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With some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, the south of France is a lovely place to visit.

And what better way to savor the pleasures of France than from your luxury river cruiser, traveling along the Rhne River.

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South of France Rhne River Cruise

Day by Day Itinerary

Click the map to have a larger version open in a new window

Visit places with names like you've only seen before on wine bottles, and see beautiful nature and wonderful history on your South of France Rhne River cruise.

This is the itinerary for the May 2008 South of France Rhne River Cruise.  Due to vagaries of timing due to things such as lock times, etc, this itinerary may slightly change between now and departure.

Click here for the main details of this cruise and the booking form to confirm your interest.


Day 1 (Friday 9 May - or sooner) :  Leave the US

Fly any way you wish from your hometown to Arles or to either of the pre-cruise options of Nice or Barcelona.

You can either make your own arrangements to travel to Arles, or leave earlier to enjoy one of the two pre-cruise options in Barcelona or the French Riviera.

You should leave the US today or earlier, so as to arrive in Arles on Saturday (or sooner) in time for the start of the South of France Rhne River Cruise.

Note - if you've chosen the pre-tour options to either Barcelona or the French Riviera, you'll leave the US on Tuesday 6 May or sooner - see the next day or two


Pre-Tour Option 1 : Barcelona (Amadeus arranged 3 nts)
Tuesday 6 May - Saturday 10 May

The Plaza Real in Barcelona.
Perhaps go to the beach and enjoy the shores of the Mediterranean.
The distinctive towers of the Sagrada Familia dominate this part of Barcelona's skyline.
The medieval double walled city of Carcassonne, now a World Heritage site, and a stop on the way from Barcelona to Arles.

If you've decided to enjoy the pre-tour option to Barcelona, you should leave the US on or before Tuesday 6 May, so as to arrive in Barcelona on or before Wednesday 7 May.

Wednesday 7 May

You'll arrive into Barcelona today where you'll be spending three nights at the Sol Melia hotel.

Thursday 8 May

Your full day in Barcelona begins with a driving tour to the top of Montjuic Hill where you’ll catch glorious views of the city below, as we see Palau Nacional (the National Palace), and the Olympic Complex.

Next, we’ll tour Placa Catalonia, and Las Ramblas, the promenade and center of Barcelona life.

Later we’ll see the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Famlia, designed by artist and architect Antonio Gaud and still unfinished to this day, and take a walking tour of the Barrio Gotico (Gothic Quarter), King’s Square, and Tinell, the Royal Palace.

Friday 9 May

Your second full day in Barcelona is yours to enjoy as you wish.

Perhaps join an optional tour in the morning of Gaud’s Parc Gell, where you’ll see some of his most captivating sculptures and architectural structures, then return on your own to the markets of Las Ramblas or visit one of the many museums.

This evening, you could enjoy an optional dinner show featuring Flamenco dancers, or strike out on your own, perhaps across the port for seafood in Barceloneta.

Saturday 10 May

This morning after breakfast, you'll travel by motorcoach to Arles, the gateway to Provence.

Along the way, you’ll pass through the Pyrenees mountain range, and will enjoy a stop in the medieval city of Carcassonne, which is surrounded by a double ring of walls.  This is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is complete with 52 towers that stretch for more than two miles around this strategically important city.

Here, you will have free time for lunch and some exploring on your own. Then the coach traces the ancient trade route linking the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas, to the Camargue on the southern coast, before entering Arles, a Mediterranean city situated at the mouth of the Rhne delta, where we join the ship.


Day 2 (Saturday 10 May)  :  Board our cruise boat, the Swiss Pearl, in Arles

Our boat is the lovely and luxurious Swiss Pearl, renovated in 2006 and launched in 1993.

Lots of rich wood paneling is featured on board the Swiss Pearl.

An exciting day today, when you board the lovely river cruiser that will be your home for the next week.

The crew will be preparing the cabins for arriving passengers, and you are given access to your cabin as soon as it becomes available, generally by 4pm.

You can spend your time relaxing in the ship’s lounge or doing some exploring on your own in the lovely town of Arles.

If you've taken advantage of either pre-cruise option, you'll arrive at the ship in the late afternoon.

Included meals - Dinner


Day 3 (Sunday 11 May) :  Arles - Avignon

View of Arles, showing the Rhne, and the Roman amphitheater in the heart of the town.

Van Gogh's painting, 'Landscape at St Remy' (1889).

This morning we’ll take an excursion, via motorcoach, to the villages of St. Remy & Les Baux.

St. Remy is both the birthplace of Nostradamus, and also where Van Gogh retired to the asylum St. Paul de Mausole.  We'll enjoy the rich floral colors and amazing views from this village perched on the hill.

Then this afternoon bathe in the Provencal light as you imagine how Vincent Van Gogh worked to capture the richness of every hue on our walking tour of Arles.

While Van Gogh’s homes are no longer standing, you may glimpse the locales and vistas that inspired “Starry Night” or “Terrace de caf le Soir” as you pass Constantine’s Baths, the Romanesque cathedral and the Roman Amphitheater, which is still in use today.

This evening we cruise to nearby Avignon.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 4 (Monday 12 May) :  Avignon - Chateauneuf du Pape

The Pont du Gard across the Rhne, just outside Avignon.

The bridge made famous in the children's song (Sur le pont, d'Avignon...).  Only 4 of its original 22 arches remain.

The Palais des Papes in Avignon

Our morning tour of Avignon, the “City of Popes” will take you through the narrow streets and elegant squares to the Papal Palace, which served as fortress, church and residence to the Popes that once governed the Christian world.

Then we’ll cruise to nearby Chateauneuf-du-pape over lunch. The origin of its world famous namesake wine, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, or “new castle of the Pope,” is also home to the remains of the fortress which gives the village its name.

On this afternoon's tour, see the remains of this 14th-century palace, which was built as a summer residence for Popes during their exile in Avignon, as well as the many squares and beautiful fountains that this medieval village has to offer.

Enjoy a wine tasting before returning to the ship.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 5 (Tuesday 13 May) :  - Tournon

Yup, this is the place the epynomous wine comes from.
Tournon on the banks of the Rhne.

Today we enjoy cruising the Rhne river, upstream to the twin towns of Tournon and Tain L’Hermitage.

These twin towns face each other across the Rhne River and are linked by a 19th-century suspension bridge.

The fertile soil and ideal climate of the region has made Tain L’Hermitage the premier producer of the Cte du Rhne wines.  Upon arrival this afternoon there is free time to visit the 16th-century castle which is now the town hall, or visit the chocolate shop for a taste of the confections once produced in Tournon’s famous factory.

After dinner on board we will enjoy another wine tasting.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 6 (Wednesday 14 May) :  Tournon - Vienne

The historic train that takes us through the Ardche this morning.
Vienne, on the banks of the Rhne.

On this morning’s adventure, we travel via steam train from the vineyards of the valley to the woods of Ardche along the Doux River.  Deemed “Monuments Historiques”, these 19th-century locomotives and their carriages are virtual time capsules of a bygone elegant era.

Enjoy lunch back onboard the ship as we cruise to Vienne this afternoon.

Situated between the wine regions of Burgundy and Beaujolais, Vienne - like Lyon - has a significant Roman history, which is highlighted by its marvelously preserved ruins and remains.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 7 (Thursday 15 May) :  Vienne - Trevoux

The medieval church of St Andr le Bas.


During this morning’s walking tour of Vienne we will see the 1st-century Roman Temple of Augustus, and the medieval churches of St. Andr-le-Bas and Abbey St. Pierre.

This afternoon we cruise on to Trevoux. Passing Lyon on the way we enter the Sane River and continue on to Trevoux.

This evening stroll along the sidewalk cafes of this rural walking town.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 8 (Friday 16 May) :  Trevoux - Lyon

The beautiful countryside in the Beaujolais region

And the lovely wine from this area

This morning’s tour will take us behind the village walls of Trevoux and through Beaujolais, the Pay D’Or, or “land of the golden stones” so named for the ochre limestone of its homes and castles.

Enjoy a visit with a local wine maker along this wine road or 'route du vin', where we’ll taste the world renowned Beaujolais Nouveau before returning the ship. and continuing on to Lyon.

Lyon not only marks the meeting of the Sane and Rhne Rivers, but is also the gastronomic capital of France. Its rich ancient history includes Roman ruins and early Christian sites.

Enjoy free time this evening to explore the town on your own.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 9 (Saturday 17 May) :  Cruise ends in Lyon, optional tour on to Paris

Three of the main sights in Lyon, the Cathedral St-Jean (near the river La Saone), the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere (on top of the hill), and the Tour mtallique de Fourvire (to the right of the Basilica on top of the hill)

This morning disembark, bid farewell to the ship, and before traveling to Paris, tour Lyon.

Our tour will include a stunning panoramic view of the entire city from the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere. You’ll also explore the Renaissance charm of Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) with its cobble stone streets.

If you're continuing to Paris, this afternoon board the TGV train, where you’ll be transported at top speed (up to 186 mph) in smooth, quiet comfort to Paris, the ‘City of Lights” (see below for more on the optional extension to Paris).

Otherwise, make your way to the airport for your flight home, or extend your vacation any which way you choose.

Included Meals: Breakfast

Note - if you've chosen the tour extension to Paris, your itinerary continues on below


Day 9 (Saturday 17 May) :  Optional Extension to Paris

Streets in the old district of Lyon
The high speed TGV train makes the journey to Paris in just over two hours.

This morning disembark, bid farewell to the ship, and before traveling to Paris, tour Lyon.

Our tour will include a stunning panoramic view of the entire city from the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere. We’ll also explore the Renaissance charm of Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) with its cobble stone streets.

This afternoon we board the TGV train, where we’ll be transported at top speed (up to 186 mph) in smooth, quiet comfort to Paris, the ‘City of Lights”.

Upon arrival in Paris, we're transferred to our hotel for the next three nights, the Sofitel Bercy.

Included Meals: Breakfast


Day 10 (Sunday 18 May) :  Paris extension day two

Notre Dame cathedral.

After breakfast, we'll see the most famous sights of Paris on this morning’s tour: Visit Notre Dame Cathedral, pass the renowned Louvre Museum, the commemorative Arc de Triomphe, Opra, Madeleine, Champs Elyses and much more.

The remainder of the day is yours to explore the many museums, galleries and other attractions that the city has to offer.

Included Meals: Breakfast


Day 11 (Monday 19 May) :  Paris (Paris extension day three)

Enjoy a cruise on the Seine on a 'bateaux mouche'

Paris - the 'city of lights' at night.

Enjoy a full free day to explore what some people (notably Parisians!) consider to be the most romantic city in the world.

Stroll through the Jardin de Tuilleries, gaze at masterpieces in Muse D’Louvre, or visit the top of the Eiffel Tower, built for the 1889 World’s Fair.

Paris at night sparkles with possibilities for every taste.

Included Meals: Breakfast


Day 12 (Tuesday 20 May) :  End of Paris extension

Return home today or continue your European touring as you choose.

After breakfast this morning, your tour comes to an end, unless you've chosen to extend it further with your own arrangements, either in Paris, or anywhere else in Europe as you choose.

Included Meals: Breakfast

Click here for the main details of this cruise and the booking form to confirm your interest.


The Travel Insider is licensed by the State of Washington as a seller of travel - registration number 602 036 247.

Originally published 9 Nov 2007, last update 30 May 2021

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