2024 marks the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings of Allied troops in France to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation. For travelers with family members who served in Normandy, as well as those keen to immerse themselves in history, one river cruise line has created an itinerary to commemorate the milestone with perspectives from both sides of the Channel.
I've made a river cruise pilgrimage to Normandy and visited the American, British and Canadian D-Day Landing Beaches. It was not in an anniversary year, even, and walking on the actual beaches where history was made at such immense human cost was one of the most moving experiences I've ever had on my cruise travels.
In 2024, Viking will offer combination river cruise and land tours that take travelers to iconic locations in London, Normandy, and Paris associated with the Liberation of Europe, World War 2, and Operation Overlord.
The 'Paris & D-Day 80th Anniversary' river cruises sail France's Seine river between Paris and where the Seine meets the English Channel in Normandy. To tie in what was happening in Europe to the bigger historic picture, guests also cross to England, where the D-Day invasion was masterminded.
80 years following D-Day, almost no veterans remain. Trips like this give travelers the opportunity to carry the torch on behalf of those who contributed directly to freedom by walking in their footsteps, learning first-hand the successes, devastating losses, immense challenges overcome to win the war and lay the foundation for peace.
Guests booked on Viking’s new Paris & D-Day 80th Anniversary voyage begin their journey in London to visit historic World War II sites—including the Churchill War Rooms, where the D-Day landings were prepared in England, and Bletchley Park, the home of the legendary World War II codebreakers.
You'll also have the opportunity to learn about Britain’s Special Forces and more during a visit to the Imperial War Museum London and experience Gunwharf Quays, the D-Day Museum and Southwick House—where Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower planned Operation Overlord.
Photo: Lynn Elmhirst: The Pointe du Hoc Monument on the cliff 100 feet above America's D-Day Omaha Beach scaled by US Army Rangers
To Paris and Normandy's Landing Beaches
After four days in England, guests continue on to Paris to embark on their Viking 'Longship' for the cruise portion of the trip, sailing north from Paris on the Seine towards Normandy and the French coast facing England.
Viking's Scandinavia-inspired 'Longships' on the Seine river are built specifically for this route, enabling the ships to navigate into the heart of Paris, to Viking's exclusive docking location at the Port de Grenelle, just a short walk from the iconic Eiffel Tower. You'll be among fewer than 170 guests on board, with plenty of space to soak in one of the greatest pleasures of river cruising: the sail away through the heart of Paris and into the French countryside along the Seine in the Aquavit Terrace, in lounges and chairs on the top deck, and if you choose a balcony, from your stateroom.
Sailing north from Paris en route to Normandy, guests have a chance to explore delightful French ports of call along the way. You'll have a chance to visit Giverny, site of the beautiful gardens and charming farmhouse where Claude Monet lived and worked and trace the footsteps of Joan of Arc in Rouen.
Photo: Lynn Elmhirst at Britain's D-Day Gold Beach
Once in Normandy, excursions take guests to some of the key sites of the D-Day Landings and the battles inland that followed. You'll have a chance to pay your respects at Normandy’s American Military Cemetery and walk the hallowed ground of the Allies' Landing Beaches, where massive shell holes, armaments, fortifications and more remain, 80 years later.
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