Cruising along the River Seine
Having never cruised before, we weren’t sure what to expect at this point, but a double room with plenty of storage, a more than adequately-sized bathroom, tea and coffee facilities and a view was the perfect start to our adventure.
There were 1,700 on board (550 of those staff) and the ship – one of five operated by CMV – is seen by many as a home from home.
Many of our fellow passengers spoke of their previous trips with great affection and we soon understood why they were keen to return.
The ship has a wide range of comfortable lounges, together with two formal and one cafe-style restaurants – and they are all accessible by lift.
Cabin steward, Freddey, practised his towel-art
We stayed at Titanic and football-themed hotels in Liverpool and they were the perfect getaways
Panoramic seating and uninterrupted views on the many outside decks could still easily be enjoyed in late October.
The benefits of this type of holiday is that you only have to unpack once – even though we saw four different cities.
And the food? Well, that was in another league. The five-course evening meal was of a very high standard. Always hot, beautifully presented, and delivered by staff who appeared to be very proud of their role on your holiday.
First port of call
Amsterdam was our first port of call. We took in the stunning views of the city from the observation deck of the A’DAM Tower where we watched boats and ferries transporting passengers to all parts of the bustling city. If you visit, a trip on the picturesque canal ring is a must – if you can combine it with a meal onboard then that’s the icing on the cake. We hopped off at the Hermitage museum and took a look at the latest exhibition of Dutch Masters.
The next city we woke up in was Antwerp – the ship arriving almost in the main square (Grote Markt), where the statue of Brabo told us the story of how Antwerp was named. A visit, by tram, to the De Koninck brewery, and naturally a few tasters, was ideal before we enjoyed an appetising Antwerp stew. I definitely think we’ll be back – there was so much to see.
All at sea
We then had our one and only sea day and there was so much to do on board. The cricket-themed cruise meant a quiz hosted by They Think It’s All Over-host, Nick Hancock, with guests including David Gower, Chris Cowdrey and Don Topley – with humour, stories and entertainment for all. Others were involved in craft sessions, history seminars, visits to the spa and gym, but after lunch most took to the viewing decks to see most probably the selling point of this cruise – a sail down the River Seine.
I have to say, we felt like royalty. People living on the river banks were in their gardens or on their balconies, waving as we meandered past. The weather was kind, the sky blue and the sail to Rouen spectacular.
We arrived in Rouen early evening and a meal at La Couronne – the oldest inn in France founded in 1345 – was rather special. The dining room was adorned with photographs of famous people who, like us, sampled some exquisite cuisine.
Snacked Seabream with horseradish, asparagus cream and fennel at La Couronne
The following morning began with a walking tour and a visit to Rouen Cathedral, which has the tallest church spire in France – well worth a few moments of your time, and a visit to the history museum of Joan of Arc. A €10m-project combining a state-of-the-art, immersive exhibition, transporting visitors back to the Middle Ages enabling them to explore the myth and legend of France’s national heroine.
Abbaye de Jumieges
Abbaye de Jumieges, which was lit up as the ship meandered its return journey of the Seine, was opposite the restaurant. It’s an exceptional example of Romanesque Art in Normandy surrounded by centuries old trees: the facade, bare and striking is flanked by 46m towers. Late 18th and early 19th century demolition has left rugged ruins surrounding what would have been the cloister.
Our last port of call was Honfleur, a stop we may have been forgiven for thinking was the bogey prize! How far from the truth. A small bustling harbour with an abundance of shops and eating places which nestled just inside the gateway to the English channel.
Another outstanding meal onboard set us up for our overnight crossing back to Tilbury. We had experienced our first cruise. Excellent company, outstanding food and top-class service, oh, and only a few Kwells.
A springtime break, sailing on Thursday, March 8 is priced from £829 for a twin inner cabin and there are buy-one-get-one-free deals on this and a number of other packages. Check the website for the new destinations.
The company offers a traditional, no-fly, British cruise experience with small to mid-size ships departing from 11 UK ports in 2018 – Cardiff, Bristol Port, Bristol Avonmouth, London Tilbury, Harwich, Portsmouth, Poole, Liverpool, Hull, Newcastle Tyne and Dundee.
For full details, visit www.cruiseandmaritime.com
Amsterdam is so much more than a city of clichés