Two of the most storied and idyllic regions of France— Provence and Burgundy—are travel destinations that top many a bucket list. The multitude of charming towns and villages to explore here are part of what make these areas of France so appealing—but can also translate to daunting logistics and expenses. Not so with an Emerald Waterways river cruise, where guests can explore the magical region between France’s bustling gastronomic hub of Lyon and Vincent Van Gogh’s charming Arles without needing to rent a car, book a hotel, hire a tour guide or worry about dinner reservations.
Emerald Waterways’ Sensations of Lyon and Provence eight-day sailing along the Rhône and Saône rivers embodies the ideal Southern France and Provence vacation, complete with a mix of historic tours, visits to wineries and local markets, and plenty of free time for travellers to explore on their own. Featuring a new port complete with included tours every day, this sailing offers a taste of Southern France that is entirely hassle-free. And because Emerald Waterways’ pricing is inclusive of all meals, gratuities, tours, and even airport transfers to and from the ship, travellers don’t have to worry about keeping an eye on their expenses.
Beginning or ending the eight-day cruise in Lyon—France’s second largest city and former Roman capital—gives guests the chance to explore the culinary wonders here, including a visit to the famed Halles de Lyon, founded by French master chef Paul Bocuse. Foodies can take advantage of a free afternoon to have lunch at one of the 20 Michelin starred restaurants located here, or enjoy a more casual meal or snack al fresco at a traditional Lyonnaise bouchon.
The small towns and villages along the Rhône and Saône rivers are what give this region its quaint character, and Emerald Waterways’ itinerary visits many of the highlights. In gorgeous Tournon, one of the oldest monastic towns in France’s Burgundy region, a walking tour of the 17th-century castle (with optional wine tasting) highlights the city’s past. Picturesque Viviers is the perfect historic French town for losing oneself among the winding side streets and snapping dozens photos of adorable homes and incredible views from the town’s apex. A guided walking tour through historic Avignon, once the residence of Popes, uncovers the historic center as guests stroll the cobbled laneways and browse the shops overlooking the famous ‘Pont de Avignon.’ The sailing ends (or begins) in Arles, famed for its incredible quality of light that defines some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most popular paintings.
Provence is especially magical during the holidays, and Emerald Waterways’ new five-day Christmas in Southern France sailing between Avignon and Arles immerses guests in the traditions, crafts and culinary delights that define this time of year. December is olive season in Provence, which means in addition to shopping the markets and sampling the goodies, guests have the opportunity to taste freshly pressed olive oil while in Tarascon.
While touring these towns and meeting the locals there are certainly focal points for guests, the accompanying onboard programming extends the magic of Provence and Burgundy into a 24/7 experience. An afternoon cheese and olive tasting educates guests (in the most delicious way) on the many varieties that come from this abundant region, while a wine presentation and tasting with a local expert takes a deeper dive into one of the area’s most important exports. The highlight comes with an onboard Provençal dinner in Avignon, hosted by renowned local chef and Top Chef France finalist Fabien Morreale.
Additional information can be found on the Emerald Cruises website.