Top 10 Reasons to Take a River Cruise
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Provence. Burgundy. Normandy. Bordeaux. River cruises that inspire.


Among European countries, France is the number one, most popular destination in the world.
From elegant, chic Paris, the “City of Lights” to the historic Normandy Beaches, from the vineyards of Burgundy to sunny Provence and beaches of the Mediterranean, a river cruise in France is just what one expects — full of the special joie de vivre that can be found only in La Belle France. But, before we continue this review, please remember, river cruises in France generally sell out very early (Sometimes over a year in advance!), thus creating a great deal of disappointment for those who plan late. Please book as early as possible.

More itineraries and more ships added to meet demand.
As the demand for river cruises in France has increased, so has the supply of new and beautiful river ships. Uniworld's impeccable SS Catherine (launched in 2014) sails weeky through Provence and Burgundy cruising the Rhone and Saone. In 2015, Viking launched two new sleek "longships," and Avalon Waterways launched the Poetry II into the market. Avalon also introduced the breathtaking Tapestry II (sailing on the Seine River) which, in our opinion, is still among the best of their newest "Suite Ships" and a strong rival to other cruise lines in the Seine market. Viking also introduced new "longships" onto the Seine to meet the increasingly indemand Paris and the Beaches of Normandy itineraries.

French wine aficionados are also excited about the recent introduction of very wine-focused cruises in the Bordeaux region. Scenic, AmaWaterways, Uniworld and Viking now have a number of river cruises sailing through this wonderful France wine region. On these itineraries, you'll experience the wines and foods of Bordeaux along with winetasting events in many of the more impressive Chateaux, such as d'Arsac and Saint-Emilion. On some cruises you'll even enjoy an off the ship dinner at one of the Chateauxs. Bordeaux cruises really open up an indepth experience for food and wine lovers (This is for oyster lovers: you may not know it, but Bordeaux may have the best oysters in the world, even better than the Chesapeake Bay variety.).

On a France river cruise, you'll soon discover why France is a truly remarkable country, one that is culturally, artistically and historically rich. It is so much more than merely Paris! You'll discover charming towns like Chartres, with its famed cathedral; Tours, which may be one of the most picturesque towns in the midi-region; there’s also Honfleur, one of our favorite towns in Normandy, which appears to be unchanged from the time of Napoleon. They are all a MUST to visit! There's so much more to tell you about, please keep reading...

As we begin to wind our way through France, let's start first with glorious Paris.
Imagine strolling the left bank of Paris where art studios abound while strange, cool Parisian artists mingle with an eclectic mix of locals and tourists. Maybe take a seat in a quaint sidewalk café where, for a few Euros, you can have an espresso and fresh baguette or pastry as you while away the day just people watching. Next, stroll and shop along the incredible Champs-Elysées boulevard where at every turn, you'll be able  to take great photographs of the Arc de Triomphe. Perhaps later, while ascending the outdoor elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower for a lunch in the clouds, revel in the excitement and romance of the moment.

Paris and its surrounds is one of the easiest cities to explore in depth. The subway system (one of the finest in the world) enables one to go everywhere for only a few Euros. It will even take you to what is possibly the most impressive, old building in all of France — Versailles — where the treaty that ended WWII was signed. The palace consists of almost 1,000 rooms and contains a myriad of treasures of bygone eras.

A French river cruise is much more than just an experiential trip through France.
A river cruise through this country not only takes one on a journey through hundreds of miles of beautifully diverse landscape, it is also a journey back through time. The major river systems of France, the Seine in the north and Rhône and Saône in the south, are intimately linked to France’s culture, history, and development. While you’ll see different scenery and perspectives on these diverse systems, all of the rivers deliver unequalled, staggering amounts of beauty, culture, history and social development. There’s so much to see in France that not even a fabulous river cruise will allow you to gather it all in during one visit.

Cuisine, wine, architecture, art... what more could you ask for!
What’s one of the first things that come to mind when you think of France? Food, of course. A cuisine so elaborately prepared and skillfully presented that it gave rise to the term haute cuisine. French cheeses... fabulous wines... trust me when I say, you won’t be disappointed in any of it! A Seine River cruise will expose you to hearty Norman fare; delicious ciders of NOT just the plain old apple type; huge varieties of cheeses including fresh Camembert and Brie. You may not know this, but the imported cheese we get here in the States must be pasteurized or it's not allowed in. Most European cheeses are not required to be pasteurized and you won't believe the difference in quality when you taste the unprocessed French cheeses (I can still taste that warm baguette with a spread of soft, creamy brie that I had when last there — yum!).

Imagine docking at a village along the Seine, joining one of the ship’s chefs ashore to stroll through the narrow cobblestoned streets in search of delectable goodies. Your mission: shop for fresh fare for the evening meal while listening to the chef translate your questions to the friendly market vendors, try a pastry or two (or three), and spend the morning much as the French do — preparing for the evening meal.

In the south of France, a cruise down the Saône and Rhône will include the capitol of French (many would say the world) gastronomy: Lyon. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second largest city in France, Lyon is known as much for its historical and architectural landmarks as for its food and wine. Lyon is also the gateway to the Beaujolais and rosé wine regions of France.

On any of these cruises, you’ll feel as though you’re in wine heaven! France is known for its world famous wines too numerous to list here, and rightly so. At stops along the Saône and Rhône, you’ll have ample opportunity to sample many of the regions’ finest wines. On your Saône River cruise, taste the finest Burgundies and Beaujolais; on the Rhône, sample the delicate rosés of Provence and delightful reds of the Côte du Rhône.

France river cruises are also about more than food and wine.
If you’re like me you’ll also appreciate France for its incredible history and its many accessible landmarks, including the incredible Roman Amphitheatre in Arles, the sumptuous Versailles Palace, and the magnificent Bayeux tapestry which relates the story of the Norman conquest of England — but brush up on your Latin as the tapestry is completely annotated in that language! There’s also the former Palace of the Popes, Roman ruins, castles and an incredible array of wonderful small towns and villages to explore.

What's the best time to enjoy a river cruise in France? All year!
Early spring and late Fall are great seasons to travel if you want to avoid crowds. Springtime weather may still be a bit rainy and on the cool side — 50’s to 60’s — but, you’ll get great value for your money. The weather is best in the late Spring (May to mid-June) and in the early Fall (September to late October). These two time periods incur high season pricing, but for those who don't enjoy cooler weather, it is the most enjoyable time to go. Days are warm, not hot, nights are pleasant; the hordes of tourists (Remember, this is the most visited country on the planet!) have not yet descended on the most-visited sights. You might even get that perfect view of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre without having to elbow your way through a packed crowd! As you’d expect, summer is high season in terms of tourists, but prices are a bit lower than in May and September because it’s much warmer. If you can do it, we really suggest an off-season cruise. It’s still very pleasant weather and everything, I repeat, everything is open, less crowded and in many cases less expensive — and yes, they do raise prices in France during peak periods.

Off-season river cruising in France.
If you’re looking for something really different, why not experience Paris and the Seine River as my wife and I did on a recent winter holiday cruise, commonly called a Holiday Markets cruise. You’ll have more time in very un-crowded Paris to shop and explore, and be able to visit traditional Christmas Holiday Markets along the Seine in charming medieval towns such as Rouen and Honfleur. Can’t you just see yourself strolling down the Champs-Elysees on a crisp winter evening with the Eiffel Tower all lit up in the distance; Parisians bundled up listening to wandering choirs? Magical, simply, magical.

A few things to consider when planning your France river cruise.
Like a strong magnet, France’s attraction and pull is undeniable and powerful. Many consider it the most romantic place on earth with a cuisine to match. It is blessed with an embarrassment of riches: world class museums, beautiful beaches and stunning alpine ski resorts, elegant and fashionable stores that draw shoppers from every continent, scenic and serene villages nestled along the banks of its rivers, and a lifestyle that is the envy of the world. Vivé la France!

Here a little tip for planning your vaction: On almost any France river cruise, you generally have the option of extending your vacation with a pre and/or post cruise land package. On some cruises the option is included in your price. We strongly recommend that you do this, especially if your cruise offers a stay in either Prague, the south of France and, of course, Paris.


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