A River Cruise through the Heart of Burgundy and Provence

A Cruise for Lovers of French Wine and Good Food :

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River Royale in Avignon - Courtesy Uniworld

Burgundy and Provence are two regions in France that are renowned for their wine and cuisine.  For anyone who’s keen on French wine and good food, a Rhône and Saône River cruise takes you through the heart of Provence and Burgundy, France’s top wine-making regions.

The Rhône is one of the major rivers in Europe. It originates in Switzerland and flows into the south-eastern corner of France, emptying into the Mediterranean Sea near Arles. The Saône river originates in France and converges with the Rhône at Lyon, where the Saône becomes the Rhône.

Rhône and Saône River cruise

On a Rhône and Saône River cruise, you’ll sail past acres of vineyards and have ample opportunities to taste the local drop as well as enjoy regional cuisine from these famous parts of France.

Several river cruise companies offer a 7-night Arles to Chalon-sur-Saône river cruise where you will arrive at Marseille International Airport and transfer to the ship docked in Arles, and at the end of the cruise you will leave from Lyon International Airport. The trip can also be done in the reverse direction,  Chalon-sur-Saône to Arles, in which case you will fly into Lyon and depart from Marseille Airport.

The river cruise companies also offer the option for passengers to extend their holidays with a day’s stay in Paris either at the start of end of the cruise. The fast TGV connects Lyon and Paris, so you can also choose to arrange your own pre- or post-cruise holiday extension.

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Rhône River at Avignon

Typically, the Rhône and Saône river cruise calls at the charming town of Arles (which so inspired Vincent van Gogh to produce 300 paintings), Avignon (home to the famous Pont d’Avignon or Pont St-Benezet), Vivier (a small, walled city with buildings dating back to the Middle Ages), Tournon (famous for its wine and chocolate), Lyon (the second largest city in France and a capital of gastronomy) and Chalon-sur-Saône (Beaune) in the heart of Burgundy.

The following companies offer comparable 7-night cruises between Chalon-sur-Saône and Arles or Avignon.

  • Avalon – Flavours of Burgundy and Provence – Between Chalon-sur-Saône and Arles
  • Viking – Portraits of Southern France – Between Chalon-sur-Saône and Avignon
  • Uniworld – Burgundy and Provence – Between Chalon-sur-Saône and Arles

In selecting your cruise, it is important to consider the experience you would like from your cruise and not base your choice on price alone. For instance, 2-for-1 offers are a great opportunity to save money on your holidays, but check that the discounted cruise will give you the experience that you want. Cabin type is very important.  It’s also important to compare the itineraries closely, see what shore excursions are included, is wine provided at lunch and dinner, dinner only or not at all, does the riverboat have free or affordable internet access, library, etc.

Below is a sketch sample itinerary taken from Uniworld’s 7-nights Arles to Chalon-sur-Saône cruise on their River Royale.

1  ArlesArrive at Marseille International Airport where you’ll be transferred to your ship docked in Arles.
2  ArlesA walking tour of Arles where you’ll discover Van Gogh’s Arles as well as a fascinating wealth of Romanesque monuments, such as the Roman Amphitheater and Constantine’s Roman baths.
3  AvignonA walking tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and learn all about its history, culture, art, and life. Then, it’s on to Pope’s Palace Square for an inside view of the maze of galleries, chambers, and chapels that make up the grand Palace of the Popes. You have free time in the afternoon to explore Avignon or you can join an optional tour to Pont du Gard and Chateauneuf du Pape.
4  Viviers, Tournon
The walking tour in Viviers includes an organ concert at St. Vincent Cathedral. On the way back to the ship you’ll walk through the Medieval streets of this delightful town.
5  Tournon / Tain l’Hermitage, LyonWinetasting and a walking tour of Tournon.
6  LyonYour tour starts with a drive to the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, Lyon’s hallmark church, for a dramatic view of the town built at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. From the bus, you’ll view Terreaux Square, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, and the Opera House. During the afternoon, you’ll have leisure time to explore this city on your own.
7  Chalon-sur-Saône (Beaune)Visit Beaune and the magnificent Hospices de Beaune and a visit to an open-air food market.
8  Depart Chalon-sur-Saône
Disembark the ship in Chalon sur Saône and transfer to Lyon for your return flight home, or extend your stay in Paris.
What do you think? Please comment below to tell me.


  1. avatarBrian King says

    Couple wish to cruise River Rhone from Lyon to Avignon arriving in Avignon approx 14/15 July
    Would then like 3 nights hotel accomodation for theirselves & family 2 adults 2 children
    Rail travel for couple please quote price & availability
    Regards Brian King

    • avatar says

      Sorry Brian, we are not a travel agent and are unable to quote on your travel needs. We suggest that you visit your local travel agent and discuss with them your specific travel needs, dates, rail destinations, etc.

      Helen Page

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