When Dan and I booked our tickets to Paris, I immediately set to work planning activities that would make the most of our romantic getaway. It wasn’t hard. After all, I’d been daydreaming of this trip for years…long before I even met Dan! We’d have champagne beneath the Eiffel Tower, catch the sunset on the Seine, go for leisurely strolls in the rain…and while we did all of that and more, the thing that made the biggest impression was our evening cruising the Seine on the Bateaux Mouches dinner cruise.
A dinner cruise might seem like an obvious choice given the pre-honeymoon vibes of our little getaway, but it was never something I really considered. With so many expenses at home and in the future, Dan and I tend to travel on a budget, and dropping the equivalent of two nights in a hotel on one dinner experience seemed a little bit…out there.
We were breathless when my grandparents gifted us with the very thing we’d dreamed of: an evening of romance and sophistication on the beautiful Seine River. There are several companies running dinner cruises along the Seine. We chose the Bateaux Mouches for its convenience, menu options, and excellent reviews. We simply booked and pre-paid online, and made our way to the dock near Pont de l’Alma the very next evening.
The Bateaux Mouches dock is conveniently located next to Pont de l’Alma. Dan and I took Metro line 1 from Hotel de Ville to the Franklin D. Roosevelt stop and walked the last couple of blocks to the banks of the river. The dock itself is highly visible from Pont de l’Alma, so if you don’t see the Bateaux Mouches right away, a quick stroll onto the bridge will send you in the correct direction.
Dinner and drinks, gratuities, a souvenir menu in one of ten languages, and a 2 hour 15 minute cruise past some of the city’s most popular sights. The cruise is not guided, so do not expect narration or interesting tidbits as you dine. Rather, it is a relaxed and intimate dinner setting that allows you to gaze out at the city while sipping on your wine. The cruise begins and ends in the same place. Transportation to and from the dock is not included, and souvenir photos are available at an additional cost.
There are several cruise options available through Bateaux Mouches, each with its own menu options. We opted for the Prestige Dinner Menu, available on evening cruises departing at 8:30 pm. To see all the available times and menu options, click here. Considering that the dock itself was located just half a mile from the Eiffel Tower itself, I’d say we were off to a good start.
Now for the fun stuff. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we booked our cruise. The menu sounded wonderful and the reviews were good, but the dining area looked a little cheesy. With red tablecloths and waiters clad black and red striped boat neck shirts, it looked like the cruise was 100% directed at tourists, a suspicion which was confirmed when we were handed two souvenir menus in English. At any rate, it was already paid for (thank you Mamie and Papy!) and if it turned out to be a tourist trap, so be it.
Yes, it was touristy. Yes, the “you’ve probably never heard of it” travelers will likely sneer when they read this. But do I care? No.
It was everything I wanted from our trip to Paris. Stunning views, a romantic ambiance, delicious food and wine, and the best company in the world. And for the first time since our arrival in Paris, we were able to relax and just be in the moment.
The meal was prepaid, so there was no need to stress over choosing an entree in our price range. We picked whatever sounded best and went right back to our conversation without a care in the world. And since the menus were in English, we were able to order and enjoy our meal without feeling like confused, clueless tourists. It was nice to feel like ourselves again, and speak without feeling the need to endlessly apologize. The entire experience was pleasant and stress-free, and that alone made the dinner cruise one of our favorite moments of the whole two week vacation.
What’s on the Menu?
A quick look at the current Prestige Dinner Menu suggests that menu items are rotated out frequently, probably to showcase the freshest flavors of the season. Here is a photo of our menu, taken in the spring of 2016.
Dinner service for one includes:
- A welcome glass of Castel Mouche
- A snacking plate to share
- Choice of one starter
- Choice of one entree/main course
- One bottle of wine for two diners
- One bottle of Evian to share, or one soft drink per diner
- Duo of seasonal cheeses
- Choice of one dessert
- Coffee or tea
The menu options were varied and interesting, and included at least one option for vegetarian diners in each category. We loved being able to branch out a bit and try new flavors and dishes that we do not regularly eat at home.
Dan, for example, ordered the duck foie gras starter. He did not realize what foie gras was or how it was made, and was pretty horrified when I enlightened him. And while we did not particularly enjoy the dish or its origins, it was fun and novel to try something so far out of our normal diets.
Always the seafood lover, I opted for the poached egg on a bed of crab. It tasted fine, but I was disappointed to find several small shards of crab shell throughout the dish.
At any time during the dinner service, diners were able to visit the open air top deck of the boat. We loved hanging out above deck, relishing the cooling air and the new perspective on some of Paris’s most beloved sites, like the forever beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral.
And when we got cold or hungry, we simply returned to the beautiful main dining area and took in the views from the panoramic glass windows. While some dinner cruises charge more for prime seating, every single table on the Bateaux Mouches dinner cruise was located right next to the window, giving everyone an equal chance to see the city from the water.
And what a city it was. Floating down the river, we reflected fondly on all we had seen and done so far.
There was the Musee d’Orsay, the stunning train station turned museum that had captured my heart on our very first day in Paris.
There stood the Invalides, its gilded dome gleaming in the light from the setting sun. Hard to believe it was just that morning we’d caught a train from the Invalides and spent hours wandering around Versailles.
And who could forget the Eiffel Tower? We’d seen a lot in such a short period of time, but seeing Paris from inside our boat allowed us to slow down and appreciate the city even more. Locals and tourists alike gathered along the banks of the Seine, picnicking, sunbathing, and having an early drink at the restaurants dotting its banks.
Others gathered along the bridges, relaxing for a moment and watching the boats pass by below. We left the well-trod center of the city, and the scenery changed to include more industrial-looking buildings, simple pedestrian bridges, and a variety of restaurants and businesses in houseboats, anchored neatly along the river. We even saw a floating hotel! Something to try in the future, perhaps?
Soon, our main courses arrived. Dan ordered the Iberian pork loin, while I tried the veal and risotto. The dishes were relatively simple, but delicious nonetheless.
We were disappointed by the proportion of fat to edible meat in Dan’s entree, but truly enjoyed my dish of veal and savory risotto. Live music played as we dined, courtesy of the boat’s pianist and violinist, and starry lights twinkled in the ceiling as the sun sank lower toward the river.
We poured ourselves second glasses of wine and took them up to the top deck as the boat turned around and made its way back toward its point of origin.
We returned to find the “duo of seasonal aop cheese” waiting for us. I am not a big cheese eater, but Dan enjoyed both of the available options…even the one that I said smelled like a petting zoo.
Then we grabbed our jackets, and it was back once more to the top deck. The sun had finally set at this point, and we watched in eager anticipation as the boat drew closer to the Eiffel Tower, now golden and more regal than ever.
An appreciative murmur ran through the crowd as the tower began to sparkle…it’s almost as though the dinner cruise was timed to elicit this exact reaction! Wink.
On our way back past the Eiffel Tower, we also got to see the replica Statue of Liberty, located on a tiny island in the middle of the Seine. It was cool to see it in the same shot as the Eiffel Tower, and we smiled approvingly as the pianist downstairs began to play Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” See, I told you it was touristy!
The cruise was drawing to a close, and we returned downstairs for the final courses: dessert and coffee! We both ordered the chocolate souffle, but in my blissed-out haze, I completely forgot to take a photo of it. I was too busy staring out the window at the Eiffel Tower, enjoying the way the ceiling of our boat created an illusion of endless starry skies.
And then, as if the evening had not been romantic enough already, the wonderful live musicians played a beautiful cover of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.” Tears may have been shed for this incredible moment, and the rush of being, once more, in the right place at the right time.
We left the dinner cruise in a haze, completely absorbed in each other and in the beautiful city we’d been so lucky to share.
The night had been an incredible success, something that we enjoyed immensely and already knew we wanted to experience again, on our next trip to Paris. What more was there to do at this point than wander out and end the night with a romantic stroll along Pont Alexandre III?
Have I convinced you yet? if you’re looking for a romantic experience in Paris, look no further. Click here to visit the Bateaux Mouches website and book a dinner cruise of your own! I am in no way affiliated with the Compagnie des Bateaux Mouches. I’m just a very happy customer who wants to share the love!