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Cruising for the Spirit as well as the Fun – Seine River

Cruising for the Spirit as well as the Fun – Seine River

Messina Hof Cruisers enjoyed a special trip that not only included time in Paris but also a beautiful 75th D-Day anniversary remembrance in Normandy.  

In Paris, the sparkling “City of Light,” we boarded  our home away home cruise ship – AmaLyra. Amawaterways cruise lines provides consistent quality from cuisine to excursions to hospitality.  The first evening begins with a Welcome Aboard Wine Toast and for Messina Hoffers an amazing wine and food pairing chef’s table. Be sure to request a seating for at least one night during the cruise.  You can do this as soon as you board. (Highly Recommend)

Not only do get to watch the chef prepare your delicious meal, but the sommelier presents the wines with the courses and this cruise the captain provided an extra wow for our group – he moved the ship and positioned it so that our group could see the Eiffel tower as it sparkled on the hour.  Toast to the captain!


The first port provided a foundation of the history of Normandy and Château Gaillard, the former stronghold of Richard the Lionheart, situated on the chalk cliffs high above the Seine.  This castle ruin with innovative design could not overcome the ravages of French king Phillip who later dismantled much of the castle. Still today you can marvel at his unique design.

Every night of the cruise there is musical entertainment and dancing after dinner.


Did you know that until about 1300 Normandy was a major wine producing area of France?  With climate change causing environments too cold for grapes and more appropriate for apples,  Pays d’Auge region of Normandy removed vineyards and focused on planting applies for apple cider, Calvados and Pommeau.  Today as climate once again is warming, there are new plantings of grapes appearing.

Join a city tour of the UNESCO-designated port city of Le Havre where you can enjoy a street market and see how the Norsemen created ship hull churches or travel along Normandy’s dramatic Alabaster Coast to the Fécamp Monastery. It is there that 19th-century wine merchant Alexandre Le Grand rediscovered the recipe for a special elixir-a medicinal herbal liquor known as la Bénédictine.


Every American should experience the Normandy beaches. We visited the cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, the artillery battery at Longues-sur-Mer and the village of Arromanches, where the remains of the floating harbor used during the WWII landings can be seen. There is an excellent museum with movie and gift shop.  

The highlight of the cemetery tour was the emotional wreath laying ceremony.  The history, the acres of crosses & stars of David, the monuments, the music, the 21-gun salute were so inspiring.  A guest from our ship who was a Captain was chosen to lay the wreath. He arose and saluted those who were lost.


Medieval Rouen was a mini Paris.  Walking past the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral, paintednumerous times by Monet, we saw the square where Joan of Arc was martyred, as well as the Medieval Quarter and Great Clock.  You can explore the Jewish area of Rouen; or go on the “Tastes of Normandy” tour, where you’ll be treated to the delicious flavors of the region, including chocolate, macaron, Norman cheese and cider.   We chose the Tastes of Normandy and absolutely loved it!

Walking past many antique shops, our guide shared the culinary history and special stories of ceramics created in the region.

From pastry making to hands on chocolate tempering, we tasted our way through the iconic foods of France.


Cruising the Seine showcases so many of the riverside chateaus and stories of romance.  The 18th-century Château de Bizy, inspired by the opulence of Versailles, held a special treat of a real audience with the “King” (who was a fun and intense character actor!). Enjoy an escorted tour of the salons and sample some delicious Norman cheeses and apple cider at special tasting stations throughout the estate.


Claude Monet’s house and gardens were a highlight of the trip.  Our tour guide was excellent and enlisted our VIP members to illustrate the life and family relations of Monet’s family.  What fun! It made me want to come home and recreate the Japanese gardens.



Messina Hoffers enjoyed a surprise tour at the famous Wine Museum, the Musee du Vin, personally led by curator Monique Josse, her husband and daughter and President Alan Dryden.  Since Paul and I were the first couple Supreme Knights of the Vine, our group was privileged to deliver to Monique a letter from Grand Commander Buddy Hagner and his wife Trish who reside in Houston.   Our tour was followed by a private wine pairing luncheon in the cellar.

“The Musee du Vin is in the heart of the city, not far from the Eiffel Tower. The Wine Museum is housed in what used to be crude limestone quarries that were mined between the 13th and the 18th centuries to supply the stones used to build Paris. The three vaulted cellars, which today houses the Wine Museum restaurant, were used in the 16th and 17th centuries by the Friars of Passy Monastery for storing their wine. The museum’s permanent collection contains more than 2,200 items and has been under the ownership of the Echansons Council of (Le Conseil des Échansons de France) since 1984. The collection pays tribute to generations of winemakers, cellar masters, oenologists and coopers who have relentlessly perfected their craft to produce the most prestigious vintages.”

The perfect way to cap off our trip was with a Champagne tasting on the ship deck as we toasted once again the sparkling Eiffel tower, our amazing staff and each other.

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