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Best European cruise for wine drinkers

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Hello!  My husband and I are looking into a river cruise next summer.  The past 2 summers we have done Tours through France and Italy and are looking for something new.  We are not interested in seeing any more cathedrals, ruins, etc.  We would like to have a decent amount of free time daily to wander around the ports on our own.  We like wine and visiting wineries.  Any recommendations for a cruise that would suit us?  A week is the absolute minimum length of the cruise as we are flying to Europe from the USA and want to make it worth our time!  Thanks for any help/advise you can give!

 

Debbie

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A cruise thru Bordeaux perhaps?  Just be aware that if you go off on your own, the ship may move so if you're not a ship's tour, you'll be responsible for getting to the next location.  Most river cruise lines include excursions, so if you don't do them, you're not experiencing something you already paid for.

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The Bordeaux cruises are the only ones AFAIK that are specifically focused on wine tourism, with winery visits every day and on board tastings.

 

Other cruises that pass through wine regions include and/or have optional tours to wineries, such as on the Rhone, and Douro in Portugal. 

 

As tours are included at every stop there isn't too much time for wandering on ones own, without missing an included tour you've paid for, although of course you won't mind missing one to ABC (another b.. cathedral)

 

But few wineries are in walking distance of a mooring spot, though I did walk to one in Germany and came back with wine we enjoyed with dinner - no corkage.

 

The other option is to go on a special wine cruise which has on board tastings, such as some operators run, as has The American Wine Society.

 

Suggest you look at two recent relevant thread on this board:-

 

French wine river cruises

Best river cruise in Bordeaux region of France? 

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For wandering around ports (if you so wish a couple of ruins in Trier might fit in nicely) the Moselle is a good river, the Rhine gorge with Rüdesheim is also easy to explore on your own, visiting nearby Kloster Eberbach for wine is a plus.

 

The wine focus can be experienced in some regions and with some cruise lines, like Bordeaux as the previous posters have suggested. But I also - like Pontiac - recommend looking at Amawaterways and their wine experience cruises. What happens onboard with the brought-in American experts sounds nicely complemented with interesting visits to various regions. This is the article on that from TravelPulse: https://www.travelpulse.com/news/cruise/amawaterways-debuts-two-new-wine-themed-itineraries.html

 

Both itineraries look appealing to me.

 

notamermaid

 

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I think the Bordeaux cruises sound like a good fit for us!  Some days we don't mind missing a tour or something that we paid for because it was included in our fare and would prefer to just stroll around the port and then sit outside somewhere in the port with a glass of wine and people watch!  Thanks for all the information!  I haven't been on this board in years, but knew it was the place to get the info I needed!

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We have done 3 Viking cruises.  Two(Douro & Bordeaux) could be called more wine specific.  Of the two, the Douro was actually the better "wine" tour.  We sampled more wine on this trip than in Bordeaux.  Also, the scenery was by far more fantastic in Portugal than in France.  Our ship in Bordeaux was little more than a floating hotel.  That doesn't mean that it wasn't a great trip because it was.  The ports in France were all enjoyable and the food was great!  Also, in Bordeaux you have the opportunity to bring some great wine onboard.  AS Roz mentioned, you can probably do an excursion on your own a day.  If I could only recommend one though, I would pick the Douro in September.

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What about Provence?  Has anyone done Lyon to Arles?  We are considering this itinerary for 2020.  We did Bordeaux in 2015 on Uniworld.  We had a great time but we traveled on buses quite a bit due to the water levels.  Love Uniworld though. Now actually considering AMA.  Any suggestions are very appreciated!

 

Robin

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44 minutes ago, RDAJ23 said:

What about Provence?  Has anyone done Lyon to Arles?  We are considering this itinerary for 2020.  We did Bordeaux in 2015 on Uniworld.  We had a great time but we traveled on buses quite a bit due to the water levels.  Love Uniworld though. Now actually considering AMA.  Any suggestions are very appreciated!

 

Robin

 

Unlike Bordeaux, it is much harder to get proper tasting in Burgundy or Chateauneuf du Pape.  The experience is not nearly the same.  Burgundy, the ones you want to go to don't want to host because they can sell every single bottle they make.  And they rather spend their time making wine, doing their vineyard work, etc... The ones that let you in are mostly scam.  

In CdP, even top tier producer like Domaine du Pegau tasting room looks like a cheap rental studio with a small kitchenette.  

 

I think it's best to grab a few good CdP bottles to take with you, and have them on board.  

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1 hour ago, RDAJ23 said:

What about Provence?  Has anyone done Lyon to Arles?  We are considering this itinerary for 2020.  We did Bordeaux in 2015 on Uniworld.  We had a great time but we traveled on buses quite a bit due to the water levels.  Love Uniworld though. Now actually considering AMA.  Any suggestions are very appreciated!

 

Robin

 

We did Lyon to Arles on AMA in 2015.  Our cruise included a wine tasting of three Beaujolais wines (rose and reds) at Domaine de la Logère in Anse.  And a deluxe wine tasting at M.Chapoutier in Tain-l'Hermitage.  We had three of their high-end wines [older vintages no longer even for sale] – as we left I noticed that the general public was getting current vintages of their lesser wines, so AMA really did us proud.

 

This cruise was a wonderful mixture of elements.  Some wine tasting, as noted above.  Lots of Roman ruins (in Lyon at the beginning, Pont du Gard at the end, and several in between).  Van Gogh in Arles and da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael at the Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux [each year the artists featured are different].  And in Viviers we had the opportunity after dinner to 'help' make baguettes at a local boulangerie – what a hoot!  I hope they offer that tour on your cruise.

 

For more details, here is my blog of that cruise:

jazzbeauxfranceblog.wordpress.com

 

If you want even more focus on wine, some sailings are designated as Wine Cruises:

https://www.amawaterways.com/destination/europe-river-cruises/2020/colors-of-provence-wine-cruise

and in 2021 they are adding a new itinerary that starts above Lyon in Chalon-sur-Saône and includes several wine tasting stops focused on Northern Rhône wines:

https://www.amawaterways.com/destination/europe-river-cruises/2021/essence-of-burgundy-provence

 

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23 hours ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

...new itinerary that starts above Lyon in Chalon-sur-Saône...

But be aware that if there is high water on the Saône getting under the bridges over the Saône in Lyon is quite iffy. In 2015 we made it through the area with 1-2 cm to spare (I was on the foredeck watching the extremely close passage), and no more boats made it for the next two days. 

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Posted (edited)

In France, you'll find great wine excursions regardless of the river you take:  Burgundy, Bordeaux, Languedoc, Champagne, Alsace, and Loire Valley regions are all navigable by River Cruise or Barge, and all have their own wines focusing on the unique terroir.  But, for real oenophiles, there are wine themed cruises available from time to time.
 

Cheers!

Edited by CroisiEurope America
Took out a link.

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