We’ve recently returned from a 7 night river cruise on the Rhone with AmaWaterways. It was the Essence of Burgundy & Provence Wine Cruise on board the AmaCello. Who is a river cruise for? If you want the ease of traveling and staying in one room while experiencing several destinations and learning from expert, local guides, this cruise is for you! We find that the itineraries are masterfully planned with several excursions offered daily at various levels of difficulty. All of this is included in a AmaWaterways cruise. PLUS, we spent a few days in Paris, France and I’m giving you all of our insider tips!
I’m going to break down this river cruise itinerary by the stops we made. For this trip, we needed to get ourselves to Marseille, France. We routed Dallas to London Heathrow on American Airlines and then had a connection to Marseille with British Air. The embarkation for the AmaWaterways Rhone River cruise is in Arles and AmaWaterways will arrange the airport pickup with a luxury shuttle. We arrived and boarded the AmaCello in the evening just in time for our safety briefing, orientation and dinner. The rooms are small but very functional. You’re really only there when sleeping or getting ready for the daily excursions. All excursions can be picked prior to the cruise via the online portal and you can change and update them when onboard. Did I mention that all excursions are included?
The AmaCello has a capacity of 146 guests if full but we were only 94 guests. It has 73 rooms in total and the ship is 110 meters long. Cesano Santos was our Cruise manager and always so helpful with my questions. We had a crew of 50 people to manage all of our needs. Our Captain was Cyril Paya from France and he is an expert on the Rhone River!
Essence of Burgundy & Provence Wine Cruise itinerary
Arles is considered one of the most beautiful cities in France.The experienced guide leads you to the top sights, including the Romanesque cathedral and Roman amphitheater. You’ll also visit sites made famous by Van Gogh in his time spent here. He was fascinated by the Provencal colors lights and landscapes and produced many paintings while living in Arles such as “Cafe Terrace at Night” and “The Yellow Room”. You also visit the hospital where he was committed after cutting off his ear. He was obsessed with the color yellow and you see that in a lot of his paintings.
We enjoyed a walking tour in Avignon, aptly named the “City of Popes,” that includes the Papal Palace and the well-preserved medieval walls surrounding the historic center of town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We saw the Avignon bridge and our guide taught us the song in French. After our guided tour, Pete and I decided to hang out in Avignon and have lunch at an outdoor French bistro under the beautiful sycamore trees as well as shop. The town is so charming! That afternoon we took a bus ride to visit the Pont Du Gard, a Roman Aqueduct built in 19 B.C. It took fresh spring water 50 km to NImes. The museum is fascinating and so well done. It shows you how the aqueduct was built and its very interactive.
This town was established in the 5th century and is home to Saint-Vincent Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in France that is still in use. The chandelier is from Charlemagne. The town is charming and only 4,000 people live here. Pete and I always chose the walking tour with the ‘advanced’ level. That way we were sure to get all our steps in each day. Most days offered a city tour via bike and guide or a seperate excursion like a visit to a truffle farm. On average, about 3 excursion options were given at each destination. That evening, we enjoyed a paired wine dinner on board the AmaCello with a wine expert.
We discovered dynamic Lyon, starting in Fourvière Hill, part of the city’s historic region that is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the 19th-century basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière. We Continued on to the old town of Lyon, followed by a guided walk through the St. Jean district, where you will be introduced to the city’s unique covered walkways, known as “traboules.” These secret passageways connect streets and the only way to know if you can enter is to push the door to see if it opens. Lyon was truly one of our favorite stops. Due to rising waters on the Rhone River, we got an extra day in Lyon and Pete and I were able to explore it on our own too. Lyon bistros are known at a Bouchon and the food is delicious! Lyon is also known for their red praline candies and pastries. Simply divine!
Later in the day, some folks opted for a bus ride to Vienne, which boasts a Roman past that can be seen in its marvelously preserved ruins. There you can enjoy a guided walking tour around the city. For those wishing to be more active, you can either take a guided bike tour along a portion of the ViaRhôna bike route or a guided hike from the ship to the Monastery at Mount Pipet.
Wine tasting in Burgundy and Beaujolais, France
We spent two days wine tasting in France during this cruise. The first was at Chateau de Pierreclos in the Burgundy region of France near the town of Macon. The vineyard and winery is known for its Pouilly-Fuissé Premier Cru, Saint-Veran and Burgundy Pinot Noir. We enjoyed a lovely tasting in the cellar of the winery, which was a former castle.
The second tasting was at Chateau de Cordelles in the Beaujolais region. This former castle from the 15th century is now a lovely vineyard and winery. We tasted a lovely Rose, Chardonnay, Fleurie and Morgon. The property is stunning and the winemakers are always delighted to have you.
We opted not to extend our trip through AmaWaterways (the land extension was a trip to Geneva) and took the train from Lyon to Paris, France on our own. Because… Paris is always a good idea! The train ride was so easy and only took about 2 hours. We stayed for 3 nights at the Hotel de Berri (near Champs Elysees) which included a full breakfast daily. Their rooms are relatively large for Paris standards and the location was excellent. Near all the great shopping! Fun fact about me, I like a full breakfast included in a hotel stay because it’s one meal taken care of. We shopped, explored and ate our way through Paris. Our suggestions are: Pop in to the George V Le Bar for a cocktail before dinner. Dinner at Girafe and the tasting menu with Chef Philip Chronopoulos at Palais Royal. We went for dinner but they also offer lunch. It was divine! Have a late lunch at Cafe de Flore and Fouquet’s. We always visit the Musee d’Orsay and it had the Van Gogh exhibit this time which was fabulous. Some other recommendations are dinner at Ferdi, drinks at the Ritz Bar Hemingway, dinner at Costes. A huge thank you to my friend Kim Hext for all the restaurant recommendations!
Travel Tip: Since airfare is always at my own expense even with travel collaborations, I will search endlessly for the best routes, connections and fares. The Paris to Dallas non-stop return was pricing high in business class so I opted for a short connection and better fare on our return. We routed Paris to Dublin, Ireland with Aer Lingus and then connected on the Dublin to Dallas non-stop on American Airlines. The entire trip was booked with American Airlines and earned us AAdvantage miles. I knew about this flight from our Ireland trip and the extra bonus is that you pre-clear customs and immigration in Dublin. When we landed in Dallas, we simply got out bags and left. So easy!
We highly recommend a river cruise with AmaWaterways and they offer endless routes and journeys on their 29 ships. The food, beverages and service is excellent. They have thought of everything! Click HERE to inquire and a travel advisor will get back to you to help you plan the journey of your dreams. To view our exact itinerary on the AmaWaterways site, click HERE.
Have you been on a river cruise? How did you like it?
xoxo – Tanya
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The AmaWaterways portion of this trip was gifted. All selections and opinions are my own.Tags: AmaWaterways, France, paris, river cruise