The 60th anniversary of Europe’s best-known World War II battle is inspiring dozens of tours to France and beyond this year. Although some trips are sold out, it’s not too late to snag a spot.
D-day, June 6, 1944, when more than 130,000 troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, to launch the Allied invasion of Western Europe, has been memorialized in the film “Saving Private Ryan” and was a focus of the HBO series “Band of Brothers,” among other cinematic tributes.
D-day-themed tours no longer cater mainly to war veterans, said Cristy Pfeiffer, co-owner of Historic Tours in Secaucus, N.J., which has run trips to Normandy for 21 years. Only about a fifth of Pfeiffer’s customers are veterans. “There’s a huge interest among teenagers” who have been inspired by World War II computer games, TV’s History Channel and other media, she said.
The trips are also popular with history buffs, baby-boomer children of veterans and their children, she said.
Starting June 4, France will host nearly three months of ceremonies, conferences, parades, reenactments and other events related to the Battle of Normandy. Highlights will include fireworks and a parachute landing June 5 and an international ceremony at Arromanches on June 6. For details, visit www.normandiememoire.com, or call the French government tourist office call center, (410) 286-8310.
A sampling of tours with openings at the Travel section’s deadline Tuesday (all prices are per person, double occupancy):
* “D-day 60th Anniversary Commemorative Tour”: A 10-day trip to Normandy, Luxembourg and Belgium -- site of the crucial Battle of the Bulge that opened Dec. 16, 1944. Includes the Battle of the Bulge Museum and the official commemoration at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. Departs June 1. Land-only prices start at $4,299, including meals. Historic Tours, (800) 222-1170 or (877) 992-8687, www.ww2tours.com.
* “Remembering the 60th Anniversary of D-day, Normandy Invasion”: Includes a 10-day cruise on Holland America’s Noordam from England to France, Brussels and the Netherlands (from $1,254), plus optional shore excursions ($660 package), two-day pre-cruise London package ($545) and a 10-day post-cruise tour from London to Berlin ($2,495); airfare is extra. The cruise departs June 2. Valor Tours, (800) 842-4504, www.valortours.com.
* “D-day 60th Anniversary Cruise”: This 11-day trip also includes the June 2 Noordam cruise and adds a night in London (with a visit to Winston Churchill’s war room) and the June 6 commemorative ceremonies. Departs May 31. Prices begin at $1,985; airfare is extra. Vacations at Sea Travel Agency, (800) 749-4950, www.d-daycruise.com.
* “D-day and the Battle of the Bulge”: A 12-day tour visiting war-related sites in England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. Departs April 15, May 6 and 13, June 16, July 15 and Sept. 9. Land-only prices begin at $1,899, including most meals. Joan Irvine Travel, (866) 508-3481.
Many other tour companies will visit the Normandy region throughout the year, affording a chance to see key D-day sites without the crowds that will gather June 6.