November 27, 2012 | By Collette Peck
I love Europe and have traveled there several times, both independently and on various escorted motorcoach tours. My most recent trip to Europe was one that I’ll remember for a long time, as it was my first time to the south of France, and my first river cruise experience.
This particular river cruise with AMA Waterways on the Rhone River, begins/ends in Arles or begins/ends in Lyon, France. Since it was my first trip to the south of France, I decided to fly in a day early to Marseilles, have a tour of the city and then take a train to Arles.
While on the cruise, I noticed one big advantage of river cruising: they overnight in the many ports that they visit so you have a lot more time to explore each port destination. And we were able to wander the city streets on our own, because the ship docks right in the middle of town. Every morning (and sometimes afternoon) tours of the city or area are offered as part of your cruise price, which is a huge savings vs paying for each shore excursion. I think knowing that these tours are included, you take advantage of the day excursions and learn so much more about the area and people. A true learning experience.
More learning was had on board the ship, particularly on this cruise, as not only were we traveling through the famous wine region of Cote de Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, we had two Arizona winemakers on board that offered a few seminars and tastings of their own wine. Local wines were served as part of dinner every night, and that price was also included in the cruise fare. I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators, and with several specialized wine and spirits courses under my belt, this was a golden opportunity for me!
The last day of the cruise was November 15 in Lyon. The day excursion took us to the vineyards of Beaujolais, a mere 30 miles from the city. November 15 at midnight is the day they release the Nouveau Beaujolais and the city of Lyon celebrates the event in a big way. Sure, the weather was a little chilly (mid 50’s), but we enjoyed every minute of it and were sad to leave our wonderful crew and staff on board the AMA Dagio.