River Cruising in France

You’ve planned your trip to France and spent months in anticipation, waiting impatiently for the day you finally board the plane to Paris.

After a 30-hour flight, you arrive in Paris, to be whisked instantly by your guide (no time to lose) around crowded museums and art galleries, waiting in lengthy queues because it is, after all, Paris.

Retiring foot sore and weary to your hotel in the noisy – but chic – nightclub district, you can’t sleep because of the constant blaring of dance music and car horns.

The next day, bleary-eyed and frazzled (but pretending not to be because this is a holiday), you get in your car and race down the autoroute, bypassing all the lovely little French villages and vineyards, to the Cote d’Azure and its crowded beaches, where you pay a fortune for a sun lounger next to a noisy French family of 14…………..

Or you don’t do any of that and instead book a French river cruise, where you spend your days serenely gliding down two of the most beautiful rivers in Europe, eating French gourmet cuisine,  and visiting renowned vineyards and 11th century chateaux in out-of-the-way medieval towns…………….

This is exactly what Kiwis, Sue and Tony Hassed, chose to do last May. Eschewing the hustle and bustle of cars and trains, they booked their own floating hotel trip, a CroisiEurope cruise on the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, in south-western France.

If you love medieval history and chateaux, and know a Medoc from a St Emilion, then this cruise is definitely for you.

Aptly named ‘A Renowned Land of Plenty’, it’s a round-trip six-night cruise from Bordeaux. It sets sail from Bordeaux, heads down the River Garonne, joining the River Gironde and visiting the medieval, fortified  towns and vineyards lining its banks, before it reaches the Gironde Estuary.

There you turn back, but not before visiting the famous town of Cadillac, and joining the Gironde again, where you get a chance to visit the St Emilion vineyard and the Chateau de Roquetaillard.

Troglodyte caves, medieval ramparts, ancient catacombs, and yes, more vineyards, are all highlights of the trip.

The ship Sue and Tony cruised on was the Princesse Aquitaine, a recently renovated two-deck ship, with 69 cabins and  138 guests.

Large Sun Deck

Large Sun Deck

Facilities include a large Sun Deck, where you can relax in a deck chair or lounger and admire the scenery as it goes by, or visit the lounge and take in the views through the large panoramic windows. Or you can relax with a good book in the library, have a cocktail in the lounge or pick up a souvenir or some postcards from the onboard gift shop.

The 36-year-old family-owned cruise company prides itself on being one of the best river cruise companies in Europe, with special emphasis on its gourmet cuisine.

Sue and Tony had originally booked a cabin on the lower deck, but after problems with leaky plumbing they were immediately transferred to the upper deck at no extra charge.

After experiencing a night in the lower deck cabin, Sue strongly recommends booking a cabin on the upper deck, even though it means paying an upper deck supplement.

She explains that even though all the cabins on this ship are above the water level, they felt as though they got more fresh air and better views, when moored, than the lower decks.

“It was 100 per cent value for money,” she adds.

Unfortunately there was a setback at the beginning of the cruise, as heavy flooding in the River Garonne made it unsafe for the ship to set sail immediately.

This meant that some of the on-shore excursions had to be cancelled, including the visit to Cadillac, but Sue says, despite this disappointment, the rest of the cruise with its fantastic food and staff more than made up for it.

Sue & Tony with friendly crew Stephanie and Jose

Sue & Tony with friendly crew Stephanie and Jose

The personal service they received was outstanding, particularly the care and attention when Tony developed swollen legs after the long flight over.

One of the multi-lingual cruise staff personally went with Tony to the hospital to translate, and stayed with him the whole time.

“He was always available and fantastic,” she adds.

Sue says she thoroughly recommends CroisiEurope,  and would take another cruise with them.

“Excellent food, good quality wines, super staff in every area.”

Thanks to Sue and Tony for sharing their story and photos.  Written by Rachel Sturges


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