World-class wines and legendary cuisine, the most spectacular river scenery, verdant landscapes draped in vineyards and honey-coloured medieval towns with intriguing, cobbled lanes – discover one of southern France’s most tantalising regions.
Arrive in Lyon, where your five-star floating hotel is moored in the picturesque historic center. Our dedicated English-speaking crew will welcome you on board and help you to your cabin. After settling into your spacious and tastefully furnished accommodation, there’s time to familiarise yourself with this floating five-star hotel.
Nothing beats the excitement of waking up somewhere new and as you rise this morning, we arrive in the delightful town of Mâcon, the capital of the Mâconnais region of Burgundy. After our first splendid breakfast, we depart the ship and enjoy the short drive to Cluny Abby, one of the most glorious Benedictine abbeys of the Christian Middle Ages. In the 12th century, a network of 1450 abbeys and 10,000 monks made up the order of Cluny under a highly original and successful system; the Abbots of Cluny became leaders on the international stage and the monastery of Cluny was considered the most prestigious monastic institution in Europe. Its wealth enabled the monastery to hire workers to do the traditional labour of monks allowing them to devote themselves to almost constant prayer, thus elevating their position into a profession. Despite the monastic ideal of a frugal life, Cluny Abbey commissioned candelabras of solid silver and gold chalices made with precious gems for use at the abbey Masses. Instead of being limited to the traditional fare of broth and porridge, the monks ate very well, enjoying roasted chickens (a luxury in France then), wines from their vineyards and cheeses made by their employees. The monks wore the finest linen religious habits and silk vestments at Mass. Artifacts exemplifying the wealth of Cluny Abbey are today on display at the Musée de Cluny in Paris. Whilst much of the abbey was destroyed during the Revolution, we enjoy a fascinating guided tour of this atmospheric place.
We are in the heart of this famous wine-producing region where vines have been planted since Gallo-Roman times. We visit one of the region’s best winemakers for a tour and tasting in a historic chateau. Mâcon was once known for its red wines, but the twentieth century saw its white wines also coming to prominence. Today, the Mâcon appellation oversees 53 hectares of vineyard, 70% of which is dedicated to the production of white wine, principally Chardonnay. After learning about the time-old traditions of wine-production, sample a selection of its finest produce. We return to our ship stopping off at the geological phenomenon Solutre Rock – an important prehistoric site surrounded by lush vineyards, made famous by the ritual ascents of French President Francois Mitterrand during the 1980s
Back on board reconvene in the restaurant for lunch during which we slip our moorings. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon up on deck or acquaint yourself with the ship’s excellent facilities – perhaps a dip in the splashpool or a indulge yourself with a spa treatment.
Tonight, enjoy another superb dinner as we arrive in the picturesque town of Chalon.
Rising this morning we’re berthed in Chalon, gateway to Burgundy and home of Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography. On this morning’s tour we see some of the pretty villages that produce some of the world’s most sublime wines – Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, and many more. Nearby is medieval Beaune, Burgundy’s wine capital and one of the most picturesque walled towns in the region. At its centre is the Hospices de Beaune, also known as the Hôtel-Dieu. Originally built in the 15th-century as a hospital for the disadvantaged, it’s a jewel of High Gothic architecture, instantly recognisable for its colourful glazed roof tiles arranged in dazzling geometric patterns. Today it’s a museum showcasing famous works by artists such as Van der Weyden and a prestigious annual wine auction takes place here each November, with proceeds going to the Hospices. We’ll get to enjoy a guided tour of its fine interior during a guided walking tour, strolling through Beaune’s attractive streets and then there’s time for you to explore under your own steam. Why not visit the fascinating Dalineum museum dedicated to the Catalan artist Salvador Dali with a collection of his surrealist paintings, sculptures, furniture and photographs, or simply enjoy the view from a pavement café and absorb the ambience of this historic spot.
We return to the ship for lunch as we recommence our journey to Lyon. This afternoon, take to the deck for a lazy afternoon on a sun lounger or catch up on some reading in a quiet corner in the lounge as the ever-changing river views seamlessly drift by - holidays really don’t get more relaxing this! Gradually the vine-clad slopes of the hazy green Beaujolais hills come into view as we approach one of the world’s most revered red wine- producing regions. On our right we see the picturesque villages of Morgon, Fleurie, Juliénas, Chénas and many more, while on the left you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of snow-capped Mont Blanc – Western Europe’s highest mountain. As the afternoon melts away, you’re completely unwound, and thoughts turn to tonight’s dinner. Take in the views and chat with your fellow travelers over an aperitif on the terrace area.
Overnight the ship has cruised almost imperceptibly downstream, and we have arrived once more in the delightful city of Lyon. The Rhône Valley has been the route of choice for marauding armies and peaceful traders for centuries, and Lyon’s current site, at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, cried out to be fortified. In 43 BC the Romans founded the city, which subsequently grew in importance; the Emperor Claudius, conqueror of Britain, was born here. There are many Roman remains to see, but it was the production of silk that brought Lyon to prominence during the Middle Ages, and throughout the city you can see signs of the wealth that poured in – Renaissance buildings, imposing churches and Europe’s largest pedestrian square, Place Bellecour, with a statue of Louis XIV as its focus.
The old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is crammed with antique shops and intriguing traboules – narrow covered passageways enabling silk merchants to transport their wares to the river without getting wet – that today are a joy to amble through. As well as its glorious architecture, Lyon is generally acknowledged as France’s (and to locals the world’s) gastronomic capital. In fairness it has much to commend it: nouvelle cuisine was invented near here and the city boasts a huge array of speciality food shops and eateries, including 20 restaurants with one or more Michelin stars and countless little places to eat and drink. We enjoy a city tour taking in the main sights, stopping to visit the impressive 19th-century Basilica and enjoy spectacular views of the city; after a short walking tour you’ll have free time to explore under your own steam.
Return to the ship for lunch as we slip our moorings once more for an afternoon’s scenic cruising. We pass the historic Roman town of Vienne, strikingly located in a narrow section of the Rhône where the river meanders dramatically around a steep bluff.
As the Rhône squeezes and twists past Condrieu, Saint-Rambert-d’Albon and Saint-Vallier, with wooded cliffs rising high on both sides the views are particularly spectacular. Traditionally these stretches were the most dangerous due to fierce currents and varying water levels but, with the waters now tamed by a series of locks whose complex mechanisms never cease to fascinate, you can relax on the Sun Deck savouring the glorious vistas. As the afternoon drifts into evening what could be better than a cool, crisp glass in the lounge before enjoying this evening’s culinary delights in the restaurant, prepared by our outstanding chef.
Overnight we have arrived in Le Pouzin and this morning after a leisurely breakfast we depart the ship for a spectacular drive to explore the beautiful Ardèche Gorges, whose scale is a fitting reminder of Mother Nature’s awesome power. Sheer limestone cliffs plunge almost 1,000 feet to the river’s blue waters, which elegantly snake their way through stupendous rock formations, culminating in a huge natural arch, the Pont d’Arc. Caves, grottoes and natural sculptures create marvellous views at every turn before we return to the gentler slopes of the Rhône Valley, where our ship is moored in charming Viviers, a medieval town clustered around its 12th-century cathedral. We continue through the famous lock at Bollène as you relax over lunch after which there’s time for a siesta in the sun or afternoon cup of tea on the deck whilst taking in the views. Increasingly the landscape gradually becomes less green with more ochres and magentas, the houses have sloping terracotta roofs typical of the Mediterranean and the air carries heady aromas of pine and cypress. You can only be in the Midi or – as we call it – the south of France. Dusk falls and as we reconvene for dinner, Avignon’s majestic skyline comes into view, and we moor up in this legendary city. Later sink into a comfy seat in the lounge over your favourite digestif from the well-stocked bar and listen to the relaxing tones of the ship’s on-board pianist.
The light catching the red roofs of Avignon’s majestic skyline is a sight to behold over breakfast, after which we embark on a guided tour of one of the most extraordinary and intriguing cities in France. Avignon’s destiny changed during the 14th century, when the Pope’s court moved here to avoid strife in Rome. Igniting a century of prosperity, the Pontiff commissioned a host of ambitious building projects, and today the city is immaculately preserved, nestling behind its almost-intact 14th-century walls and boasting more remarkable monuments, superbly decorated buildings, churches, chapels and convents than you can possibly count. Most important is the stunning Popes’ Palace, made up of two buildings that together form the largest Gothic palace in the world. With turrets, towers, parapets and other fortifications, its exterior resembles a mighty fortress, while the interior is a tour de force of medieval architecture and ornamentation, adorned with priceless frescoes, Gobelin tapestries and graceful sculptures. The ceremonial hall, chapels, cloisters and private apartments are all unmissable. But to truly embrace the feel of papal Avignon, imagine yourself here during the Middle Ages amid the Palace’s rich furnishings and extravagant decoration, with cardinals, princes and ambassadors milling about its candle-lit halls and corridors, while in the streets below countless pilgrims eagerly anticipate benediction. This was Avignon’s brief golden age when it was truly the centre of Christendom. Later you’re free to explore as you wish, perhaps visiting the nearby Petit Palais, the former home of the archbishops of Avignon, to cast a critical eye over the remarkable collection of over 300 paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, including works by Botticelli and Carpaccio.
After lunch back on board we visit the amazing Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct, one of the best-preserved Roman constructions and wonders of the ancient world against a superb backdrop of pine and cypress-covered hills. No amount of fame can diminish the first sight of this 2,000-year-old structure, which was the highest bridge built in the Empire – the Romans themselves considered it the most important testimony to their greatness. Its statistics are staggering: over 900 feet long and almost 160 feet high, with its stones each weighing up to six tons. To put this in perspective, the span of the Pont du Gard is greater than the width of the River Thames at London Bridge – and no mortar was used in its construction!
We continue to Uzès, one of the most charming cities in the south of France, famed for its local produce and bustling textile markets. On arrival we enjoy a walking tour, strolling through the shady cobbled streets of its old town, a delightfully car-free zone, whilst admiring the pale limestone buildings with their characterful shutters and elegant wrought iron balconies. See the impressive cathedral with its quirky Pisa-like tower, contemporary artwork and ancient, intricate stained glass. Built on the site of a Roman camp, visit the Duke’s Palace with its imposing Renaissance facades, turrets and ramparts, wealth of fine art, furniture and a cellar stocked with fine champagne. Uzès became the first Duchy of France in 1632 and the present Duke and Duchess still spend the summer here. Climb the tower to enjoy panoramic views of the olive groves, garrigue and vineyards.
This evening our ship sets sail once more, arriving in Arles later tonight.
You awake under the azure skies of deepest Provence and amid the warm stone colours of Arles, many of whose historic monuments are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Albeit small, it was the key stronghold on the Roman road to Spain, one of the empire’s richest possessions. Seagoing ships could reach the city and it became a regional capital, briefly ruling over Gaul, Spain and Britain. Our guided tour will help you appreciate the finer points of Arles’s magnificent Roman remains, including the splendid amphitheatre, one of the best preserved in the world, the earlier theatre built during the reign of Augustus and the Alyscamps, the ancient necropolis with its extraordinary atmosphere. The disturbed but great genius and artist Van Gogh lived in Arles for just over a year, from February 1888. It was his most prolific period and, inspired by Arles and the light and beauty of the Provençal countryside, he produced around 300 works, including The Night Café, The Sower and, of course, Sunflowers. We enjoy a guided tour with time to explore independently too
After lunch we take a scenic drive to the picturesque village of Les Baux-de-Provence located in the Alpilles mountains, spectacularly sited atop a rocky outcrop, a cluster of stone-built houses, bright terracotta roofs, ancient churches and fine public buildings terracing the hillside in the shadow of the ruins of its medieval castle. Awash with architectural treasures at every turn, it’s a delight to wander its cobbled streets soaking up the ambience of times gone by. Enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views of this typically Provençal landscape, surrounded by vineyards, twisted age-old olive and cypress trees. We visit an authentic olive oil farm to learn more about the production of this versatile store-cupboard staple and end our visit with a delicious and unforgettable tasting of olive oil accompanied by local specialities.
Our ship remains moored in Arles overnight so after dinner perhaps hop ashore for a digestif and savour the atmosphere of this historic spot.
During this morning’s breakfast our magnificent vessel glides into Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, located at the mouth of the great Rhône, between the river and the sea, and surrounded by the unique wilderness of the Camargue.
The Parc naturel régional de Camargue fringing the shoreline of the Camargue, has been a protected wetland and marine area since 1970. Few areas of France are as distinctive, fascinating or inspirational as this area of outstanding natural beauty with its remote and beautiful Mediterranean beaches and grassy dunes, where the mistral blows across sun-baked prairies strewn with the blue-flowers of fragrant sea lavender, and salt-marshes, ponds and lagoons teeming with wildlife stretch as far as the eye can see. Famed for its wild horses, black bulls and birdlife, it’s a paradise for birdwatchers as well as a spectacular place to enjoy a host of other sporting activities from cycling, hiking and pony-trekking.
During spring and autumn, the park's wetlands are a major staging point for hundreds of thousands of migrating birds and we enjoy a tour into this unique landscape with a visit to the Ornithological Park of Pont de Gau to observe and learn more about the colonies of bird species, including the famed pink flamingos, who have made their home here.
Later we drive to the bustling seaside town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the capital of Camargue. On arrival we have a short orienteering tour of the main sights – the Notre Dame de la Mer, a fine Romanesque church dating from the 9th century and the old town hall followed by some free time to wander before returning to the ship for lunch. Spend a lazy afternoon on board enjoying the scenery. After dinner is served retire to the bar as we arrive at Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
After breakfast we take a scenic drive into the heart of the Rhône Valley, savouring the views of its vineyard draped landscape, dotted with the occasional sleepy hamlet. We firstly arrive in the Roman city of Orange located on the ancient Agrippa Road and a historically important trading post. This charming ‘City of Princes’ is home to two magnificent and unmissable UNESCO monuments: the mighty Triumphal Arch and the Roman theatre – the world’s best preserved ancient theatre. Built in the 1st century AD, gaze in awe at its exceptional state and huge back wall towering an incredible 37 metres with columns and a statue of the Emperor Augustus still intact. You’ll be transported back in time as you imagine all the spectacles that would have taken place in this ancient spot.
Next we take a panoramic drive through the stunning and world-renowned region of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. The region’s vineyards are prized the world over and there will be a photo stop before we arrive in the magical village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, spectacularly sited on a hill, an island rising from a sea of vines. There can be few places in the world that lives and breathes the cultivation, vinification and sale of wine as deeply as this unique Provençal village. Its cobbled streets are awash with wine shops and cellars at every turn in which you can taste the legendary wine. Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the first wine-growing area to receive an appellation contrôlée and wines bearing the name must meet the strictest conditions.
The pebbly soil covered in small stones that absorb the abundant sunshine during the day warms the grapes at night and the resultant red and white wines are rich and full-bodied. We enjoy a delectable wine tasting in one of the region’s finest wineries before driving back to the ship in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Start the day with a leisurely breakfast and why not take that second cup of tea up on deck and enjoy the river breeze as the delightful scenery slips by. We’ve a morning’s sailing ahead so there’s time to enjoy one last visit to the fitness area or perhaps make an appointment at the hairdresser’s for a last minute pamper before we make our stately final approach into Lyon just before lunch is served.
Spend your final afternoon enjoying time at leisure exploring the city. Perhaps visit one of the superb museums – catering for all tastes from cinema buffs to fine art lovers, and for a superb view over the rooftops try the Musée de Confluence with its fascinating evolutionary exhibits depicting the story of life and earth. Or stroll the vast and glorious park, a true green haven at the heart of the city, with its zoo, botanical garden and magnificent lake with plenty of scope for wildlife spotting. There’s a spot of shopping to be had around the Place Bellecour whilst admiring the elegant facades - typical Lyonnais pralines make the perfect gift for friends back home! Or simply wander the old town and its characterful traboules, stopping to enjoy a refreshing drink and delicious pastry at a pavement café whilst soaking up the atmosphere of this refined and historic city.
We return to the ship and this evening we enjoy the sumptuous Captain’s Dinner, with the chef serving specialities of the regions you’ve visited during your voyage of discovery.
After breakfast this morning, the crew bids you farewell before you disembark the ship, with time to look back on great memories from a superb trip.
Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of Sole Occupancy cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
*A supplement may apply
In 2023 - add four days to your vacation, staying at the centrally located Lyon Mercure Part Dieu.
You will have seen many of the highlights of Lyon during your cruise. Now you are free to explore at your own pace. Take a leisurely stroll along the river banks at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône, or delve into one of the many superb speciality food shops and eateries in this legendary capital of cuisine. Find out more
Available for purchase on 2023 departures (excluding July & Aug)
During lunch and dinner in our restaurants
Included free on July - August 2023 departures
10am - midnight in our restaurants and bar
View our Enhanced drinks package.
Included free on 2024 departures
With lunch in our restaurants:
From 6pm to midnight in our bars and restaurants, all of the above plus:
View our Superior drinks package.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship for the duration of your cruise. Please note that speeds may vary.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your vacation with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns.