Some itineraries from Scenic Cruises sail to the storybook town of Strasbourg, France. // © 2015 Gillies Zaiser/Scenic Cruises
Feature image (above): River cruises allow passengers to enjoy the French countryside. // © 2015 Gillies Zaiser/Scenic Cruises
French river cruises are hot, and cruise lines are providing variety to feed the demand. Several new itineraries combine French rivers with other popular European waterways or pair two French rivers. These have proved so popular that a number of 2016 departures are already listed on river cruise line websites.
Tauck is launching a new 23-day combined pair of cruises on the Seine and Rhone rivers, the Belle Epoch: London to Monte-Carlo. This is a globetrotter’s glamor exploration of north and south France.
After an included two-night stay at The Savoy Hotel in London, with guided sightseeing and an exclusive presentation by Celia Sandys, Winston Churchill’s granddaughter and biographer, travelers cross to France via the Channel Tunnel to board Swiss Sapphire for a nine-night cruise along the Seine. The itinerary includes a visit to the D-Day Beaches of Normandy, a tour of Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny and a dinner with a musical performance in an elegant chateau in Rouen, along with guided sightseeing in Paris. Guests will sample famous French specialties as they travel, and during two days in Paris, they can choose among museum visits as well as shops and cafes of Le Marais or the Army Museum.
From Paris via the high-speed TGV train (Train a Grande Vitesse), they board Swiss Emerald in Lyon on the second nine-night cruise that combines locally produced cheese, chocolate and Calvados (apple brandy) with legendary wines and the cowboys of the Camargue after a day in the culinary capital of France.
Ports of call include Avignon, the grand center of the popes, and the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape, on a wine-tasting excursion. If all of that isn't enough cosmopolitan glamour, there’s a final two-night stay at the Fairmont Monte Carlo.
Avalon Waterways has introduced a new combined itinerary with the 16-day Rhine & Rhone Revealed on Poetry II and Tranquility II. A cruise on the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel is paired with a cruise through France on the Rhone River from Beaune to the Cote d’Azur.
The Rhone sailing follows an overnight on the French Riviera. Guests travel to Van Gogh’s Arles in Provence and explore the Camargue area. Destinations include the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Avignon, medieval Tournon, France’s gastronomic capital of Lyon, as well as Macon, Chalon-sur-Saone, Beaune, Viviers, Vienne and more.
After a coach ride to Basel, the second phase of the journey on the Rhine includes guided sightseeing in Strasbourg, Koblenz and Cologne, as well as an excursion to Heidelberg, Germany’s oldest university town. The romantic Rhine Gorge and the Lorelei rock are complemented by Rhine wines in Rudesheim. A canal cruise in Amsterdam caps the experience.
Last year, Scenic Cruises launched its new Seine-dedicated ship, Scenic Gem. For 2015, the line has a handful of staterooms available at press time for the 23-day Gems of the Seine & South of France River Cruise.
A 10-night cruise on the Seine, sailing roundtrip from Paris, is paired with the Saone and Rhone in the South of France after a transfer via TGV train to Dijon and Chalon-sur-Saone. The itinerary brings guests to Versailles, Rouen (overnight), Honfleur (overnight), Vernon, the beaches of Normandy and a private classical concert in a chateau. A tasting at Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a private diner and concert in the Palais des Papes, a food market in Avignon and a trip to Arles are among guest experiences offered before departing from Nice.