some did not.
6:30 am – Breakfast
This is a do-your-own-thing day.
We could not buy a ticket to bypass the queue to go to the 3rd level of the Eiffel Tower on the 20th. We decided to do the afternoon Louvre “skip the line” tour that takes in the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. This is operated by City Wonders Ltd and we booked via Viator.
(Other passengers had booked a tour to Versailles in the morning and the Lido Cabaret in the evening).
We walked to Notre Dame Cathedral, where admission is free and non-flash photography is allowed.
We bought an all-day ticket for the hop-on-hop-off L’Open Tour buses and caught a bus near the cathedral.
We got off at Musée d’Orsay, which is a must-see museum. Go to the top level – the fifth – first before the crowds work their way to the top. There are only three levels for the exhibits – 0, 3, 5, which can be confusing. No photography is allowed.
We took the L’Open Tour bus to Trocadero (Stop 14), where you get a great view of the Eiffel Tower from across the river. We went back to Stop 14 rather than catch the bus at the Eiffel Tower, where it gets full very quickly.
Taking the photos from the top of the bus enabled us to take clear photos along the same route as the cruise company bus the previous day. There is a recorded commentary in this bus, so you get to hear about the buildings you pass. If you want to take photos without heads in the photo, you will need to catch the bus at the start of the route and grab the first row on the top of the bus. Be sure to use sun-screen.
We had pre-booked a 3-hour tour of the Louvre that let us skip the line. It was operated by City Wonders and we had a very knowledgeable guide who took us to the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and all other significant exhibits.
After the tour of the Louvre, we walked to the bus and were dismayed to hear that the day’s service had ended (it was 7 pm), so we had a very long walk back to the hotel.
Coach trip to Amsterdam
6:30 am – Breakfast (bags left outside front door)
At 7:45 we met in the lobby and left for Amsterdam by coach.
The lunch stop was Brussels where we had about two hours to look around the city centre and find our own lunch. The specialties here are beer, chocolate and waffles.
We reached Amsterdam around 5:30 pm.
Day by day
- Days -1 to -3 – Paris Extension
- Day 1 & 2 – Amsterdam
- Day 3 – Cologne
- Day 4 – Rhine Gorge – Rudesheim
- Day 5 – Miltenberg – Wertheim
- Day 6 – Wurzburg – Rothenburg
- Day 7 – Bamberg
- Day 8 – Nuremberg
- Day 9 – Kelheim – Regensburg
- Day 10 – Passau – Salzburg – Linz
- Day 11 – Melk – Durnstein
- Day 12 – Vienna
- Day 13 – Bratislava
- Day 14 – Budapest
- Day 15 – Disembarkation