Portside with SIMON MCDERMOTT business development manager, AmaWaterways UK
The Case for French Rivers
When it comes to choosing a river cruise for the first time the French rivers can often be overlooked, and yet they have far more to offer than initially meets the eye.
All of the rivers in France can be accessed by Eurostar and TGV, while most airlines offer a direct service out of most regional airports and low-cost carriers offer options into some of the smaller, more central airports such as Nimes (Arles) for the Rhone, giving the traveller more choice.
The River Seine provides an ideal gateway into the French capital city of Paris. Sailing out of Paris and through the region of Normandy with AmaWaterways, you will embark on a romantic cruise that will enable you to witness many picturesque sights, as well as the poignant D-Day landing beaches and the famous gardens of Giverney, which were captured beautifully by Monet.
A favourite river of mine is the Rhone, which flows from Lake Geneva, Switzerland, and southward before reaching the Provence region of France. The AmaWaterways Provence & Spain itinerary is just one of the many river cruise options that will enable you to visit Provence. Starting in Lyon, this itinerary will take you to a list of towns and cities steeped in history and Roman architecture, and includes stops at Lyon, Vienne, Tournon and Viviers before reaching southern France.
Most operators will provide opportunities to visit famed vineyards and wine-growing areas such as Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais and Bordeaux. AmaWaterways launched its ‘Taste of Bordeaux’ itinerary in March 2016, and it is proving extremely popular.
Most river cruise operators will moor in the middle of typical French towns, enabling travellers to stroll off for a pastis in the local café or town square.
On the Rhone itineraries, AmaWaterways offers excursions to a truffle farm, where guests can watch the farmer and his dogs dig for truffles and also sample this fine delicacy, as well as visiting an olive farm where some of the finest olive oil in the world is produced. Trips are also offered to local markets to sample some of the delicious local fruits, meats and cheeses.
So, if you have customers who have a passion for history, art food and wine (and who doesn’t?) then offer them a French river cruise first. They will not be disappointed.
Starboard with KATHRYN BEADLE managing director, Uniworld UK
The Case for the Rhine and Danube
Many river cruise operators, Uniworld included, offer week-long cruises along the Rhine and the Danube separately, but for clients that have two weeks to spare, it’s a real treat to sail all the way through from Amsterdam to Budapest, or vice versa, taking in both rivers, which are joined by the Main-Danube canal.
There’s plenty for culture vultures along the way, from the architecture of the Parliament Building and the Buda Palace in Budapest to the galleries of Vienna and Amsterdam (think Klimt, Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt), through the heartland of some of Europe’s most prominent composers – Liszt, Strauss, Mozart.
It’s not all history either, with a visit to see the robots in action at the BMW Factory, gentle riverside bike rides, pretzel making, wine tasting, an aerial cable car journey from Koblenz to the Ehrenbreitztein Fortress and a behind-the-scenes visit to Vienna’s famous Spanish Riding School included en route.
The beauty of the scenery along these rivers shouldn’t be underestimated. The Danube Bend, which cruisers sail through between Budapest and Vienna, is particularly picturesque, while the atmospheric morning mist over Schlögener Schlinge, the goose neck bend between Linz and Passau, is well worth the early rise. These valleys are punctuated by numerous hilltop castles and churches such as Melk Abbey, and Esztergom, the largest Catholic church in Hungary.
The culinary delights available on these rivers might be a very pleasant surprise to many, ranging from Hungary’s signature Esztherhazy cake and Vienna’s famous schnitzel and hot dogs, to hearty goulash and an abundance of fresh river trout. And what could be nicer than stopping in picturesque Regensburg for kaffee and kuchen or a cold German beer?
Let’s not forget that these rivers are also the very best way to experience Europe’s quintessential Christmas markets. We also have dedicated multi-generational departures on our Castles Along the Rhine itinerary, so every member of the family can enjoy these cruises. Add to this the plethora of flights offering easy access from the UK to Amsterdam, Budapest or Basel, and it’s no wonder that the Danube and the Rhine remain perennially popular.