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Waterways of the Petite Seine & Yonne

You are viewing the 2023 itinerary. Select your departure year
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From ancient cathedrals and stunning palaces to a town that has played host to many of France’s greatest artists, the waterways of the Petite Seine unlock a treasure trove of French heritage and culture.

Travel among a group of like-minded travelers led by a professional tour manager

2023 Tour code: GR-CYRA-23

About the tour

All aboard the MS Deborah, a luxurious hotel barge, for an intimate group tour through the waterways of the Petite Seine River. Because the ship offers accommodations for just 22 travelers, each presentation, tour and off-board excursion is like traveling amongst friends. This cruise vacation begins with a transfer from London to Paris by train. We board the barge in on the Yonne River in Sens and begin our six-night cruising voyage. As we meander through the calm waters of the Yonne, Seine and Loing Rivers, enjoy the idyllic scenery of old France and plenty of opportunities to explore off-board. Excursions take us to grandiose estates and palaces, like Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte and Palace of Fontainebleau. Ports of call lead us to delightful towns and pretty villages, like Barbizon, Provins, and Sens, where points of interest span the ages. Your time is filled with exploring centuries-old structures and gazing upon beautiful landscapes, sometimes urban and sometimes rural. The ship's small size allows for nimble navigation through canals and under stone bridges that larger vessels cannot pass. The onboard accommodations and cuisine are reminiscent of a high-end hotel. An experience like no other awaits on the rivers of central France.


What’s included


Day 1 - Paris/Ship Embarkation

Arrive at London St. Pancras and make your way to our designated Departure Office to meet your travel group and Tour Manager. Together, board the high-speed Eurostar train bound for Paris. A motorcoach awaits our arrival at Paris Gare du Nord and transfers us to our canal barge, the beautiful MS Deborah. Board the ship and enjoy a welcome cocktail with the group before settling into your onboard accommodations. Tonight, a three-course dinner offers a taste of the wonderful things to come on this waterway expedition. Overnight ship. 

  • Dinner
Day 2 - Sens

Perched on the shores of the Yonne River, Sens is our destination for the day. Begin your day on board with a buffet breakfast before disembarking the ship and getting your first looks at this ancient city. Known to be one of the oldest towns in France, Sens dates to the 1st century BC. The village is home to one of the very first Gothic cathedrals in France, a cathedral so impressive that it inspired many others throughout Europe, including Canterbury Cathedral in Great Britain. The narrow Roman streets and promenades are lined with centuries of architecture, from the impressive half-timbered Maison d'Abraham and Maison du Portal, both from the 1500s, to the Gothic Palais Synodal from 1240. Theaters, gardens and homes from the 1800s also dot the town. Our time here brings ample opportunity to wander through the most impressive points of interest throughout Sens, as well as a chance to visit Marché Couvert, a covered market housed in a wooden pentagonal building. Meander through the stalls of meats, cheeses, fresh produce and sweets to get a glimpse of daily life in this wonderful destination.

We return to the ship in time for lunch. Following your meal, settle in for an afternoon of cruising through the calm waters of the Yonne River. Our barge navigates past small lakes and ponds, verdant forests, and lovely riverside towns en route to Montereau-Fault-Yonne, where we moor for the night. Once we have docked, you have the opportunity to disembark and explore the quaint town at your own pace. From the riverside church to the Yonne Bridge, interesting architecture and charming cafes, there is plenty to occupy your excursion here.  Overnight ship.

  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3 – Moret-sur-Loing & Provins

Our cruise continues down the Seine and reaches the Loing River this morning. Watch the passing views while you enjoy an easy start to your day onboard. Both breakfast and multi-course lunch are served as views of riverside towns pass by the ship. This afternoon, we disembark the barge in the beautiful medieval village of Moret-sur-Loing, surrounded by the Fontainebleau Forest, where our motorcoach awaits to transfer us to Provins. A medieval gem with UNESCO World Heritage designation, Provins is brimming with ancient sites to behold and old-world beauty. There are over 58 historical monuments to see, including 13th-century half-timbered houses, high ramparts, fortified gates, towers and barns. The Tithe Barn is one of the most impressive, with its stone construction and lineage as a medieval trading post. In addition to being a well-preserved piece of history, Provins is also renowned as one of the world's finest rose-growing regions. Many rose-flavored foods and drinks are produced from the gorgeous blooms here, as well. We are treated to a taste of one of them, rose honey, before re-boarding the ship. After tonight's three-course dinner, you are free to enjoy the amenities of the MS Deborah or to retreat to your cabin. Overnight ship. 

  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4 - Fontainebleau

Today we sail to Melun, known for its famous Brie de Melun cheese. On arrival, we meet our coach for a transfer to the UNESCO World Heritage Palace of Fontainebleau. Situated 45 miles from Paris and at the edge of the deep Fontainebleau Forest, this fantastic palace was used as a hunting lodge by French royals from the 12th to the 19th centuries. In 1528, King François I wanted to create a "new Rome" by enlarging the property and creating a splendid estate with sumptuous interiors surrounded by vast acreage and immaculate gardens. Even after its remodel, the home continued to play host to several distinguished royals, including Marie Antoinette, Henry IV, Louis XV and Napoleon, amongst others.

Today, this architectural masterpiece stands as a living ledger of history. We embark on a guided tour of the property and enjoy a glimpse at some of the most sculptural of its 321 acres of gardens. Look upon Marie Antoinette's Turkish-inspired bedroom, complete with inlaid gold, and enjoy a look at Napoleon's Imperial Theater with three levels of plush seating and stunning hand-painted sets. The ornate ballroom has impressed visitors for nearly 500 years with its ornate woodwork and intricate Italian frescoes. We also venture through the grounds to look upon the endless lawns, ornamental lakes, perfectly manicured gardens and custom statues before our tour proceeds into the posh town of Fontainebleau. This destination brims with charm, thanks to its old townhouses, two-story carousel, fountains and narrow streets. There is much to discover.

Following the tour, we return to the ship with the remainder of the day at leisure. A lovely three-course dinner is served this evening. Overnight ship.


  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5 - Barbizon

Enjoy a leisurely morning aboard the ship, complete with a buffet breakfast, a three-course lunch and beautiful views over the Seine River. This afternoon, our coach transports us to the "Painters' Village" of Barbizon. This historic destination came to be by word of mouth. Around 1824, landscape artist Théodore Caruelle d'Aligny noticed the immense beauty of Barbizon and its surroundings while passing through and touted the region to all of his Parisian colleagues. By 1827, artists like Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Théodore Rousseau and Jean-François Millet had all ventured to the small village to soak in its ambiance. A former tailor set up a grocer and small inn in an old barn at the end of town to provide accommodations for these famous visitors. Pere Ganne's hotel became a favorite retreat for French artists and art students in the coming years, and generation after generation left their studios behind to paint in nature. Thus, Barbizon became the art mecca it is today. Enjoy ample time wandering along the old cobblestone streets and pop in and out of the numerous art galleries. Beautiful old homes line the main thoroughfare, and there are plenty of restaurants at which to grab a bite to eat. If you want to get a closer look at the nature that inspired these great artists, venture along the walking path in Fontainebleau Forest.

Our coach transfers us back to the ship following our time in the village. Take some time to appreciate the passing scenery or recharge in your private cabin ahead of tonight's gala dinner. Overnight ship.

  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 6 - Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Our journey through the waterways of Northern France commences as the MS Deborah proceeds along the Seine River, navigating the narrow canals and low bridges en route to Évry, located on the outskirts of Paris.

Évry is home to a town square rimmed with red brick buildings. Its main attraction, though, is its cylindrical-shaped cathedral. After mooring, we embark on an excursion to Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. This chateau embraced Baroque architecture and was designed by the King of France's "Principal Architect" in 1661 - the same man responsible for Versailles. Each of the chateaux's four floors is clad in sumptuous 17th-century decor; it looks much the same today as it would have when parliamentarian Nicolas Fouquet and his family lived there over 300 years ago. Take your time exploring the lavish rooms, soaking in the grandeur of specially commissioned artwork and grandiose chandeliers. Make your way up to the lantern overlooking the central dome for a 360-degree view of the property. Outside the chateaux, the beautifully designed Formal Gardens are carved from 100 acres of woodlands. Fountains, flowerbeds, sculptures, immaculate hedge work and uniquely shaped lawns are just some of the hidden treasures to uncover in this expansive retreat. Also outside the chateau, visit the Carriage Museum, where carriage equipment from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries are displayed. Further, there is a fascinating exhibit on historical horse tack.

From Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, we return to the ship, where beautifully presented three-course dinner is served this evening. Toast to a fantastic trip and dine on exquisite cuisine at tonight's Gala dinner. Overnight ship.

  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 7 - Tour Conclusion

Breakfast is served as the ship approaches its final port of call, Lagarde. On arrival, we board our motorcoach for our transfer to the local rail station to board our high-speed TGV train bound for Paris. Here, we switch trains and continue aboard the premier Eurostar to London, where your tour concludes. 

  • Breakfast

Additional information

Departure times

Departure times vary based on selected rail vacation. This information will be provided in your final documents. For more information please speak with your rail specialist.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular vacation with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.




The Deborah

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