Print

Day by Day Itinerary

Join us on our Bordeaux: Vineyards, Vintages, and Châteaux River Cruise Tour and experience the timeless beauty of southwestern France, where the hills are draped with fragrant vineyards and the valleys are dotted with châteaux. Set forth from Paris on a journey through the peaceful, verdant hills of the Loire Valley. Along the way, you’ll encounter a number of remarkable landmarks, including the Gothic cathedral in Chartres and the Renaissance château in Chenonceaux. We’re the only company to spend two nights in Amboise—a picturesque town nestled up against the Loire River—and two nights in La Rochelle—a historic seaport rife with maritime history—before embarking on a seven-night cruise through the culture-rich region of Bordeaux. After spending two nights docked in Bordeaux—giving you ample time to explore this pedestrian-friendly city—you’ll relax as our privately owned, 90-passenger river ship sets sail along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and the Gironde Estuary. Aboard our intimate vessel, you’ll savor varietals and culinary specialties, discover medieval history while exploring several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and enjoy the landscapes, villages, and estates that have inspired wine lovers and artists for centuries. You can also enhance your French River Cruise Tour with our optional extensions to Paris and Toulouse & Carcassonne.

Bordeaux Libourne Expand All
  • hidden

    Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Paris.

  • hidden

    Arrive today in Paris. You are greeted at the airport by a Grand Circle representative who assists you with your transfer to the hotel. After settling in, meet your Program Director and enjoy a short orientation walk to discover the neighborhood surrounding the hotel.

    This evening, gather with your fellow travelers during a Welcome Briefing at your hotel. Get better acquainted with your traveling companions as you toast to the journey ahead with a Welcome Drink. After, enjoy dinner on your own, followed by free time to further explore Paris.

  • hidden

    After breakfast, depart Paris for the Loire Valley—the idyllic stretch of western France renowned for its majestic Renaissance châteaux, white wines, and royal past. En route to Amboise, you'll visit Chartres, home to Europe's greatest Gothic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Chartres has been a Christian pilgrimage site since the Middle Ages and construction on its cathedral began in 1020. Destroyed by a fire in 1194, the Gothic cathedral was rebuilt, with a few additional alterations after the mid-13th century.

    Enjoy lunch on your own and time to explore Chartres independently before transferring to Amboise this afternoon. Along the way, learn a few bon mots during an onboard French language lesson with your Program Director, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    You'll spend two nights in Amboise, a breathtaking town nestled up against the Loire River, replete with opulent landscapes, medieval architecture, and half-timbered homes.

    This evening, enjoy an included dinner at a local restaurant.

  • hidden

    Today, discover more of the Loire Valley and how the Renaissance imbued the region with an Italian flair during your stop at the Château de Chenonceau, just outside of Amboise. Built in 1513, this unique castle spans the River Cher, suspended above the crystal waters by a series of stone arches. The chateau was built and has since been maintained by a series of powerful women—including Catherine de Medici of Florence, Italy—giving the fairy-tale castle its famous moniker, the “Ladies' Chateau.” The estate is just as beautiful inside as it is outside. Surrounding the castle are acres of symmetrical, impeccably maintained jardins à la française—a medley of flowers, shrubs, lawns, fountains, and reflecting pools.

    After lunch at a local restaurant in Amboise, enjoy a walking tour of the city, including a visit to the Château d'Amboise, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Dinner is on your own tonight.

  • hidden

    After an early breakfast this morning, depart Amboise for La Rochelle, continuing your journey through the chivalric splendor of the Loire Valley. During your transfer, marvel at the panoramic vistas surrounding you, stopping for an included lunch along the way.

    Arrive in La Rochelle late in the afternoon. Tonight, dinner is on your own.

  • hidden

    This morning, discover the charms of La Rochelle, located on the Bay of Biscay, during an included walking tour. As you explore, bathe in the sunlight as it reflects off the cityscape's limestone facades. This seafaring city is a pastiche of vaulted walkways and homes shingled in slate tiles, with grinning gargoyles waiting for you at every turn.

    This ancient seaport dates back to the time of the Romans, who produced salt and wine here for their expanding empire. La Rochelle was just a small fishing village when it was founded in the tenth century but expanded and flourished into a major harbor during the twelfth century.

    A dark cloud fell over La Rochelle in 1941 when the Germans established a U-boat bunker at La Pallice—the city's main port—during World War II. Despite serving as a strategic port for the Germans during the war (and being the last French city to be liberated at the end of World War II), the salt-stained, limestone walls of La Rochelle largely escaped damage from Allied attacks. Today, however, La Rochelle's whitewashed architecture is a shining reminder of its its maritime heritage, justly earning its moniker as the "White City."

    Lunch is on your own today, with the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Perhaps you'll admire one of the city's three towers—Tour Saint NicolasTour de la Chaîne, and Tour de la Lantern—each standing guard over the Atlantic coast.

    Or, join us on an optional excursion to Cognac, where you’ll have an opportunity to savor the town’s local flavors, including the eponymous beverage.

    Tonight, dinner is on your own. Perhaps you'll choose to dine at a local restaurant in La Rochelle's romantic Old Town..

  • hidden

    After an early breakfast, you'll travel south to Bordeaux. Along the way, you'll visit a local oyster farm for an exclusive Discovery Series event. Meet an oyster farmer and learn how these delicate creatures are harvested in the traditional way. Then, savor a fresh huitre or two—and discover why the southwest of France is famous for its wines and its shellfish. After, enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant before continuing on to Bordeaux to embark your private river ship, the M/S River Chanson. Relax onboard this afternoon, or use the time to introduce yourself to Bordeaux.

    During your cruise, whenever you have leisure time at a port along your route, you'll receive a Port Talk about the pier area and town prior to arrival, so you can make the best use of your free time. Tonight, you'll gather for your first Port Talk. Then get better acquainted with your ship's captain and crew during a Welcome Dinner.

    This evening, marvel at the glittering city lights on both sides of the Garonne River, and which line the 17 arches of the Pont de Pierre, or Stone Bridge. You'll also witness the four 262-foot-tall pylons of the Jacques Chaban-Delmas Bridge, which switch from blue to green lights during the tide changes.

  • hidden

    After breakfast onboard, set off into Bordeauxwhose historic center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site—during an included city tour.

    Originally established as a trading center by the Romans, Bordeaux lies on the western side of the Garonne River and includes lovely walking paths wending through its elegant 18th- and 19th-century buildings laced with wrought-iron and stone figures in Old Town. Bordeaux is home to more protected buildings than any other city in France besides Paris, blending both Classical and Neo-classical architecture. As you explore, you'll admire the beautiful façades along its waterfront, and visit the renowned Classical Grande Théâtre, one of the country's most acclaimed theaters. Also of note is the Place de la Bourse—Bordeaux's royal palace—designed by famed architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, who also designed Paris's Place de la Concorde and parts of the Palace of Versailles.

    Return to the ship for lunch onboard. The rest of the afternoon is yours to continue your discoveries.

    This evening, savor the authentic Flavors of France during an onboard tasting, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    Tonight, dinner is onboard as you sail toward your first port of call.

  • hidden

    Following breakfast this morning, learn a few tips during a cooking demonstration of French cuisine, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    Later in the morning, you'll explore the medieval fortress town of Cadillac. Built in the 13th century as a walled city, this town was intended to protect Bordeaux's trade routes. While you're here, you'll explore Cadillac's most impressive site—the 17th century Château de Cadillac. With its beautiful setting overlooking the Garonne River, the property's history as a women's prison is made all the more intriguing. You'll learn about that and more before returning to your ship for lunch.

    This afternoon you'll meet a local vintner and immerse yourself in Bordeaux's most famous export: wine. Your discussion includes a tasting of Sauternes, a distinctly sweet wine made from partially raisined grapes and one of the region's most challenging varieties to grow.

    Dinner is onboard this evening.

  • hidden

    This morning, you'll visit Pauillac, a small town overlooking the Gironde Estuary. Along the waterfront, you'll find a collection of cafés and small shops. As you explore Pauillac, you pass by the 19th-century Church of Saint Martin, a memorial dedicated to those who fell in the bombardment during World War II, and numerous homes built in the charentais style—two-story, rectangular houses built of stone, with gently sloping roofs made of red tile.

    While in Pauillac, you'll tour a local château and hear about its history. Enjoy a stroll of the property, learning all about how grapes are grown and picked. After, put your newfound knowledge to use as you sample the locally made wine.

    Enjoy an included lunch, followed by free time to further explore on your own.

    You may also continue your discoveries this afternoon by learning more about one of the esteemed vineyards of this area on our optional Vineyards, Vintages & Viticulture tour.

  • hidden

    Relax on deck this morning as your ship sails through the Gironde Estuary, the longest in Europe. Along the way, you'll pass by islands that serve as nature preserves and a popular spot for adventurers, perhaps spotting seafaring birds or local flora and fauna before arriving in Blaye.

    Join a local guide for a walking tour of the town's citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1685, Louis XIV appointed famed military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban to upgrade the citadel's aged and outdated fortifications. The fortress was strengthened in order to protect the city of Bordeaux, 30 miles south of Blaye. Many of Vauban's designs are still standing today, including the Porte Royale, the citadel's main gate. Walk along the top of the fortified walls during your tour and enjoy a panoramic view of the Gironde Estuary and the surrounding town, including Fort Pâté and Fort Médoc, both designed by Vauban. The two forts, together with the Blaye citadel, are collectively known as Le Verrou Vauban, or “Vauban's Lock.”

    After lunch onboard, learn more about the life of a vintner as you join them in their home, including a tour of their vineyard, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    This evening, dinner is onboard.

  • hidden

    This morning you'll dock in Libourne before transferring to Saint Emilion, a delightful medieval village nestled in the heart of Bordeaux's rolling vineyards. Saint Emilion is the first landscape to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region's unique limestone soil not only helps in producing superior grapes for Merlot, but since the ninth century has helped contribute materials for the construction of many elegant châteaux. The extraction of limestone blocks also accounts for fascinating underground monuments and a monolithic church—named for the town's patron saint—which you'll discover on an included tour with a local guide this morning.

    After lunch, the rest of the afternoon is yours to spend at leisure. Perhaps you'll visit another wine cellar to pick up last-minute souvenirs, or explore one of the town's many boutiques. Besides its wines, Saint Emilion also prides itself on its macarons and lays claim to the almond variety, which were first made in 1620 by Ursuline nuns who lived in the village. The secret recipe was handed down for generations until 1930, when the sisterhood shared the recipe with a local bakery—which still bakes them by hand today.

    This evening, gather for the Captain's Farewell Dinner.

  • hidden

    Upon arriving in Bordeaux this morning, continue your explorations with your Program Director on a guided walk. This pedestrian-friendly city offers a plethora of museums and cultural activities, including one of the largest national galleries outside of Paris—the Musée des Beaux-Arts or The Museum of Fine Art, established by Napoleon Bonaparte; and the Museé d'Aquitaine, featuring thousands of relics reflecting the city's Roman past.

    Enjoy lunch onboard, or discover Bordeaux's rich culinary culture independently. Local specialties include cèpes à la bordelaisemushrooms sauteed in butter with garlic and parsley—and steak topped with sauce bordelaise, meaning "the sauce from Bordeaux." Your Program Director can help guide you to some of the top places to savor the city's best.

    Enjoy an afternoon at leisure and dinner onboard before bidding Bordeaux—and your fellow travelers—au revoir.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight home, or continue on our Toulouse & Carcassonne post-trip extension.

Bordeaux Cadillac Expand All
  • hidden

    Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Paris.

  • hidden

    Arrive today in Paris. You are greeted at the airport by a Grand Circle representative who assists you with your transfer to the hotel. After settling in, meet your Program Director and enjoy a short orientation walk to discover the neighborhood surrounding the hotel.

    This evening, gather with yourfellow travelers during a Welcome Briefing at your hotel. Get better acquainted with your traveling companions as you toast to the journey ahead with a Welcome Drink. After, enjoy dinner on your own, followed by free time to further explore Paris.

  • hidden

    After breakfast, depart Paris for the Loire Valley—the idyllic stretch of western France renowned for its majestic Renaissance châteaux, white wines, and royal past. En route to Amboise, you'll visit Chartres, home to Europe's greatest Gothic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Chartres has been a Christian pilgrimage site since the Middle Ages and construction on its cathedral began in 1020. Destroyed by a fire in 1194, the Gothic cathedral was rebuilt, with a few additional alterations after the mid-13th century.

    Enjoy lunch on your own and time to explore Chartres independently before transferring to Amboise this afternoon. Along the way, learn a few bon mots during an onboard French language lesson with your Program Director, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    You'll spend two nights in Amboise, a breathtaking town nestled up against the Loire River, replete with opulent landscapes, medieval architecture, and half-timbered homes.

    This evening, enjoy an included dinner at a local restaurant.

  • hidden

    Today, discover more of the Loire Valley and how the Renaissance imbued the region with an Italian flair during your stop at the Château de Chenonceau, just outside of Amboise. Built in 1513, this unique castle spans the River Cher, suspended above the crystal waters by a series of stone arches. The chateau was built and has since been maintained by a series of powerful women—including Catherine de Medici of Florence, Italy—giving the fairy-tale castle its famous moniker, the “Ladies' Chateau.” The estate is just as beautiful inside as it is outside. Surrounding the castle are acres of symmetrical, impeccably maintained jardins à la française—a medley of flowers, shrubs, lawns, fountains, and reflecting pools.

    After lunch at a local restaurant in Amboise, enjoy a walking tour of the city, including a visit to the Château d'Amboise, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Dinner is on your own tonight.

  • hidden

    After an early breakfast this morning, depart Amboise for La Rochelle, continuing your journey through the chivalric splendor of the Loire Valley. During your transfer, marvel at the panoramic vistas surrounding you, stopping for an included lunch along the way.

    Arrive in La Rochelle late in the afternoon. Tonight, dinner is on your own.

  • hidden

    This morning, discover the charms of La Rochelle, located on the Bay of Biscay, during an included walking tour. As you explore, bathe in the sunlight as it reflects off the cityscape's limestone facades. This seafaring city is a pastiche of vaulted walkways and homes shingled in slate tiles, with grinning gargoyles waiting for you at every turn.

    This ancient seaport dates back to the time of the Romans, who produced salt and wine here for their expanding empire. La Rochelle was just a small fishing village when it was founded in the tenth century but expanded and flourished into a major harbor during the twelfth century.

    A dark cloud fell over La Rochelle in 1941 when the Germans established a U-boat bunker at La Pallice—the city's main port—during World War II. Despite serving as a strategic port for the Germans during the war (and being the last French city to be liberated at the end of World War II), the salt-stained, limestone walls of La Rochelle largely escaped damage from Allied attacks. Today, however, La Rochelle's whitewashed architecture is a shining reminder of its its maritime heritage, justly earning its moniker as the "White City."

    Lunch is on your own today, with the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Perhaps you'll admire one of the city's three towers—Tour Saint NicolasTour de la Chaîne, and Tour de la Lantern—each standing guard over the Atlantic coast.

    Or, join us on an optional excursion to Cognac, where you’ll have an opportunity to savor the town’s local flavors, including the eponymous beverage.

    Tonight, dinner is on your own. Perhaps you'll choose to dine at a local restaurant in La Rochelle's romantic Old Town..

  • hidden

    After an early breakfast, you'll travel south to Bordeaux. Along the way, you'll visit a local oyster farm for an exclusive Discovery Series event. Meet an oyster farmer and learn how these delicate creatures are harvested in the traditional way. Then, savor a fresh huitre or two—and discover why the southwest of France is famous for its wines and its shellfish. After, enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant before continuing on to Bordeaux to embark your private river ship, the M/S River Chanson. Relax onboard this afternoon, or use the time to introduce yourself to Bordeaux.

    During your cruise, whenever you have leisure time at a port along your route, you'll receive a Port Talk about the pier area and town prior to arrival, so you can make the best use of your free time. Tonight, you'll gather for your first Port Talk. Then get better acquainted with your ship's captain and crew during a Welcome Dinner.

    This evening, marvel at the glittering city lights on both sides of the Garonne River, and which line the 17 arches of the Pont de Pierre, or Stone Bridge. You'll also witness the four 262-foot-tall pylons of the Jacques Chaban-Delmas Bridge, which switch from blue to green lights during the tide changes.

  • hidden

    After breakfast onboard, set off into Bordeauxwhose historic center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site—during an included city tour.

    Originally established as a trading center by the Romans, Bordeaux lies on the western side of the Garonne River and includes lovely walking paths wending through its elegant 18th- and 19th-century buildings laced with wrought-iron and stone figures in Old Town. Bordeaux is home to more protected buildings than any other city in France besides Paris, blending both Classical and Neo-classical architecture. As you explore, you'll admire the beautiful façades along its waterfront, and visit the renowned Classical Grande Théâtre, one of the country's most acclaimed theaters. Also of note is the Place de la Bourse—Bordeaux's royal palace—designed by famed architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, who also designed Paris's Place de la Concorde and parts of the Palace of Versailles.

    Return to the ship for lunch onboard. The rest of the afternoon is yours to continue your discoveries.

    This evening, savor the authentic Flavors of France during an onboard tasting, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    Tonight, dinner is onboard.

  • hidden

    Following breakfast this morning, learn a few tips during a cooking demonstration of French cuisine, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    Next, relax as your river ship heads up the Gironde Estuary toward France's premiere wine-growing region, home to the country's most famous reds, including MédocMoulisMargaux, among others. You'll stop in Pauillac, a small town overlooking the Gironde Estuary. Along the waterfront, you'll find a collection of cafés and small shops. As you explore Pauillac, you pass by the 19th-century Church of Saint Martin, a memorial dedicated to those who fell in the bombardment during World War II, and numerous homes built in the charentais style—two-story, rectangular houses built of stone, with gently sloping roofs made of red tile.


    While in Pauillac, you'll tour a local château and hear about its history. Enjoy a stroll of the property, learning all about how grapes are grown and picked. After, put your newfound knowledge to use as you sample the locally made wine.

    Enjoy an included lunch, followed by free time to further explore on your own.

    You may also continue your discoveries this afternoon by learning more about one of the esteemed vineyards of this area on our optional Vineyards, Vintages & Viticulture tour.

    Dinner is onboard this evening.

  • hidden

    Relax on deck this morning as your ship sails through the Gironde Estuary, the largest in Europe. Along the way, you'll pass by islands that serve as nature preserves and a popular spot for adventurers, perhaps spotting seafaring birds or local flora and fauna before arriving in Blaye.

    Join a local guide for a walking tour of the town's citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1685, Louis XIV appointed famed military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban to upgrade the citadel's aged and outdated fortifications. The fortress was strengthened in order to protect the city of Bordeaux, 30 miles south of Blaye. Many of Vauban's designs are still standing today, including the Porte Royale, the citadel's main gate. Walk along the top of the fortified walls during your tour and enjoy a panoramic view of the Gironde Estuary and the surrounding town, including Fort Pâté and Fort Médoc, both designed by Vauban. The two forts, together with the Blaye citadel, are collectively known as Le Verrou Vauban, or “Vauban's Lock.”

    Enjoy lunch onboard this afternoon, followed by time to continue your discoveries in Blaye on your own or with your fellow traveling companions.

    This evening, reminisce about today's discoveries during an included dinner on your ship.

  • hidden

    This morning, slip past beautifully preserved châteaux, ancient caves, and carrelets—stilted fishermen's huts—en route to Libourne. You'll enjoy breakfast before transferring to Saint Émilion, a delightful medieval village nestled in the heart of Bordeaux's rolling vineyards. Saint Emilion is the first landscape to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region's unique limestone soil not only helps in producing superior grapes for Merlot, but since the ninth century has helped contribute materials for the construction of many elegant châteaux. The extraction of limestone blocks also accounts for fascinating underground monuments and a monolithic church—named for the town's patron saint—which you'll discover on an included tour with a local guide this morning.

    After lunch, the rest of the afternoon is yours to spend at leisure. Perhaps you'll visit another wine cellar to pick up last-minute souvenirs, or explore one of the town's many boutiques. Besides its wines, Saint Emilion also prides itself on its macarons and lays claim to the almond variety, which were first made in 1620 by Ursuline nuns who lived in the village. The secret recipe was handed down for generations until 1930, when the sisterhood shared the recipe with a local bakery—which still bakes them by hand today.

    Perhaps you'll enjoy a glass of wine over dinner this evening onboard your ship before setting sail for Cadillac.

  • hidden

    This morning, savor breakfast onboard before setting off on a guided tour of Cadillac. Built in the 13th century as a walled city, this medieval fortress town was intended to protect Bordeaux's trade routes. While you're here, you'll explore Cadillac's most impressive site—the 17th-century Château de Cadillac. With its beautiful setting overlooking the Garonne River, the property's history as a women's prison is made all the more intriguing. You'll learn about that and more before returning to your ship for lunch.

    This afternoon you'll meet a local vintner and immerse yourself in Bordeaux's most famous export: wine. Your discussion includes a tasting of Sauternes, a distinctly sweet wine made from partially raisined grapes and one of the region's most challenging varieties to grow.

    This evening, enjoy dinner onboard. After, gather for the Captain's Farewell Dinner.

  • hidden

    Upon arriving in Bordeaux this morning, continue your explorations with your Program Director on a guided walk. This pedestrian-friendly city offers a plethora of museums and cultural activities, including one of the largest national galleries outside of Paris—the Musée des Beaux-Arts or The Museum of Fine Art, established by Napoleon Bonaparte; and the Museé d'Aquitaine, featuring thousands of relics reflecting the city's Roman past.

    Enjoy lunch onboard, or discover Bordeaux's rich culinary culture independently. Local specialties include cèpes à la bordelaisemushrooms sauteed in butter with garlic and parsley—and steak topped with sauce bordelaise, meaning "the sauce from Bordeaux." Your Program Director can help guide you to some of the top places to savor the city's best.

    Enjoy an afternoon at leisure and dinner onboard before bidding Bordeaux—and your fellow travelers—au revoir.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight home, or continue on our Toulouse & Carcassonne post-trip extension.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

There's no better way to learn what a trip is like than from the firsthand experiences of your fellow travelers, and our Traveler Reviews are the real deal—unbiased and unedited—giving you an honest appraisal of the experiences that await you on this trip.

Have you been on this trip? Share Your Thoughts, Sign In

Please note: If you have taken this trip, please log into your My Account & return to this page. You will be prompted to post your review. Reviews are limited to 10,000 characters. Due to our moderation process, please allow up to 72 hours for your review to appear.

loading reviews

Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

Sign in to ask a question

Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

Sign in to ask a question

Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

Currency Cheat Sheet: Submit

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Travel considerations for you and your small group of no more than 45, on Bordeaux: Vineyards, Vintages & Châteaux.

Pacing

  • 14 days, with 7 nights aboard the M/S River Chanson, and 3 hotel stays, including a single 1-night stay

Physical requirements

  • You must be able to walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 2-3 hours of physical activities each day, including stairs
  • Not accessible for travelers using wheelchairs or scooters
  • Travelers using walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids must travel with a companion who can assist them throughout the trip

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 50-90°F during cruising season
  • June-September are the warmest months
  • March and November weather can be unpredictable and change quickly within a short period of time

Terrain

  • Travel over some bumpy unpaved roads and uneven walking surfaces, including hills, stairs, cobblestones, and riverbanks

Transportation

  • Travel by 45-seat coach and 90-passenger river ship

River Cruising

  • Throughout the River Cruise season, weather conditions and tides affect European river depths; water levels may require adjustments to your itinerary, including the order of ports of call

River Ship Cabins

  • Main Deck cabins feature a queen bed that cannot be separated into two twin beds—call for detail

Cuisine

  • Meals will be a mix of local specialties and familiar American standards
  • Meals onboard feature a variety of entrée options, including vegetarian

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • M/S River Chanson

    The M/S River Chanson—the latest ship added to our privately-owned fleet—provides an intimate cruising experience for just 90 passengers and features all outside cabins. Connect with your fellow travelers in the comfortable common areas, enjoy breathtaking panoramas from the teak-covered Sun Deck, and relax as you journey through the region of Bordeaux. All the while, our gracious, English-speaking ship staff will ensure that you enjoy a welcoming onboard experience.

SEE THE ENTIRE GRAND CIRCLE FLEET

Main Trip

  • Les Jardins du Marais

    Paris, France | Rating: Superior First Class

    The Superior First-Class Les Jardins du Marais hotel is centrally located in the picturesque Le Marais district. The building is a renovated 18th-century building with a lovely garden courtyard. Each room in this all-suite hotel includes air-conditioning, coffee- and tea-making facilities, a minibar, a telephone, a refrigerator, a safe, a television, and a complimentary newspaper.

  • Novotel Amboise

    Amboise, France | Rating: Superior Tourist Class

    The Novotel Amboise is a contemporary, three-story hotel situated on a hillside overlooking the Loire Valley in Amboise. This Superior Tourist-Class hotel is only one mile from the city center and each of its 121 rooms offer air conditioning, coffee- and tea-making facilities, a refrigerator, a telephone, a television, and a complimentary newspaper each morning. Wireless Internet is also available for an additional fee.

  • Best Western Masqhotel

    La Rochelle, France | Rating: First Class

    Situated between the Old Harbour and the city's railway station, this first-class hotel is located at the heart of La Rochelle. Best Western Masqhotel is a contemporary hotel in an ancient maritime seaport—with each of its 76 rooms offering air conditioning, a coffeemaker, a telephone, a television, Internet access, and a complimentary newspaper each morning.

Extensions

  • Les Jardins du Marais

    Paris, France | Rating: Superior First Class

    The Superior First-Class Les Jardins du Marais hotel is centrally located in the picturesque Le Marais district. The building is a renovated 18th-century building with a lovely garden courtyard. Each room in this all-suite hotel includes air-conditioning, coffee- and tea-making facilities, a minibar, a telephone, a refrigerator, a safe, a television, and a complimentary newspaper.

  • Mercure Toulouse Saint Georges

    Toulouse, France | Rating: Tourist Class

    Nestled in the heart of La Ville Rose, the Mercure Toulouse Saint Georges is a short walk from some of the city’s major landmarks, including Capitole Square, the Basilica of St. Sernin, and several parks and promenades along the Garonne River. Each of this four-star hotel’s 148 air-conditioned rooms features a coffeemaker, an iron and ironing board, a minibar, a telephone, a refrigerator, a television, wireless Internet access, and a complimentary newspaper each morning.

  • Mercure Wilson Hotel

    Toulouse, France | Rating: Moderate First Class

    The Moderate First-Class Mercure Wilson Hotel is a short walk from some of Toulouse's major landmarks. Like much of the architecture in La Ville Rose, this 95-room hotel is built with red bricks, giving it a pinkish glow. Every room is air conditioned, and each features a wide range of amenities, including a coffeemaker, a minibar, a telephone, a refrigerator, a television, wireless Internet access, a safe, and a complimentary newspaper each morning.

Flight Information

Your Flight Options

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to personalizing your air—and creating the Grand Circle vacation that’s right for you:

Purchase Flights with Grand Circle

  • Work with our expert Air Travel Consultants to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Customize your trip by staying overnight in a connecting city, arriving at your destination a few days early, or spending additional time in a nearby city on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle vacations to maximize your value

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Estimated Travel Times

Traveling to Paris, and from Bordeaux, will involve long flights and some cities will require multiple connections. These rigors should be a consideration in planning your trip.

The chart below provides estimated travel times from popular departure cities. Connection times are included in these estimates.

Bordeaux

From the Valley to the Vineyards

WATCH VIDEO

Bordeaux is a land where stone-clad fortifications transport bystanders back to an era of strife during the Thirty Years’ War … where the nectarous scent of ripening grapes dances through the cobbled alleyways of a labyrinthine city … where sounds of the briny ocean breeze blend with the orchestra of a thousand clicking oysters. These are but a few of the life-changing moments you can experience when you join Grand Circle Cruise Line for the inaugural season of our Bordeaux: Vineyards, Vintages & Châteaux River Cruise Tour along the legendary waterways of southwestern France.

View itinerary »

Sail Aboard Our Newest River Ship

Witness a seemingly endless sea of green … row after row of vines, as they topple casually over a ripple of gently rolling hills … from the teak-covered Sun Deck of the M/S River Chanson—the newest member of our award-winning fleet. Cruise the tranquil waterways of Bordeaux and enjoy an intimate cruising experience in a group of no more than 45 travelers, with your own dedicated, expert Program Director.

Behold Italian-Inspired Architecture

The Loire Valley is a landscape frozen in time, a fertile vista speckled with fairy-tale palaces, including the Château de Chenonceau, home to one of history’s greatest love affairs (between King Henry II of France, his wife Catherine de Medici, and his mistress, Diane de Poitiers). Here, you can also discover the symmetrical beauty of a jardin à la française—a medley of flowers, shrubs, lawns, fountains, and reflecting pools.

Experience Coastal Landscapes

Journey to La Rochelle, where salt-stained, limestone buildings stand in sharp contrast to a darker past. During World War II, the Germans established a U-boat bunker at La Pallice—the city’s main port. Today, the vacant submarine pens are filled with muted, forgotten voices, echoing through the hollow, ghostly tunnels. You’ll also venture to a nearby oyster farm to relish in the saltiness of a fresh huitre—or two.

From the Valley to the Vineyards

The bays, rivers, and estuaries of Southwest France

by Bradley Keist

The southwest of France is a mosaic of tranquil waterways, bucolic panoramas, medieval villages, and majestic châteaux.

From the Loire Valley to the Atlantic coast, the southwest of France is a region of timeless beauty: a mosaic of tranquil waterways, bucolic panoramas, medieval villages, and majestic châteaux. And, spread out amidst it all—draped over the landscape’s gently rolling hills—are acres upon acres of ambrosial vineyards. And yet, while the region is renowned for its top-of-the-line vintages, the southwest of France offers so much more … so much to see, so much to do … and so much to taste.

The Ladies’ Château

Suspended above the crystal waters of the River Cher, the majestic Château de Chenonceau appears as if it were stolen straight from the pages of a child’s storybook. Surrounded by acres of jardins à la française, the Renaissance castle is cause for one of the greatest love triangles history has yet seen. King Henry II of France gave the château to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, in 1555 as a token of his love while excluding his wife, Catherine de Medici, from all political affairs. When the king died in 1559, Catherine banished Diane from Chenonceau and took it for her own.

The world is your oyster

The triangular Arcachon Bay is speckled with wind-worn cabanes tchanquées—their wooden stilts melting into the wet sand—flat-bottomed pinasses—fishing boats, each painted a different color of the rainbow—and row after row of moss-covered rope sacks peeking above the surface of the water—each filled with clicking, hungry oysters. Since Roman occupation over 2,000 years ago, oysters have played a pivotal role in the lives of those living around the Bassin d’Arcachon. But it wasn’t until the 19th century that the first, official “oyster park” was established—by none other than Napoleon III, in an effort to prevent the local oyster species from being wiped out.

Monks and monoliths

Captivated by the beauty of the region surrounding the Dordogne River—a union of beryl-colored foliage and rocky outcroppings of ochre and ecru—a young monk settled in a cave and lived out the remainder of his life as a hermit. After his death in 767, the monk was dubbed a saint, thus lending his name to the town that would follow. A century later, men began extracting limestone blocks from the earth to build their town. Construction of Saint Émilion’s eponymous monolithic cathedral also began at this time. While the church’s exterior may seem less than impressive, the cavernous interior—carved deep into the belly of the rocky earth—is an awe-inspiring collection of tunnels and grottos.

When one dreams of flying away to France, the thought of sipping a café au lait while nibbling on a pain au chocolat at a café en plein air is what typically comes to mind. But, outside the bustling streets of Paris, an entire world awaits—one filled with history, culture … and breathtaking views.