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Essential Guide to a Bordeaux River Cruise with AmaWaterways

Everything you need to know about taking a Bordeaux River Cruise with AmaWaterways from excursions to life on board. Take a look inside a river cruise ship and learn more about the full itinerary on the AmaDolce. #amawaterways #heartoftheriver #travelwithamawaterways

As wine lovers, my husband and I had toyed with taking a Bordeaux river cruise for a few years before finally making the leap and booking a journey on the AmaDolce from AmaWaterways. It is no secret that I’m not a huge fan of mega cruise ships since I love spending more time in a destination, don’t love crowds, don’t enjoy being around over drinkers, and really appreciate good food. So while the concept of a much smaller river cruise held a lot of appeal, we had a lot of questions before our trip, such as:

  • What would the age demographic be like?
  • Would we connect with fellow passengers?
  • Would it feel crowded?
  • Would there be enough to do?
  • Would we have enough time in each destination?
  • Would the food be any good? What about the wine?
  • What is included?
  • Are there a lot of extra fees?
  • Would it be worth the price?

If you have wondered the same or more, keep reading because I’m going to give you the full scoop on what you need to know and what to expect onboard the Taste of Bordeaux river cruise from AmaWaterways. I was hosted by AmaWaterways for this experience so that I could share my honest thoughts and review with my readers, all opinions are my own.

If you are interested in learning more about any of AmaWaterways’ journeys, please request more information through my referral link . Note that I may receive a small commission if you book through my link and I thank you for your support.

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To answer these questions, I’m going to walk you through our experience and cover the cabin accommodations, on-board facilities, dining, crew, excursions, our itinerary, and more .

What is a Bordeaux River Cruise and Why Choose One?

AmaDolce river boat framed by flowers

A Bordeaux river cruise operates on the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, which branch off of the Gironde Estuary near the city of Bordeaux, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in southwestern France. The Dordogne River is considered the “right bank” of the region, and where you will find wines that are more predominantly Merlot blends and the famous town of Saint-Émilion, and the Garonne is the “left bank”, which is more Cabernet Sauvignon forward, with the famous Medoc appellation.

If you are staying in the city of Bordeaux, there are many short sightseeing and dinner cruises that operate on the river, but I’m talking about a multi-day Bordeaux river cruise on a ship built for river cruising. There are a number of river cruise companies that operate out of Bordeaux, but we chose AmaWaterways because they have a reputation of being one of the best in the industry and having good food.

While river cruises are popular throughout Europe, especially along the scenic Rhine and Danube Rivers, we chose the Taste of Bordeaux river cruise because we love learning about wine through our travel. My husband is studying for his WSET Level 3 certification, and experiencing the wine first hand is useful and it helps me learn more as well! In fact, we have planned other trips around wine including one to the Languedoc region of France, Piedmont in Italy, and Tuscany . And, I had just wrapped up an amazing barge cruise through Burgundy, France !

If you are looking for beautiful scenery and castles along the river banks and stops in large cities, I’ll be honest with you and tell you that you might prefer one of AmaWaterway’s other European itineraries. The Garonne and Dordogne Rivers are the color of chocolate milk, due to the strong tides stirring up the river bottom, and the river banks can be a bit bland, with the exception of some vineyards and a few chateaux in the distance. The primary reason to choose a Bordeaux river cruise is to get to taste the wines of Bordeaux and experience a few of the region’s chateaux and small villages.

You do not need to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy a Bordeaux river cruise. Actually, if you are truly a passionate enthusiast you may prefer to visit the region by land and arrange tastings and tours at the Chateaux of your choosing. However, I do believe you should have an appreciation of wine and a desire to do some wine tasting, otherwise you are better off selecting a different itinerary (in my opinion.) A Bordeaux river cruise is a great introduction to the wines of this region.

What is the Age Demographic on a Bordeaux River Cruise?

Couple in front of a vineyard at Chateau Pressac

I’m going to address the elephant in the room right away because this is often the number one concern I hear from people in my age bracket (50s) and younger when it comes to river cruising. And, from the other perspective, my in-laws are very interested in a river cruise and want to know if it is suitable for their mobility so I’m going to try to be as clear and honest with my perceptions as possible, noting that this was my first and only (so far) river cruise experience.

The AmaDolce has a capacity of 144 passengers but on our cruise, there were only 63 passengers onboard. Of those, I would estimate that the majority were over 60 years old. There were at least two couples in their 30s and 40s and there were some adult children traveling with their parents as part of a multigenerational group. I know that AmaWaterways does offer some cruises that have family-friendly cabins and excursions, so if you are traveling with kids, I would ask for more information on those.

Most of the passengers were very fit and active. In fact, the bike tours were almost always the most popular excursions each day, with people biking eight to 17 kilometers. AmaWaterways also offered alternative excursions at each stop for those they called “gentle walkers”, meaning that there was very little walking involved. They also offered trekking poles on board to take on excursions to help with stability, as well as canes that offer folding knee rests.

AmaWaterways walking sticks and umbrellas

On the AmaDolce, there was an elevator that could be used between decks, but the cabins and decks were not really designed for those in wheelchairs. Getting on an off the ship would also be problematic for those with mobility issues. I advised my in-laws, who have trouble walking too much or navigating steps of any kind, that this probably wouldn’t be the best choice for them. However, I heard stories on board of 90+ year olds joining in on the bike tours. So everyone needs to make these decisions for themselves.

Is a Bordeaux River Cruise Good for Solo Travelers?

Woman at railing on the AmaDolce bordeaux river cruise

The tough thing about cruising is that pricing is usually per person, based on double occupancy of a cabin. Like most cruise lines and many tour companies, AmaWaterways charges an additional “solo traveler supplement” on top of the per person price if you aren’t sharing a cabin with anyone. That’s a bit of a bummer for solo travelers, but, I’d encourage you to keep an eye out for sales as they will often offer discounts on the solo traveler supplement throughout the year, plus early booking discounts are available for future sailings. Reach out to AmaWaterways for more information and current pricing.

If you can swallow the price tag as a solo traveler, I think you will still enjoy your cruise if you are social. While many of the passengers are couples, or part of family groups, we also encountered sisters traveling together and all sorts of passenger combinations. At meals, you have a choice of eating on your own or joining another table. We often started chatting with others during the “Sip and Sail” pre-dinner cocktail hour and then ended up sitting with them at dinner. You will only be alone if you want to be.

The excursions were also small enough to enjoy being part of a small group and not lost in a crowd. We say many instances where a couple or group split up and chose different excursions and someone would be on their own, but easily integrated into the rest of the group. On a ship this size, people soon look familiar and you make multiple connections throughout the week.

AmaWaterways AmaDolce Overview

AmaWaterways AmaDolce docked in Libourne on the Dordogne River

The AmaWaterways Taste of Bordeaux river cruise itinerary is onboard the AmaDolce, which can hold up to 144 passengers. As I mentioned previously, our sailing in July was less than half full, so we never felt crowded on board. I don’t know if that is typical or not, but we always had a choice of seats in the dining room, lounge, or on deck.

Each of the excursions, which I will go through later in this article, consisted of fairly small groups, ranging from seven people up to about 20 for one of the larger bike tours. We certainly never felt overwhelmed by people and it was very easy to get away for some private downtime on the ship. At the same time, it was nice to make some new friends to share meals, drinks, or activities with throughout the week.

I definitely got the impression that the people on board the Bordeaux river cruise were generally very friendly and happy to chat with strangers. And while there was plenty of wine, there were only a couple of people that overindulged. It was generally a group that were early to bed and early to rise, with minimal hallway noise after 10:00 pm, when the evening entertainment ended, or definitely none after midnight, when the bar in the lounge closed.

Cabin Overview

AmaDolce cabin 208

After coming straight from a barge cruise , which has tight cabin configurations, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect of our cabin on board the AmaDolce, but I was pleasantly surprised. The cabins onboard the AmaDolce are about 170 square feet, which sounds small for a hotel room but it pretty standard for a cruise ship.

We were on the Cello deck in cabin 208, which is a category B stateroom on the middle deck. If you are looking for more space, there are also three suites on board that are 255 square feet and offer a sitting area with a table and a larger bathroom with a bathtub and separate shower.

Our stateroom offered all the standard features including a queen bed, sliding doors to a French balcony (really just a railing to look out and get fresh air), and a small bathroom. I was very impressed with the amount of storage in the room, which included one closet for hanging clothes and another with shelves. There were also drawers in the desk and a sliding drawer or trundle under one side of the bed. Each nightstand also had a small drawer and a shelf.

Once you unpacked, there was room to store suitcases under the bed to tuck them out of the way. The room was also equipped with a laptop-sized safe, robes and slippers, umbrellas, and extra blankets. You had the choice of having your bed made European style with just a fitted sheet and duvet, or American style with a top sheet and blanket and/or duvet. After sweating my way around Europe under a duvet or freezing while sleeping uncovered, I was personally thrilled to have my top sheet again.

The room also offered a flat screen television, which showed you the activities of the day, cameras from the ship, and had complimentary on-demand movies and entertainment. I really enjoyed just hanging out in our room one night and watching a movie. After a month in Europe, it had been too long since I’d had a “Netflix and chill” kind of night. The ship also offered free WiFi, which was generally fairly good except in the evenings when everyone jumped online.

In addition to the desk chair, there were also two arm chairs in front of the French balcony doors, so you don’t always need to sit on the bed. The room also came equipped with a hair dryer and complimentary water, which was replenished daily. I also found it easy to refill my water bottle in the lounge whenever I needed.

The bathroom was compact, as you would expect, but it offered more storage options than many hotel bathrooms these days. There was a mirrored medicine cabinet with two shelves and then two more shelves in the cabinet underneath the sink. The only thing it could have used was another hook for drying towels. Housekeeping refreshed the room twice a day and typically I hate to ask for my towel to be replaced every day but I often needed it because it stayed damp otherwise.

The highlight of the bathroom was the shower, which offered multiple settings and excellent water pressure. If you are large it would be a tight squeeze in the shower but the snugness reminded me not to linger or use too much water. The bathroom was also equipped with refillable shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion.

See my full cabin tour on Instagram Reels :

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Tamara Gruber (@yourtimetofly)

Onboard Facilities

A river cruise ship is never going to compete with the large megaships when it comes to onboard facilities and entertainment, and that is okay with me. The beauty of river cruising is that you spend more time in your destination. In fact, sailing times can be quite short and often the ship is repositioned every night so you have a full day and evening to enjoy port, if you so desire.

However, there is still plenty to do on board and I’ll walk you through all the primary facilities on board:

table and chairs on upper deck

The top sundeck is the place to go to watch the scenery go by as you are cruising, to relax in the afternoon, or to catch a sunset or star gaze in the evening. There are rows of deck chairs with ottomans lined up under a sun awning for those that want to read, relax, or maybe nap. There are also small clusters of tables and chairs in the open section of the sundeck, where you can gather with friends.

The back of the ship is a designated smoking area and just in front of that is a section set aside for corn hole and a small putting green. A walking track also circles the deck and there are designated exercise walking times. The onboard fitness instructor offers various exercise classes and dance classes on the sundeck throughout the cruise. There is also a large lawn-sized chessboard.

Towards the front of the ship, there is an area with cushioned lounge seating (although you may need to dig the cushions out of the storage chests yourself), along with a six to eight person hot tub. There are chests nearby with fresh towels if you choose to use the hot tub (and you can also wear your robe from your cabin.) The hot tub didn’t tend to get a lot of use so it wasn’t hard to find a time to enjoy it on our own.

Woman in the hot tub on the AmaDolce river boat

Keep in mind that you could bring drinks up on deck, but there weren’t typically servers attending the sundeck.

Fitness Room and Sauna

On the third deck, right below the sundeck, there was a small fitness room, which included a dry sauna. The gym had a treadmill, two stationary bikes, free weights, and yoga mats that you could bring upstairs to the sundeck. Since biking was such a popular excursion, the fitness room was never crowded. However, if you prefer to bike on land, the crew will happily get bikes down for you to explore on your own, even if you haven’t joined an official bike tour excursion.

Sauna on the AmaDolce

Right next to the cruise manager’s desk, off the entry atrium, there is a small library. The library has a selection of books and games that can be borrowed and enjoyed on board.

Lounge on the AmaDolce from AmaWaterways

The lounge offers comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a full bar. This is where the passengers gather in the evening for the nightly “Sip & Sail” event featuring a complimentary cocktail of the day to listen to a presentation about what to expect the next day. The lounge is also open for bistro dining for lunch or dinner, featuring a subset of the main dining room menu. You can also find a small breakfast buffet in the lounge if you miss breakfast in the main dining room, which was perfect for late risers!

After dinner, local musicians, of varying quality, came on board to perform in the lounge. While beer and wine is complimentary during meals and the evening cocktail hour, there is a charge for drinks after dinner or at off hours. It actually took me until almost the end of the cruise to realize there was a charge because there was always so much wine served with dinner that I never needed anything more if we did stop in to enjoy the entertainment or conversation with new friends.

Main Dining Room

Dining room on the AmaWaterways AmaDolce

The main dining room on the lower deck is where breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served. Meals are offered at a specific time, but you don’t need to show up exactly on time. For example, if lunch is served at 12:30, you just need to get there with time enough for them to serve before they close or before you need to get to your next excursion.

Likewise, there is not any assigned seating in the dining room. I really appreciated getting to move around and eat with different people each night, or pick a table for two if we wanted some time alone. The servers in the main dining room and the crew throughout the ship were extremely attentive, friendly, and cheerful.

Chef’s Table Restaurant

Trout dish at the Chef's Table restaurant on the AmaDolce from AmaWaterways

At the back of the ship on the top deck, there is a small restaurant set aside for the Chef’s Table experience. This is a complimentary offering for all guests once per cruise, but you do need to sign up for it within the first day or two as there is limited space each night. This restaurant offers a seven-course chef’s tasting menu, which is different from the main dining room but it is the same each night so you don’t need to worry about having a different experience depending on when you dine.

See my Instagram Reel about our dinner at the Chef’s Table:

Food & Wine on Board the AmaDolce

I’m going to preface this section by saying that my husband and I are foodies. We enjoy fine dining but even more, we enjoy when fresh, local ingredients can be made to shine. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but we like it to be great quality and well-prepared. So we can be a bit picky or critical when it comes to talking about food and if that isn’t you, take what I say with a grain of salt.

I’ve talked to a lot of people that have done a fair number of river cruises, and many of them said that AmaWaterways offers the best food. So going in, I had high expectations. First of all, we were in France, a country known for its exceptional cuisine. Second, we were on a cruise titled the “Taste of Bordeaux”, which had me expecting a French-trained chef focused on local dishes.

While there were many French-style dishes on the menu throughout the week, this cruise was not a “French food experience”. For that, try a barge cruise (seriously!) That’s not to say the food was bad, but it wasn’t “amazing” (in my mind). It wasn’t quite what I was anticipating, and that is on me, so I’d rather set you off with the right expectations. You need to remember that you are still on a cruise that needs to feed 65-144 people three meals a day in a short period of time.

Pesto salad

All that aside, you will NOT go hungry on an AmaWaterways cruise. In fact, I think I offended the waitstaff by not ordering all four courses for lunch and dinner. But I just couldn’t eat all that food! Breakfast was my favorite meal, with a buffet of pastries, breads, cereals, yogurt, and fruit as well as a hot dish. You could also get an omelette or eggs made to order, often by the always-smiling hotel manager.

Lunch and dinner would typically start with a salad, which always had fresh greens and vegetables. This would be followed by a soup course, which I typically skipped because it was often cream-based, but my husband enjoyed them. This was followed up by an entree/appetizer plus main at dinner or just the main course for lunch. The meals were rounded out with a selection of cheese and/or a dessert.

For the main course, there were typically one or two options, with at least one vegetarian option. If none of those were to your liking, there were also some “always available” options like hamburgers, pizza, steak, caesar salad with chicken, or pasta. It was very easy to pick and choose and be quite satisfied. The meals were also paired with local, or at least French, wines. While they weren’t the top, top quality, they were usually quite good, although sometimes served a bit warm and needed chilling.

My only other picky complaint, beyond my too-high expectations, was the butter. I just adore a good French butter with that little bit of sea salt on top to spread on my baguette when I’m in France and sadly, the main dining room just served a commercial grade whipped butter. On our last day we had lunch in Bordeaux at Avant Comptoir du Palais and they served the most amazing French butter with silvers of sea salt throughout and we were in heaven. The bread became just a vessel for more butter.

But hey, at least you know I am honest in my reviews, right?

Bordeaux River Cruise Itinerary

Vineyard view from Chateau La Riviere

The Taste of Bordeaux river cruise from AmaWaterways starts and leaves from Bordeaux. Even though you have your arrival day and the last day of the cruise to explore the city, I’d highly recommend spending a few extra days because there are so many things to do in Bordeaux. The cruise is a seven night trip and ours boarded on a Thursday afternoon and ended the following Thursday morning.

Getting to Bordeaux is fairly easy. If you are flying from the United States or from outside of France, you can connect through Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and AmaWaterways will pick you up at the Bordeaux airport. Alternatively, if you are already in France, it is only a two hour train ride from Paris’ Gare Montparnasse to Bordeaux St Jean train station. You can either arrange a transfer from AmaWaterways or take the very affordable city trams to the Chartrons stop right near the dock.

Each AmaWaterways cruise includes all shore excursions, so you don’t need to worry about extra costs. There is typically one excursion per day, either in the morning or afternoon, although sometimes there may be two offered. You can pick from two or three choices for each excursion and the selections can be made via the AmaWaterways mobile app in the month leading up to the cruise. Since our cruise was only half-full, we also didn’t have any trouble switching our excursions as long as we gave 48-hours notice.

The AmaWaterways mobile app is a useful tool throughout the cruise because it is also where you can find the cruise itinerary and the Daily Cruiser. This is similar to the paper newsletter that would be left in your cabin each day, but saves on paper. It lists all the activities and events, as well as meal times and excursion times.

AmaWaterways mobile app screen

The excursions offered were a mix of bike tours, walking tours, wine tastings, and specific attraction entrance tickets. On the app, each excursion listing gives a full description as well as an activity and difficulty level to help you decide on what to do.

While my husband is a Peloton guy, I don’t love biking as much so I only took one bike tour (he took two) and because we love wine, we opted into many of the wine tastings. We also chose the more active walking tours, versus the “gentle walkers” and took some time in Bordeaux to explore on our own.

Day 1 – Bordeaux

Porte Cailhau Bordeaux

The Taste of Bordeaux river cruise leaves from the city of Bordeaux. Since I was already in France, I spent a few days in Bordeaux exploring the city prior to the cruise, which I highly recommend. However, my husband flew in that day. I was able to drop off my bags after noon and have a light lunch in the lounge until the room was ready. Once the room was ready and my husband arrived, we headed out into town so that I could show him around.

We returned to the ship in time for dinner, where we were invited to dine at the Captain’s table. After dinner we enjoyed time on the sundeck, trying our hand at corn hole and the putting green. Since Glenn was jet lagged, we called it an early night, excited for our first excursion the next day.

Day 2 – Saint Émilion

Saint Emilion town square from above

The ship tayed in Bordeaux overnight and on the morning of the second day we cruised to our first port of Libourne on the Dordogne River. After lunch, we headed out on our excursions. There was an option to bike to a vineyard for a tasting and then get a ride back to the ship, tour a Chateau, or have a walking tour of Saint Émilion with free time after.

We chose the excursion that included a walking tour of Saint Émilion and a wine tasting at Chateau de Pressac , a Grand Cru Classé winemaker. After a short tour of the cellars and the beautiful property, we had an abbreviated wine tasting. Our group then took a driving tour through the Saint Émilion and Pomerol appellations before arriving at the small village of Saint Émilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the most picturesque villages in France .

The walking tour included the underground monuments such as the monolithic church. We also had free time in town to shop or explore the steep, narrow cobblestone streets. Of course, we ended up in one of the other many, many wine shops that line the streets for another wine tasting and had a great conversation with the staff to learn even more about the region and the vineyards they represented.

See my Instagram Reel overview of Day 2:

Day 3 – Libourne

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Chateau de La Riviere

The morning of day three was spent exploring Libourne and the nearby wine region of Fronsac. I had originally signed us up for a French market tour and walking tour of Libourne, but when I was debating my choice, Maddy, our fabulous cruise manager suggested that we could easily explore Libourne on our own. So we opted to take a wine tasting tour of Fronsac at Chateau de la Riviere and I’m so glad we did!

Our tour started with a walk through some of the five miles of limestone tunnels under the property that are currently used as wine cellars and event space. When the Chateau was overtaken by the Germans during World War II, the owners sealed off most of the tunnels to protect the wine cellar but also to hide local Jewish families. They left just enough open to fool the Germans and it is a wonderful story of rebellion.

We finished our tasting with a selection of their reds and one rosé, paired with some delicious local cheese. I didn’t want to pay to ship home, but we did purchase a couple of bottles to drink later on our trip and one made it home in our suitcase. It is a shame to not buy more but when the wine is included on board, it just doesn’t pay. I still need to invest in one of those awesome wine suitcases for our future wine travels!

When we got back to the AmaDolce, we still had time to walk into town and explore on our own. The town of Libourne is small enough that you don’t really guide and since we weren’t visiting on a day when there was an outdoor open market, we only would have seen the indoor marketplace anyway (which we walked through on our own, just missed the tastings we may have done on a tour.)

That afternoon, we sailed to the town of Blaye, so Glenn and I took the time to enjoy the ship facilities. First we chilled out in the hot tub and then Glenn hit the gym while I detoxed in the sauna. After a nice rest, we had dinner on board and checked out the evening entertainment of local musicians.

See my Instagram Reel overview of Day 3:

Day 4 – Blaye

Blaye citadel

On the next day, I decided to finally give the bike tour a try since there was a morning tour that was only about eight miles in total. We started off with a bike ride through the 17th-century Citadel, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The largest of its kind in Europe, the Citadel was built by the famous engineer Sébastien Vauban under the reign of Louis XIV.

We then continued our bike tour through vineyards and past crumbling old chateaux, before returning to the ship on the bike path. The bike ride had a few hills and bumps on the dirt roads through the vineyards, but there were plenty of stops along the way to catch your breath.

Bikers on path through vineyards

Later that afternoon, Glenn took on a much longer and more challenging bike ride from Blaye to the town of Bourg, but I decided to stay on board and take the easy way there. Once in Bourg, the entire ship was invited to a wine celebration in town featuring local entertainers and tastings from many small wine producers. Like I said, not a day went by without some sort of wine tasting!

They also offered a walking tour of Bourg, but since the town was small, we decided to explore on our own so that Glenn had time to shower and rest a bit after his long ride.

See my Instagram Reel overview of Day 4:

Day 5 – Medoc

Overnight, we sailed back to Bordeaux since our docking spot near Medoc was taken over by a children’s summer camp. On a river cruise, you do need to be a bit flexible with the itinerary as they may make adjustments to accommodate for water levels and incoming tides. We then took a coach bus on a bit of a long ride (around an hour) to Château Gruaud Larose in Medoc on the left bank of Bordeaux for a tasting of Grand Cru wines. 

I should mention that most of our excursions, outside of the bike tours or walking tours that left from the ship, started with a luxury coach ride. While the coaches are large, we often only had 6-15 people on our excursions, so it wasn’t like those giant tour groups following the umbrella-carrying guides. For the walking tours, they did provide what they call “Quiet Voxes” in each stateroom, along with a wired earpiece. These were used to allow everyone to easily hear the guide. Luckily our groups were small enough and our hearing good enough that we rarely needed them.

We also had the same few English-speaking local guides throughout the trip, depending on what excursion you pick. The guides were friendly, funny, and informative — no complaints about any of the staff we encountered on our AmaWaterways cruise.

Château Gruaud Larose

Château Gruaud Larose is one of the largest producers in Medoc and the visit started with a climb up the tower that overlooks the vineyards, followed by a visit through the wine cellars and production areas. We finished up with a fabulous tasting — it was easy to see why their wines are pricey (as are most in Medoc.) Following the tasting, we drove past some of the other famous wine estates in the region including Château Latour, Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Pichon Longueville. I wish we could have gotten out to take pictures at more or had other tastings, but that is something you can do easier if you are self-driving.

That evening we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at the Chef’s Table restaurant, paired with lots of terrific wines. We moved the party over to the lounge to enjoy that evening’s fun entertainment, which was a one-man show of classic rock tunes.

See my Instagram Reels overview of Day 5:

Day 6 – Cadillac

Overnight, we sailed to the town of Cadillac. In the morning, we boarded the coach to visit the impressive Castle of Roquetaillade. This amazingly preserved masterpiece of medieval military architecture has been owned by the same noble family for 700 years. Alternatively, we could have gone wine tasting to the Sauternes wine region, but since neither of us are fans of sweet wines, we chose the castle instead.

Roquetaillade Castle

After returning to town, we had a guided walking tour of the town of Cadillac and Chateau de Cadillac, which was built in 1599 by the Duke of Epernon, a favorite of Henry III, and contains special rooms for the King and Queen. The castle was later transformed into a jail for women from 1820 to 1952 and you can visit the grim cells on the top floor as well, which is quite a contrast to the grandeur below.

There was then a little time to explore the small town of Cadillac, but I admit that there isn’t a lot else to see in Cadillac, Bourg, or Blaye. Unlike Libourne or certainly Bordeaux, the shopping and sights are fairly limited. We needed to get back on board though because the ship needed to leave dock in time for the tidal bore. Between June and October, the tidal bore is a strong wave that happens at the change of low tide to high tide. On a good day, surfers can ride the tidal bore for quite some distance. While it isn’t a tall wave, it is strong so the river boat captains need to plan and maneuver around it.

See my Instagram Reel overview for Day 6:

Day 7 – Bordeaux

On the last full day of our Bordeaux river cruise, it was finally time to explore the capital of the wine world, Bordeaux, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and classified as a “City of Art and History.” The morning offered a choice between a bike tour or a walking tour and both ended with a visit to the indoor Les Halles de Bacalan market for a tasting of local specialties. I was a little nervous about biking through the city, especially after staying there for a few days previously and observing the aggressive bike culture.

However, our walking tour was a little disappointing as half of it was a coach tour through the city and the walking portion didn’t see many of the sites. I’m sure this was to minimize how far people had to walk, but I was really happy to have explored on my own because we only saw the best sites out of the window of the bus. If I was to do it again, I’d either take the bike tour or just explore on my own using the tram system and walking around.

Bassin des Lumieres

Since I loved the city so much, we decided to skip lunch on the ship and spend more time in the city on our own. In the afternoon, there were two excursions to chose from. Either a visit to the immersive and interactive Bordeaux Wine Museum, housed in an awe-inspiring building, or enjoy a spectacular sound and interactive art exhibit at Les Bassins des Lumières, a World War II era submarine station. I thought the Cité du Vin would be the better option for wine lovers, so I actually visited Les Bassins des Lumières earlier in the week.

The Cité du Vin is a very impressive incorporation of technology to educate about wine and various wine regions around the world but to be honest, I found it a little overwhelming. I think I would have preferred something that had a more cohesive timeline or story telling. It was also very crowded (pre-purchasing tickets is recommended), likely because there was a large ocean liner in port as well. We only spent about an hour going through the exhibits before we headed up to the top observatory for a wine tasting with a view (this is a separate fee but included in our ticket.)

On the flip side, I absolutely LOVED the interactive art exhibit at Les Bassins des Lumieres. When I visited, it was a Dali and Gaudi exhibit set primarily to the sounds of Pink Floyd. I loved the way the music reverberated through the concrete building and the digital art projections reflected in the water below. Personally, I’d recommend this excursion over the Cité du Vin but not everyone felt the same.

The day ended with a special festive Captain’s Dinner, where everyone got a little more dressed up for the evening. After dinner, the AmaDolce headed out on the river for a special illumination cruise to see the lights of Bordeaux at night. It was a lovely end to our Bordeaux river cruise!

The next morning, it was time to leave the AmaDolce but we weren’t quite ready to leave France! Glenn and I took the train down the coast to the seaside resort town of Biarritz for a few days. We had a wonderful time aboard the AmaDolce and I would love to try another river cruise one day. Perhaps the Christmas Markets cruise, the Grand Danube, or maybe even a Nile River cruise.

See my Instagram Reel overview of Day 7:

How Much Does a Bordeaux River Cruise Cost?

The seven-night Taste of Bordeaux cruise on AmaWaterways currently starts at $2500 to $4300 per person, depending on the time of year and what discounts and specials are currently available. Unlike some big ship cruises, an AmaWaterways cruise includes all shore excursions, WiFi, and beer, wine, and soft drinks during meals and happy hour, as well as signature cocktails during the evening Sip and Sail events.

Gratuities and port fees are not included. Recommended gratuities are $50 per person for the cruise manager and $50-100 per person for the rest of the crew (combined.) It is also recommended that you tip tour guides 2€ and coach drivers 1€ for each excursion.

To get a quote, please contact AmaWaterways.

What to Wear on a River Cruise

Couple on AmaWaterways river cruise

If you are wondering what to wear on a river cruise, I have put together a complete printable packing list for river cruises . However, there are a few things that I would recommend:

  • Comfortable, athletic clothing for bike tours
  • Sundresses or short-sleeve button up or golf shirts and shorts for wine tastings and walking tours
  • Comfortable walking shoes that are suitable for cobblestones
  • Fresh dresses, skirts, pants, and button-up or golf shirts for dinner
  • One dressier outfit for the Captain’s dinner
  • A light jacket for evenings on the deck
  • A sunhat or ball cap to protect from the sun during the day
  • A bathing suit for the hot tub or sauna

Interested in Cruising?

  • Cruising through Burgundy on a France barge cruise
  • What to pack for a European river cruise
  • Barge cruise on the Canal du Midi with European Waterways
  • How to plan a girls’ trip cruise

Tamara Gruber

Tamara is an over 50, award-winning travel writer, and recent empty nester based in Rhode Island. After years of writing about family travel on We3Travel and inspiring wanderlust as co-host of the Vacation Mavens family travel podcast, she started Your Time to Fly as a place to share ideas for girlfriend getaways, romantic escapes, and solo female travel for midlife women.

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Bordeaux River Cruises

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Best Bordeaux France Small Ship Cruise Lines for 2024-2025

  • Ponant   - as the sole French cruise line, is a global ambassador for the "French Touch." With a French crew, discreet service, and refined cuisine, it makes every effort to maintain its distinctive cruising philosophy. Bordeaux stretches along the banks of the Garonne River in South-West France. On the  L'Austral  discover the rich wine tradition that makes it the world capital of wine .
  • CroisiEurope   - offers cruises on the most beautiful canals of France aboard luxury barges. Discover the precious wines from along the Garonne and the Dordogne estuaries aboard  MS Cyrano de Bergerac . 
  • Lindblad Expeditions  -  goes to the most amazing places on the planet—40+ geographies in all. And they've planted a flag in many of them, deeply committing to remote wild areas. Cruise on the  National Geographic Resolution  to see the picturesque Bordeaux riverside.

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River Cruises in Bordeaux & Dordogne

Explore a wide diversity of river cruises through Bordeaux & Dordogne. We have 21 cruises that vary from 5 days to 8 days. With the greatest number of departures in April, this is also the most popular time of the year.

21 Bordeaux & Dordogne river cruises with 42 reviews

Brilliant Bordeaux (2024) (Bordeaux to Bordeaux, 2024) Tour

  • River Cruise
  • Wine tasting

Brilliant Bordeaux (2024) (Bordeaux to Bordeaux, 2024)

The exceptional region of Bordeaux (port-to-port cruise) Tour

The exceptional region of Bordeaux (port-to-port cruise)

"Ship was clean and modern. Crew were helpful and accommodating." Saley, traveled in April 2018

Taste of Bordeaux 2024 Tour

Taste of Bordeaux 2024

"We were very disappointed with the overall accommodations and will likely not go on another Ama Waterways river cruise." Antonio, traveled in August 2019

A cruise in Aquitaine : the great wines of Southern France (port-to-port cruise) (12 destinations) Tour

A cruise in Aquitaine : the great wines of Southern France (port-to-port cruise) (12 destinations)

"A friendly and helpful staff, clean comfortable boat and good value food and drink." Michael, traveled in September 2019

Brilliant Bordeaux (2025) (Bordeaux to Bordeaux, 2025) Tour

Brilliant Bordeaux (2025) (Bordeaux to Bordeaux, 2025)

Taste of Bordeaux 2025 Tour

Taste of Bordeaux 2025

Bonjour Bordeaux: Chateaux, Wineries & Charming Villages Tour

Bonjour Bordeaux: Chateaux, Wineries & Charming Villages

Taste of Bordeaux 2026 Tour

Taste of Bordeaux 2026

Taste of Bordeaux (Wine Cruise) (Wine Cruise) 2026 Tour

Taste of Bordeaux (Wine Cruise) (Wine Cruise) 2026

Taste of Bordeaux (Wine Cruise) (Wine Cruise) 2025 Tour

Taste of Bordeaux (Wine Cruise) (Wine Cruise) 2025

Bordeaux & dordogne river cruise reviews.

Great trip on a very good and clean vessel . Staff were great and Benjanim was outstanding with great service and kept us entertained in the evenings Cabin was good size and kept clean with daily room service over all we enjoyed the trip and will do more with this company Richard and Lindy
I was happy with my cruise. The boat was very nice, with great staff, and interesting passengers. I thought we would be 'cruising' more, but there was a weather system that caused us to stay in one port longer than expected. The meals were beautifully presented. There was an abundance of wine served. The Cruise Manager, Melissa Hardouin, was excellent.
A cruise with a good combination of cruise and excursion time. A friendly and helpful staff, clean comfortable boat and good value food and drink.

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Bordeaux River Cruises

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Garrone, dordogne & gironde cruises.

Bordeaux is a beautiful city located in southwestern France, on the Garonne River. It is known for its wine, its architecture, and its friendly people. A Bordeaux river cruise is the perfect way to see all that this city has to offer.

Your cruise will begin in the city centre, where you will see the Cathedral of Saint-André, the Palais de Justice, and the Porte de la Monnaie. As you cruise down the river, you will get a wonderful view of the cityscape. You will also see the Pont de Pierre, a bridge that was built in the 18th century.

You will then visit the Médoc region, known for its beautiful landscapes and its wines. See Château Margaux, one of the most famous wine estates in the world. You will also see the charming villages of Pauillac and Saint-Julien-Beychevelle.

After spending a day in Médoc, your cruise will take you to the island of Cognac, where you will learn about the production of this famous French liquor. You will also have the opportunity to visit a cognac distillery and taste some of the finest cognacs in the world.

Your cruise will then continue down the river to Bordeaux, where you will visit the city’s famous markets and enjoy its wonderful food and wine. You will also have the opportunity to explore the city’s many museums and art galleries.

A Bordeaux river cruise is the perfect way to experience all that this amazing city has to offer. Book your cruise today and prepare to be amazed by all that Bordeaux has to offer.

Bordeaux River Cruises

View our best Bordeaux river cruise offers by using the search facility below! Our team of UK based river cruise experts are available from 9am to 9pm, 7 days a week, to help plan your river cruise holiday! Recently awarded the UK & Ireland's NUMBER ONE River Cruise Agency, you can trust our 4th generation, family business to look after you! All of our holidays are protected by ABTA & ATOL for financial protection and 100% peace of mind. We are also proud to boast the 5* Platinum Feefo Trusted Service Award for our customer care, both before and after booking! Read more about our award-winning company here and we look forward to speaking with you soon!


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At a glance.

Itinerary is subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, please refer to the itinerary schedule provided with your final documents.

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Bordeaux River Cruise Review: Viking Forseti

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What comes to mind when you think of a Bordeaux river cruise? Is it the regional wine or the chateaux that abound in this southwestern region of France? The great news is you can expect both on a Bordeaux River cruise and much more. 

We sailed with Viking on their river cruise longship, Viking Forseti. Our week-long journey was on the Garonne River and the Dordogne. We're sharing all the information you're craving in this Bordeaux River Cruise review!

We will take you through the scenery to expect , the itinerary, the best time to sail , and even what to expect for wine education . Don't miss our thoughts on who is best suited for a Bordeaux River Cruise with Viking too!

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post, which means we may earn a small commission if you click the link and proceed with a purchase,  at no cost to you . We were hosted by Viking. We only recommend hotels, products, and services we personally use. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

river cruise in bordeaux france

Scenery During a Bordeaux River Cruise

The Garonne and Dordogne were the two main rivers we sailed on during our time aboard Viking Forseti. We loved seeing chateaux dot the landscape and vineyards in the distance as we sailed.

The city of Bordeaux, where the cruise starts and ends, is urban. We saw beautiful old and new buildings that give the city its character, along with several bridges. There's a new modern area of Bordeaux and a historic city center.

Castles on a Bordeaux River Cruise

One of the things a lot of people dream about when they river cruise in France is the castle or “chateaux” (which means “Castles” in French) they will see.

Expect a fairy tale to come to life sailing in Bordeaux. It won't be continuously dreamy scenery all the time; however, the cruise certainly had plenty of picture-perfect moments!

Not only does the cruise have many castles as its destination during excursions, mostly because they're associated with wineries, but you'll see some while you sail too.

The castles or mansions we saw close to the water as we sailed were mostly private residences. Then there were chateaux we visited that were a part of the Viking excursions.

These castles are either associated with particular vineyards and wineries or are on the property. They are mostly owned by companies and corporations now, with some exceptions, like if one family still owns it.

Couple in front of a castle covered with ivy during a Bordeaux River Cruise excursion.

Bordeaux Vineyards

Bordeaux is a wine-producing region. As expected, there are a lot of vineyards and wineries in the area, which is a highlight of river cruising in southern France.

The time of year you take a river cruise in Bordeaux will dictate what you can expect regarding vineyard growth and the scenery. If you go during spring (particularly during April and early May), you’ll see fewer leaves and grapes on the vine than during summer.

We sailed on Viking Forseti in mid-July. The plant growth was green and beautiful, with healthy bunches of grapes on the vines. 

If you sail on a Bordeaux river cruise during fall, there will be fewer grapes on the vine after harvest, which is typically in late August or September. However, autumn brings beautiful fall colors. Grape leaves may turn yellow and orange, depending on the time of year. 

For example, we saw such beauty in the colorful leaves during our November cruise on the Rhone River with AmaWaterways , in Southern France. However, the grapes had mostly all been harvested by then.

river cruise in bordeaux france

Bridges on the Garonne River

We passed under many bridges of different designs during our river cruise. In Bordeaux alone, we sailed under three bridges before leaving the area.

One was a modern bridge anchored by four cylindrical structures rising up from road level. The space between the pillars rises to let big ships pass underneath as opposed to bridges that split and lift in the middle for tall boats.

A historic bridge was close to the old town part of Bordeaux. It reminded us of some bridges in Paris. The third bridge, not particularly photo-worthy, reminded us of New York City bridges we have driven on, with dark red-painted metal. 

river cruise in bordeaux france

Along the river, we passed many areas with miles of trees and shrubs. We very often saw small fishing huts on stilts with nets in front of them, rising above the water. We learned that the nets are to catch lamprey eels. 

Some of these huts have been turned into “man caves,” which we’ve heard are quite modern. But the vast majority of them are small wooden structures that look like they could use a few repairs!

When you board the ship and see the light brown water, you'll quickly realize the Garonne River is quite muddy. We’d expect to see the river color on the Mekong River in Asia but not France, so we were quite surprised by this! 

This muddiness is the opposite of the nearby, ever-so-popular river cruise route on the Danube River , which is a deep blue color.

Bordeaux River Cruise Itinerary

The cruise we went on with Viking was named “ Chateaux, Rivers & Wine .”

Sometimes, we were in two cities a day even though the river cruise didn’t cover many geographic miles. But when you look at a map of where the river longship Viking Forseti traveled, it’s easy to see that it wasn’t far. 

Despite this, you can expect Bordeaux river cruises to go to interesting small towns that you may not have heard of until your cruise. Yet you won’t soon forget them after your amazing vacation experience!

Small French Cities You'll Visit During a Viking Bordeaux River Cruise

We explored small French towns along the Garrone River. This included places like Cadillac, Libourne, Bourg, St. Emilion, Blaye, and Cussac.

Our captain shared that all five river cruise companies operating on the Garonne River in Bordeaux pretty much make the same stops. The difference is the cruise line and the ship you sail on. For example, Viking vs. Emerald Cruises or Uniworld versus CroisiEurope.

Our Viking Forseti Day-by-Day Itinerary

We cover our full Viking longship itinerary below. Most days, at least one tour was included in our cruise cost, which guests were welcome to join or skip. Any “optional” tour was an additional charge.

You can choose to pre-book your additional tours in My Viking Journey in the months and weeks leading up to your cruise. Alternatively, you can book tours while you're on the ship, but you'll be subject to what's still available in that case. These are the “optional tours” listed below for an extra cost.

  • Saturday, Day 1: Bordeaux and included evening walking tour of the city 
  • Sunday, Day 2 : Sail to Cadillac, followed by an included Sauterne Wine Tasting tour in the afternoon
  • Monday, Day 3 : Cadillac, including a walking tour 
  • Tuesday, Day 4: Libourne, Bourg, and St. Emilion with included tours (and optional tour add-ons as well) 
  • Wednesday, Day 5: Bourg and Blaye (included walking tours in each city) 
  • Thursday, Day 6: Morning in Blaye and Cussac in the afternoon, with included tours to chateaux in Cussac and an additional tour option in the morning 
  • Friday, Day 7: Bordeaux with optional tours 
  • Saturday, Day 8: Disembark in Bordeaux

See this post for detailed information regarding what to expect in each port and where the ship overnights. 

Embarking and Disembark in Bordeaux: Capital City of New Aquitaine

Where do river cruises dock in bordeaux.

If you're wondering where river cruise ships dock in Bordeaux, they're all within the city in the same area on the Garonne River. As we previously mentioned, our captain shared that five river cruise ship companies sail in Bordeaux. And we're pretty sure we saw them all at the start or end of our trip, docked in the same area.

Taking Public Transportation to Bordeaux's Cruise Port

“Cours du Medoc” is the tram stop closest to the Bordeaux cruise port. The city trams are very easy to use and definitely help cut down on a ton of walking. The Bordeaux city pass if you buy one.

This is good to note if you arrive in Bordeaux early and do a pre-cruise trip for a few days or if you want to stay in the area longer post-cruise. Usually, that means you'll get your own transportation to/from the port as opposed to signing up for the option to get Viking transfers.

It's also good info to know if you want to explore Bordeaux on your own outside of the included river cruise tours when the ship is docked there.

The Bordeaux train station was less than 20 minutes from the port by car.

Exploring Bordeaux

The city is wonderful, and there are things worth seeing and exploring here before, after, or during your river cruise, depending on your flights. We recommend adding more days before or after your cruise versus staying only for the time of your Viking river cruise if you can.

Viking Forseti overnighted in Bordeaux on our cruise's first and last nights. This allowed us to maximize our time there. We also added two nights to explore before our embarkation day.

One tour made possible thanks to the ship being docked during the evening was a nighttime walking tour to see Bordeaux’s buildings and landmarks aglow. If you like night photography, this is an especially great tour.

Our cruise was during a heatwave in July, so the weather was much more comfortable in the evenings than during the daytime. 

river cruise in bordeaux france

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As we mentioned, Bordeaux is both an old and new city. It's experienced a lot of growth in the past few decades. As such, it has an old area and a new one.

Many walking tours take place in the old town because that’s where the city’s history is. It's also close to where the boat docks. The more trendy area is up north along the river, where new hotels are popping up, including trendy bars, restaurants, museums, and the like. 

river cruise in bordeaux france

In contrast to some of the older and medieval architecture in the Old Town of Bordeaux, the north area is where you'll see modern architecture. If you have time during a trip extension or free time during the cruise, we recommend checking out Bordeaux’s Cité du Vin museum. 

We'll share more about this museum further down in this post but know that there is a wine bar included with the ticket at Cité du Vin that overlooks the Garonne River. Seeing our river cruise ship in the distance from that vantage point was fun!

river cruise in bordeaux france

Seasons and Best Time for a Bordeaux River Cruise 

River cruises in Bordeaux are available from March to November. It’s too cold to sail in Bordeaux during winter when the wineries aren’t growing vines. (A Christmas Markets cruise is best to book in Europe during winter!) The “best time” is really up to your preference and budget within the offered sailing dates.

The weather and seasons in Bordeaux really depend on the month you go on your river cruise. If you're used to visiting somewhere like Paris, be aware that Bordeaux is further south, close to the border of Spain on the west side of France.

The average temperatures there are always three or four degrees warmer than in Paris, year-round.

Because the Bordeaux area is largely dependent on wine (including wine tourism), river cruises do not sail past November. That is to say, you cannot go on a Bordeaux river cruise from winter to early spring or December through February.

Many businesses close after harvesting grapes, from wineries and chateaux to restaurants and souvenir shops. The vineyards in the countryside of Bordeaux (including Saint-Emilion and Margaux, for example) look very bare during this time. 

Bordeaux River Cruise during Shoulder Season: Spring and Fall

Pricing is lower if you sail in the shoulder seasons when it's a bit chillier in Bordeaux, like in March or November, compared to peak times like June through September.

Though the vines won't be at their peak growth during these times, the weather could be perfect for you; the temperatures during this time of year are definitely cooler than in summer.

Spring and Fall (Shoulder Season) Pros & Cons At a Glance

  • You may not see any grapes and/or leaves on the vines, depending on when you visit.
  • Pack heavier clothing and jackets (even if light coats depending on the weather forecast).
  • Less daylight than summer.
  • Many museums and shops are open less hours during shoulder season.

River Cruises in the Bordeaux Region During Summer

We cruised during July when summer was at full blast! That is because France was experiencing a heat wave. Heatwave aside, going on a Bordeaux river cruise in July was great because we saw so many lush vineyards.

September could be an incredibly fun time to sail because it’s when a lot of harvesting happens. You may have a chance to catch of glimpse of workers in the field gathering the grapes.

There are many pros/cons to consider if you want to sail the Garonne and Dordogne during summer…

Summer Pros & Cons At a Glance

  • The weather may be really hot.
  • Peak season in June, July, and August means hotels before and after the cruise will likely cost more, and attractions will be more crowded. River cruise prices in Bordeaux are at peak pricing as well as flights.
  • Because of the heat from the sun's rays, the crew kept the curtains in the main dining room closed because the A/C couldn't counteract the sun. If you like sunlight and want to see the river and the scenery, this is a con.

Bordeaux River Cruise Seasonal Pros and Cons in Detail

You can pack lighter for a summer cruise in France. We didn't need any jackets (not even raincoats) and barely needed cardigans and long sleeves. If you go in the spring or fall, you'll need a light coat at the very least.

Sunflower Fields during Summer

Another really cool and unexpected thing about sailing during summer was that there were sunflowers everywhere in the vineyards and countryside. It reminded us of tulip fields we would pass on the Emerald Cruises buses during our Holland river cruise experience to see the tulips.

We learned that sunflowers are used to renew the vineyard soil. It was stunning to pass these bright yellow patches of happiness now and again!

river cruise in bordeaux france

Vineyards in Full Bloom during Summer

Additionally, the vineyards were in full bloom. There were luscious bright green vines and leaves everywhere. We didn't realize how vast all the vineyards in the Bordeaux region of France are until we saw the greenery go on for MILES. Bunches of grapes were growing too.

Daylight Hours

Another bonus of sailing at the height of summer is that it gets darker later. During the shoulder season, the sun sets earlier in spring and fall.

Museums and shops in France are open a bit later during summer. Sunset was around 9:50pm, which meant that we could walk around town after dinner if we wanted to in the comfort of some natural daylight that was left.

During shoulder season, you have less daylight to enjoy after-dinner walks. There are shorter operating hours for businesses.

river cruise in bordeaux france

Weather Expectations

Summer is hot, of course, and there could be a risk of cruising during a heatwave, like when we sailed. This is never intentional, of course, but the weather is largely unpredictable. And most people book their river cruises months, if not years, in advance, long before heatwave predictions are made or reported.

It was incredibly hot some days. Thankfully, staying hydrated and staying in the shade as much as possible made it bearable. It was a small price to pay for so many hours a day of sunshine. 

Also, I had a fan with me that Dan and I used to cool off. The other guests were envious.

Must-have item for a Summer River Cruise in Bordeaux

This small handheld travel fan saved us from heatstroke more than once!

One woman loved the idea so much that she purchased one for herself on the spot when I linked her up to where to buy it on Amazon as we drank wine in Blaye.

river cruise in bordeaux france

Because it was so hot, the crew often drew the shades in public areas to keep the spaces cool. This was really unexpected. As people who appreciate natural light (I think most people like good ‘ole Vitamin D), this was a downer.

You can open the curtains near you if you're in the dining room, for example, and you're sitting by the window and want to do so. However, the room got very hot very fast.

The crew admitted that the A/C just isn't strong enough to combat the sun's rays during the summer heat. We can attest to this from our experience being onboard during a heatwave.

Extreme temperatures, as we experienced during a heatwave, are unpredictable. But it was so hot we often couldn't even bear to sit outside on the top deck in the shade.

Flights and Hotels

Flights and hotels may be more expensive during summer when kids typically have off from school. You won't find kids on a Viking river cruise, of course. Yet prices for flights, for example, may be a bit higher than during the shoulder season.

Grape Leaf Colors and Grape Growth During Different Months in Bordeaux

When we sailed in mid-July, the green bunches of grapes on the vines everywhere were weeks away from ripening. Thanks to their newness when we saw them, they were a very bright green color. 

The grapes may be harvested by the time you visit during fall. But you may get lucky and see the changing colors of the leaves on the vines if the grapes have already been harvested, from yellows to oranges and reds.

Different grape varieties are harvested at different times. Most of the grapes and wines produced in Bordeaux are red, yet some white varieties are grown there. Sauvignon Blanc, for example, is harvested in September and reds shortly after.

The changing of the seasons from late summer to early fall brings the changing of the green leaves on the vines to multi-color autumnal hues, along with lower air temperatures. 

river cruise in bordeaux france

July 14 (Bastille Day) Cruise Bonus in Bordeaux, Every Year

It really depends on the year and when July 14th falls in terms of the day of the week on the calendar. However, starting and ending in Bordeaux from a Saturday afternoon to the following Saturday morning worked out for us.

This is because July 14th is France's Bastille Day. This major holiday commemorates the fall of the Bastille, which was a fortress turned prison. This event was considered to have been a catalyst for the French Revolution.

As such, there are holiday fireworks every July 14th to celebrate. It's often called “ La Fête Nationale,” which pretty much translates to “national party!”

We had front-row seats to the fireworks show from the top deck of Viking Forseti!

So while the weather may be hot in July, you could be rewarded with a fireworks show if your cruise dates are in mid-July.

river cruise in bordeaux france

Learning about Wine during our Bordeaux River Cruise on Viking Forseti 

What would a Bordeaux river cruise review be without wine?

The cruise is enjoyable whether you know nothing about wine (besides that you like to drink it) or a lot about wine. People with various levels of wine knowledge can learn a lot or a little. We found the variable to be how many questions you ask and your curiosity level. 

All our Viking excursion guides were incredibly knowledgeable. They knew far more about Bordeaux wines and the region we could ever absorb during one trip. 

One evening, a wine educator came on board to teach those who wished to attend about Bordeaux wines. This class was a treat! It was included in the cruise fare for any guests who wanted to attend. Coincidentally, she was an American from Alabama who had lived in Bordeaux for over a decade. 

Her passion for wine was evident, and she was able to answer all the questions anyone asked her. 

river cruise in bordeaux france

Viking Forseti Food

The food on Viking Forseti was good. Nothing particularly wowed us, but we appreciated the beautiful presentation of most of the dishes they presented to us. We found it to be on par with the food we had aboard AmaWaterways , for another river cruise in France.

We loved that Viking paired lunches and dinners with great Bordeaux wines. Sure, you'd expect this from a river cruise in the region, but we really appreciated their good quality. We tried some upgraded wines as well, which were equally delicious.

Port dish with gravy and carrots and zucchini vegetables on Viking Forseti in France.

Rivers You Sail during a Bordeaux River Cruise

You sail on the Dordogne and Garonne rivers during your week-long cruise. The river, though clean, has muddy water that gives it a light brown appearance. 

Experience a River Tide Instead of Locks

You won’t go through locks on a Bordeaux River cruise as you do on a Danube River Cruise . However, you will learn about the Mascaret Tide.

River cruise ship captains need to be aware of the schedule of this unique tide. 

Surprisingly, this river tide can be so powerful and large (think five feet, for example) that surfers can ride the wave. Additionally, due to the power of the Mascaret, the ship needs to untie from the dock to allow the vessel to move with the tide, as opposed to resisting the movement and risking having the rope lines snap. 

There were about five Mascarets during our cruise. Most of them occurred between 2:00 am to 4:00 am, so we didn’t feel them, nor did they interrupt our cruising. There was one during the day that we were looking forward to experiencing. However, we ended up being off the ship on a tour during this time. 

Fun fact: “Mascaret” is a brewing company in the Bordeaux region, named after the tide. You can find their beer on the shelves of the local grocery stores, Carrefour, which are all around the city. The logo is, of course, a wave. 

A Bordeaux River Cruise Does Minimal Sailing

One of the things we realized when we booked this itinerary is that it overnighted in a port three times during the week-long river cruise in Bordeaux. This is rare for a river cruise.

Our itinerary overnight the first evening in Bordeaux, again mid-cruise in Bourg, and again in Bordeaux our last evening on the ship. That is to say, the ship didn't sail because it was docked there overnight. On other evenings, we sailed. However, not for long. 

Geographically speaking, you’re not covering that many miles on a Bordeaux river cruise. Perhaps this is part of what accounts for the minimal sailing time. And though we imagine the ships could potentially sail more, a lot of people like to be out and about in the port to maximize their time.

And let’s face it: fuel costs money for the ship to sail. It's much more eco-conscious not to move, of course.

However, we enjoyed the time we sailed for short lengths between ports. We especially loved the one day that we sailed for the most time. Enjoying the sunshine, blue skies, greenery, and general scenery from the bow of Viking Forseti was heavenly.

Viking Forseti longship on a river cruise in Bordeaux, docked in a port.

Price of a Bordeaux River Cruise

The starting price of a Bordeaux River Cruise with Viking during March and November is $2,499 per person. That will increase the closer you get to summer. For example, expect prices to start at $3,000 or $3,599 for a July sailing.

Who is a Bordeaux River Cruise Good for? 

A Bordeaux River cruise is right for you if you want to explore a fantastic region of France that is incredibly interesting.

A Bordeaux river cruise is for you if…

  • You don't necessarily want or need much sailing time on the ship.
  • You like wine. ( Loving wine isn't a must, but we recommend at least liking wine if you sail on a Bordeaux river cruise.)
  • You don't need the experience of going through river locks.
  • You are interested in charming, small towns along the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers.
  • You are okay with a river being a light brown color (as opposed to the deep blue color of the Danube River).
  • You look forward to seeing things like castles and vineyards dotting the landscape as you sail in some areas and drive through the countryside on the Viking buses in other areas.

Viking's “Chateaux, Rivers and Wine” cruise isn't necessarily for someone who wants a sommelier’s education on wines. So if you think that your affinity for wine doesn't measure up, don't worry about it.

While you might enjoy it more if you like wine (not love, but like) and are curious about it, being a wine-o is unnecessary. If you want to expand your knowledge of viticulture on even a small scale, you'll enjoy the cruise; wine is a huge part of the region's culture.

We think it's also a good first cruise for people who aren't sure about the sailing part or for people who have been on a river cruise in the past and don't need a lot of sailing.

It's important to note that this itinerary does not go that far, distance-wise. As such, it doesn't sail a lot. We were grateful for the one or two ample blocks of time during the week-long cruise when we moved on the river for a little while. But if you're someone looking for a lot of sailing, this is not the cruise for you.

Viking Forseti docked in a port overnight three times. This is contrary to many other European river cruises that sail more. You cover more miles, and you get to experience river locks on other itineraries. This is not the case in Bordeaux.

That being said, we delighted in the French towns we visited. If not for the cruise, we never would have gone to them, much like our barge cruise experience in the South of France).

French people in Bordeaux are lovely! There are a lot of ex-pats living there, too, mostly British and American.

Conclusion of our Bordeaux River Cruise Review

Our one-week river cruise in Bordeaux aboard Viking Forseti was a lovely trip during which we saw a beautiful part of France.

Summer allowed the region's vineyards to show off in full splendor. While July's sun was hot, we were grateful for a wonderful vacation spent learning about Bordeaux wines and the history of the beautiful French cities we visited.

Blue waves graphic.

Interested in river cruises? Read this next:

  • My Viking Journey: What to Expect After Booking a Viking Cruise (Before you Sail)
  • 26 Helpful Things to Know your First Time on a River Cruise
  • Why are River Cruises So Expensive? (Or are They the Best Cruise Value Out There?)

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Tours and Wine

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Best Bordeaux Luxury River Cruises & Private Wine Tours France Join us on a private tour where we’ll explore some of the wine world’s most noteworthy houses, like Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Included will be several vineyard tours and tastings in the Grand Cru region, where we’ll dazzle our palates with fine wine and gourmet cuisine. While in Bordeaux we’ll take part in experiencing the incredible wine houses of Cadillac, Pauillac, Blaye, Bourg, Libourne and Fronsac.

These amazing Bordeaux river cruises and guided wine tasting tours in France are hosted by award-winning winemakers, experts that are eager to share their knowledge regarding everything wine. Our luxury vacation packages are all-inclusive of all meals, wine tastings and excursions. We look forward to arranging your dream wine vacation package. Join us for a guided Paris and southwest France holiday of a lifetime!

river cruise in bordeaux france

Taste of Bordeaux Cruise with Brian & Jennifer Bumgarner of Bumgarner Winery, July 4-11, 2024

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Kosher River Cruise

Beautiful Bordeaux – France

river cruise in bordeaux france

All Kosher Luxury Cruise Through France’s Bordeaux Region

“The Only All Kosher Cruise – Entire Ship Kosher”

All Inclusive: Cruise, Touring, Open Bar, Delicious Kosher Cuisine and So Much More!

Featuring Special Guest: Lecturer Dr. Henry M. Abramson – Dean of Touro University in Brooklyn, New York Culinary Experiences with Naomi Nachman

The Journey: River cruising with Kosher River Cruises has never been more elegant or refined than on this cruise through France’s beautiful Bordeaux region as we uncover the proud legacy and heritage of Southwest France. Set sail along three stunning rivers – the Garonne, Dordogne, and Gironde – on one historic and fascinatingly invigorating journey. Explore the country’s breathtaking backdrops, kosher wineries, Jewish heritage, and cultural treasures across the region in Bordeaux, Médoc, Cadillac, Blaye, Libourne and more. Wander through archaeological marvels, historic landmarks, and magnificent vineyards where you’ll be treated to a sampling of the quintessentially French experience.

Sample delectable local kosher wines on excursions to local kosher wineries, delight in a classical concert at the famous castle Château d’Agassac, and get lost in the wonder of medieval villages encompassing centuries of Jewish history and heritage. You can relax in absolute comfort on board your luxurious riverboat, content in the knowledge that there is sure to be yet another wondrous experience waiting to greet you onboard and at the next port.

Kosher Wine Program – Discovering the Kosher Wine Route of Bordeaux: The Bordeaux region has one of the world’s highest concentrations of vineyards producing high quality kosher wine. On this cruise, we have dedicated a number of choice excursions to kosher wine exploration and education. Whether you are interested in wine or just exploring some of the world’s most stunning scenery, complete with visits to ancient chateaus and castles, this tour has something for everyone. Our program will take us to local wine regions and kosher wineries in Medoc, Saint-Emilion, and Sauternes. Here we will explore vineyards, chateaus, and castles, learning about the region from local kosher vintners complete with wine teachings, tastings, exploration, and shopping! (Optional tour choices are available for those who may not be interested in the wine program).

Jewish Bordeaux: Ancient texts record the presence of Jews in Bordeaux from as early as the 6th century. A document dating from 1072 evokes a “Mont-Judaïque” which would have been on the outskirts of the ancient city of Bordeaux, where the streets Mériadec and Dauphine are currently located. For centuries, the cellars of tumbledown houses in the region’s old towns were home to hidden Jewish communities of conversos who came here from Spain after 1474. Used to hiding their faith in Spain, these “new Christians” continued to practice Judaism in secret when they came to France. Bordeaux’s Jewish community began to emerge from the shadows only in the mid-eighteenth century and then finally with the emancipation of all Jews in France in 1791 after the French Revolution.

The Great Synagogue of Bordeaux stands rebuilt, inaugurated in 1882. The architectural inspiration was a mixture of Gothic and Oriental styles. The interior decoration is of Syrian, Ottoman, Egyptian and Moorish inspiration, providing a majestic building with an original architectural point of view.

During the Second World War, the Occupation in Bordeaux was very brutal; more than 1600 Jews were deported. Today, the Jewish community of Bordeaux has expanded, with the arrival of a new Ashkenazi congregation and the arrival of Jews from North Africa in the 1960s.

Join Kosher River Cruises and our scholar in residence Dr. Henry Abramson as we explore the region’s unique Jewish history and heritage. We will immerse ourselves in the wonders of the Bordeaux region as we travel in luxury through its stunning, off-the-beaten-path and picturesque waterways.

Day 1: (Tu) Bordeaux

Welcome to Bordeaux, a city of wine, history, and spectacular architecture. On arrival, your friendly KRC crew will welcome you aboard the luxurious Scenic Diamond for your seven-night cruise. Enjoy a welcome reception and dinner followed by an after-dinner toast and orientation to prepare us for the coming weeks’ adventure.

Day 2: (We) Medoc & Bourg

Enjoy a guided tour of Libourne and view its quaint 16th century townhouses, Jewish quarter, and 19th century synagogue. We begin at Place Abel-Surchamp, the main square of the city, hosting its famous outdoor market; we then continue to explore the ancient buildings on its narrow streets leading to the main square. Streets include Rue Victor Hugo, Rue Fonneuve and Rue Lamothe, where its 19th century synagogue is located. At the synagogue we will visit with the local Jewish community and learn about Jewish life in the Bordeaux region.

Jewish Libourne: The Jewish presence in Libourne dates from the 16th century and was authenticated with the existence of its first synagogue, located in the Rue de Périgueux in the 18th century. In 1847, with the inauguration of its current synagogue, the Jewish population of Libourne was estimated at just 77 persons out of a total population of 9714 inhabitants. The synagogue was closed during the World War and its Sifrei Torah kept in a house in Bordeaux. They were then returned in 1950, following the arrival in the 1960s of Jews from North Africa; the synagogue reopened in 1962.

Kosher Wine Option – The Saint-Emilion Wine Route: Excursion to The Saint-Emilion valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the pride of all Bordeaux and France for its world-famous wineries. Explore the region, complete with its kosher wineries and tastings. Explore its quaint villages with a breathtaking view of its famous valley.

Day 3: (Th) Libourne

Stroll through the medieval town of Blaye on a guided tour as we explore the impressively preserved city center. For those feeling more active, you can join an active walking tour of its medieval citadel (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that was established to protect the region from invasion.  

This afternoon, get ready for something truly special! Set in spectacular surroundings in the Médoc countryside, our visit to the famous Château d’Agassac is truly enchanting. Soak in the ambience of this stunning 13 th century castle while live musicians perform classical masterpieces for your exclusive enjoyment.  

Day 4: (Fr) Bordeaux

Kosher Wine Option – Medoc Wine Route: This morning, immerse yourself in the scenic Médoc wine region and discover why it is regarded as the world’s leading red wine producer.  Sample the region’s finest at its spectacular kosher wineries and estates. Alternatively, you have the option of a guided round-trip cycle tour throughout this beautiful region, stopping along the way to visit some of the region’s quaint villages.  

Bourg: This afternoon, discover Bourg with a visit to a 2000-year-old fairy tale village, including exploration of the enchanting 16th century Bourg Castle and the famous Carriages Museum.    

Day 5: (Sa) Cadillac (Shabbat)

Explore the magical city of Cadillac with a walking tour, including a visit to the Château de Roquetaillade. On the site of this well-preserved castle, Charlemagne constructed the first earth and timber fortifications as he advanced toward the Pyrenees. His fortress was later replaced with stone fortifications. Between 1860 and 1870, the French architect Viollet-le-Duc transformed the castle, with extraordinary interior decorations that earned the castle a listing by the French Ministry of Culture on the French Heritage roster as a Monument Historique.  Then next, on to Chateau de Cadillac, easily the most impressive building in the town, the home of the Dukes of Epernon and a gorgeous example of French architecture.  

Kosher Wine Option – Sauternais Wine Route: This very small vineyard, called Sauternais, is located in the southeast of the Graves de Bordeaux region and benefits from a microclimate that allows it to produce a liqueur wine called Sauternes Wine that is unique in the world.  Stunning scenery makes for a perfect excursion to this small kosher winery for an off   the beaten path day of exploration and tasting.    

Day 6: (Su) Blaye

We will have a full day of Shabbat programming as we are docked in  Bordeaux , sharing with all our old and new friends. In the afternoon, we will have an optional, Shabbat-friendly guided walking tour as we continue our exploration of  Bordeaux .  

Day 7: (Mo) Cadillac

We discover Bordeaux’s many charms today, either on foot or on two wheels; the locals preferred this way to navigate the city’s charming backstreets. You’ll have a wonderful selection of active opportunities to see this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage city.  

Bordeaux’ ancient and rich history contrasts with its modernity and dynamism today. The city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 for several reasons. It functions as a hub of commerce and exchange – thanks to its role as the capital of a world-renowned wine growing region – and the importance of its river and port. In addition, it has an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble, with splendid honey-colored stone buildings. These make up a city core with 1810 hectares and over 360 historic monuments registered and protected. Trade with the French colonies built this handsome city, providing vanilla, sugar, spices and cocoa to inventive chocolatiers and bakers, who used these goods to create iconic desserts. Chocolate, once a Spanish monopoly, became part of Bordeaux’ culinary heritage when banished Spanish Jews brought the art of chocolate-making to France.   

Jewish Bordeaux:   Explore with our scholar in residence over 1,000 years of Jewish presence in the city.  We complete our tour with a visit to the majestic Great Synagogue of Bordeaux, inaugurated in 1882, where we will have the chance to meet and interact with the local Jewish Community.  

Day 8: (Tu) Bordeaux

After breakfast, we bid you farewell. We hope to welcome you back again soon!  

*Please note the video above is the Scenic Cruises Lines general video and does not represent the kosher cuisine and additional programming that is modified specifically for a Kosher River Cruise program.

river cruise in bordeaux france

October 29 to November 5, 2024

Cruise rates, accomodations.

Exclusively built for cruising the rivers of France, the Scenic Diamond offers our guests the utmost in luxury, comfortcomfort, and refinement on these charming and serene passageways. Intimate and comfortable, with every amenity one could wish for, our luxury vessels are designed with you in mind. From the moment you step on board you’ll be spoiled for choice. From our wide selection of glatt kosher dining choices to our luxuriously appointed private balcony suites, you’ll enjoy the ultimate in all-inclusive river cruising every moment of the day.

Our all-inclusive river cruise vacation includes daily tours at each of our ports of call.

Cruise Tour

  • Day 1  (Tu) Bordeaux
  • Day 2  (We) Medoc & Bourg
  • Day 3  (Th) Libourne
  • Day 4  (Fr) Bordeaux  
  • Day 5  (Sa) Cadillac (Shabbat)
  • Day 6  (Su) Blaye
  • Day 7  (Mo) Cadillac
  • Day 8  (Tu) Bordeaux

* Please note mooring and casting-off times are only guidelines. We reserve the right to make changes to the itineraries and excursion programs. If due to low or high water or a defective ship a section of the river is closed to travel, the ship-owner reserves the right to transport guests along this section by bus, to accommodate them in hotels and/or change the course of this part of the journey. In certain circumstances it may be necessary to transfer to another ship. These situations are  rare, but they do happen from time to time and are all part of riverboat vacations. There’s nothing anyone can do to control mother nature.  

Air Booking

For those who need assistance with booking with your air travel, please contact us and we can supply you the contact information for an outside air agent.   

Embarkation & Disembarkation

Embarkation (Bordeaux):

Clients will be able to check-in and board in Bordeaux beginning at 16:00. Guests who arrive earlier may leave their luggage at reception beginning at 13:00,  but will not be able to check-in or receive their cabin until 16:00. Bordeaux International Airport is approximately 25 minutes from the city center and pier. Scheduled group airport transfers are included in the price of your tour on October 29.  

Disembarkation (Bordeaux):

The boat will arrive at Bordeaux the day before disembarkation on November 4. Clients will be required to disembark by 9:30 am on November 4. We can assist in pre-arranged transfers from the boat to local destinations; scheduled group airport transfers are included in the price of your tour on November 5. We recommend guests schedule departing flights around midday to avoid any delays that may occur on the day of departure.  

Gentle Walkers

We welcome guests with limited  mobility but want all guests to understand that challenges will exist both on board and during shore excursions. There are stairs between decks; note that our ship does have an elevator. In addition, there are split-level decks and/or significant thresholds that could make movement difficult. Shore excursions are a mix of both walking and bus touring that require movement over cobblestones or up and down stairs. Therefore, a physically challenged guest will require the services of a responsible adult, as crew availability is very limited in most circumstances and therefore unable to assist. Motorized scooters are typically not suited and cannot be used on board. Guests have the option of taking taxis and meeting the group at our designated meeting points to cut down on the amount of walking from site to site. Please note that this is at the expense of the individual guest and must be arranged by the guests themselves. The ship’s reception desk can be of assistance in ordering taxis from the dock.  

Security: The safety of our passengers is something we take very seriously, and we consider it our most important responsibility. Our policy is to be in constant contact with local municipalities regarding our arrival and departure at our various locations.  

Connect With Us

Call Us : USA +1 310-237-0122

Call Us Toll Free USA : 800-923-2645

WhatsApp SMS:  +1 (206)-536-3150

Office hours are 9:00am to 5:00pm PST

Israel : 052 836 2661

United Kingdom : 020 3393 6823

Fax us : USA (888) 589-6498 E-mail : [email protected]


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Get the latest news and updates on Kosher River Cruise

The 10 best places to go on a river cruise in Europe 

Jun 7, 2024 • 8 min read

river cruise in bordeaux france

Appreciate the beautiful architecture of Budapest from the Danube © Sanga Park / Shutterstock

Cruising down a quiet, traffic-free river, surrounded by scenic riverfront views is an ideal way to see Europe . You can sip your wine while watching picture-perfect scenery breeze past – taking in castles, medieval villages and fields of flowers. 

By necessity, European riverboats are small and passenger numbers are often fewer than 200, making these cruises a far more social and intimate experience. There’s also plenty to do and see onshore, and with more frequent stops you can enjoy more onshore activities. Cruise lines are now also offering more immersive learning experiences such as cooking classes and home visits, or activities like bicycle trips and long hikes.

The hardest part is choosing where to go — which is why we've rounded up the 10 best places to go on a European river cruise. 

River cruise boats float down a village-lined river in Germany.

1. Northern Rhine (Germany)

From gorgeous river meanders and noble German cities

The northern section of the Rhine features dramatic landscapes and a host of interesting towns. Cologne (Köln), Germany ’s fourth-largest city, offers numerous attractions starting with its famous cathedral, while Koblenz, at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, is a park- and flower-filled delight. Heading south, the Rhine meanders between hillside castles and steep fields of wine-producing grapes. Idyllic villages appear around each bend, their half-timbered houses and Gothic steeples seemingly plucked from a fairy tale. Scarcely damaged during WWII, handsome Speyer is crowned by a magnificent Romanesque cathedral. 

2. Southern Rhine (France, Germany & Switzerland)

Explore intriguing towns in this border land

The Southern Rhine forms the border between Germany and France before becoming Switzerland ’s northern frontier. Strasbourg is the perfect overture to all that is idiosyncratic about Alsace – walking a fine tightrope between France and Germany, between a medieval past and a progressive future. Further south, the Black Forest spills into Alsace in the German town of Breisach. Unsurprisingly, given its geographical and cultural proximity to France, the locals here have a passion for a good bottle of wine. Basel, at the juncture of the French, German and Swiss borders, is perhaps where Switzerland’s Franco-Germanic roots are most evident.

3. Rhône (France)

Indulge in gourmet experiences cruising the south of France

Commanding a strategic spot at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, grand old Lyon is France’s gastronomic capital. Downstream, the Rhône forges past Vienne’s Roman ruins and the centuries-old Côtes du Rhône vineyards, opening to sunny vistas of fruit orchards, lavender fields and the distant Alps as it continues south. During the 14th century, the Provençal town of Avignon was the center of the Roman Catholic world. Its impressive legacy of ecclesiastical architecture most notably includes the soaring, World Heritage-listed Palais des Papes .

Sunset's golden light signs on the Italianite city of Passau and the Danube river.

4. Western Danube (Austria & Germany)

Romantic landscapes in the heart of Europe

The baroque streetscapes and imperial palaces set the stage for Vienna ’s artistic and musical masterpieces alongside its coffee-house culture and vibrant epicurean and design scenes. Moving into Germany, the Danube gently winds its way to the Italianate city of Passau . Top billing in eastern Bavaria goes to Regensburg, a former capital and one of Germany’s prettiest and liveliest cities. Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Bavaria’s second-largest city and the unofficial capital of Franconia, is an energetic place with a history that ranges from undeclared capital of the Holy Roman Empire to the trials that judged Nazi war crimes.

5. Eastern Danube (Hungary & Serbia)

Travel a cross-section of Europe’s less-touristed east

The two great cities of this stretch of the Danube are the capitals of Hungary and Serbia respectively. Budapest has something for everyone – from dramatic history and flamboyant architecture to healing thermal waters. Outspoken, adventurous, proud and audacious: Belgrade ("White City") has a gritty exuberance and eclectic architecture making it one of Europe’s most happening cities today. While it hurtles towards a brighter future, its past unfolds before your eyes: socialist blocks are squeezed between art nouveau masterpieces and remnants of the Habsburg legacy contrast with Ottoman relics.

Lush green vineyards line the banks of the Duoro.

6. Douro (Portugal)

See spectacular terraced vineyards, the home of port wine

The Douro region, home to port wine, is simply one of the most glorious spots on earth. The Douro Valley showcases steep terraced vineyards carved into mountains, granite bluffs, whitewashed quintas (estates) and 18th-century wine cellars that draw visitors from around the world. Humble-yet-opulent Porto entices with its higgledy-piggledy medieval center, divine food and wine, and charismatic locals. Its charms are as subtle as the nuances of an aged tawny port, best savored slowly.

7. Elbe (Czech Republic & Germany)

A little-cruised but picturesque stretch of Central Europe

Covering the Czech Republic and a thick slice of eastern Germany, Elbe cruises are under-the-radar options. Prague , not on the Elbe but usually included on river cruises, contends with cities like Budapest and Paris in terms of beauty. Its maze of cobbled lanes and hidden courtyards is perfect for the aimless wanderer. The classic view of Dresden from the Elbe’s northern bank takes in spires, towers and domes belonging to palaces, churches and stately buildings: hard to believe that the city was all but wiped off the map by Allied bombings in 1945. While the city of Wittenberg is first and foremost about Martin Luther, the monk who triggered the German Reformation in 1517.

The pedestrian Pont des Arts crosses the River Seine, linking the Palais du Louvre (shown) and the Institut de France

8. Seine (France)

Cruise out of Paris through northern France

Paris has a timeless familiarity, with instantly recognizable architectural icons, memorable cuisine and chic boutiques. Dining is a quintessential part of the Parisian experience, and its art repository is one of the best, showcasing priceless treasures in palatial museums. Don't miss Rouen is one of Normandy’s most engaging and historically rich destinations, with its soaring Gothic cathedral, beautifully restored medieval quarter, excellent museums and vibrant cultural life. At the mouth of the Seine, Le Havre is a love letter to modernism, evoking France’s postwar energy and optimism.

9. Main (Germany)

A seductive German river connecting to the Rhine and Danube

Rising in Franconia and joining the Rhine near Mainz, the Main (pronounced "mine") is the longest German-only river. From Bamberg to its confluence, it travels some 400km through locks and picturesque scenery, dotted with historic towns. Frankfurt ’s skyscrapers are quite a contrast to the picturesque towns that follow, though it too has a rather traditional and charming old town. Scenic Würzburg is renowned for its art, architecture and delicate wines. A disarmingly beautiful architectural masterpiece, Bamberg’s entire Altstadt is a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

A river flows through lush farmland in Germany.

10. Moselle (Germany)

An intimate stretch of the wine-producing German region

Having traversed France and Luxembourg , the Moselle heads through Germany to meet its destiny with the Rhine at Koblenz. It’s a very pretty stretch of river flanked by vineyards, and makes for great leisurely cruising and exploration. With an astounding nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, gorgeous Trier shelters Germany’s finest ensemble of Roman monuments, and is enlivened by a characterful medieval center and large student population. Bernkastel-Kues are lovely twin settlements in the heart of wine country, while Cochem’s castle and pretty buildings make it a visual highlight of the Moselle .

How do I choose a route for a European river cruise?

The two major rivers for European cruises are the Rhine and the Danube. Together, they were once the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. Rhine cruises often run from Amsterdam to Basel, following the course of the river through Germany. Danube cruises start in southern Germany, wend their way through Bratislava, Slovakia; Linz and Vienna, Austria; and Belgrade, Serbia; then skirt the Bulgarian and Romanian border to reach the Black Sea.

While many first-time European river cruisers stick to these two rivers, there are many other options available. In Western Europe, you can cruise through the French countryside on the Rhône and Seine, or check out the vineyards of Portugal on the Douro. 

Even on the same river, distinct routes can be offered. One company might zip up the Rhine, allowing you to see the highlights in a few days; another might take longer, exploring smaller places along the way and offering more time for onshore experiences. You'll need to decide whether you’d like to get a look at more destinations, or more of a feel for fewer places.

When is the best time to go on a European river cruise?

Cruises on European rivers tend to begin in the spring, around March, and go through to October. Some cruises, operating in areas where Christmas markets are a feature, run right through December but inclement weather or river flooding could put a dampener on plans. Winter cruises tend to focus on places where Christmas experiences are on offer. Shorter daylight hours mean you’ll see less scenery, but the charm of the festive season has its own appeal. 

Choosing your season is very much a matter of personal preference, and there are pros and cons for each season. Summer cruises offer the most spectacular scenery, the longest daylight hours and the best weather, but the towns you visit will be far busier and you won’t be alone in port; in some smaller places, you may have to scramble across the decks of other boats to reach the shore.

Spring and autumn mean less time around the pool on the top deck, but quieter times ashore. Expect rains in spring, but also blooming flowers. Autumn is a great time to cruise the Douro, with grapes being picked and clement temperatures.

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The Best River Cruises In All Of Europe, According To Reviews

T ravelers looking to experience a destination usually keep away from ocean cruises, as these massive ships holding thousands of people make it difficult to see the best of a place, so most of what they see is the cruise's deck and buffet line. That's fine for relaxation, but not so great for true exploring. However, that's not the same for river cruises. River cruises offer the best parts of ocean cruises — like easy boarding, inclusive experiences, a crowd of people eager to meet others, and great food — combined with the benefits of a travel-ambitious trip. If you aren't sure  which type of cruise is best for you , it might be time to give the river a chance.

River cruises offer an array of excursions to choose from, so tourgoers can create their own customized trip. As the ship sails, you'll have the opportunity to experience small villages that otherwise wouldn't make it to your itinerary. That's what intrepid adventurers will find on these European adventures, which are undoubtedly some of the best river cruises in the world . Although the river cruise marketplace is a big one, these cruises offer interesting itineraries with one-of-a-kind experiences, excellent value, and high-end accommodations. Let's get started.

Read more: The Best Budget-Friendly Tourist Destinations To Visit In The Mediterranean

AmaWaterway - Taste Of Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a beautiful epicenter of food, wine, and gastronomic excellence, and that's exactly what cruisers will see — and taste — if they embark on AmaWaterways' seven-day Taste of Bordeaux cruise that travels both the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. The trip heads through Bordeaux, Libourne, Blaye, Bourg, Cadillac, and Cussac Fort Médoc, and other cities (such as San Sebastián and Bilbao in neighboring Spain) can also be added. On the journey, travelers can expect to hike a vineyard in Libourne, take a tour of a 17th-century citadel recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visit a medieval castle that looks largely untouched despite its long history, and, of course, taste plenty of Bordeaux wine. Perhaps the best part of this cruise is its ability to customize, as travelers can choose which excursion they would like to do nearly every day.

The Taste of Bordeaux cruise, which starts at $3,700, earned 4.5 stars on Cruise Critic . One previous customer said, "The only way to describe it is 'marvelous.' The itinerary is filled with great moments. The chateaus, the wine tastings, the scenery." Visitors see the Bordeaux region from the AmaDolce ship, which is specifically tailored to the Taste of Bordeaux cruise with its red-colored lounge as a nod to red wine, a cozy, wood bar perfect for enjoying a glass after a long day, and a chef's table restaurant ideal for bringing French flavors to life.

APT - Magnificent Europe

There's no more efficient way to see the best that this European region has to offer than to take APT's Magnificent Europe cruise, which ventures to 14 destinations along the Rhine and Danube rivers. On this trip, you'll venture to world-famous locales such as Amsterdam, Salzburg, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, and many more. The 15-day trip can even be extended further to Prague, making for a total of 19 cities and six countries. No matter which you choose, European charm and excitement await, as most of these cities offer a selection of several excursions such as a gondola ride in Rüdesheim, a visit to Namedy Castle in Andernach, an exploration of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, and a tour of Budapest's many iconic sights, making this cruise the perfect way to admire the beauty of Hungarian capital .

APT has secured several exclusive experiences that only river cruise guests get to enjoy, such as a special "Sound of Music" performance in Salzburg and a private classical concert in Vienna. With all that it has to offer, the trip netted 4.8 stars on Global Journeys , with reviews from nearly 60 customers. "So many wonderful things about this cruise," said one tourgoer. "Some fantastic sights that you stop and see along the way. Highly recommend this to anyone young or old."

A-Rosa Cruises - Seine Culinary Highlights

If you're a wine and food connoisseur, then there's no better way to taste and drink your way along the Seine River than with A-Rosa Cruises' Seine Culinary Highlights tour, an eight-day cruise that starts at 2,047 euros ($2,234) and ventures to Paris, Vernon, Rouen, Les Andelys, and Caudebec-en-Caux. Foodies will enjoy two wine tastings prepared by French winemakers, a cheese and oyster tasting paired with wines, a cider tasting, and more. Don't worry; you'll still get to explore the must-see sights of the area when you're not sitting down with a glass.

Tourists can add on excursions of their choice for additional costs, such as a visit to Claude Monet's Giverny home, an evening at a Parisian cabaret in Paradis Latin (which has a stage designed by the same man who designed the Eiffel Tower), an exploration of the City of Light's famed art district Montmartre, and a bike ride through Normandy. No matter which excursions or packages you choose, you'll always have free access to e-bikes, Wi-Fi, the ship's sauna and gym, room service, and drinks and meal buffets. On TourRadar, the cruise earned 4.1 stars through more than 60 reviews.

Avalon Waterways - Active & Discovery On The Rhône

Avalon Waterways' Active & Discovery cruises are designed to take tourgoers off the beaten path and immerse them in travel experiences, and there is plenty of magic waiting on the company's eight-day Rhône cruise that travels to cities such as Lyon, Avignon, Arles, Port-Saint-Louis, and more, for as low as $4,400. Travelers can enjoy one-of-a-kind activities like a tour of public and private terraces of Lyon for amazing panoramic views, a wine tasting inside a cave in the Gorges de l'Ardèche, a demonstration on how essential oils are made inside a Provençal farmhouse, and a class on how to paint in the style of Vincent van Gogh. They can also choose from several excursions each day, creating an individually tailored itinerary for each guest.

The activities will take place in an intimately-sized group, as the ship — the Avalon Poetry II — has just 52 suites and 12 staterooms. Visitors can choose from luxury 200-square-foot suites with panoramic views, floor-to-ceiling windows, and delightful balconies, so you can breathe in the Rhône River air whenever you desire. One previous traveler shared that the Avalon Waterways' Active & Discovery on the Rhône cruise was the best river cruise she had ever done, writing on Solo Traveler that "The trip was well paced with excursions that were included in the price of the cruise every morning. I was impressed with the values demonstrated by Avalon Waterways and staff."

CroisiEurope - Hamburg To Berlin: Discover The Medieval Charms Of Hanseatic Cities

If value is what you're after, then you won't find a better river cruise than CroisiEurope's seven-day Hamburg to Berlin: Discover The Medieval Charms of Hanseatic Cities , which starts at just $1,776 per person. From the MS Elbe Princesse, which has an ambiance that mirrors that of Northern Europe, just 77 passengers can see all that the region has to offer through oversized windows, French balconies, panoramic views, and a sun deck. The view is just the beginning, as tourgoers will explore Berlin, Brandenberg, Magdeburg, Wolfsburg, and Hamburg (among others) up-close on the Elbe River, one of the most important waterways on the continent.

In these famous cities, patrons will enjoy activities like admiring Frederick the Great's former home and garden at Sanssouci Palace, exploring a German amusement park devoted to car innovation, touring Lüneburg, which looks much as it did in medieval times with its classic brick buildings, and taking a guided tour of Hamburg's market, stock exchange, and historic center. The tour has clearly impressed TourRadar  users, who give it 4.3 stars through more than 300 reviews. "A wonderful tour where the staff did all they could to make our experience memorable," said one tourgoer. "The food was amazing and the journey along the Rhine at Christmas something we shall never forget."

Emerald Cruises - Sensations Of Lyons & Provence

Emerald Cruises' Sensations of Lyons & Provence tour winds through Southern France's Rhône and Saône rivers, taking visitors to Lyon, Tournon, Viviers, Avignon, Arles, Nice, and more, stopping for cheese, wine, and olive oil tastings, along with bike tours, and hikes. The trip starts at $3,245 and takes place aboard the Emerald Liberté, which features a three-floor atrium, a heated pool that transforms i­­­­nto a theater at night, and a variety of suites and cabins to accommodate 180 people. It's also home to Reflections Restaurant, where guests will enjoy their meals, including one presented by French chef Fabien Morreale spotlighting authentic Provençal flavors.

Besides highlighting the fine wine and cuisine that Southern France is known for, the cruise also brings the area's history and culture to life through excursions such as a tour of one of the oldest churches in the country, visits to several UNESCO World Heritage sites (including Roman monuments and the Palais des Papes), an onboard wine tasting featuring local brews, and a bike ride through the gorgeous French countryside. The cruise finishes with a stroll through Arles down the same paths that Vincent van Gogh once walked. The tour has garnered 4 stars on Cruise Critic through over 150 reviews, with customers remarking, "There was an inclusive excursion at every stop, with local top notch tour guides provided. Every town/city was interesting."

Lüftner Cruises - Saar & Moselle Fairytales

If you love wine and chocolate, you can't miss the chance to cruise the region famous for the two along the Rhine, Moselle, and Saar rivers. Lüftner Cruises' eight-day Saar & Moselle Fairytales river cruise will introduce travelers to the German cities of Cologne, Cochem, Saarburg, Saarlouis, Trier, and one of the smallest states on the continent — Luxembourg — all while exploring age-old vineyards, medieval castles, and historic churches aboard the Amadeus Brilliant. The trip starts at just 1,689 euros ($1,846) per person, making for a luxury trip at a great value. Vacationers can then add on excursion packages starting at 152 euros ($165) per person, which include everything from walking tours to chocolate tastings. Plus, excursions can be added on a la carte, so you can completely customize your Lüftner Cruises trip and stick to whichever excursions are best for your desired activity level and budget.

Tourgoers can choose from staterooms with French balconies and floor-to-ceiling glass doors from which to enjoy the German scenery. Once docked, they'll select excursions such as visiting Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, exploring a medieval market and home in Bernkastel-Kues, seeing a 60-foot waterfall in the middle of Saarburg's town center, and tasting German chocolates in Saarlouis. The trip earned 4.5 stars on TourRadar through more than 130 reviews, with comments such as, "A lovely experience! Relaxed ambience, very good cruise directors, wonderful cabin, friendly staff, superb food."

Scenic Luxury Cruises And Tours - Delightful Douro With Madrid

The Douro River is the heartbeat that hums through the north of Portugal, and Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours' Delightful Douro with Madrid river cruise takes explorers through the region via the largest river in the Iberian Peninsula. An 11-day trip that stops in Porto, Régua, Pinhâo, Pocinho, Barca d'Alva, and the Spanish capital of Madrid, this cruise gives tourists the time they need to fall in love with each destination. It all takes place aboard the Scenic Azure, an upscale ship that offers everything from oversized staterooms to suites with private balconies. As the ship can only accommodate up to 96 guests, it offers an intimate and personalized experience that is sure to leave you with newfound friends. There is one staff member for every two guests onboard, so you're bound to have the best customer service that a river cruise can offer.

Starting at $5,360 per person, Delightful Douro offers a range of excursions that suit every activity level and interest. That includes a private concert for river cruise guests at São Francisco Church in Porto, a visit to the charming village of Provesende, the chance to explore the Royal Palace of Madrid, and wine tastings at some of the region's many vineyards. According to TourRadar  users, the trip warrants 4.3 stars thanks to more than 30 positive reviews. Portugal should be on everyone's bucket list , and this cruise is a fabulous excuse to visit.

Tauck - Impressions From The Seine: Paris To Normandy

From the historic beaches of Normandy to the cultural mecca of Paris, there is much to see along the Seine River — and Tauck's Impressions from the Seine: Paris to Normandy gives cruisers a taste of it all. The eight-day cruise, which starts at about $5,000 per person, brings travelers to Versailles, Paris, Normandy, Rouen, Giverny, and Caudebec-en-Caux upon the 98-person ms Sapphire, known for its spacious cabins and suites, some with French balconies opening up to views of the Seine. A whopping 85% of the ship's suites have floor-to-ceiling windows, and 70% of the ship's cabins are 225 square feet or bigger. They even have walk-in closets, so it's easy to look the part for your day in the city, an important part of experiencing Paris like a Parisian . At mealtime, patrons will dine at The Compass Rose, the ms Sapphire onboard restaurant, or Arthur's, a casual onboard eatery.

Patrons will enjoy offerings unique to Tauck, like dining at a private château in Normandy and exploring Monet's former home and garden while no other tourists are present. Customers can also look forward to taking a tour of Louis XIV's Versailles, seeing Joan of Arc Square, and tasting cider and Calvados at a Normandy farm. The trip received 4.2 stars on Travelstride , and a traveler who took the cruise during the pandemic took to Tripadvisor to say that "Their local guides were very informative and highly personable."

Uniworld River Cruises - Enchanting Danube

The modern nations of Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia don't just comprise part of Central Europe — they also mark the center of important international history, all culminating around the Danube River. On Uniworld River Cruises' Enchanting Danube cruise, cruisers will learn this history from a front-seat view and receive local insight and unprecedented access, as the trip offers exclusive experiences like a private viewing of the Kunstkammer Vienna museum artworks. That's likely part of the reason that the cruise has garnered acclaim from reviewers on sites such as TourRadar , on which the cruise earned 4.7 stars. "An amazing holiday," said one reviewer, "Organization, staff, food and excursions were all wonderful and we will definitely book another cruise with Uniworld."

The Enchanting Danube cruise, which starts at $3,000 and lasts eight days with an option to extend one more day to Prague, heads to Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Dürnstein, Melk, Linz, and Passau. It includes all meals, unlimited drinks (including alcohol), excursions every day, and accommodations inside the S.S. Maria Theresa or the S.S. Beatrice. No matter which ship you take, both offer rooms with 100% Egyptian cotton sheets and a menu of pillow options. When you're not enjoying the room's luxuries, expect activities like a visit to Budapest's Franz Liszt Academy, a hike to beautiful Bratislava Castle, a wine tasting at the oldest winery in Austria, and a hike along the banks of the Ilz River.

Viking River Cruises - Portugal's River Of Gold

Portugal is a mix of the old and the new, thanks to its happening restaurants and innovative art galleries that combine seamlessly with historic sites, traditional recipes, and unbeatable winemaking methods. On Viking River Cruises' 10-day Portugal's River of Gold cruise, which travels along the Douro River and also stops in Spain, patrons will see this Portuguese and Spanish culture in action from the view of a "baby longship." These ships are smaller than Viking's other ships because of Portuguese rules, but visitors can still enjoy features like Scandinavian-style décor and floor-to-ceiling views of the Douro River. The cruise garnered 4.4 stars on Cruise Critic with customers saying things like, "The only thing bad I can say was that it ended too soon." The cruise line is also one of the best for a romantic couples getaway, according to reviews . 

The $4,000 cruise takes patrons through Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal; Porto, the birthplace of Port wine and a spiritual epicenter; Pinhâo, a laid-back Portuguese village; Barca d'Alva, a river town near the Spanish border; and Salamanca, a Spanish city over the border that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Throughout the cruise's stops, visitors will head to Mateus Palace for a wine tasting, learn how Port wine is made, check out a medieval fortress, explore a sacred town and admire a Baroque-style chapel, and experience the "Golden Age of Discovery" at structures like the Jerónimos Monastery.


With stunning rivers such as the Rhône, Seine, Danube, Douro, Elbe, and more, the European river cruise scene is a vast one, with countless companies and ships to choose from. We explored the market to determine the best of the best based on customer reviews (all of these cruises have more than 4 stars on river cruise review websites), itineraries (all offer busy itineraries with tons of options to suit any traveler), value, and luxury, as these all showcase high-end experiences to make your vacation memorable. Websites like Tripadvisor, Cruise Critic, TourRadar and more were used for further confirmation of quality.

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Budapest, Hungary on Danube River

6 Regions Around the World Best Seen on a River Cruise

river cruise in bordeaux france

River cruising has experienced phenomenal growth over the past two decades in part because it’s a more convenient alternative to land-based bus tours. Your home-away-from-home moves with you over the course of a week or longer, meaning you unpack only once while exploring a variety of exciting cities and enchanting small towns. You’ll also enjoy superb onboard cuisine and get to know your fellow cruisers. Of course, this is only possible where rivers flow and cruise lines sail, so here’s a look at six regions around the world best seen on a river cruise.

Cambodia & Vietnam

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Flowing for almost 3,000 miles through Southeast Asia, the mighty Mekong is a living mosaic of century-spanning sights, from lavish palaces and UNESCO World Heritage Site temples to ramshackle villages and surreally green rice paddies. Most Mekong River cruises sail between Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, from August to April, since low river levels and hot weather make May to July difficult for travel.

river cruise in bordeaux france

Highlights of these cruises, which range from seven to 13 nights, include the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, with its Silver Pagoda and sobering genocide museum detailing the “Killing Fields” era of the 1970s Pol Pot regime. Cambodia’s more mystical destination is Angkor Wat, the superbly carved stone temple complex outside of Siem Reap built as early as the 9th century. 

river cruise in bordeaux france

In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest city, sometimes still referred to as Saigon, is a mix of French-colonial architecture, Parisian-style boulevards, stunning pagodas, and modern skyscrapers. Smaller villages along the Mekong’s Vietnamese side offer a look at the daily life of farmers, fishermen, and handicraft makers, complete with floating markets and rickshaws.

Which river lines cruise Cambodia & Vietnam?

AmaWaterways, Aqua Expeditions, Avalon Waterways, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Uniworld, and Viking.

river cruise in bordeaux france

The allure of cruising the Nile River to see the temples of Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, and Abu Simbel in southern Egypt is undeniable. Add on a few nights in Cairo to visit the Pyramids of Giza and the newly opened Grand Egyptian Museum before or after your seven-night cruise and it’s a truly bucket-list trip for anyone fascinated by ancient history.

river cruise in bordeaux france

There are just a handful of primary ports on most Nile River cruises. After arriving in Cairo, you’ll fly to Luxor to board your ship, which will be notably smaller than those sailing the major rivers of Europe. From Luxor, you’ll visit the riverfront temples of Karnak and Luxor and delve into the lore of King Tut and Queen Hatshepsut. More ancient treasures wait in Edfu and Qena. In Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city, you’ll gaze out on mesmerizing desert landscapes that frame lush mid-river islands, visit the two-mile-wide Aswan High Dam, or enjoy an Abu Simbal excursion to see the two massive rock-cut temples.

Which river lines cruise Egypt?

AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld, and Viking.

river cruise in bordeaux france

Cruising the Amazon River is an altogether unique experience, more wildlife safari and rainforest immersion than history lesson. While small luxury cruise ships can explore the river’s larger sections from the Atlantic Ocean to Manaus, Brazil, it’s the Peruvian Amazon that takes center stage for luxury river cruises lasting three, four, or seven nights. Here, on meandering tributaries, these vessels, typically accommodating no more than 30 to 40 guests, get into the heart of the Amazon from the city of Iquitos.

Each day is an adventure as you explore with a guide in a motorized skiff. You’ll spy on monkeys and sloths in the treetops and watch pink-hued river dolphins swim through the greenish-brown water. Hiking along verdant trails, you’ll spot tiny poisonous tree frogs and later enjoy a Champagne toast amid a picturesque quilt of water lilies at sunset. You may also fish for carnivorous piranha by day and search for giant anacondas after dark. 

Which river lines cruise The Amazon?

Aqua Expeditions, Avalon Waterways, Lindblad Expeditions, and Uniworld.

The Mississippi

river cruise in bordeaux france

If cruising closer to home appeals, it doesn’t get any closer than this. The Mississippi River , which winds its way for 2,340 miles through 10 states, from Louisiana in the south to Minnesota in the north, is a terrific option that will immerse you in the history, music, food, and architecture of America’s Heartland. 

Some vessels are sleek river ships while others are retro-inspired paddle wheelers. If you have 15 days, you can cruise the river’s entire length, from New Orleans to St. Paul (or vice versa). You can also opt for a Lower Mississippi or Upper Mississippi sailing that lasts seven to nine days. With the former, you can do a New Orleans roundtrip and visit historic cities in Mississippi and Louisiana that include Natchez, Vicksburg, Baton Rouge, and St. Francisville, or add on Memphis, Tennessee, with a one-way itinerary to or from New Orleans. On an Upper Mississippi sailing, you’ll start in either St. Louis or St. Paul and visit riverfront cities such as Hannibal, Missouri; Davenport, Iowa; La Crosse, Wisconsin; and Red Wing, Minnesota. Which section you choose will dictate when you go, since Upper Mississippi and Full Mississippi sailings are only offered from June to October while Lower Mississippi itineraries are year-round.

Which river lines cruise the Mississippi?

American Cruise Lines and Viking.

Central Europe

river cruise in bordeaux france

No other region is home to as many navigable rivers and must-see historic cities, from Amsterdam, Antwerp, Vienna, and Cologne in the north to Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, and Porto in the west. In Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Portugal rivers connect these vibrant cities with dozens of smaller towns featuring landmark castles, lavish cathedrals, and charming old towns. 

Central Europe’s top rivers include the Rhine, Rhone, Seine, Douro, and Danube. Dozens of cruise itineraries along these waterways immerse you in history, culinary traditions, wine-making, art, architecture, and natural beauty. Picture a living mosaic of tulips in April along the waterways of Belgium and Holland or gliding past the terraced vineyards of Portugal’s Douro Valley during the grape harvest in September. Mix history and art as you explore rogue papacies, Roman amphitheaters, and French wine along the Rhone in the South of France or tour the palaces and cathedrals of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the Danube.

What can you expect on each river? Here’s an intro:

The  Danube , which flows through 10 countries from southern Germany to the Black Sea, is ideal for anyone with an interest in history, art, and architecture. On an Upper Danube itinerary, you’ll  visit capital cities  Budapest, Vienna, and Bratislava (Slovakia), as well as smaller Austrian cities and towns like Linz, Durnstein, and Melk. Day trips to lofty Salzburg or the picturesque Czech town of Cesky Krumlov are also possible. Most cruises begin or end in the Bavaria region of Germany, so a stay in Munich can cap off the trip.

The  Rhine , which begins in the Swiss Alps and runs to the North Sea near Rotterdam, offers views of storybook castles and vineyards set against a backdrop that is among the most stunning in river cruising. Cities on a Rhine itinerary can include Basel, Switzerland; Strasbourg, France; Cologne, Germany; and Amsterdam. In between are wine-making hamlets such as Rüdesheim am Rhein and Bamberg in Germany, plus scenic Kinderdijk in the Netherlands, home to centuries-old windmills.

The  Rhone , which meanders from food-centric Lyon all the way to the Mediterranean in the South of France, is chock full of delights. These include the Roman arena and medieval streets of Arles (also famous as the setting for some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most notable paintings), the papal intrigue of Avignon, the wine-making excellence around Tournon-sur-Rhône, and the truffle treasures of Viviers. 

river cruise in bordeaux france

The  Seine , which flows north through Paris to the English Channel, is equally intriguing, especially to history buffs and art lovers. On these cruises, you can explore the museums and landmarks of the French capital, wander Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny, and see buildings and landscapes painted by Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise (where he’s also buried). You can also walk the medieval streets of Rouen, where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake and Monet painted the Gothic cathedral, before visiting Honfleur, a seaside hamlet favored by Impressionists, as well as the D-Day beaches of Normandy and the American Cemetery, resting place of 9,387 fallen soldiers.

The  Dordogne and Garonne rivers , located in the Bordeaux wine-making region of France, offer a heady immersion for oenophiles — from the historic bustle of the city of Bordeaux to the bucolic ambiance of wine-making hamlets such as St.-Emilion, Pauillac, and Cadillac.

The  Douro River  in northern Portugal is another mecca for  wine lovers . Riverboats cruise from atmospheric Porto, home to historic port wine cellars, to small towns such as Pinhão and Régua, set amid pastoral hillside vineyards.

river cruise in bordeaux france

Central Europe also has two lesser-known rivers. The  Elbe River  flows through the former East Germany and offers access to Berlin, Potsdam, and Dresden, as well as nearby Prague in the Czech Republic. The waterways of  Holland and Belgium  attract garden lovers each spring with millions of tulips, historic windmills, and the chocolate and beer abundant in Belgian cities like Brussels, Antwerp, and Bruges.

Which river lines cruise Central Europe?

Check out AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Emerald Waterways, Riverside, Scenic, Tauck, Uniworld, and Viking.

Eastern Europe

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While exploring Central Europe is more popular, Eastern Europe has plenty to offer in the way of lesser-known but history-rich countries like Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. The Danube River passes through all six and Lower Danube itineraries generally begin in Budapest, Hungary, and end in Bucharest, Romania (or vice versa). 

Here’s what you’ll see along the way:

In Hungary, the contrast between the stately architecture of Budapest and the port of Kalocsa couldn’t be greater. Known for paprika production and embroidered handicrafts, this city and its surrounding countryside are also the place to experience cowboy culture (the energetic but touristy Puszta Horse Show is a popular excursion) and the Hajós-Baja wine region (Hungarian wines are quite good, so wine-tasting is a commendable option).

Croatia, which most people know for its historic ports on the Adriatic coast, also has a port on the Danube. Vukovar is the gateway to Osijek, located about 45 minutes away. Both cities were heavily damaged during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, but many buildings in Osijek’s historic Baroque center were spared or have been restored. Here you can visit the Church of St. Peter and Paul with its 295-foot steeple and pedestrian-only Holy Trinity Square in the Old Town known as Tvrda.

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Belgrade, the former capital of Yugoslavia and current capital of Serbia, is one of Europe’s oldest cities. Its architecture ranges from charming 17th-century buildings set on the cobblestone streets of Old Town (a short stroll from the port) to dour Communist block structures. Don’t miss the Belgrade Fortress (it was destroyed 40 times, and what remains is mainly from the Ottoman period), the Nikola Tesla Museum, and the massive Church of Saint Sava with its lavish gilded crypt. 

Bulgaria may offer up the most surprises. One of the region’s least wealthy countries, it is full of scenic beauty and unique sights. River ships call on Vidin, home to Fortress Bab Vida, for excursions to the striking, red-hued Belogradchick Rocks. You’ll also call on Ruse for an all-day scenic excursion to Veliko Tarnovo, a medieval town and fortress built into the cliffs of the Yantra River. Back on the Danube, you’ll marvel at the Iron Gates, a series of gorges that are one of Europe’s natural wonders, as you cruise through them.

You’ll board or disembark your cruise about an hour outside of the Romanian capital. Bucharest is a city of contrasts, known as the “Paris of the East” for its stately boulevards (it even has an Arc de Triomphe). It's also home to the massive Palace of the Parliament, built by notorious mid-20th-century dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Many cruisers also add on pre- or post-cruise tour to the historic towns and castles of nearby Transylvania.

Which river lines cruise Eastern Europe?

AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Tauck, Uniworld, and Viking.

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Cheap Europe Cruises - Cruises to Europe

Featured europe cruise deals, cruising guide, why cruise to europe.

Cruisers can visit multiple cities -- often multiple countries -- in one weeklong to two-week trip, so they can hit the highlights and only pay airfare once. Instead of logging long hours traveling in a bus, navigating train schedules in a foreign language or moving from hotel to hotel, cruise passengers can enjoy fine dining, complimentary entertainment and one comfortable home base for the entire trip as the ship sails from Spain to France to Italy in the Mediterranean, or from Germany to Denmark to Sweden in Northern Europe, not to mention farther north into Norway.

What are Popular Activities in Europe?

Activities vary depending on where you go. Cultural and historical attractions are present nearly everywhere -- whether that's exploring Roman ruins, visiting famous art museums or touring castles, fortresses and historic homes. Beautiful cathedrals and religious sites are plentiful. Tasty food and wine tours are educational and available throughout all of Europe.

When is a Good Time to Cruise to Europe?

While there are some European cruises year-round, spring, summer and fall are the major times to go. Summertime is the primary time that Baltic and Arctic cruises are offered to destinations in Northern Europe.

The best times to go on a Europe river cruise are often spring and fall, when temperatures are pleasant and crowds somewhat diminished. Travelers looking for a unique spin on a river cruise can opt for a late fall sailing to visit Europe's famous Christmas Markets -- just be prepared for cool weather.

What are Popular Ports in Europe?

Baltic ports include Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki, while Norwegian fjords sailings call at Geiranger, Bergen and Flam. Western Europe ports include Dublin, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Rhine River cruises visit Amsterdam (via canal), Cologne, Strasbourg and Basel. Popular ports on the Danube River include Vienna and Budapest. Other popular river cruise destinations, depending on which itinerary you choose, might include Bruges, Porto, Bordeaux and Paris.

Where do Europe cruises depart from?

Baltic and Norwegian fjord cruises depart from a range of ports, including Southampton, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Bergen and Amsterdam. British Isles cruises depart from Southampton, Dover or other ports in England.

European river cruises leave from a variety of ports, depending on the river and route. Danube River cruises depart from Budapest, Passau or Nuremberg; Rhine River from Amsterdam (via canal) and Basel; Seine from Paris; Rhone from Lyon, Avignon and Arles; Portugal's Douro from Lisbon and Porto; Elbe from Berlin and Prague; and Bordeauxt from Bordeaux itself.

What are Popular Regions of Europe?

Northern sailings take in Scandinavia (including Norway's gorgeous fjord country), Russia and other Baltic capitals along with the U.K., Ireland and Iceland. Some venture north of the Arctic Circle to the very top of Europe.

River cruises bring travelers to even more destinations along the Rhine, Danube and other major waterways -- including Amsterdam, Paris, Vienna and Budapest.

What are Tips to Find Cruise deals to Europe?

Here are our best tips for finding a cheap cruise or cruise deal to Europe. If you book a “guaranteed cabin” (the line chooses for you), a cabin on a lower deck or sail on an older ship from your preferred brand, then you can get the best cost for a specific European cruise. Last-minute cruise specials to Europe appear as you get closer to the sail date, usually four weeks before departure. Taking a cruise to Europe in the off-season (before or after the busiest times) can also be a great way to find a cruise deal, but keep in mind some specific destinations are increasingly year-round.

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Elevate your offerings with Avalon Waterways' new 2025 cruises

Elevate your offerings with Avalon Waterways' new 2025 cruises—Bonjour Bordeaux, French Masterpiece, France Uncorked, and Vineyards & Châteaux. These itineraries provide immersive experiences through Bordeaux, Paris, Normandy, and more. Your clients can sail on luxurious Suite Ships featuring the exclusive Panorama Suites with Open-Air Balcony. They will enjoy curated excursions, from exploring historic castles and Châteaux to indulging in world-class wine tastings and gourmet cuisine. Whether it's the Seine, Rhône, or Garonne, each journey promises unforgettable moments and breathtaking views. Partner with Avalon Waterways to offer your clients the true essence of France.

  • Bonjour Bordeaux: Châteaux, Wineries & Charming Villages

Bid bonjour to the bountiful beauty of Bordeaux with Avalon Waterways. Our cruises on the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers start from Bordeaux, renowned for its legendary vineyards and wines. Offer your clients Avalon’s Classic, Active, or Discovery experiences, from exploring majestic castles and Châteaux to romantic wine cellars. The lush landscapes along the rivers provide panoramic drives, bike excursions, and the seaside delicacies of Arcachon. This adventure immerses your clients in the cultural and architectural treasures of Southwest France.

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  • French Masterpiece: Paris, Normandy & Bordeaux

Take your clients on a captivating journey through France’s charming and historic locales. Sail along the Seine River to the picturesque Normandy region, visiting Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny or Bizy Castle, and explore the Normandy Landing Beaches, Rouen’s medieval quarter, and the Gothic Rouen Cathedral. Begin in Paris, discovering iconic landmarks like the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and Eiffel Tower, before transferring to Bordeaux to cruise through Nouvelle-Aquitaine’s exquisite regions. With Avalon’s Classic, Active, or Discovery excursions, travelers can enjoy castles, Châteaux, romantic wine cellars, scenic tours, and bike excursions, uncovering the rich traditions of Southwest France.

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  • France, Uncorked: The Rhône, The Seine & Bordeaux

Delight travelers with the timeless charms of France on this river cruise. Embark on the Rhône River, visiting Arles’ Roman Amphitheater and Avignon’s Palace of the Popes, explore Tournon’s vineyards and Lyon’s gastronomic delights. Cruise along the Seine River with excursions to the Normandy Landing Beaches, Les Andelys, and Rouen. Visit Vincent van Gogh’s Auvers-sur-Oise or Malmaison, and enjoy stops in Paris, seeing landmarks like the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. The adventure continues on the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers in Bordeaux, famed for its vineyards and villages. Avalon offers Classic, Active, or Discovery experiences, allowing travelers to explore historic castles and Châteaux, visit charming wine cellars, enjoy picturesque drives, take invigorating bike rides, and savor the unique flavors of Arcachon.

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  • Vineyards, Châteaux & Bordeaux

Introduce your clients to the rich cultures of Germany and France on this river cruise along the Rhine, Seine, Garonne, and Dordogne Rivers. Begin in Breisach, Germany, the gateway to the Black Forest’s beauty. Visit Strasbourg, where French and German cultures blend seamlessly, and sail through the Rhine Gorge with its ancient castles. Explore Cologne’s Gothic architecture and Amsterdam’s scenic canals. Continue to Paris for a Seine River cruise, experiencing French culture, cuisine, and iconic landmarks like the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. Journey along the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, enjoying Bordeaux’s renowned vineyards and charming villages. Avalon’s industry-leading ships and expertly curated itineraries ensure an unforgettable experience for every traveler.

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About Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways is renowned for its Suite Ship designs and personalized cruise itineraries. The Panorama Suite features the widest-opening, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows in river cruising, complete with the only Open-Air Balcony. Recently, Avalon expanded to Portugal’s Douro River with the Avalon Alegria, boasting 37 Panorama Suites. Avalon Choice excursions offer wine-focused tours, foodie walking tours, painting classes, and more. With extended itineraries, Avalon elevates the cruising experience, providing in-depth getaways to meet growing demand.

Travel Advisors can access personalized marketing tools and gain expertise through GFOB University . Avalon Waterways’ award-winning industry partnerships and user-friendly Travel Advisor Portal make it easier for Advisors to share itineraries, access marketing tools, and enhance their brand expertise. For more information, visit Avalon Waterways .


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    Capital of the Aquitaine region, Bordeaux is celebrated for its thoughtfully preserved 18th-century architecture. Together, its glorious buildings, many of them built on the wine trade, comprise the world's largest urban UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, honored as a City of Art and History, Bordeaux is a "Little Paris" of beautiful boulevards, Gothic and baroque churches ...

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    Celebrate life's sweetest moments with an intoxicating pairing of ultra-rich, honeyed Sauternes wine from Bordeaux. AmaWaterways™ 2024 Taste of Bordeaux Cruise - Embark from Bordeaux aboard the AmaDolce for a 7-night cruise of the Garonne and Dordogne, and one of the world's finest wine regions. Visit Cadillac, Pauillac, Libourne, and more.

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    Bordeaux River Cruises. View All 25 River Cruises. Embark on a leisurely Bordeaux river cruise along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and the Gironde estuary. Immerse yourself in French gastronomy as you take life one day, and one vineyard, at a time. Indulge your palate at châteaux and local markets and be treated to beautiful scenery.

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    A Bordeaux river cruise sails on all three waterways. ... The historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has more preserved buildings than any city in France outside Paris. Wine is ...

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    Board an enchanting 8-day round-trip cruise from Bordeaux to Libourne on the MS Amadolce. Visit the towns of Cadillac, Pauillac, Bourg, Libourne, and …. 0. Brilliant Bordeaux. $3299. 8. Jun 2, 2024. Uncover the proud legacy and heritage of Southwest France.

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    Bordeaux is a beautiful city located in southwestern France, on the Garonne River. It is known for its wine, its architecture, and its friendly people. A Bordeaux river cruise is the perfect way to see all that this city has to offer. Your cruise will begin in the city centre, where you will see the Cathedral of Saint-André, the Palais de ...

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    Bordeaux: 2-Hour River Dinner Cruise. 4.4 / 5 168 reviews. Activity provider: Les Bateaux Bordelais. Add to wishlist. 1 / 4. Enjoy a romantic evening on a restaurant boat in Bordeaux. Choose from a selection of gourmet 3-course dinners and sail on the river past the floodlit monuments along the World Heritage waterfront.


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