Jon (my husband) and I went on a Riviera Cruise on the Rhone River at the beginning of April. What an amazing experience!
First thing to understand…there are several amazing river cruise companies. I would love to talk to you and qualify you for the experience that is best for you.
The Rhone cruise was on board the MS William Shakespeare. All of Riviera’s boats are named after British authors. I thought this was a fun theme. The ship is very nice with dark wood finishes. It is well maintained.
The sun deck is very nice and has lots of space for passengers to enjoy while in dock as well as while cruising. Jon and I enjoyed the giant chess set (even though he won every game we played). However, it was very windy and a bit chilly while we were cruising, which meant that the sun deck did not see a lot of use on our cruise.
For this cruise, we started in Lyon, France, cruised up to the Burgundy region, and then south to Arles before returning slightly north the Avignon. It was heavy with Roman history, which we love, so it was wonderful for us!
We arrived in Lyon the day before our cruise. I always recommend arriving a day early in case of travel delays due to outside factors such as airline schedules. It was also nice to explore the city for a bit on our own and get acclimated to the time before setting sail. We were able to explore the Gauls stronghold on top of the hill. It was amazing to see the amphitheater and foundations of a powerful civilization. Also in town, we were able to explore the traboules, a feature unique to Lyon and its history as a center for silk weaving.
Our first night on the boat was also in Lyon. This meant we were able to see quite a bit of the city. The tour ended up not being all that was planned due to traffic delays, so I’m glad we were able to explore on our own the day before.
Our next stop was in the Burgundy region, the wine region known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We took a motor coach tour of the town of Chalon and through the vineyards. Afterward we visited Beaune, a small town in the heart of Burgundy. Here we did a wine tasting to explore the flavors of the region. Once this part of the tour was over, Jon and I went to explore the Hospices de Beaune, also known as the Hôtel-Dieu. It was originally built as a hospital for the disadvantage. The colorful roof and architecture was beautiful. It was interesting to learn about the care it gave to so many people of the area.
After Burgundy, we sailed to Vienne, which was a beautiful city! We enjoyed the second amphitheater of our cruise. Also, there is an amazing museum that has another great Roman town with original roads. In fact, the museum at Vienne has the largest collection of Roman remains. It was fascinating to see this history and artifacts.
Our next stop was Ardèche where we took a motor coach to see the Ardèche Gorges, known as Europe’s Grand Canyon. It was a beautiful sight! We also went to the Lavender Museum. The fields are not in bloom in April, but it was great to purchase some local lavender. Unfortunately, we were in a motor coach for several hours only to have 25 minutes at the Gorges and another 20 minutes at the Lavender Museum. We also got out for another view for 10 minutes. I would love to have more time at these locations!
The following morning we woke up in Arles, which was my favorite town! We were here all day, which was great to explore. Arles is full of Roman history, including a fully intact colosseum built in 90 AD and still used today, an amphitheater, and the ruins of Roman baths. In addition to this, Arles is also known for being home to Vincent Van Gogh later in his life. It is in Arles that he painted some of his most famous works including Starry Night and Café at Night. It is also here that he cut off a piece of his own ear. We were there for the Saturday market, which is something to see!
Our final stop was in Avignon. Here we took a walking tour to see the broken bridge as well as the Pope’s Palace, which housed 6 popes during the 14th century. It is one of the largest medieval buildings in Europe. We had a wonderful tour guide! After our tour, we explored the town for the day, visiting the gardens adjoining the palace and enjoying the street performers in the city center while having lunch and, later on, coffee on the square.
The following morning we took a train back to Paris, where we spent one night. We were able to see the Notre Dame Cathedral just a couple hours prior to it catching fire. We went back down to stand with the Parisians while fire fighters worked tirelessly to put out the flames. It was a moving experience with so many praying and singing. While in Paris, we also were able to tour the Pantheon and stop over at the Eiffel Tower.
As for the experience on board our cruise, here are my thoughts.
What I loved about my Riviera experience:
What I did not love about my experience:
Are you ready to take your own European river cruise? Contact me to set sail on the one that is right for you!