River cruises are becoming more and more popular and now you can choose to float along a river almost anywhere in the world. Bordeaux is one of the nicest places to do a wine cruise…
Rolling down the River on a French Wine Cruise
For our first river cruise, my husband and I joined a French wine tasting adventure along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Bordeaux is the heart of prestigious French wine production and the holiday included excursions to vineyards along the way. Of course with the chance to taste the odd glass or two.
Being of a certain age, we travelled with Saga and appreciated their door to door pick up service and to mix with others around our age. The actual cruise was operated by a French company, CroisiEurope, and our boat, the MS Cyrano de Bergerac, was an attractive and friendly base for the week. Guests on this cruise were mainly French with a small group from the UK with English spoken throughout. No-one mentioned Brexit and the French contingent were good company!
The cruise began and ended in the beautiful city of Bordeaux, a delightful and vibrant French port. We had plenty of time to explore both before and after our cruise. You can explore by yourself or on an organised excursion. The flight time from the UK is short, around 2 hours, so Bordeaux would also make an ideal city break.
Sightseeing and gastronomy
One of the great advantages of a river cruise is that the ships often moor in the centre of town, so it is easy to do your own thing. We combined a half day city tour with time by ourselves and were able to appreciate much that the city has to offer.
Compared to sea cruises, river boats tend to be small, so you soon get to know the crew and other passengers. Don’t expect the extensive facilities of cruise ships though. The Cyrano was perfectly comfortable and appeared spacious, with just two lounges and one dining room and a spacious sun deck. Evening entertainment is enjoyable but low key with the weekly ‘crew show’ being the highlight. Other evenings we enjoyed music, dancing or a quiz but also chose to have a quiet drink or two in the smaller, more intimate, lounge bar.
Meals are taken in the light and airy dining room in one sitting. Guests keep the same table throughout the cruise and if you are travelling alone you will find it easy to meet people and make new friends.
This is an all-inclusive holiday and the food is exceptional. Typically French with a buffet breakfast, four course lunch and three course dinner. There is no choice, but menus are posted every day so if you have a particular dislike the chef will do his best to accommodate you. It goes without saying that the wine served throughout the meals is of a good standard and very plentiful.
Visiting famous wine landmarks in Bordeaux
We visited some very famous wine areas along the way, Medoc, St Emilion and Sauternes. As well as touring some speciality vineyards we had the chance to explore the history of the region. Whilst moored in the pickled in the past town of Bourg we visited the ancient citadel at Blaye with an experienced guide. Libourne is a lovely town, a short walk easily across the Pont de Libourne brings you to a pretty square and plenty of shopping opportunities. Another memorable afternoon was spent discovering the steep cobbled pathways of St Emilion that lead to Europe’s only monolithic church. We were privileged to go inside with our guide and were overawed by the workmanship that dates back to the 12th century.
Finally, our last day was spent on a trip to the Bay of Arcachon, famous for oyster beds, seafood and sand dunes. We discovered the massive Dune du Pilat which is constantly changing with winds and tides but remains very high! A unique landscape that has to be seen to be believed.
To sum up, if you are looking for a holiday with a difference, where you can meet new friends, learn about local food, wine and culture, or to just relax and watch the river roll on by, then I can recommend a river cruise.
More on Bordeaux
What to see and do in historic Bordeaux
Bordeaux Museum of wine
Bordeaux City Guide
Sally Dowling enjoys freelance travel writing and guest blogging.