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Finding Unexpected Contentment Onboard My River Cruise to Normandy

By Greg Sullivan

Sep 20, 2017

From the November/December 2017 issue

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Photo by Albert Knapp/Alamy

AFAR co-founder Greg Sullivan boarded his first river cruise expecting to enjoy his time ashore. What surprised him was how much he enjoyed the journey itself.

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I recently took my first river cruise, sailing from Paris to Normandy and back on Uniworld’s beautiful new Joie de Vivre on a trip put together by Judy Perl, a member of AFAR’s Travel Advisory Council. Waking up in a new destination each day without having to pack or unpack made the voyage so enjoyable. In Giverny, we rode bikes to Monet’s garden; in Rouen, we explored the churches and museums; in Normandy, we visited the beaches and the U.S. cemetery. Then there were the extraordinary activities Judy arranged. I was traveling with friends from Silver Oak Winery in the Napa Valley, so we had exclusive meals and tastings and visited a local farm to see how Calvados apple brandy is made.

What surprised me was how much I enjoyed the cruising itself. I love road trips and train rides when I can stare out the window and soak up the journey, but sitting with a glass of wine atop the roof of the ship in the open air, surrounded by the French countryside? Now that is the way to soak up a journey. I could read, chat with other passengers, or just eat delicious cheese and lose track of time.


The new ships that have been built by Uniworld, Viking, Crystal, and other cruise lines bring all the comforts to you: dining rooms and bars, workout rooms, a spa, and even a pool. But my favorite feature was in my cabin: a room-width window that I could lower with the touch of a button so that there was nothing between me and my surroundings.

Following the river’s path, moving at its pace, and taking in not only the sights but also the sounds and smells made me feel like I was connecting to this place in a natural—albeit very luxurious—way, one that engaged all of my senses. And it was a great reminder to appreciate the journey as well as the destination.

>>Plan Your Trip: The AFAR Guide to River Cruises

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