The best weekend cruise with a shore excursion to Paris

If you could choose just one weekend cruise, it may have to be this one. For one weekend only in May of both 2023 and 2024, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has announced a weekend cruise to Paris from the port of Southampton, U.K. Or, more precisely, to Le Havre, in Normandy on the northeastern coast of France with the option of a shore excursion to spend the day in Paris.

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Name of Ship: Anthem of the Seas
Start Date: Departures in May to (Cruise dates and itineraries are subject to change at any time. Check with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line at the time of booking)
Length of Cruise: 2 nights
Cruise Port: From and to Port of Southampton, U.K. 
Price point: Starting from around USD 320 / GBP 360 per person for an inside cabin

Cruise from Southampton, the U.K’s busiest port

As with any start to a cruise vacation from a busy commercial port, you must put on rose-tinted spectacles when arriving at Southampton.

Impressive only in so much that the port authority deals with the logistics of passenger cruise ships, freight containers, and transportation of all kinds in and out the dock gates 365 days a year with apparent ease, the port is not a pretty sight.

A little bit grimy and confusing at times, you have to spend more time in Southampton to appreciate all it can offer rather than just checking into a port hotel and hastily heading out to the cruise terminal after your full English breakfast.

On a positive note, Southampton has an excellent university, so the city is buzzing with student life, which means great eateries and unlimited shopping. Pub life is also worth experiencing, and some of the best shopping is right opposite the port at John Lewis. You are so loading your car with goodies after your cruise is a definite possibility.

Transportation in the city is frequent, reliable, and plentiful. If you’re flying in from abroad and spending time in London before your cruise, it’s easy to transfer from London to Southampton by coach, train, or car.

Southampton’s placement on the map in the center of the southern coastline means the city offers easy access to all that is beautiful within a short distance away. And there is much to see along England’s stunning south coast, with beaches and views that rival the Mediterranean.

Southampton can shine if you let it. Arrive early, stay a few days and start exploring. We have plenty of great tips for making the most of your time here.

What to expect onboard Anthem of the Seas

The two-day weekend cruise to Paris has just one port of call, Le Havre on the Normandy coast. To start your voyage from Southampton, a night or two in the city is wise before you climb aboard Royal Caribbean. And we have some inspiring day trips to explore the south’s famous Jurassic Coastline, fossils and all.

First launched in 2015, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas sits comfortably in her home port of Southampton, offering cruises around northern Europe. She belongs to the Quantum class and hosts around 5000 passengers over its 16 decks.

Anthem is a stunning ship to look at. Facilities are excellent for all ages and include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs, and a kiddie splash pool. You’ll also find a giant TV screen on the pool deck. And f you look up, you won’t miss The North Star.

The North Star, an observational glass pod at sea

A unique feature to all Quantum class ships, The North Star is an observational glass pod that offers 360-degree views. Book a ride on the Royal Caribbean app before you start your cruise. The pod holds about 12 guests, and the ride lasts around 20 minutes. Sometimes you can book a ride free of charge, other times, they charge a fee, but it’s worth the ride for the views!

Suite guests are treated to their sun deck on deck 16, and there are plenty of bars around all the pool areas for all guests.

One of the nicest areas onboard Anthem of the Seas is the solarium. It’s only open to guests 16 years old and over, so it’s quieter than in other areas. It has another indoor pool and is multi-level with smaller whirlpools too. It’s a little green oasis and just a great spot to be in. The restaurant in the solarium area is included in your all-inclusive dining and is an excellent place for a relaxing breakfast for the whole family.

From the solarium, don’t forget to explore the bridge wings. These areas extend out over the edge and give incredible views over the front of the ship.

Endless sports and entertainment

The Seaplex area onboard the Quantum class ships offers sports entertainment, from gaming areas to bumper cars, and to ride the bumper is free and on a first-come basis, so there is no need to book. The arcade has many games to keep the children happy, but you must purchase credits to use the machines. These are not included in the cost of your cruise. Nearby is a social club area reserved just for teens.

Included in your cruise also is the Flow-rider surf simulator, rock climbing wall, and sky-diving experience in a giant wind tunnel, So there are plenty of choices for fun sports experiences onboard.

Cruise dining options

Restaurants on Anthem of the Seas will give you plenty of choices of excellent quality food. We love the Windjammer buffet, and as much as possible, we recommend you sit outside at the tables right at the back of the ship. It’s much calmer than inside, and you get an uninterrupted sea view with your breakfast.

The Coastal Kitchen is one reason to consider treating yourself to a suite when booking this cruise. It is the main dining room for suite guests and is included in the price of your cruise.

In addition to your main dining room options for all guests, there are specialty restaurants. Our favorite is Jamie’s Italian. Run by British chef Jaime Oliver, he offers modern Italian cuisine with traditional pasta and bread. There is an excellent variety of food, and the menu is good for the whole family to enjoy. It costs a little extra being a specialty restaurant. But try to nab a cruise deal that includes a specialty restaurant or use onboard credit to pay for one of your two nights onboard.

Weekend cruise itinerary to Le Havre and onto Paris

On embarkation day, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy all the cruise ship facilities. Choose a restaurant for dinner and head to the theater in the evening for the show. We recommend you choose a seat on the second tier at the back for a great view.

In the morning, you arrive at the port of Le Havre. Honestly, if you didn’t head to Paris, you would be more than delighted with Le Havre, the close-by coastal towns of Honfleur and Etretat.

Le Havre la belle and the best reason to stay in the port area

So you chose this cruise because your weekend away can include visiting Paris. And then you sail into Le Havre. It’s easy to be enthralled with this French city, so your choice to pass it over for Paris should not be made lightly.

At Le Havre, you are near the mouth of the river Seine, which has flowed its way through Paris into the English Channel on the Normandy coast. It’s an easy 30 minutes into

A modern UNESCO world heritage site, the old town of Le Havre was pieced back together after the devastation left behind by WWII. Where there was rubble stands bright, polished architecture. And a short walk away from the pebble beach that tells a tale all of its own.

The food market at Les Halles should be taken very seriously on a Sunday. A glimpse into the life of the locals, a feast for the eyes, and an immersive cultural experience packed into an intense frenzy of activity for a few hours. What’s there not to love?

If you stay for lunch in Le Havre, visit Le Grignot and get a table on the terrace. It offers a friendly, relaxed haven for lunch using local ingredients.

Just across the river, the Seine from Le Havre is the bright coastal village of Honfleur. It’s easy to reach by bus from the port with a journey of about 25 minutes. A return ticket will cost around 20 euros each. Honfleur is a little-known gem to cruise travelers. Put this place on your bucket list quickly. Idyllic is an understatement, and when you return home, you may find yourself googling “homes for sale in Honfleur.”

How to spend a day in Paris on your shore excursion

With a 2.5-hour transfer time from the port in Le Havre to Paris, this is the one time we would recommend booking your transportation with the cruise line. Or a supplier you can trust that guarantees are getting you back to your cruise ship on time.

Your ship will most likely stay in port until late into the evening. You will have plenty of time to explore Paris, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can fit into one day of sightseeing.

The Hop-on/Hop-off bus in Paris

One of our favorite ways to see Paris, if you want to explore on your own once there, is the Hop-on/Hop-off bus tour. Most routes start at the Eiffel Tower and take in the main sights such as Palais Garnier (the Opera House), Musée du Louvre, Notre Dame, Champs-Élysées, and the Grand Palais. The whole route takes about 2 hours to complete, but then you need to add time for hopping off at the stops and exploring.

A one-day ticket on the Hop-on/Hop-off bus costs around USD 40 / GBP 35 per person.

If you want to access the very summit of the Eiffel Tower, be sure to purchase a ticket before you travel; this way, you’ll skip the line and save time. The same would apply to visiting Louvre Museum. Queues can be very long, so if seeing the Mona Lisa, amongst other works of art, is on your bucket list, but your ticket before you visit.

Why a guided tour in Paris is worth it

In addition to the obvious, such as guided transport to and from the cruise ship in an air-conditioned bus, a knowledgeable guide in Paris will turn a great day out into an unforgettable experience.

Paris is worth knowing through the eyes of a local, a historian, and someone who lives in and loves the city. The 17 Arrondissements (or districts) each have their distinct character and tempo. At the same time, they all offer a glimpse of history, the food and cuisine we love and associate with France, and shopping experiences that beats most others you will ever have.

Arrondissements, neighborhoods, and districts

Early known as Arrondissements 1,2,3 and 4 is now Paris Central, right in the city’s heart. It encompasses many famous sights you will want to see, including Louvre Museum, Place de la Concorde, Palais Royal, and Jardin des Tuileries. It is, incidentally, where you will find the best chocolate makers in Paris. Then there is Rue Montorgueil with its glorious food markets, boulangeries, and patisseries.

Also part of Paris Central is La Marais, the beautiful historic district with a charm all of its own, and The Islands of Paris, which are Île de la Cité and the Île St. Louis. Here you’ll visit La Conciergerie, once a palace and later Marie-Antoinette’s prison. The islands are connected by bridges, joining the Left Bank and Right Bank. The most famous one you’ll walk across is Pont Neuf.

The 7th Arrondissement is home to the Eiffel Tower and the Rodin Museum, together with some of Paris’ prettiest neighborhoods. This would be the place to stay if you were visiting for the weekend and looking for a great hotel location.

The Champs Elysees is located in the 8th Arrondissement with every luxury, and the 9th Arrondissement is home to Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera house. Noteworthy also is the 16th Arrondissement, where you should go to Trocadero for the postcard-worthy view of the Eiffel Tower.

Traveling between Paris Central and the main sights in the surrounding Arrondissements will be much easier with a guide and tour bus. You have a long day while the cruise ship is in port, but factor in journey time to and from Paris, then you need to have transportation to pack in as much as you can in one day.

And after all that, we can promise you that you will want to return.

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.