Interested in a Bordeaux River Cruise?
Then keep reading as below is a day to day summary of our itinerary while we sailed on, not 1, but 3 French waterways (the Garone River, the Dordogne River & the Gironde Estuary) & explored its ports & neighboring towns while onboard Uniworld’s “River Royale” ship on their “Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux” River Cruise.
(Note that this review is specifically about the itinerary and not our experience on Uniworld… Click HERE if you want to see our pics of the ship & live videos of the rooms, etc.)
We also did two other River Cruises in France and made it a four week “french immersion“ vacation… we figured why not do several back to back sailings during one vacation to make the most of our airfare…
…we loved our extended time in France and recommend it for your River Cruise over there too if your time & budget allow!
What other River Cruises did we do while in France?
“Paris & Normandy” and “Burgundy & Provence”. The review for the Burgundy & Provence trip is not ready yet but you can easily read about it by signing up for our updates HERE so you’ll be notified the moment we publish it.
But lets get back to our Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux River Cruise itinerary…
In regards to the itinerary, we were impressed!
Both active and gentle walkers tours were offered- it gives you more time to linger if you want to or a more active pace if that’s your cup of tea- so there is something for everyone. They also provided complimentary Nordic sticks and bicycles to use while in port which is great for those who like to keep moving.
We boarded the Uniworld ship “River Royale” for a week to enjoy their “Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux” River Cruise and we were SO excited to peek in every corner of our new home to discover the amenities & what she had to offer.
Before dinner, at the welcome briefing, we learned a little about the area including that Bordeaux is one of the world’s largest wine regions producing anywhere from 700 million bottles each year and upward… needless to say we were completely immersed in this famous region and learned lots about it during the week.
We docked overnight in the 19th century classical city of Bordeaux and didn’t sail till after breakfast so it was a perfect time to take a stroll along the Pier, AKA, one of the NICEST ports & boardwalks we have ever experienced!
Check out these pictures to get a glimpse:
We sailed this morning, so after a delicious breakfast we relaxed on the open deck enjoying the views and then attended a lecture lead by a local guide who told us all about the area, its rivers & estuary…
Did you know there is a flower of lavender that grows underwater here... It's true!
Oyster breeding (yes there is such a thing- we had no idea either :-)) takes place here in the very old soil which is why we had an oyster tasting on the ship mid-morning while we sailed. With a glass of white wine in hand, our executive chef told us about oysters and how versatile they are for cooking. They were a good quality and d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s!!
This morning we sailed North to Pauillac where we had a choice to do a Panoramic Medoc region tour including a winery tour and tasting or a Vineyard bicycle ride & tasting. We chose the included bike tour through the wineries in Pauillac where we made several stops along the way to learn about grapes growth and the wine making. Plus we stopped at a winery for a tour & tasting. Lovely Tour… we really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it!
They also had another biking tour the following day (that was an optional one that cost 40 euros per person) but we decided to have some free time to relax & rejuvenate because we knew the following day after that was going to be a busy full day of touring. If you take your time and pace yourself, you will enjoy yourself that much better!! This is based on experience. 🙂
You don’t need to do “every” excursion… Pacing oneself is a good idea on a river cruise. You’ll enjoy it better!
This morning we did a walking tour of St. Emilion, a town “filled” with 2000 year old medieval fortifications including an underground Church that is carved out of one piece of stone in the hillside. It’s the biggest excavated church in Europe and only a small section of the church can be seen above ground level. It’s underground is full of history… there were catacombs too where you can see the outline where bodies of the dead were respectfully buried (see third picture down).
Then we went to a winery called Chateau Franc Mayne where we toured its underground mine, inhaled the sweet smell of wine, snapped tons of pictures and tasted some of their wine. Here’s the proof… 🙂
Afterwards we had the choice to go back to the ship for lunch or have time on our own in the city before a shuttle bus took us back to the ship at 3pm or 5:30 pm. We went back to the ship for a mouthwatering lunch and some relaxation time. But for you shoppers- go crazy!
Later, with a little more energy now, we attended a circuit training class on the sundeck where we worked up an appetite for a special dinner tonight. It was a fixed menu prepared on the top deck with 5 mouth-watering courses plus wine pairings that enhanced the flavor of the food even more…
… TIP: We would HIGHLY recommend signing up for this special dinner at the front desk (it fills fast so do it right away) and enjoy the experience one evening… FYI, it’s included in your Cruise fare, no extra charge like at many Ocean cruises specialty restaurants.
***July 14th is the biggest holiday of the year in France so tonight we got to enjoy fireworks on the deck. The displays they put off in Paris & all over France is significant so if you can swing it, plan to be here then if possible, it was great! 🙂
Today a fun-filled day of excursions was planned for us.
It started with a visit to the fairytale like Gothic city of Bergerac. Walking with our guide who was from the area, she shared some childhood memories of growing up here, she explained the whys and what’s of the quaint town (including their famous “Cyrano!”) as we took these pictures:
After a Fois Gras tasting in the Farmers market which was out of this world yummy we had free time to sample local foods, buy some goodies to take home including the famous black truffles & comfee duck AND stroll about the town shopping.
Next we stopped at a BEAUTIFUL Castle at the top of this hill-lined vineyard called Chateau of Monbazillac that we thoroughly enjoyed. It was just like those castles you see in the movies where water surrounded the castle once to prevented barbarians from intruding.
Inside, there were secret doorways that we could only imagine their use for and where they ventured inside this gigantic fortress…
After our walk through we tasted TWO of the sweet wines they produced in the vineyard and they were delicious.
Back on the ship, as we set sail before and during dinner tonight we got to enjoy the scenic views on either side of the river banks then a little dancing before bedtime. A nice way to end the day!
In Blaye this morning we docked in front of a beautiful fortress and better yet, got to visit it. The 38 acre fort is called L”a Citadelle De Blaye and we walked over the Royal Gate, an impressive entrance with spectacular views down into the city and had a looksee around…
… this fortress is a part of the UNESCO heritage site & rightfully so, because in 1689 it was built by 2000 workers in 3 years and contains a multitude of entrances & exits in order for the soldiers to protect the King & town. See the pictures below:
Then we drove a scenic road called Route de la Corniche Fleurie also known as the Captains Road along the Gironde River. We passed houses that were built into the cliffs, micro towns with ancient homes that were well kept and lived in still to this day, cute villages, a German ship wreck remanence from the war… one of the prettiest roads we’ve traveled!
Next, we visited the Windmill of Lansac. It was restored to working condition and we were guided to the very top where one of the local mill workers showed us how it grinds oats and then sifts it into a fine flour. Fascinating!
This afternoon the pastry chef did a Caneles pastry demo followed by a chocolate tea time… YUMMY!
Docked back in charming Bordeaux just before dark we took an exclusive open air double decker bus tour and enjoyed EVEN MORE fantastic views of the city and commentary as the nightlife came alive. We were told stories about the buildings and all we were seeing in Bordeaux. This city is filled with history, stunning architecture and outdoor fun.
Docked in Cadillac this morning we did a Zumba class to start the day!
Then we took a lovely tour of the Sauternes area where they make sweet wines– our favorite!
TIP: Take a walk here about the port to see the many buildings etc before the ship leaves in the late afternoon if you have an opportunity, it’s worth it.
This morning we did a panoramic tour of the area weaving in and around the wineries snapping pictures of the Chateaux’ and admiring the picturesque vineyards, castles & rolling hills.
We stopped for a tour & tasting at Chateau de Rayne Vigneau vineyard in Sauternes and learned about how they make their special sweet wine which requires more grapes then reds do to make a bottle, hence the price.
And then we headed a short distance to another vineyard called Chateau d’Arche for a flavorful lunch and wine paring with three sweet wines from the region. We enjoyed smoked salmon with a horseradish emulsion, caramelized hen supreme, mushroom pastry & a tasty dessert.
Totally spoiled!! 🙂
This morning we took part in the Go Active tour and biked around Bordeaux… have we already mentioned how great of a city Bordeaux is! We relished in winding through the city’s many alleys and squares, taking in the fresh air and listening to our guide cheerfully tell us all about Bordeaux’s history. We found it very informative. FYI, its light biking as Bordeaux is very flat, so try it, we know you’ll enjoy!
We were back on the ship just in time for Tea Time and to sit back & enjoy the music from the piano player Antonio who was fabulous!
Tonight we enjoyed the ship life (but we won’t spoil the surprise and tell you about it) and then packed our bags ready for our next French River Cruise journey starting tomorrow (Sign up for our monthly blog in the PS below to hear all about it).
Time to have one last scrumptious breakfast onboard this wonderful “Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux” River Cruise itinerary, to thank the staff for spoiling us rotten and to say goodbye to new friends we made and then make our way to our next cruise.
FYI, we didn’t give it ALL away! We needed to leave “some” of the cruise for a surprise. So, what we described above is just the beginning, a snippet, of what you will experience on this beautiful Bordeaux River cruise itinerary in France. 🙂
Want to see a little more? Feel free to check out Our Pictures and Videos to see the ship, staterooms & get a feel for our time onboard & during our tours and you can also read about our “Paris & Normandy” & “Burgundy & Provence” River Cruises too.
We Appreciate You!
Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!