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  • Writer's pictureJulie Prusak

Enchanting Elegance on the Seine: Uniworld SS Joie de Vivre River Cruise Review

Embarking on the Uniworld Joie de Vivre cruise along the Seine River is an invitation to indulge in a captivating journey through history, art, and culinary delights. Prepare to be enchanted as we recount our unforgettable 7-night voyage on this luxurious floating sanctuary.

photo credit: SS Joie de Vivre on the Seine by Julie Prusak

As we stepped on board we were welcomed by the friendly staff, quickly checked in and shown to our luxurious stateroom. In keeping with Uniworld's destination-themed ships, French movie posters and cartoons line the hallways. At 125 meters, as opposed to the standard 135, this ship able to slip through the Seine’s winding channels to dock at moorings that are simply too small for other ships. With a smaller capacity of 128 guests in 54 cabins and 10 suites, the ship feels like a luxury boutique hotel. As its name suggests, the Joie de Vivre is a love song to the French good life, evocative of 20s Parisian chic, filled with artwork, antiques, plush furnishings and chandeliers - complete with emblematic Eiffel Tower views as we sailed away.

Itinerary Highlights

The cruise starts and ends in the heart of Paris on the Seine River. Our adventure commenced in the magical city of Paris, where the iconic landmarks of the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Arc de Triomphe left us in awe. The cruise then gracefully guided us to picturesque towns like Vernon, Giverny, and Honfleur, each brimming with French charm and allure. The seven-night cruise sails round trip from Paris via Rouen, Vernon and Caudebec-en-Caux for excursions to Monet's Gardens at Giverny, Palace of Versailles, Normandy's World War II landing beaches and more.

See the day-by-day itinerary here.

Onboard Experience

The SS Joie de Vivre is a floating masterpiece, boasting elegant decor, tasteful design elements, and a warm, intimate ambiance. The onboard amenities exceeded our expectations, from the exquisite bar and lounge areas to the plush staterooms that provided the perfect retreat. Every detail was meticulously crafted to ensure a truly luxurious experience. Despite the glamorous surroundings, there is a relaxed ambience. The crew are courteous but fun, the butlers mix with everyone, and the guests are friendly.

Staterooms are appointed with all the features you'd expect from a five-star hotel, from the very comfortable Savoir beds to an individual thermostat and flat-screen TV alongside a lavish marble bathroom with Asprey bath and body products and bathrobes and slippers.

Indulge in a Suite or Grand Suite, and you'll be treated to an in-suite butler, packing and unpacking assistance, in-room breakfast, daily fruit and cookie plate and an evening snack, Nespresso coffee machine and fine teas, fully stocked mini bar, bottle of wine upon request, shoeshine and included laundry service. Grand Suites also offer a bathtub and separate living area.

Twice daily housekeeping service kept our suite spotless. Every night when we returned to our suite, we found a special gift on our bed. And the candy jar was kept full of European chocolates!

Compare stateroom options here.

Excursions and Activities

Uniworld's curated shore excursions were the highlight of our trip. The groups were small (as few as 10) and the tour guides well-qualified, vetted, and experienced. Guides use QuietVox headsets to deliver informative talks. Luxury coaches transport guests from the docks to the destinations in style, complete with phone charging plugs, reclining seats, and air-conditioning. Walking tours and bike rides along the Seine are also offered for guests seeking a more active experience.

Every day brought new adventures. In Giverny, we were transported to Monet's tranquil gardens, where the vibrant landscape that inspired his masterpieces came to life before our eyes. We toured his former home lined with masterpieces on every wall. A Masterpiece Collection tour of the Secret Apartments of the Palace of Versailles left us enamored with its opulence and rich history. We felt like royalty as we entered the palace through a discreet side door without waiting in line. The tour to the Normandy Beaches is a long, emotional day. Alternatively, guests can self-guide through historically significant Rouen. Honfleur’s picturesque harbor continues to inspire artists and photographers. And the climb to the Abbey of Mont Saint Michel is a breathtaking experience.

When you return from your onshore excursions, you’ll have the option of relaxing at the Club L’Espirit, the ship’s onboard spa. Unwind with a yoga session, book a massage to sooth away any sightseeing soreness, or get your heart pumping with a session in the resistance pool or fitness center.

Each evening over cocktails, the Cruise Director explains the tour options for the next day and the sommelier describes the featured dinner wines. Some tours can be booked in advance of the cruise, but most guests decide which tours to take once onboard.

Some evenings, entertainers are brought onboard to perform French ballads or inspire the guests to crowd the dance floor. One evening, guests had the option to walk to a Cathedral for a private choir concert. Our last night onboard in Paris, we attended the legendary Moulin Rouge dinner show with a group of new friends as part of a Masterpiece Collection tour. A must-do Parisian experience!

Dining and Culinary Delights

Prepare your taste buds for a culinary adventure like no other. The Joie de Vivre's four onboard dining venues offer a symphony of flavors, skillfully curated by their expert chefs. From delectable French cuisine to international specialties, each meal was a celebration of artistry and taste, paired perfectly with exquisite wines sourced from renowned local vineyards.

Meals feature a strong emphasis on French dining as well as favorite family recipes from the Uniworld’s owners, the Tollman family. The main restaurant, Pigalle, features farm-to-table specialties from the surrounding regions in four-course dinners, along with buffet breakfasts and lunches accompanied by made-to-order options. For something lighter, head to Le Bistrot, the ship’s very own Parisian sidewalk café. Bistro delicacies are served with pretty river views. Le Cave des Vins truly stands out as a memorable dining experience, available by reservation only. Under the guidance of a talented chef, you’ll enjoy a seven-course degustation menu using fresh, seasonal ingredients and served with paired wines, selected by the ship’s expert sommelier.

Each evening Claude’s is transformed into a supper club where you’ll enjoy signature cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and performances from local musicians. On selected nights, classic French cinema is shown under the stars. For a more traditional experience, head to Salon Toulouse. A full-service bar featuring an impressive art collection, it offers a superb drinks menu and a high tea hosted each afternoon.

Exceptional Service

Uniworld's commitment to excellence was evident in every interaction. The attentive and passionate crew members anticipated our needs before we even realized them, ensuring that our every desire was met. Their personalized service elevated the entire experience, making us feel truly pampered.

If you are celebrating a special occasion on board, let the concierge know, who'll inform the team and will do their utmost to make it extra special.

Atmosphere and Ambiance

The Joie de Vivre exudes an atmosphere of elegance and sophistication. From the stunning design inspired by 20th-century Parisian couture to the breathtaking views of the Seine, every moment on board felt like a dream. The cozy lounges invited intimate conversations, and the spacious sundeck provided the perfect setting for enjoying the picturesque landscapes that unfolded along the river.

Mostly All-inclusive

The cruise fare includes all dining (except La Cave de Vins), 24-hour room service, alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, daily shore excursions, Wi-Fi, yoga, bicycles and Nordic walking sticks, entertainment, lectures, self-service guest laundry and gratuities for onboard crew. The only extra costs are optional, such as spa treatments, laundry and pressing service, a few premium brands of alcohol and wines and a small selection of Masterpiece Collection tours. The onboard currency is the euro. Shore excursion guide gratuities are at your discretion.

Joie de Vivre lives up to its name, bringing together the joys of life: fabulous food, wine, music, art, and travel with family and friends, lifelong and new. Our Uniworld Joie de Vivre cruise on the Seine River surpassed all expectations, offering a seamless blend of luxury, culture, and relaxation. From the impeccable service and captivating excursions to the gastronomic delights and elegant ambiance, every aspect of this journey left us enchanted. For travelers seeking a truly unforgettable experience that showcases the best of French art, history, and romance, we wholeheartedly recommend the Uniworld Joie de Vivre River Cruise.

Let's get started planning your River Cruise vacation! Reserve your complimentary consultation call with me to begin!

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