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River Destinations

France river cruise: Sailing the French waterways

CroisiEurope, cruise, cruising, river cruise, French rivers

France is an idyllic river cruise destination, equally suited to first-timers and repeat clients who’ve explored other European rivers. Itineraries take in world-famous cities, including Paris and Rouen, with plenty of time for passengers to savour the country’s renowned cuisine and wine along the way.

Ships on the Rhone and Seine sail into the heart of France, and other waterways include the Garonne, which flows through the beautiful countryside of south-west France, and the Loire, where an innovative paddle-wheel vessel navigates the shallow waters. With the debut of the latest Super Ship from Uniworld, new itineraries and enhanced shore excursion programmes, the 2019/20 season provides agents with even more sales opportunities for France river cruises.

Uniworld’s former River Royal has re-emerged as the 124-passenger SS Bon Voyage. Offering three itineraries along the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde, the ship features spacious new suites, four dining venues and chef-led cooking classes. Uniworld CEO and president Ellen Bettridge says: “The SS Bon Voyage was built with a singular purpose and there isn’t another like it in the world. It is certainly more expensive to build ships exclusively for a particular destination, but we know our guests value authentic experience above all else.”

Uniworld, cruise, cruising, river cruise, French rivers
French style comes into its own on SS Bon Voyage


New itineraries and excursions

This year CroisiEurope is operating an additional ship on the Rhone, the Rhone Princess, with seven and eight-day itineraries, including a new gourmet itinerary focusing on the region’s food and wine. Also new this year is a three-night Paris cruise with an unusual tour of the capital that includes the Père Lachaise Cemetery, the final resting place of Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and other famous names, plus a five-night Seine cruise with the chance to experience the Rouen Armada, a collection of ships from around the world. What’s more, in 2020 CroisiEurope will introduce all-new sailings in the Aquitaine region from Bordeaux to Royan, along the Gironde Estuary and on the Garonne and Dordogne.

CroisiEurope’s UK director of sales, John Fair, says: “As a French river cruise company that has been successfully operating for over 40 years, we are able to offer our guests a true insight into this beautiful country, including its culture, heritage and, of course, renowned food and wine.”

Titan Travel is featuring CroisiEurope’s Loire cruise among several new French itineraries in its newly published Escorted River Cruise brochure. In research carried out by the operator, the Loire was flagged up as one of the top rivers Titan customers wanted to experience out of rivers they had not sailed on before.

Tauck, meanwhile, has unveiled the new seven-night Impressions from the Seine: Paris to Normandy cruise. Aside from family voyages, the line’s other Seine itineraries span nine to 11 nights and the new cruise is aimed at passengers looking for shorter holidays, including younger travellers who want to take time off work.

Gastronomic excellence

APT brand ambassador Luke Nguyen, the celebrity chef and TV personality, is hosting a new 10-night gourmet-themed itinerary in Bordeaux, departing 26 August 2019. Highlights include lunch at the Ore Restaurant in Versailles, owned by renowned chef Alain Ducasse, and a visit to a culinary school with Nguyen.

Two new included Signature Experiences on APT’s seven-night Romantic Seine cruise are a visit to the Lido de Paris cabaret show, featuring the famous Bluebell Girls dance troupe and an after-hours visit to Palais Benedictine, home of the namesake liqueur, followed by dinner in the grand Abbots’ Hall. New to APT’s week-long Grand Bordeaux itinerary are a visit to one of the area’s few remaining cooperages to learn about the art of barrel making and an exclusive wine tasting at the 17th-century Chateau de Ferrand estate.

APT, cruise, cruising, river cruise, French rivers, Luke Nguyen,
Luke Nguyen hosts a new culinary itinerary for APT


Furthermore, Shearings Holidays is adding three new 2020 France river cruise itineraries – Springtime on the Rhone; Paris & Highlights of Normandy and In the Footsteps of Impressionists. Providing flexible coach, rail and air travel options – with all three available on the springtime cruise – the holidays lead in from £999pp. Shearings will also offer two other new French itineraries in partnership with A-Rosa Cruises: the Scenic Rhone to the Mediterranean cruise, which travels all the way down to Port-Saint-Louis, and a festive Christmas in Paris sailing.

In addition to French rivers, hotel barges offer the opportunity to explore the country’s peaceful network of canals and narrow rivers. CroisiEurope has introduced new barge cruise and bike itineraries on the Upper Loire, Marne, Marne-Rhine, Rhone-Rhine and Burgundy canals.

CLIA UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer sums up: “For those who have done the two big players – the Rhine and the Danube – a French river cruise is an excellent choice. With very good transport links from the UK to France, French river cruises not only offer a stress-free start to a holiday, the rivers are world renowned for their history and culture, and have one of the finest culinary scenes in the world.”

Selling tips

  • Pair a cruise with a land stay in cities such as Paris and Lyon
  • Poignant wartime sites and memorials that will appeal to history lovers
  • Wide choice of new and refurbished ships including a modern paddle-wheeler
  • Suggest intimate barge cruises for the ultimate in relaxation
  • Excellent food and wine guaranteed

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