Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence - Five-star MS Swiss Corona
From the lush green vineyards of Burgundy to the sun-kissed hills of Provence and the wild ruggedness of the Ardeche gorges to the medieval allure of Avignon - on this truly enthralling cruise every day is full of fascination.
We start in France’s gastronomic capital and explore the beautiful Saone and Rhone rivers, the preferred route of traders and invaders alike since the dawn of recorded history. Everywhere there are reminders of the Romans and the greatest empire of the ancient world. You will be staggered by the engineering genius of the staggering amphitheatre at Arles and the huge aqueduct at the Pont du Gard. Avignon was the seat of the Papacy during medieval times, heralding a century of greatness crowned by the absorbing Papal Palace and its stunning renaissance art collection. Van Gogh created arguably his greatest works in Provence and all this is set in some of France’s most stunning natural beauty – all waiting to be discovered on this wonderful cruise.
- Visit to Beaune, centre of the Burgundy wine region and wine tasting
- Cruise the spectacular Rhone valley
- Guided tour of Lyon, second city of France and its gastronomic capital
- Visit to charming Vienne
- Tour of the astonishing Ardeche Gorges
- Guided tour of Arles, with its extraordinary Roman remains and home of Vincent Van Gogh
- Visit to the Pont du Gard
- Tour of superbly preserved, medieval Avignon and the stunning Pope’s Palace
- Price includes full-board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day
- Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of single cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes full board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day; if you choose to travel with us on any of the full day excursions by coach, a packed lunch will be provided. Anyone choosing to stay on the ship may of course have lunch in the restaurant; morning/afternoon tea and coffee; all visits and excursions as mentioned in the brochure, airport transfers, coach travel as mentioned, travel to and from port of embarkation and the services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager.
Lyon is also generally acknowledged as France’s (and if you ask a local, that inevitably means the world’s), gastronomic capital! In fairness it has much to commend it: nouvelle cuisine was invented near here and you literally trip over the ubiquitous and amazing food shops and restaurants, of which there are more per capita, than anywhere else in the world. As you enjoy your first lunch, the ship quietly slips its moorings, cruising upstream, catching our first glimpses of the vine-clad slopes of the hazy green Beaujolais hills, as we approach one of the world’s most famous wine producing regions. On our left we see the picturesque villages – Morgon, Fleury, Juliénas, Chénas and many more, whilst on the right, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of snowy Mont Blanc – Western Europe’s highest mountain. As the afternoon drifts into evening, the white wines of Mâcon now hold sway as we cruise past the town that gives them its name and what could be better than a cool crisp glass on the sundeck before retiring to the restaurant for this evening’s culinary delights, prepared by the outstanding chef.
During another superb lunch, we enter perhaps the most picturesque section of the Rhône Valley as the river squeezes and twists through narrow defiles like Condrieu, St Rambert d’Albon and St Vallier, lined with wooded river cliffs, rising high to both sides. Traditionally these stretches were the most dangerous due to fierce currents and varying water levels and this afternoon is ideally spent on the sun-deck taking in the exceptional views as we navigate a series of locks which never cease to fascinate. Later we moor in the pretty provincial town of Tournon with its tree-lined avenues and across the river, the vine-covered hillsides produce Hermitage, yet another of the world’s most revered wines - a fitting view as we enjoy another exquisite dinner.
After lunch we explore one of France’s most outstanding natural wonders, the Ardèche gorges, the scale of which is a fitting reminder of Mother Nature’s awesome power. As the road twists and turns, steep cliffs make a thousand feet sheer drop to the torrential river below, eloquently snaking its way through stupendous natural formations cumulating in a natural rock arch carved by the wild waters of history. With caves, grottoes and natural sculptures, there are amazing views at every turn before returning to the gentler sides of the Rhône Valley and the ship in charming Viviers, a medieval town clustered around its Romanesque cathedral. The ship casts off through the famous giant lock at Bollène, as you relax over dinner.
After lunch we visit the amazing Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard, one of the wonders of the ancient world. No amount of fame can diminish the first sight of this 2,000 year old structure which the Romans considered to be the most important testimony to their greatness and indeed it was the highest bridge they ever built. The statistics are staggering: 900 feet long and 160 feet high. Some of the stones are 6 feet thick and no mortar was used in construction. Just to put this in perspective this is a greater span than the river Thames in London. The situation is l ovely too, with pine and cypress covered hills adding to the harmonious setting. Rejoining the ship, we cruise along the Rhône during dinner passing the 13th century castle at Tarascon seemingly standing guard on the river banks.
After lunch, you are free to explore as you wish, perhaps the Petit Palais, casting a critical eye over the amazing 1,000 renaissance paintings including works by Botticelli and Carpaccio, or taking a stroll on the iconic ‘Pont d’Avignon’ the melody about which makes us all recall our first French lessons. It’s our final afternoon so you may wish to do some shopping, or just find a quiet shady street café in a timeless Provençal square and reflect on the delights of the past few days. Perhaps though, return to the sumptuous surroundings of your ship – go on the sun deck and just contemplate the wondrous places you have seen and experienced over a quiet cup of tea!
This evening the Captain’s dinner takes place, serving specialities of the regions you have visited during your voyage of discovery through this fascinating country.
Built in 2004 utilising the most modern design techniques and latest in safety features, as its name suggests, the five-star MS Swiss Corona is Swiss owned and managed - and one of the finest such vessels adorning any European river!
Your first experience is the strikingly luxurious lobby, with beautiful polished marble decks, adorned with rich hardwoods, tasteful brass fittings and classic wrought-iron staircases, recalling classic five-star hotels from the golden age of travel. Blend this with the ship’s low passenger complement, just 139 guests (many similar size vessels carry nearly 200), with 35 crew, the ratio to passengers at less than 4 to 1 is very high, guaranteeing an excellent level of service and a more personal touch.
The superb Swiss Corona has three air-conditioned decks, Diamond (upper), Ruby (middle) and Emerald (lower). The Diamond and Ruby decks are connected by a standard lift. The Emerald deck and the large sun-deck are accessible by a staircase and there is a tasteful boutique stocking essentials.
There are two lounges in which to relax, the Forward Observation Lounge, richly carpeted and furnished with comfortable leather chairs, settees and tables, whilst panoramic windows allow you to enjoy the passing scenery to great effect. With a full bar service, this is the place to relax after a wonderful day’s cruising. During the evening, a pianist plays in the background to complete the genteel atmosphere. To the rear of the ship is the small and intimate Lido Lounge with a bar, a small library and outside armchairs where again you can quietly soak up the scenery.
The main restaurant, where the art of hautecuisine is alive and well, makes superb use of deep wool carpets, wood, glass and marble, whilst its atmospheric lighting and tables, seating just four and six, combine to create a lovely ambience. Cuisine and service levels are of a similar standard to an onshore top-class restaurant. Unusually on a river cruiser, the Swiss Corona also has a sauna, steamroom and solarium.
At Riviera Travel we try our utmost to think of absolutely everything to make your holiday as perfect as humanly possible, which is why we operate our cruise programme when the weather should be at its best. Therefore you are likely to spend some considerable time on the sun deck, which boasts plenty of deckchairs and sun-loungers from where you can enjoy a drink as picturesque towns and vine-clad hillsides, in all their wondrous beauty, glide by. Catch up on some reading or perhaps relax in the small ‘whirlpool’ splash pool. Just forward of the wheelhouse is the front sundeck, a quiet panoramic spot with an almost yacht-like ambience. Here you can observe life on the river, relax over a drink, chat with like-minded people and simply reflect on how pleasant life can be!
The cabins on the Swiss Corona are some of the largest, best appointed and most luxuriously furnished of any river cruiser anywhere in the world. Tastefully carpeted, they are large, 15 square metres (161 square feet) which makes them amongst the largest of such accommodation and most importantly, beds are hotel standard, not bunks or berths and a turn down service operates whilst you have dinner. The beds have the best mattresses whilst the linen is of the finest cotton with high quality down pillows (hypoallergenic alternatives are available, please advise on booking) with adjustable beds to find the perfect sleeping position, so you experience a real home-from-home. The well-appointed bathroom features a glazed shower cubicle not a curtain, plus of course WC, and quality bathroom cosmetics. There is a safe, mini-bar, tea and coffee making facilities, telephone, individual airconditioning, hairdryer, seating area with two chairs and plenty of storage space. The flat-screen TV features satellite channels so you can keep in contact with the world, for added interest has a GPS system enabling you to plot the ship’s exact position should you so wish, whilst bow and aft cameras enable you to enjoy the view without even leaving your cabin!
As you enter the restaurant the mouth-watering aroma of roasting Provençal Lamb drifts tantalisingly from the galley. Smartly uniformed, friendly and intuitive waiting staff professionally guide you to your classically set table with its crisp white linen, premium quality European china, polished fine glassware and gleaming cutlery whilst freshly baked bread is immediately placed before you with effortless style.
Welcome – you’re at home. Quality dining is an integral part of your river cruise experience – and our ships take this to the highest five-star levels with superb cuisine prepared by a dedicated and highly professional brigade of chefs. Take a stroll on the Sun Deck as the river gradually awakes, and enjoy Early Risers’ tea or coffee and freshly baked pastries. The full breakfast buffet is a sumptuous affair with innumerable hot and cold options, plus a popular omelette station prepares dishes to order.
Or if you prefer new for 2013, why not enjoy continental breakfast in your cabin: breakfast in bed as enchanting scenery and riverside life drift gently by - priceless! Naturally complimentary tea and coffee are available throughout the day and a very comprehensive lunch buffet allows selection of as little or as much as you wish from an extensive and tempting selection. Don’t forget to leave some room for afternoon tea and the chef’s special patisserie – it’s just too tempting to ignore!
The day’s culinary highlight is the splendid four-course dinner: entrée, soup, main course and dessert plus a salad buffet is always available – all within the ambience of a high quality restaurant. Our carefully designed menus include international classics together with dishes reflecting the regions we pass through, with careful selections from local markets. In addition, the ‘Welcome Dinner’ enjoys an extended menu and towards the end of your cruise, the Captain proudly hosts his excellent ‘Gala Dinner’ featuring specialities of the countries and regions through which you’ve travelled.
Our clients constantly tell us they love our informal free seating and smaller tables policy, quite unlike the inevitable regimentation of many cruise ships which is exactly the atmosphere we are trying to achieve. Then there’s the wine list. We take great pride in its excellent quality and style, including not only the classic choices but also an extensive range of local wines. Many of these are extremely well-priced, delightful hidden gems and rarely marketed outside their production area.
Please indicate any special dietary requirements on booking.
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