Be as laid-back as the locals on a leisurely voyage by boat or barge along the country’s rivers and waterways
New ships, imaginative itineraries and fresh experiences will add a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to French river cruising this year.
Emerald Waterways, Uniworld and Amadeus are all launching new vessels in April. The 138-passenger Emerald Liberté will travel from Lyon to Avignon, Uniworld’s Joie de Vivre will sail the eight-day Paris and Normandy itinerary, while Amadeus Provence – the 14th river ship of the Austrian company Lüftner Cruises – will carry passengers along the Rhône and Saône.
Martina Lüftner, founder of Lüftner Cruises, said: “The cruises along the French rivers are some of our most popular products, especially with our international partners in the premium sector. We want to take this great demand into account and wish to exceed our customers’ expectations of elegance, design and functionality in France as well.”
On Amadeus Provence, Fred.\ River Cruises is offering a seven-night round trip from Lyon in October from £1,599pp, The River Cruise Line has an eight-day voyage from £1,499 and Saga has spaces on its seven-night trip Into The Heart of Provence from £1,099.
Scenic, which reports strong demand for French sailings, is offering a shorter Bordeaux cruise this year, at eight days instead of 11. Both Scenic Sapphire and Scenic Diamond are being improved with new Royal Owner’s Suites – said to be the largest on any European river cruise – bigger lounges, new vitality pool and Scenic Culinaire cookery classes.
Angela Sloan, national sales manager UK for Scenic, has reported healthy demand for France sailings. She said: “The Rhine and Danube are fantastic starter options for river cruise customers but increasingly Scenic’s France cruises with their combination of excellent food, spectacular scenery and signature Scenic all-inclusive promise are becoming a great ‘go to’ alternative for customers seeking new experiences.”
A-Rosa is launching cruises on the Seine in 2017, with its ship Viva offering a four-night Christmas shopping trip plus two seven-night voyages through Normandy in the summer.
Lucia Rowe, head of sales UK, said: “We will have three departures for agents to sell and if they are successful we will look to add additional dates/itineraries going forward. With Paris as the starting point, agents have a range of transportation choices that they can add to the booking depending on the customers’ choices.”
Tauck is starting an eight-day family river cruise along the Seine beginning with sightseeing in Paris then a trip on the newly redesigned Sapphire. Excursions include Normandy’s D-Day beaches, a visit to Claude Monet’s house in Giverny and cycling around Marie Antoinette’s farm.
French company CroisiEurope, which operates a third of its 50 ships in its homeland, is introducing CroisiBike cycling-themed cruises along the Loire, Rhône and Saône, and Gironde. It is also launching a Discovery Package to provide experiences such as a helicopter ride over the Loire and Medoc, a 2CV tour of Paris and exploring various stops on a Segway.
APT is also promoting Bordeaux by Bicycle cruises on board AmaDolce, where guests cycle past chateaux and vineyards, stopping for cheese and wine tastings on the way. Passengers on Bordeaux cruises will be able to visit Château de Cazeneuve, the former home of King Henri IV of France.
APT is including France as part of its 90th-anniversary sale. Angela Waite, its UK sales and commercial manager, said: “We have a choice of no-fly river cruises in 2017 so if agents have a client that’s really keen to try this travel style but would really rather not fly then this could be a great option.”
Customers using Riviera Travel can travel by Eurostar via connecting services from more than 50 regional stations. It offers two seven-night itineraries – the Seine, Paris and Normandy on the 88-passenger Swiss Ruby, and Burgundy, the River Rhone and Provence on the 140-guest Swiss Corona and Lord Byron.
For clients who enjoy a slower pace and more personal service, there is plenty of choice in barge holidays.
For 2017 G Adventures has added 10-day itineraries through Burgundy as part of its programme with National Geographic Journeys.
Belmond is launching two new luxury barges this summer to sail through Alsace and Champagne. Six-night itineraries on the eight-passenger boats feature private visits to family-owned vineyards and breweries.
European Waterways is offering a new culinary-themed charter cruise on the eight-guest Enchanté. Excursions on the six-night itinerary include truffle-hunting, visiting a snail farm and touring an olive oil producer.
Saga is also promoting two barge trips – the Champagne Route To Paris along the Marne on the 11-cabin Raymonde, and Secrets of Southern France on the Canal du Rhone-à-Sete on the Anne Marie.
Viking offers an eight-day Avignon to Lyon voyage from £2,045pp, including seven guided tours. Guests will have the chance to savour Beaujolais wines, learn how to make Choux Chantily cream puffs and see how chèvre cheese is made. Price includes all meals, wine, beer and soft drinks with onboard dinner and lunch, and free WiFi. 0208 780 7985
Avalon Waterways has a jazz-themed 10-night trip from £1,899pp leaving on June 26. The voyage from the Cote d’Azur to Paris, with special performances onboard, coincides with the Vienne Jazz Festival on the Rhône. The price includes return flights or Eurostar train, home pick-up service within 100 miles of a UK airport, and three nights in hotels. 0800 668 1801
Shearings’ trips include 10 days on the Loire in July from £1,719pp. The voyage on the 48-cabin Loire Princess features Nantes, Saint-Nazaire, Ancenis and Angers. The fare includes a six-day all-inclusive cruise, overnight stays on outbound and return journeys, and return coach travel. 0844 209 7143
1 – France offers itineraries for food & wine lovers and history & culture buffs.
2 – No-fly trips are available by coach or train.
3 – Excursions range from visiting the homes of artists to D-Day battlefields.
4 – Some boats sail from the heart of Paris.
5 – Offer a pre or post-cruise extension to extend guests’ experience – and increase your commission.
Other lines featuring French cruises: