One of the more romantic things you can do in Paris is to take a dinner cruise on the Seine at night. Earlier in the month we experienced two very different types of cruises, but each had much to offer.
Bateaux Parisiens is one of the largest boat operators in Paris. The company offers many types of cruises, including sightseeing excursions, as well as lunch and dinner cruises.
There were two time slots to choose from, and we selected the 8:30PM-11PM dinner cruise. We boarded at 8:15PM on a well-marked pier, about a seven-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. It was a cold, mostly cloudless night, and we were seated at one of the prime spots, the nose of the boat. The 180-degree view through the floor to ceiling windows was fantastic. Barely seated, we were offered a flute of Champagne straight away, a soft, slightly sweet rosé Champagne. The low lighting gave a touch of romance, and a singer sang softly enough as to not overwhelm the diners.
There are three menu packages available, all with the same food selection, but the quality and quantity of wine and Champagne varies. We chose the Premiere Service, which included a three-course meal plus a cheese plate, two glasses of Champagne, two glasses of wine, mineral water, coffee and/or tea.
The ride itself was super smooth and quiet, almost like we were gliding over the Seine. Seeing the dramatic flying buttresses lit up on the back of Notre Dame was a wonder, and being in time for the sparkle lights flashing from the Eiffel Tower was magical. A highlight was a monument most visitors don’t know exists: a replica of the Statue of Liberty, proudly holding her torch on a tiny island west of the Seine River. (Gustave Eiffel designed the infrastructure of the Statue of Liberty.)
We savored foie gras with pear compote and snails from Bordeaux for starters, followed by delicious sliced duck with polenta and cranberries and flaky, roasted sea bass. Dessert was a sublime combination of pear cake with melted chocolate.On the other side of the spectrum, is a company with just one boat and an excellent word of mouth reputation for its laid back service and well turned out cuisine.
Le Calife is a little more on the rustic side, more like a refitted barge with handsome wood details.
The intimate dining room on the upper level was candlelit and had wood beams across the ceiling with Tiffany-like lanterns. Le Calife has a lower price point menu than the Bateau Parsiens; the menu Saint Peres is 67€, which includes a glass of Champagne and a three course dinner with wine, and the menu Grand Palais includes a glass of Champagne, a three course dinner with wine and a cheese plate.
Our Champagne, which was dry and bubbly, was followed by a jumbo shrimp salad mixed with mango and zucchini. A fantastic tender beef Rossini was stuffed with sautéed foie gras, and dessert was a gooey tarte tartin with salted caramel ice cream.
The route was similar to the Bateaux Parisiens but slightly shorter due to the two-hour length, as opposed to 2.5 hours.
Le Calife has three levels; the lower level has a piano lounge, a level with an informal dining room, and a more scenic level for the more expensive service.
Le Calife has a nightly dinner cruise all year round and lunch cruises Saturday and Sunday.