Sign Up for Our Monthly River Cruise Newsletter
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection cares about my well-being.
That’s why, just before sunrise, I’m on the top deck of the newly refurbished S.S. Bon Voyage with the ship’s well-being coach, practicing face yoga. (Yes, it’s a thing.)
Bon Voyage, virtually unrecognizable after a $14 million makeover, has one job to do: enhance the well-being — defined as health and happiness — of its 124 passengers. The French call it douceur de vivre, a sweetness of life. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that our preview of the seven-night Brilliant Bordeaux itinerary on the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde rivers is set in a feel-good, relaxed part of the country that locals call “France’s France.”
The ship’s chic real estate is the headline here, and rightly so. But many of the ship’s fresh new shore excursions — such as climbing 154 steps in the dark to the top of the highest sand dune in Europe to watch the sun rise — deserve a shout-out.
Bon Voyage operated previously as Uniworld’s River Royale, which launched in 2006, was remodeled in 2013 and has sailed the waterways of the Bordeaux wine region since 2014. River Royale is history now.
After an eight-month renovation that took the ship down to its shell, Bon Voyage has reemerged with additional suites (four in all, with butler service); dining venues (also four); and luxurious finishes such as polished wood, marble, brass, Murano glass and fabrics informed by the blue, lavender and emerald palette of the local landscape. The only familiar object past passengers will recognize is the mural behind the reception desk.
The cabins, at 140 and 151 square feet, have that “new ship” look and now feature marble bathrooms with heated towel racks and luxe toiletries from Asprey of London. Also new is a self-service laundry.
Other significant upgrades include the doubling in size of the buffet in the Grand Fromage dining room and the reconfiguration of the stylish Le Salon Champagne to accommodate a brasserie serving bistro fare. Among the most striking features is the Soleil deck with its infinity pool, casual cafe and top deck bar service that calls out for a glass of chilled rose.
Technically, this isn’t a wine-and-food-themed cruise, but it feels like one. How could it not? Day-to-day programming includes wine tastings at chateaux; a stop for fresh estuary oysters and champagne at a UNESCO World Heritage Site; a chef-led farmer’s market tour to buy locally sourced ingredients for regionally inspired dishes onboard; and a “Do As Locals Do” walking tour of Bordeaux with well-timed pauses at chocolate and sweets shops. Onboard the ship, the sommelier offers an exhaustive array of wines and, in the intimate La Cave des Vins, connoisseurs can gather for expert food and wine pairings.
Was it a bon voyage? Oui.
With departures between mid-April and end of October, Bon Voyage sails three itineraries: the seven-night Brilliant Bordeaux, the 14-night A Portrait of France and the 21-night Ultimate France.
The DetailsUniworld Boutique River Cruise Collectionwww.uniworld.com