Make the very most of your holiday in this spectacularly scenic region with a three-night stay on the elegant shores of sparkling Lake Geneva with its chic lakeside towns, Mediterranean flavour and incredible Alpine backdrop. Soak up the old-world charm of picturesque Annecy, cruise the sophisticated palm-fringed Montreux Riviera and experience the thrill of Glacier 3000 and the magnificent Golden Pass, one of the world’s most scenic mountain rail journeys.
Arrive in Avignon, where your five-star floating hotel is moored in the historic center. The dedicated English-speaking crew will welcome you on board and help you to your cabin. After settling in to your spacious and tastefully furnished accommodation, there’s time to familiarise yourself with this five-star floating hotel.
The light catching the red roofs of Avignon’s majestic skyline is a sight to behold over breakfast, after which we embark on a guided tour of one of the most extraordinary and intriguing cities in France. Avignon’s destiny changed during the 14th century, when the Pope’s court moved here to avoid strife in Rome. Igniting a century of prosperity, the pontiff commissioned a host of ambitious building projects, and today the city is immaculately preserved, nestling behind its almost-intact 14th-century walls and boasting more remarkable monuments, superbly decorated buildings, churches, chapels and convents than you can possibly count. Most important is the stunning Popes’ Palace, made up of two buildings that together form the largest Gothic palace in the world. With turrets, towers, parapets and other fortifications, its exterior resembles a mighty fortress, while the interior is a tour de force of medieval architecture and ornamentation, adorned with priceless frescoes, Gobelin tapestries and graceful sculptures. The ceremonial hall, chapels, cloisters and private apartments are all unmissable. But to truly embrace the feel of papal Avignon, imagine yourself here during the Middle Ages amid the Palace’s rich furnishings and extravagant decoration, with cardinals, princes and ambassadors milling about its candlelit halls and corridors, while in the streets below countless pilgrims eagerly anticipate benediction. This was Avignon’s brief golden age, when it was truly the centre of Christendom.
After lunch you’re free to explore as you wish, perhaps visiting the nearby Petit Palais, the former home of the archbishops of Avignon, to cast a critical eye over the remarkable collection of over 300 paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, including works by Botticelli and Carpaccio. Or take a stroll on the iconic Pont d’Avignon, which, dramatically, ends halfway across the river, made famous by the melody we all recall from our first French lessons. You may wish to do some shopping, or just find a quiet café in a shady Provençal square to watch the world go by. Perhaps though, return to the luxurious surroundings of our ship, finding a quiet spot to contemplate the many wondrous places you’ve seen and experienced over a quiet cup of tea.
Returning on board for dinner, the ship sets sail towards our next destination, Arles arriving later that evening.
You awake under the azure skies of deepest Provence, amid the warm stone colours of Arles, many of whose historic monuments are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Although small in size, it was the key stronghold on the Roman road to Spain, one of the empire’s richest possessions. Seagoing ships could reach here and the city became a regional capital, briefly ruling over Gaul, Spain and Britain. Our guided tour will help you appreciate the finer points of Arles’ magnificent Roman remains, including the splendid amphitheatre, one of the best preserved in the world, the earlier theatre built during the reign of Augustus and the Alyscamps, the ancient necropolis with its extraordinary atmosphere. The disturbed but great genius of an artist, Van Gogh, lived in Arles for just over a year, from February 1888. It was his most prolific period and, inspired by Arles and the light and beauty of the Provençal countryside, he produced around 300 works, including The Night Café, The Sower and, of course, Sunflowers.
After lunch we visit the amazing Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct, 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 was the highest bridge built in the Empire – the Romans themselves considered it the most important testimony to their greatness. Its statistics are staggering: over 900 feet long and almost 160 feet high, with its stones each weighing up to six tons. To put this in perspective, the span of the Pont du Gard is greater than the width of the River Thames at London Bridge – and no mortar was used in its construction! The situation is lovely too, with pine- and cypress-covered hills adding to the harmonious setting. Re-joining the ship in Avignon, we cruise towards Viviers during dinner.
This morning we disembark after breakfast and whilst our ship effortlessly cruises upstream towards Le Pouzin, we will explore one of France’s most outstanding landscapes – the Ardèche Gorges, whose scale is a fitting reminder of Mother Nature’s awesome power. Sheer limestone cliffs plunge almost 1,000 feet to the river’s blue waters, which elegantly snake their way through stupendous rock formations, culminating in a huge natural arch, the Pont d’Arc. We enjoy marvellous views at every turn of caves, grottoes and natural sculptures before returning to the ship moored in Le Pouzin. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon on board – perhaps catching up on some reading or just lazing in the sun as the temperature rises, before we arrive in the pretty provincial town of Tournon with its lovely tree-lined avenues. Across the river, you’ll see the vine-covered hillsides producing Hermitage, yet another of the world’s most revered wines – a fitting view as we enjoy another exquisite dinner in the ship’s excellent restaurant.
During breakfast this morning, we’ll slip our moorings and cruise north through one of the most spectacular sections of the Rhône Valley, as the river squeezes and twists pasts Condrieu, Saint-Rambert-d’Albon and Saint-Vallier, with wooded cliffs rising high on both sides. Traditionally these stretches were the most dangerous due to fierce currents and varying water levels but, with the waters now tamed by a series of locks whose complex mechanisms never cease to fascinate, you can relax on the Sun Deck taking in the exceptional views. After lunch we arrive in the ancient Roman stronghold of Vienne, first a Celtic settlement, then a Roman stronghold under Julius Caesar. Here you'll be taken by trin for a captivating tour, hosted by a local expert. Strikingly located in a narrow section of the Rhône, where the river meanders dramatically around a steep bluff, Vienne is a treasure trove of historic remains, including the stunning Roman Temple of Augustus and Livia, and a walk around its streets really brings its heritage to life.
You will also have some free time to explore at your leisure before returning to the ship for dinner, during which we commence our cruise towards Chalon-sur-Saône.
Overnight we have made steady progress north and mid-morning we arrive in and berth in Chalon, gateway to Burgundy and the home of Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography. On today’s tour we see some of the pretty yet surprisingly small villages that produce some of the world’s most sublime wines – Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, Gevrey-Chambertin and many more. Nearby is medieval Beaune, Burgundy’s wine capital, which is wonderful to wander around. At its centre is the Hospices de Beaune, also known as the Hôtel-Dieu. Originally built in the 15th century as a hospital for the disadvantaged, it’s a jewel of High Gothic architecture, instantly recognisable for its colourful glazed roof tiles arranged in dazzling geometric patterns. A prestigious annual wine auction takes place here each November, with proceeds going to benefit the Hospices and its charity work. Of course, you can’t visit Burgundy without sampling its amazing wines, so we visit the cellars of a leading traditional winemaker for a tour and tasting.
Later we return to ship and as we slip our moorings once again, enjoy an aperitif with newly made friends in the convivial bar before tonight’s dinner.
One of river cruising’s great pleasures is the fascination of waking in a completely different location and on waking this morning, the ship arrives in Lyon. After our last splendid breakfast, we’ve a leisurely start enjoying a guided tour of Lyon, one of France’s most fascinating cities. The Rhône Valley had been the route of choice for marauding armies and peaceful traders for centuries, and Lyon’s current site, at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, cried out to be fortified. In 43 BC the Romans founded the city, which subsequently grew in importance; Emperor Claudius, conqueror of Britain, was born here. There are many Roman remains to see, but it was the production of silk that brought Lyon to prominence during the Middle Ages, and throughout the city you can see signs of the wealth that poured in – Renaissance buildings, imposing churches and Europe’s largest pedestrian square, Place Bellecour, with a statue of Louis XIV as its focus. The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is crammed with antique shops and intriguing traboules – narrow covered passageways enabling silk merchants to transport their wares to the river without getting wet – that today are a joy to amble through. As well as its glorious architecture, Lyon is generally acknowledged as France’s (and to locals, the world’s) gastronomic capital. In fairness it has much to commend it: nouvelle cuisine was invented near here and the city boasts a huge array of speciality food shops and eateries, including 20 restaurants with one or more Michelin stars and countless little places to eat.
It’s our final afternoon in which you are free to explore Lyon further or perhaps though, return to the sumptuous surroundings of your ship, head up on to 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.
For those continuing with our three-night extension, we depart the ship in beautiful Lyon and head northeast to Geneva into the Bugey region. As we leave the city behind for the landscapes of the Haut-Rhone you’ll enjoy some of Europe’s most wonderful scenery so have your camera at the ready. The views are breathtaking, with gorges, lakes and marshes, interspersed with rich forest and pristine meadows and the world-famous alpine backdrop on the far horizon.
We break for some free time and lunch at leisure in the delightful alpine town of Annecy where Lake Annecy feeds into the Thiou River. Wander the quaint cobbled streets of its charming old town where its winding canals weave their way amongst the pastel-coloured facades. The beautifully restored medieval stone walls and terracotta roofed turrets of the Château d’Annecy, once home to the Counts of Geneva, stands proud over the town. Today it contains a museum with a substantial collection of religious artworks, furniture and regional art and natural history exhibits.
Sample some typical Savoie cuisine – a hearty bowl of gratin de crozets, a take on macaroni cheese with lardons, cream and local pasta made from buckwheat or perhaps indulge in a classic fondue! Afterwards you might want to walk it off with a visit to the art and history museum housed in a medieval prison in the middle of the canal.
We continue our scenic drive this afternoon arriving in Lausanne or Montreux on the edge of spectacular Lake Geneva, the largest lake in Switzerland. The chic Montreux Riviera is renowned for its picture-perfect landscapes of glass lakes, pristine meadows and a sensational mountain backdrop that has attracted artists, writers and travellers through the ages in search of tranquillity and inspiration. We arrive at our hotel for the next three nights in either Montreux, or Lausanne. Enjoy dinner at leisure this evening and perhaps take a lakeside stroll along the palm-studded shores of this glistening lake. (B)
After breakfast we take a scenic drive to Chillon Castle. This striking medieval fortress dating back to the 12th century is dramatically located on a rocky promontory, enjoying exceptional views over the crystal water. It was once the residence and toll station for the Counts of Savoy and today is the most visited historic building in Switzerland. We enjoy a guided tour with a local expert learning more of its fascinating past and exquisite surroundings. Later we embark on a superb cruise of the lake. Enjoy lunch as we sail these clear glistening waters encased by high snow-capped peaks, whose fertile foothills are draped in row upon row of lush, neatly terraced regiments of vines and the views simply take your breath away.
The rest of the day is at leisure for you to explore Lausanne under your own steam. Home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, you might fancy visiting the Olympic Museum or head for the old town with its medieval labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets lined with traditional little shops, at the centre a fine 12th-century Gothic cathedral with strikingly ornate façade. Perhaps head for the 19th-century Palais de Rumine, an elegant Florentine Renaissance building housing impressive historic, scientific and fine art collections or simply unwind with a little café culture over tea and cake in the sun in this most refined city. If staying in Montreux, a return transfer to the hotel is included.
Enjoy dinner at leisure; seek out a cosy restaurant serving locally inspired dishes, a fusion of French and Swiss cuisine – try papet Vaudois, a sausage with cabbage in it and leeks and potatoes cooked together, or malakoff, pieces of cheese battered and fried. Don’t forget to sample some of the exceptional local wines, the best known is produced from the white Chasselas grape; wine production in the Lavaux dates from the 11th century and today these painstakingly tended vineyards, creating a striking pattern on the landscape, are UNESCO protected. Only 1% of Swiss wine is exported - and when you taste it, you’ll realise why it’s such a well-kept secret! (B, L)
This morning we head to Col du Pillon and take a memorable cable car ride into this world-famous alpine landscape. Prepare for an onslaught of jaw-dropping views from all sides as we climb 3000 metres to Glacier 3000, the highest point of the Vaudois Alps, their lofty summits iced with snow. Excitement mounts as we reach the summit with increasingly stunning views of the most iconic peaks in the world - the mighty Eiger, Jungfrau and Matterhorn. When we arrive there’s free time for lunch and to enjoy some of the activities on offer in this winter wonderland. Not for the faint-hearted, try the exhilarating Peak Walk – a 107 metre suspension bridge and the only one in the world linking two summits! Enjoy a thrilling ride on the Alpine Coaster or a fun sleigh ride drawn by huskies as you take in the dazzling panoramic vistas.
Later we take a short but stunning drive to the smart resort of Gstaad in the heart of the Bernese Oberland to board the magnificent Golden Pass train, one of the world’s greatest rail journeys. Sit back and savour the views from the train’s panoramic windows of this exquisite mountain scenery – a fairytale landscape where the sheer mountainsides are cloaked with dark pine forest and laced with surging mountain streams, bubbling springs cascade into the valley below, and dotted here and there, picturesque mountain villages nestle into the slopes as we journey over high bridges and through incredibly engineered tunnels. As we pass through the Jaman tunnel, you’ll spot the names of the villages change from German to French and we begin to descend into a lush Mediterranean landscape once again as we approach Montreux.
On arrival in Montreux departures staying in Lausanne will take the short drive back to the hotel.
Tonight, enjoy dinner at leisure after which perhaps a final stroll by the lake to soak up the views before a digestif in the hotel’s bar. (B)
Today we check out of the hotel at the appropriate time after a truly fascinating and memorable tour into one of the most unspoilt corners of Europe.
Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of Sole Occupancy cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
Tea, coffee and water will be served complimentary throughout your cruise, but should you wish to indulge in a glass of wine or a beer with your lunch or dinner, we would recommend adding our drinks package to your booking.
Simply relax and when it’s time to dine in the restaurant, take your pick from a range of: draught beer; non-alcoholic beer; soft drinks; juices; red, white and rosé house wines; and wine recommendations from the menu by the glass.
If you choose not to purchase a drinks package, there is a vast selection of drinks on board each ship available for individual purchase. View the example bar list.
To purchase the drinks package please call our reservations team.
Please note that drinks packages must be purchased by all guests occupying the same cabin or suite, and do not include drinks from the bar. The bar menu is an example, with brands and prices varying across ships and itineraries.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship for the duration of your cruise. Please note that speeds may vary.
We are unable to accept responsibility if you are unable to travel because you have not complied with any passport/entry/immigration requirements.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.