If you swoon at fields of lavender, hilltop towns with twisting cobblestone lanes, and multi-course lunches under a Mediterranean sun, book a deluxe stateroom or suite on Emerald Waterways’ Sensations of Lyon and Provence cruise.
The Rhône has long been one of the major arteries of France. Since the days of the Greeks and Romans, merchants have sailed its length, introducing their cultures to the country and exporting France’s products. Today, a cruise along the river is an ideal way for visitors to be introduced to many of France’s highlights: the culinary capital of Lyon; the historic Roman amphitheater in Arles; and Avignon, home of the famous Palace of the Popes. You’ll also stop at charming towns and villages like Viviers and Tournon.
Along the way, you’ll experience how Emerald Waterways recognizes the many different ways that travelers want to connect with the world. EmeraldACTIVE excursions include opportunities to bike through Lyon and explore Avignon by foot. EmeraldPLUS tastings allow you to learn about the cuisine of southern France. And if you want to venture beyond the itinerary and see sites farther from the Rhône, sign up for a DiscoverMORE outing.
Itinerary / 8 DAYSPLAN YOUR TRIP
DAY 1Arrive in Lyon
With room for just 136 guests, the Emerald Liberté embraces an exuberant French sense of joie de vivre and the latest in cutting-edge amenities. The Reflections Restaurant serves gourmet French dishes matched with perfect wine pairings by the onboard sommeliers. If you want some pampering, the spa and hairdresser await. Innovations aboard the ship include details large and small, from a retractable glass roof over the pool to Nespresso machines in the top suites.
In the evening, you’ll enjoy a welcome reception and a chance to meet some of your fellow guests over dinner.
You’ll continue on to Beaune, where the most famous landmark is the Hospices de Beaune, known for its multicolored roofs. It’s one of the best examples of the flamboyant variation of Gothic architecture. Established in 1443, it’s now a museum.
You’ll return to the Emerald Liberté, where you can try a special EmeraldPLUS activity: an olive-and-cheese tasting that provides an introduction to two of southern France’s most famous culinary exports.
Whether you travel on two feet or two wheels, don’t spend all your time concentrating on the most famous sites. Part of Lyon’s magic is getting lost in the maze of the city’s old town.
You can also choose today to explore Perouges on an optional DiscoverMORE tour (at an additional cost). Much like Viviers, Perouges peaked a few hundred years ago. Today, only about 100 people still live in the village, but the homes of wine merchants, weavers, and craftsmen from centuries past have been preserved, giving the town a magical medieval atmosphere.
Just across the river from Tournon, Tain d’Hermitage is one of France’s celebrated wine regions, most famous for its reds made from syrah grapes. An EmeraldPLUS wine lecture on board the ship will give you excellent insight into region’s products. You can also choose one of the EmeraldACTIVE excursions here: a guided bike tour or a guided walk through vineyards.
A DiscoverMORE excursion (at an extra cost) visits the town of Grignan, most famous for a Renaissance castle that was transformed in the 17th century into an elegant palace. It sits on a small hill overlooking lavender fields in every direction.
On your visit to the Palace of the Popes, your guide will explain all the details of this odd chapter in history. Meanwhile, you’ll appreciate Europe’s largest gothic palace, measuring more than 160,000 square feet and featuring numerous chapels, cloisters, libraries, and apartments. Afterwards, wander along the cobblestone lanes of the historic center and admire the Pont d’Avignon. This landmark medieval bridge once spanned the Rhône; today, just four arches of the original 22 still stand.
EmeraldACTIVE offers two opportunities to stretch your legs, starting with morning yoga and later a tour by foot through town. Travelers interested in the legacy of Roman rule in southern France may want to join the DiscoverMORE excursion (at an extra cost) to the three-tiered Pont du Gard—the tallest Roman aqueduct that’s also one of the best preserved.
In the evening, you’ll savor the cuisine of Top Chef Fabien Morreale. Emerald Waterways’ EmeraldPLUS experiences are all about getting to the heart of the local culture, and there are few cultural experiences more enjoyable than trying traditional local dishes.
If you want to venture beyond Arles, a DiscoverMORE excursion visits Les Baux de Provence (at an additional cost)—a spectacular hilltop village named one of the country’s most beautiful. Fewer than 500 people live here, in homes scattered among rocky outcrops.