France summer booking guide
How to book the best French cruise holiday, including advice on luxury, mainstream, no-fly and river cruises, as well the best cruise companies and France specialists.
European rivers and waterways offer a unique perspective on historic landscapes, cities, medieval towns and fabled villages, forbidding castles, cathedrals, abbeys, churches, monasteries, romantic châteaux, forests and hills and gardens and vineyards. A river cruise provides an insight into a culture’s heritage and traditions and the day-to-day life people living along it.
Nowhere is this truer than in France. The mere mention of names such as Burgundy and Provence, Avignon, Lyon and Mâcon conjures images of such revered artists as Cézanne, Chagall and Van Gogh. Taking a Rhône cruise is like travelling in a time capsule, with Roman buildings and bridges coexisting alongside contemporary towns and architecture. What’s more, France’s traditional leisurely lifestyle, in which the work ethic is not permitted to diminish the quality of life, perfectly enhances river excursions. And, unlike ocean cruising aboard today’s large resort ships with their mass-market catering, a river trip in France is likely to offer fresh and imaginatively cooked food and equally acceptable local wines.
The Rhône and Saône flow through some of the country’s best vineyards and give access to its gastronomic delights. The slow-flowing Seine provides magnificent views of Paris and is a springboard for historic towns such as Rouen and Honfleur and the mellow cheese-producing farmland (Brie and Camembert originate here). The Loire flows by the vineyards and châteaux of the ravishing Loire Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Canal Latéral à la Loire is popular for barge cruising. The Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde rivers host cruises from the city of Bordeaux, another World Heritage Site, to such celebrated wine-growing areas as Médoc and St Emilion.
March and October is the usual cruising season for French cruises; some ships may operate until November.
Click on the links below to find out more about cruises on individual rivers.
Visit the Telegraph Cruise Shows
Come along to the Telegraph Cruise Show in London January 13-15 2017. Get tickets and sign up for the newsletter at telegraph.co.uk/cruiseshow
Download the free Telegraph Travel app, featuring expert guides to destinations including Paris, Rome, New York, Venice and Amsterdam