Seine river cruises from Paris, France, are among the Europe's top -and the world's most visited - travel destinations. Longer cruises from Paris are offered as packages combining the travel in Normandy with the Saone and Rhone river cruising in Provence and Burgundy (wine regions in Southwest France). Seine cruising is not the only river travel option in this popular vacation destination in France. This waterway is navigable also by ocean-going ships as far as Rouen, which port is located 120 km away from the sea. Over 60% of the river's length (as far as Burgundy) is passable by commercial vessels. Those include also passenger ships - barges and cruise riverboats.
The 776 km (480 ml) long River Seine is a most important commercial waterway in France, and one of the best known European rivers. Located in Northern France, Seine is part of the Paris Basin. It starts at Source-Seine (northeastern France, Langres plateau /northwest of Dijon). The river flows through Paris into the English Channel at Le Havre (trade and cruise port to Paris City), as well as at Honfleur (on the left bank).
River Seine is only 24 m (79 ft) above sea level (446 km from its mouth), which makes it very slow flowing and easily navigable. The river's average depth at Paris is 9,5 m (31 ft), and is nearly 100% available for recreational (leisure) boating. You can follow this Wikipedia link for detailed information on river Seine.
River Seine fun facts
A curious fact is that tourists are often confused about the "right bank" and "left bank" of the river and spend hours trying to figure out which side of the river they're standing on. However, it is a very simple system, devised because Seine's curvy nature often makes orientation quite difficult. The trick is to remember that when you face downriver, the left riverbank is on your left, the right is on your right. Here are some interesting facts about the "Paris river":
- After the Joan of Arc's burning at the stake in 1431, her ashes had been thrown into the Seine from Mathilde Bridge at Rouen, though counter-claims persist.
- Napoleon, who died in 1821, had wished to be buried on the Seine's banks, but his request was not granted.
- In 1900, at the Summer Olympics, the Seine hosted water polo, rowing and swimming events. 24 years later, it hosted rowing events along the river, at Bassin d'Argenteuil, north of Paris.
- Until the 1930s, the towing system using a chain on the river's bed facilitated barges' movement upriver.
- Some of the Algerian victims of 1961 Paris massacre drowned in the river after being thrown from Pont Saint-Michel and other locations by French policemen.
- Dredging in the 1960s eliminated tidal bores on the lower Seine, known as “le mascaret” in French.
- In 1991 Seine's banks in Paris, Rive Droite and Rive Gauche, were added to UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in Europe.
- Paris-Plages has been held on the Paris banks of the Seine every summer since 2002. It is a transformation of the paved banks of the river into a beach with sand and sunbathing facilities and entertainment.
- The Seine is a popular site for both disposal of bodies of murder victims and suicides. In 2007 only, 55 bodies were retrieved from the waters of the river.
Beyond the technical facts surrounding the Seine and its environs is a more inexplicable attraction. The river speaks of a past we'll never experience but find ourselves linked to by strange association. Staring at the murky water from a cold bridge during a winter in Paris, it is impossible not to recall Paul Celan, a tormented poet of the holocaust, who had plunged to his death in the same waters, or the victims of French revolution with hundreds of bodies dredged from the depths, or the unnamed who also met their ends at the bottom of the river. The above is not to say the Seine represents a cult of death, but it is interesting to think of it as part of the cycle of life. Great tragedies and great triumphs have occurred near the river which tourists view simply as the background to their photos.
Seine cruise from Paris
The Seine River flows through the very heart of Paris. The city evolved around the gigantic avenue for transportation, which is still its chief commercial waterway. Half of the water used in Paris comes form the Seine, but better don't think about it when you look at the green water under the bridge, or when you pour a glass of tap water.
Today, Paris boasts 37 bridges, which are among the best river cruising attractions here. Dozens more span the river outside Paris. The most famous examples in the France's capital include Pont Louis-Philippe and Pont Neuf, the latter dating back to 1607. Outside Paris, examples include Pont de Normandie, which is currently one of the world's longest cable-stayed bridges. It links Le Havre to Honfleur. Popular leisure cruising options here are the Paris City's Seine cruise dinner and 1-night (party) deals. These are offered mostly by local tourist boat operators. However, all major cruise lines on Seine River offer the night cruising experience on their ships from Paris. This is a scenic evening voyage along the river (usually at the end of the Normandy Beaches itinerary), when the city lights and water merge to create an unique feeling of romance and tranquility.
Seine River cruise ports
This map shows all visited ports along the round-trip Paris itinerary.
- Port of Le Havre is the second largest cargo and cruise port of France after Marseille. Much of the shipping traffic through the port is crude oil, but Le Havre is also important for ship repairs and ferry services to England and Ireland. The early 16th Century saw the Le Havre port as a fishing village. In 1517 King Francois I built a harbor which he called Havre-de-Grace. Francois I sought to enter the international arena of cargo ship trading and to protect Seine Estuary from English attacks.
- Port of Rouen is the historical capital of Normandy, and one of the biggest. The city was among the richest in Europe during the Middle Ages. On the right bank of Seine River, the old city of Rouen contains so many ancient buildings, that some call it the museum town ("ville-musee"). Joan of Arc was imprisoned and burnt at the stake in Rouen's marketplace. During World War II, the buildings on the left bank were almost totally destroyed. Even though it is located 120 km (75 ml) inland, the Rouen Port has long welcomed ocean-going vessels (including small cruise ships) as an outport (alternative port) for Paris, France. Among the city's best attractions are its astronomical clock and the cathedral (painted several times by Monet).
Next map shows the Paris cruise itinerary combined with cruising in Provence and Burgundy in Southern France.
Besides this review article, our "Seine River cruises from Paris, France" section (among the listed DESTINATIONS at top-page right) also lists all major lines’ ships and riverboats with cruises to Normandy from Paris.
List of riverboats cruising on Seine with departures from Paris:
- Seine Princess
- ms France
- ms Botticelli
- ms Renoir
- Raymonde barge
- Scenic Gem
- Viking Kadlin
- Viking Rolf
- Avalon Tapestry II
- River Baroness
- Avalon Creativity
- Viking Pride
- Viking Spirit
- Viking Neptune
- Viking Rinda
- other (pending)
Note: You can see the CruiseMapper's list of all river cruise ships and riverboats in the "itinerary" section of our River Cruises hub. All river passenger shipping line companies and their fleets are listed there.