A recap of our Fox Group Vacation – Paris and Normandy River Cruise with Jeff Wagner and Rose Gray
September 4 – 12, 2021
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise
By Rose Gray
September 4, 2021. This date was circled, highlighted and in red on my calendar. It was the date I was scheduled to fly to Paris with 39 Fox guests for the Paris and Normandy river cruise sailing on Uniworld’s S.S. Joie de Vivre. I had sailed on this spectacular ship before and done several itineraries that included the Normandy beaches throughout my career, so those events were not the reason the date was special. That date, September 4, would be my first Fox Group Vacations trip since October of 2019. Alaska, Scandinavia, Ireland, Morocco – all crossed off the 2020 and 2021 calendars thanks to the pandemic. But there was hope! This trip might really happen!
Air France 153 departed Chicago’s O’Hare September 4, 2021, on time at 7:55pm. Twenty-two months with no group travel was behind me. My emotions ran the gamut – elation, trepidation, excitement, relief, and gratitude.
And just like that, we were there, making our way through customs and immigration in Paris at Charles de Gaulle Airport. When we arrived at the ship at St. Denis pier, it was like coming home. Masks were required for crew and passengers in the lobby or hallways, but there was no “masking” the pure joy everybody felt! The months of preparing, canceling, and rescheduling, learning new protocols, and then discovering revised protocols were over. We were in Paris, being welcomed by a crew who were as happy to see us as we were to see them.
Uniworld, S.S. Joie de Vivre, the crew and cruise manager were all magnificent. Our itinerary included Giverny, with an excursion to Monet’s gardens, Roeun, and Caudebec-en-Caux with an opportunity to golf at Etretat.
We also had an entire day devoted to the Normandy beaches including Utah and Omaha beaches, Pointe du Hoc, and St. Mere Eglise, as well as a full day in Paris including the epic opportunity to visit the Louvre and take a Seine river cruise. All agreed that the entire trip was excellent, but that the Normandy beaches were the reason and highlight many of the guests had decided to book this Fox Group Vacation. What made that day even more special was the ceremony that Uniworld’s local guide, Barbara arranged at Omaha Beach: a trumpeter played taps and then our national anthem. There wasn’t a dry eye among us!
Logistically, our guests experienced Paris at it’s best with significantly reduced crowds and lines. COVID testing to return to the U.S. was organized by our vacation travel platinum partner, Uniworld and could not have been easier. Every guest returned home safe, happy, healthy and with an emotional revival that only travel can bring.
Jeff Wagner, our guest host and radio personality from 620 WTMJ, had this to say about the trip, “If you ever get a chance to go to Paris. If you ever get a chance to go to Normandy. Do it. I’ve traveled on many trips and this may have been the best trip yet as far as places we got to see. It was just amazing and we did it with lots of great listeners. I think everyone had a great time and the staff was spectacular.”
He also had this to share with us, “I know traveling in the pandemic world, there are a lot of questions. I’m here to tell you, it really wasn’t a hassle. The crowds are less, and things are just starting to open up. Normally at the Palace of Versailles there would be 50 tour busses. On the day we went, there were two.”
Jeff talked in depth on his September 13 Jeff Wagner show, if you’d like to go back and listen!
As we parted ways, I reminded our guests it was now their duty to go back home to the United States and let everyone know travel to France was not only possible but delightful. As travel advocates, I asked them to tell their stories, share their pictures and share their experience. Travel will always be, in my expert opinion, the best way to fuel one’s soul.
If you missed it, we discussed our travel experience on the September 18 episode of the Fox World Travel Show on WTMJ. You can tune in on our podcast here.
Travel on, Fox Fans!
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