I lived in Paris over 30 years ago, and although returning there several times since, the city is ever changing, and with the Olympics due here in 2024, having a big clean up at present.
However, I had never sailed along the Seine river as far as Caudebec-en-Caux (replacing Le Havre due to a broken Lock upstream) in Normandy. I also travelled as a solo passenger - my journey began with an easy afternoon flight from London Heathrow, and on arrival in Paris, an AmaWaterways representative and driver were waiting for me for the 30-minute drive to the docking station of Javel.
Once onboard, I found the lounge where I relished a cup of tea and had a quick snack. The ship holds 140 passengers, but there were just under 100 on this voyage, mainly Americans and Canadians, so I was the only British guest on the ship. However, new friendships were quickly established and with other solo guests onboard, I was never on my own during the Sip 'n Sail cocktail hour prior to dinner when we were given information on the following day's plans, or during mealtimes.
AmaDante is one of the oldest in the AmaWaterways fleet, but very spacious, with a large lounge/bar area where there is a 24-hour tea/coffee station, and where the Early Risers Breakfast of pastries, rolls, fruit, etc. was taken and any entertainment onboard took place. There is a main restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and additional The Chef's Table at the back of the ship (oddly located next to the small fitness room and hair salon) where I sampled the seven-course tasting menu matched with complementing wines.
This seats no more than 40 people, and needs to be reserved, although there is no additional charge to eat here and you can watch the chef prepare the menu right in front of you. There are good choices in both restaurants for vegetarians and those guests with special dietary requirements (ie: gluten free).
My stateroom was located on the Cello deck, one deck above the waterline, and with a French Balcony - sliding door to open - which had a Queen bed (can be converted to twin beds), ample storage space with wardrobes, drawers, dressing table, bedside tables and bathroom with basin, toilet and shower. Toiletries are provided, along with dressing gowns, slippers, hairdryer, safe and umbrellas in case of rain!
There was a flat-screen TV with a good choice of films, documentaries and shows to watch - TV channels are limited, but there is not much time to watch anyway if you are out on excursions during the day. Music choices covered several genres, and there was complimentary wi-fi throughout the ship including a keyboard and mouse in the staterooms. Laundry service was available throughout the cruise at an additional cost.
Entertainment is quite low-key; there is an onboard musician and during the seven-night itinerary, we had three nights when guest entertainers boarded the ship for the evening. There were also two nights for Captain's Cocktails (Welcome and Farewell) and dinners, so a chance to get a bit dressed up, otherwise it is very informal and casual attire throughout the day and evening.
There are bikes onboard the ship, and in each port of call (except for the Landings tours) these were available to book and a guide would be with you throughout. Other shore excursions were varied - due to the broken lock further up the river, we could not sail into the port of Le Havre as originally planned, so we had options for two half-day or one full-day excursion(s) to Honfleur/Le Havre. Visiting the Landing Beaches of Normandy on the second day of our stay in Caudebec meant a full day, due to the two-hour coach ride from the port to the coast.
There was a half day Tastes of Normandy tour when we arrived in Rouen to sample Rouen's finest cheeses, chocolate and select meats (what's not to like?!) which I went on, and our afternoon stop in Vernon - after a late morning scenic cruising through the Normandy countryside - offered the chance to visit Giverny, home of the renowned artist Claude Monet, and his home and gardens. Our final stop was the return to Paris where I travelled around the city by RER, Metro and walking - back in time for lunch, and then enjoyed scenic cruising in the evening along the Seine river, with the illuminations of the Eiffel Tower.
All excursions could be prebooked prior to departure, once on the ship (numbers permitting for some) or on the MyAmaCruise App - this is a great way to show your itinerary, share the travels with your family and friends, book excursions, view the Daily Cruiser (if you do not want the paper version) and share photos. There is also the Guest Survey here although this can be completed on paper at the end of the cruise.
Gratuities onboard are split between the crew, although you can of course reward any particular member directly, and as the Cruise Manager is not part of the crew, this is a separate payment - these can be paid by credit card or cash, and envelopes are provided in the stateroom on the last night. The local guides were wonderful, so knowledgeable, and multi-lingual - it is customary to tip both them and the local coach drivers on each excursion (EUR2 and EUR1 respectively). The Cruise Manager also escorts on the tours and liaises with the local company guides throughout the trip.
A wonderful and memorable trip - having sailed with AmaWaterways previously on the Douro river, and now on the Seine, I now need to decide which river next!