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Little did I know initially when boarding Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection's new Joie de Vivre for its Paris and Normandy itinerary, that it was a special theme cruise.
Sure enough, our 8-day sailing was one of the select departures with an extra layer of decadence.
For those who don't know, The Connoisseur Collection is described by the luxury river line as follows: "Onboard and onshore, embrace France's finest culinary traditions on Uniworld's one-of-a-kind cruises designed especially for epicureans."
Bonus programming is available on certain dates only on the Paris & Normandy; Burgundy & Provence and Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux itineraries-five per year in 2017 and 2018. Though prices vary based solely on the time of year and relative demand, the best part is these theme cruises don't cost extra.
Most Uniworld shore excursions are included in the cruise fare with these special voyage experiences. The only difference is that the focus of the tours may change a bit as some may swap out for alternatives offered on regular sailings.
Featured highlights for the Paris & Normandy Connoisseur Collection cruise are La Couronne restaurant, Cafe Terra near Monet's gardens in Giverny and tastings of Champagne, cheeses, cider and calvados (apple brandy).
While Cafe Terra didn't make the cut on our particular cruise, La Couronne did. This is the restaurant in Rouen, France where Julia Child first tried French cuisine, notably the regional favorite Apple Tarte Tatin. So, our exclusive teatime tasting also served up the caramelized Normandy pastry, warm and topped with fresh cream.
It was already a favorite treat of mine, and having it in France at the very restaurant Child first experienced it was even more special. I enjoyed it with coffee instead of tea, but the pairing was still a wonderful one I won't soon forget.
[READMORE]READ MORE: Uniworld Does Inclusive Cruise Touring Differently[/READMORE]
Also included was a visit to an apple cider farm for lunch at Caudebec-en-Caux, France. The meal was a refreshing taste of local delicacies and alcoholic cider and calvados was present to wash it down.
The trip included seeing how the liquor is distilled and aged in addition to a tasting of different varieties. I never knew apples could have such a kick nearing the flavors of cognac. It was an all-around fascinating discovery indeed.
Of course, onboard we were treated well to other regional foods like aforementioned cheeses. Our group quickly became fond of the flavor and comical name of one phonetically pronounced "more beer." Any cheese called out by an expression of ordering extra of my favorite potent potable is fine in my book.
Indicative of the high level of food quality served on Uniworld, we were told that the excellent Lobster Thermidor prepared on our cruise was specifically done so for the Connoisseur Collection as well.
The Joie de Vivre even has La Cave du Vin as an alternative dining room always available to guests interested in an interactive culinary experience. Here, you and the chef together prepare courses that are paired with premium wines while learning about them along the way.
[READMORE]READ MORE: Uniworld's Joie de Vivre Leaves Fine First Impression[/READMORE]
Now, I'm even more intrigued by what the other itineraries have to offer in the way of Connoisseur Collection experiences.
Burgundy & Provence showcases Chateau de Seigneurs in Tournon, a truffle farm and the village of Grignan, the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, Induction to Wine Tain and St. Joseph Wine Brotherhoods and Valrhona chocolate tasting and wine pairing.
Plus, Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux highlights the Remy Martin Estate for cognac tasting, a cocktail party on Patiras, La Cite du Vin museum and the Valrhona chocolate tasting and wine pairing.
Jason Leppert - Senior Writer, Cruises and Cruise Travel - is a San Diego-based cruising expert with more than 100 sailings...
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