We ended our first day in Paris with the biggest splurge of our entire trip – a fancy dinner cruise on the Seine River. Our friends had rather brilliantly proposed the idea before our trip, offering to scout around on the internet and book something for all four of us. Their selection was an evening on board Le Calife, which turned out to be an excellent choice! Originally built in 1939 to transport cargo, the barge has long since been converted into a luxurious floating restaurant, refurbished in shining mahogany, teak, and stained glass. Conveniently moored near Pont des Artes and Pont Neuf, two bridges famous for their “locks of love,” the cruise offers an outstanding 3-course meal with complementary champagne, French specialties like foie gras, and a 2-hour cruise past Notre Dame and the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower.
During the 2-hour tour, we steamed south beneath historic bridges like Pont Neuf and Pont des Arts, marveled as the towers of Notre Dame rose dramatically overhead through the glass-roofed barge, and thoroughly enjoyed one savory course after another: salad with foie gras and duck, rump steak in pepper sauce and roast marjoram potatoes, and apples wrapped in phyllo with caramel ice cream. It easily made my list of top 5 meals of all time.
Turning to steam back toward Le Calife’s mooring, we returned along the northern bank of the river, again passing the towers of Notre Dame and continuing downriver as far as the Eiffel Tower. Every hour on the hour after sunset, the tower is lit by 20,000 bulbs with a sparkling light show for 5 minutes. The captain of Le Calife perfectly synchronizes the entire 2-hour cruise to round the tip of the Île aux Cygnes in time to see the light show on the Eiffel Tower.
He pauses at the tip of the island so visitors can enjoy the views of the Eiffel Tower, as well as Paris’s Statue de la Liberté. At 22 meters tall, the statue faces west toward her much larger sister statue in New York.
Finishing our desserts just as Le Calife approached her mooring, we watched as the captain expertly snugged the barge up against her berth. Minutes later, the gangway was passed across and we stepped back on shore, completely and wholeheartedly content. Apparently good food, friendly locals, and the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower can have that effect on first-timers in Paris.
- Route: The dinner cruise takes 2 hours to cruise from its mooring near the southern edge of Pont des Arts, passes beneath Pont Neuf for several kilometers southeast, then turns and returns along the same route, this time taking the northern channel of the Seine past the Île de la Cité. It then continues all the way to the Eiffel Tower, arriving in time to see the hourly light show on the tower, offering a perfect view of the monument and of the Statue of Liberty on the tip of the island. The barge then returns to its mooring.
- Menus & Pricing: Two dinner options are available – one for €67 and one for €108. From each category, you can choose from several options for appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Prices include the meal, complementary champagne, and the 2-hour cruise.
- Official site for Le Calife