Parisian Holiday
Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise.

Day 1: Paris

Arrive at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship.

Day 2: La Roche-Guyon, Vernon

Your journey begins in regal fashion today with visits to two châteaux. At Château La Roche-Guyon, you may venture inside for a peek at the sumptuous rooms where French kings were once entertained (and royal hijinks no doubt ensured). Or climb to the top of the fortress tower for marvelous views of the gardens, village and valley below. Spend the evening at another beautiful château, an ideal setting for a concert of classical music.   Kings, dukes, duchesses, cardinals, counts—France’s nobility created splendid palaces and intriguing castles. Today the Seine and your luxurious ship carry you to châteaux with close links to the history of French royalty, in a region that was once the borderland between French and English royal power.

Château La Roche-Guyon

From cave dwelling to fortress to castle to palace: This is the history of Château La Roche- Guyon (the Rock of Guy), which takes its name from its medieval lords (traditionally named Guy) and its location, a limestone outcropping—a rock—above the Seine. Medieval knights kept watch for marauding Vikings from the tower high atop the hill and later defended the double wall around a 13th-century manor house; successive lords added to the buildings over the centuries, so you can see not just troglodyte chapels but Renaissance rooms where kings Francis I and Henry II were entertained (and, legend says, Henry IV pursued a lovely chatelaine without success) and handsome 18th-century state apartments. Enlightenment thinkers met with the Duchess d’Enville, who owned the château before the revolution and who had the huge kitchen garden laid out according to Enlightenment principles. You might think, as you walk through the elegantly designed garden and beautifully paneled rooms (mostly without furniture these days, so you can appreciate the Gobelins tapestries without distraction) that the residence’s military function was in the far distant past, but Rommel made his headquarters here during WWII, precisely because the ancient fortifications and caves were so secure.

Château de Bizy concert

The Seine-side gates of an estate long linked to kings open for you this evening. A fairyland of lights illuminate a tree-lined lane through grounds dotted with trees planted by Louis-Philippe, the last king of France, at Château de Bizy, which once belonged to the duke of Penthièvre (the son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan). As you reach the house, light streams from the tall windows of the neoclassical façade, welcoming you indoors. Though France has no king now, the house still belongs to descendants of Napoleon’s brothers, who maintain its opulent rooms and regal heritage. Take your seat in the marble-columned drawing room hung with tapestries for a delightful concert. Following the concert, you’ll catch a glimpse of the floodlit stable yard (modeled on Versailles’ stables and all that remains of the original 17th-century palace).

A day chock full of art and history

The ship docks right at the gates of Chateau la Roche-Guyon, a castle with a history spanning more than a thousand years. Your first look at the castle might not be too different from Monet’s when he painted a view of it in 1881. But the great impressionist isn’t the only artist to find inspiration there. It has inspired artists of all kinds for centuries, starting with a 17th-century garden designer who laid out a huge and elegant vegetable garden that stretches from the banks of the Seine to the palace. Would you believe that a garden can be beautiful even without green leaves and flowers? Because not much grows here in winter, you can see how artfully it is designed: four great squares are divided diagonally, creating an amazing pattern of triangles. Explore the paths and angles of the garden, then check out the stables, the thousand-year-old dovecotes dug into the chalky stone behind the castle, and look at the colorful, beautifully stitched Gobelins tapestries in the reception halls.

Back on the ship, a painting class lets you apply some of the sights you saw at the castle as you learn the rules of drawing and perspective.

“Let’s Go” Hike on the crests trail

The donjon—the keep—guarding the hilltop is the oldest part of the château. Erected in the 12th-century, it was linked to the 13th-century castle by a passageway carved into the limestone cliff. Climb the 279 steps chipped by hand into the stone so many centuries ago: The stairway is steep and the steps irregular, worn down in some places by the many feet that have clambered up and down them over the past 800 years. When you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of the village— considered one of the most beautiful in France—far below and the lovely, now-peaceful valley spreading out into the distance. You also get a clear picture of the formal 17th-century layout of the kitchen garden, its squares divided into triangles and crossed with diagonal paths.

A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 3: Rouen

Normandy’s medieval capital has a historic quarter that remains amazingly intact. See Rouen’s top sights as well as its splendid Christmas market, held on the square in front of the cathedral Monet painted dozens of times. Inside, you can listen to ethereal liturgical music enhanced by the cathedral’s wonderful acoustics. Another treat awaits at La Couronne—tea and cake at the restaurant where Julia Child had a life-changing first meal in France.   The medieval capital of Normandy, Rouen has managed to preserve much of its historic core, despite being turned into a battlefield numerous times.

Rouen walking discovery tour with Christmas Market and cathedral choir recital

Victor Hugo called Rouen the city with 100 bell towers— and easily the most famous of those towers is the one rising above Notre Dame Cathedral, which, at one point, was the tallest building in the world. Begun some 800 years ago, the cathedral acquired a multitude of spires and styles as it was renovated in different eras. When you leave the cathedral square, you’ll walk under the arch housing an ornate Renaissance clock and begin your exploration of the Old Town. The cobblestone alleyways are lined with tall half-timbered houses, characteristic of the region, often with shops on the ground floor and apartments above—it may be a historic district, but it is also a living one. As you enter the Old Market Square, you’ll spot a bronze cross marking the spot where the English burned Joan of Arc at the stake.


You may explore the Christmas market, which fills the square outside the cathedral, on your own. The scent of cider, crepes and roasting chestnuts drifts through the crisp air as you wander among the stalls, where you’ll find the classic Nativity figures of Provence (called santons) and hundreds of specialty arts and crafts from all over France.


Step inside the magnificent cathedral, where soaring columns will lead your eye upward to the graceful arches overhead. Lining one side are statues of the Apostles; you can identify them by the symbols they hold—St. Peter, for instance, carries the keys to heaven—and the 13th-century stained-glass windows, which survived Allied bombing in 1944, gild the interior with a soft glow. Richard the Lionheart’s heart is entombed here, a reminder of how closely Normandy and England’s political fates were entwined for many centuries. Pause to admire the charming Christmas crèche before taking a seat in a pew. You are in for a treat: The cathedral’s

St. Evode choir school is extraordinary, and the church’s marvelous acoustics will let you hear this ethereal liturgical music as it is meant to be heard.

Rouen Christmas Carol Concert

Teatime at La Couronne

Follow in Julia Child’s footsteps to La Couronne—which calls itself the oldest auberge in France—on Rouen’s old market square, and experience one of the joys of Norman cooking: the classic tarte Tatin. La Couronne is the place where the renowned chef had her very first meal in France, an epicurean experience that changed the course of her life by inspiring a great passion for French cuisine and culinary traditions.

Climb-up the clocktower

Rouen’s Great Clock was set into an arch over the street around 1520. On one side you can see the single hand that shows the hours (there is no minute hand); on the other side the works are designed to show phases of the moon and other astronomical phenomenon. This clock face is 500 years old but the original clock is actually a century older than the Renaissance archway.

Travelers of all ages can climb the stairs of the clock tower—all four floors of it—to see the original clock mechanism (it ran without stopping, through war after war, from the 14th century until 1928, when it finally needed to be repaired): it’s one floor above the clock face. The youngest travelers get to experience an Alice in Wonderland-themed tour—but here Alice is lost in time rather than Wonderland, and characters that kids know from Alice movies and books control time. It’s a fun way to learn about the passage of time in a tower that has seen centuries of it. Teens and tweens explore the inner workings of the clock--the cogs, pulleys and dials that have turned the hand of the clocks for five million hours—and explore the adjacent bell tower. The clock was originally located in the tower; it moved to the arch during the Renaissance. It contains the first city bells allowed to ring the hours (before that, only churches were allowed to have bells in Rouen) and the living quarters for the clock “governor,” who was responsible for making sure the clock stayed in good working order. At the top of the tower, you can get a good look at the cathedral’s spectacular spires.

Day 4: Mantes-la-Jolie (Versailles)

The magnificently flamboyant Palace of Versailles was built during a time of absolute power, setting new standards for over-the-top excess with its elaborate gardens, grand state apartments and glittering Hall of Mirrors. All this plus an exclusive “secret” tour that takes you were others cannot go? Priceless.

“Secret Versailles” palace tour

It was the official residence of the country’s kings and queens from 1682 until the revolution, and although the monarchy possessed other palaces, Versailles stood alone in magnificence. Your local expert, a historian, will take you into the private apartments of the courtiers, each room beautifully restored to look as it did in 1788. In these chambers and antechambers, parlors and boudoirs, you’ll find lush silk draperies, exquisite marquetry tables, gilded beds, Aubusson carpets and porcelain ornaments that reveal the elegance of the 18th-century nobility’s lifestyle, as well as the extravagance that helped fuel the rage leading to the revolution. Climb the great staircase and enter the jaw-dropping Hall of Mirrors, where the absolute ruler of France held court for the ambassadors of Siam, Persia and the Ottoman Empire, as well as all the great seigneurs of France. Ladies intrigued behind their fans, plots were hatched and careers were made and destroyed beneath the sparkling chandeliers here.


Following lunch, visit Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon, the charming house and garden—originally built for Louis XV’s mistress Madame de Pompadour—where the queen escaped the formality of court life and relaxed with her closest friends. Take some time to admire the vast formal gardens, which the Sun King loved and on which he lavished fortunes. With its Grand Canal, hundreds of fountains, manicured parterres and thousands of trees, it remains one of the world’s great gardens.

Palace Gardens & Marie Antoinette Estate

Play in Versailles’ royal gardens

Louis XV was just five years old when he became the king of France. He lived here in Versailles, playing in the splendid gardens his great-grandfather, Louis XIV, created. What was it like, being a little boy and the absolute ruler of a great nation at the same time? Everything in these lavish grounds was designed to emphasize the grandeur and importance of the king. The sculptures, fountains, pools and hedges all have symbolic importance. You might have more fun here as you explore the gardens and learn about the rigid rules that governed court life than the princes and princesses who once lived here. Louis XIV’s favorite garden designer, Andre Le Notre, spent 11 years creating the Grand Canal, a mile-long sheet of water where naval battles were reenacted in miniature. You can dip an oar into the canal with a rented rowboat or bicycle around the grounds—there are miles and miles of tree-lined paths to ride along.

Day 5: Paris

Join a local expert for a guided walk through two of our favorite neighborhoods in the “City of Light,” the Île de la Cité and Latin Quarter. Admire the Gothic grandeur and grimacing gargoyles of Notre Dame, then wander the streets with stones worn by countless notable artists, writers and philosophers, including Matisse and Picasso, Hemingway and Fitzgerald.   The cultural, political, artistic and financial heart of France, Paris is entrancing, magical and exhilarating. Every view is postcard worthy, and for the next few days it is yours to enjoy.

“Do as the Locals Do” walking tour of the Île de la Cité and Latin Quarter

Take the Metro, just as the locals do, to the Île de la Cité and the great cathedral, Notre Dame. Henry IV said that Paris was worth a Mass when he converted to Catholicism—and he made that conversion of official here, in the center of Paris. In fact, Notre Dame is of officially the center of France; facing its main entrance is Kilometer Zero, the location from which distances in France (including those of the French national highways) are traditionally measured. A local expert in the history and architecture of this magnificent cathedral is your guide as you explore both the inside and outside. Begun in the 12th-century and finished about 200 years later, Notre Dame is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in Europe.


After you’ve admired Notre Dame’s stained glass, flying buttresses and idiosyncratic gargoyles—not to mention the huge Christmas tree and beautiful Nativity scene—you’ll cross the Seine to the Left Bank and the Latin Quarter. Wander through the narrow streets where for centuries artists, writers, philosophers and the Sorbonne’s students have lived and worked, argued politics, painted, sipped absinthe and lived the bohemian lifestyle for which the district is famous. Matisse, Picasso, Rimbaud and Sartre, as well as American writers Hemingway and Fitzgerald, are just a few of the notables who made this district home. Climb the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève to the Panthéon, a mausoleum containing the remains of numerous distinguished French citizens. Nearby is the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, which is often full of students from La Sorbonne and other nearby universities. Take some time to meander through the area’s little squares, perusing the shop windows and perhaps warming up with a drink at a typical café.

Taste of Christmas and Arc de Triomphe terrace

Day 6: Paris

After visiting Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Louis XIV was so green with envy that he gave his modest hunting lodge a total makeover. See the inspiration for Versailles on an excursion to this elaborately decorated winter wonderland, where the owner will host an exclusive reception for Uniworld guests. Tonight, we’ll treat you to a Paris illuminations tour.

Exclusive reception at Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Louis XIV first encountered the work of Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun and Andre Le Notre at Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palatial estate created by his finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet. He admired it greatly—so greatly that after he had Fouquet imprisoned, he took what he liked from the estate and recruited the architect, the painter and the landscape designer to turn Versailles, his modest hunting lodge, into the spectacular palace it is now. Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte has been exquisitely restored, and, at this time of year, it is transformed into a fairyland: Roaring fires blaze in marble replaces; lavishly decorated Christmas trees add festive color to the stately rooms—every salon looks fit to receive the Sun King once again. Tour the splendid rooms and then gather in the grand salon, with its magnificent Christmas tree, for an exclusive reception.

Paris “Illuminations” tour

Paris calls upon her most talented lighting designers to create spectacular holiday illuminations throughout the city in an event called “Paris Lights up Paris.” This evening, you’ll take a scenic drive past some of the capital’s most festive displays. Traveling along the Right Bank, you will pass a number of the 37 bridges that dress up the Seine in a dazzling array, from the oldest, the Pont Neuf, decorated with grotesque figures, to the most stunning, the single-arched Pont Alexandre III, with its elegantly sculpted art nouveau nymphs, winged horses and lamps. After turning around the pink granite obelisk and the gilded fountains at Place de la Concorde, the famously fashionable Rue de Rivoli will come into view. Then you’ll see the two most famous theaters in Paris at each end of the majestic Boulevard de l’Opéra: the Comédie-Française (French National Theater), where the French classical repertoire is performed, at the south end, and, at the north, the Palais Garnier, which hosts the National Opera and Ballet companies. The sophisticated Place Vendôme is distinguished by the bronze-wrapped Vendôme Column, topped by a statue of Napoleon as a Roman emperor, and by posh designer salons, five-star hotels and fine jewelers. Tonight the enchanted square will unveil illuminations of shimmering crystal effects that match the precious bejeweled ornaments displayed in the shop windows. Your illumination tour will come to an end at the Place du Trocadéro, where you’ll have a view of the city’s signature landmark, the Eiffel Tower, and its delightful, dynamic light show.

Etiquette for Princesses and Princes

Now that you’ve visited palaces where kings and queens lived or stayed, can you imagine what it would have been like to live in those great houses? Every aspect of their lives was determined by strict rules of court etiquette, and everybody had to follow the rules. Did you know that only the king and queen could sit in armchairs? Princes and princesses were allowed to sit in chairs without arms—and if you were a grand duke or duchess, you got to sit on a stool—but almost everyone else had to stand at a formal reception. Even the way you unfolded your napkin at the dining table had specific rules. This fun workshop will teach you the art of behaving properly at royal court; you’ll know exactly how to curtsey properly if you happen to meet a king or queen one day.

Day 7: Paris

The shop windows of Paris are truly an art form, particularly during the holidays when they attract throngs of delighted onlookers. See these enchanting displays for yourself today on one of the city’s chicest streets. We’ll also take you inside the Paris Opera, described by its architect as a “Versailles for everyone.” For something completely different, take a guided bike ride along the Left Bank.

Walking discovery tour to the Paris Opera and Boulevard Haussmann

Step inside one of the city’s most lavish institutions, the Opéra de Paris Garnier, also known as Palais Garnier. And indeed it is a palace, a palace dedicated to the performing arts. Work on this extravagant opera house began in 1865 and continued for 15 trouble-filled years, which included the discovery of an underground lake beneath the construction site. (It’s still there, incidentally—connected to an enormous cistern where carp swim and rescue divers train.) Despite the many difficulties, the result is dazzling: With chandeliers hanging from the mosaic ceiling, red-velvet wall coverings and draperies, gold leaf, cherubs and marble friezes, it is a glorious tribute to Second Empire sumptuousness. It is named, fittingly, for the man who designed this “Versailles for everyone,” Charles Garnier, an unknown architect who won a competition to build a new opera house. Your next stops are equally colorful. Le Printemps and Les Galeries Lafayette, two splendid department stores on Boulevard Haussmann, not far from the opera house, celebrate the season with spectacular window displays. Often created by top fashion designers, the displays—charming, over-the-top, whimsical and amazing—attract large, appreciative crowds. Drift from window to window, admiring them, and then spend some time shopping in the area.

Paris Treasure Hunt

You’ll need a camera for today’s adventure, which starts under the Louvre Museum’s glass pyramid. There you’ll join up with a team and receive your map of the museum (it’s huge) highlighted with a list of treasures—artworks that fit the theme of beauty and the beast—to find. You’re going to have just two hours to locate as many as possible and snap photos of your team in front of the designated beauty or beast. The clues can be sneaky, so you’ll need skill, strategy, teamwork and maybe a little luck to win. Ready, set, go!

This evening, a special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Gala Dinner will be prepared for you.

Day 8: Paris (Disembark)

Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport for your flight home.
Note: Ship schedule and order of sightseeing my change throughout the itinerary. Tour to port of destination by motorcoach and substitute visits to other sites may occur during your trip due to the impact of water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors.