From the sunflower fields of Provence to the vineyards of Burgundy and the romance of Paris, river cruises in France tempt with historical, gastronomical and cultural sights. Several river cruise companies specialize in regional voyages that offer immersive experiences designed to delight the senses. Here are five to consider for 2015/16:
Avalon Waterways: Burgundy and Provence, 11 days priced from $3,399 per person, double. The adventure begins with an overnight on the French Riviera, also known as the Côte d’Azur. Then travel to Arles in the Provence region, board your ship and sail on to Avignon, Viviers, Tournon, Vienne, Lyon, plus Chalon-sur-Saône and Beaune. Take the TGV train from Dijon to Paris, where your vacation ends with two overnights, guided sightseeing, and free time to explore the City of Light on your own.
Viking River Cruises: Chateaux, Rivers & Wine, eight days priced from $1,856. This journey takes you to Aquitaine, where some of France’s most remarkable wines are produced. At the region’s heart, the city of Bordeaux invites visitors to savor its grand architecture and superb museums. Taste wine and oysters, truffles and cognac as you cruise the Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde rivers.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises: Grand France, 15 days priced from $7,695 per person, double. Experience France from north to south, sailing three rivers and embarking upon in-depth shore excursions. Walk through Monet’s Giverny, kayak under the arches of the 2,000-year-old Pont du Gard outside of Avignon, enjoy a recital of baroque favorites in a 12th- century cathedral in charming Viviers and visit the famous food market (Les Halles) in lively Lyon.
Vantage Travel: Holiday Magic in Paris and Along the Seine, eight days, priced from $1,649 per person, double. Consider this voyage if you’re looking for a holiday getaway roundtrip from Paris. Begin your Seine River cruise in the romantic city, where a traditional Christmas market lines the Champs Elysées, and the Eiffel Tower glitters against the night sky. The ship sails north toward the heart of Normandy. Along the way, visit ancient Rouen and Versailles, and then take a full-day excursion to Normandy’s WWII sites.
Tauck: A Taste of France, 10 days, priced from $5,590 per person, double. Focusing on French cuisine and village life, this trip features a seven-night Rhône River cruise through vineyard country that’s home to some of the world’s most exceptional wines. Begin with a two-day stay in Paris with a reception and dinner at Fouquet’s, the celebrity hotspot on the Champs Élysées, a chocolate demonstration, and a pastry class designed especially for Tauck guests at École Lenôtre. Ride the high-speed TGV through the French countryside to Lyon, to board the ship that will sail along the Rhone River.