Exploring Bordeaux With Viking
PHOTO: The 445-foot Explorer Suite aboard the Viking Forseti.
Known for river cruises throughout Western Europe and beyond, Viking Cruises also offers a relatively new itinerary through the Bordeaux region of France. The company launched the itinerary on the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and the Gironde Estuary in 2014.
The seven-night “Chateaux, Rivers: Wine” sailing, available on the Viking Forseti, sails through the famous wine region roundtrip from the city of Bordeaux, in Southwest France.
The itinerary includes two overnights in Bordeaux, allowing for time to explore the 4,400 acres that make up this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area boasts an architectural heritage dating to the late 17th century and has 347 listed historical monuments.
Also on the itinerary are Cadillac, an appellation known for sweet white wines called Sauternes, and Saint-Emilion, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As you’d expect when traveling through this region, the cruise includes many samplings of Bordeaux wines, classes with a master sommelier, and how to pair the perfect wine with every meal. Guests also pick up a few key French phrases.
The itinerary can vary due to tides, water levels and fog, but highlights on board and ashore typically include walking tours of Bordeaux, Saint-Emilion, Libourne, Bourg, and Blaye; wine tastings in famed wine regions like Pomerol, Sauternes and the Medoc; creative French fare from Chef Pascal Mullier, who is aboard for the 2016 season; dinner with wine at Chateau Kirwan; and several onboard receptions and events
Optional excursions are offered at reasonable prices and should be recommended to interested clients. They include lunch at Chateau Siaurac, where the group is often joined by the owner; a tasty tour of the sprawling Bordeaux market with Chef Mullier; a “Taste of Cognac” in which participants leave with a bottle of self-made cognac; and an excursion to the coast for a taste of famed Arcachon oysters (also including lunch). In addition, this itinerary off ers appealing optional land extensions, such as a four-day Loire Valley pre-cruise add-on ($999) and a four-day Paris post-cruise stay ($849-$949).
Here’s a summary of the trip.
Most Common Accommodations:; The most common stateroom (39 of 95 staterooms and suites) is the 205-square-foot Veranda Stateroom, which includes a full balcony. All staterooms feature a private bathroom with shower, premium bath products (bathrobe and slippers upon request), flat-panel TV with entertainment and infotainment package, telephone, safe, refrigerator, hair dryer and individual climate control.
Fanciest Accommodations: The two Explorer Suites are 445 square feet and have separate sleeping and sitting quarters, a wrap-around veranda, a French balcony off the bedroom and two flat-panel TVs. There are also seven Veranda Suites, 22 French Balcony staterooms and 25 Standard options with windows of varying sizes.
What’s Included: The fares includes six guided tours with audio headsets, meals; complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with onboard lunch and dinner; bottled water; 24-hour cappuccino, coffee, tea, and snacks at two beverage bars; wine tastings; free Wi-Fi; and all port charges. Viking’s air packages can be a good value because they include taxes and fees, as well as transfers. Also check out competitively priced upgrades to premium economy or business class seats.
Best Entertainment: Chef Mullier’s cooking class with foie gras he typically purchases in Bordeaux.
Favorite Excursion: The included walking tour to Chateau Siaurac, which features a tour of the grounds and vineyards, the winery, the chateau, wine tasting and lunch.
What’s for Dinner? French-focused fare and wine is the norm, but there also are standard options of beef, poultry and seafood. All three meals are typically served in the Restaurant and the more casual Aquavit Terrace, which includes indoor and outdoor seating.
Who Goes on This Ship? The itinerary may attract more upscale travelers than most Viking cruises — specifically those who are passionate about wine, food and culture. Viking’s demographic is generally 55-plus, though the Forseti’s itinerary does seem to attract younger cruisers interested in the tasteful Bordeaux region.
Insider Booking Tip: Water-level standard staterooms on the Main Deck have smaller windows than elsewhere on the ship, but they do have slightly more space than the French Balcony staterooms.
Most Surprising Onboard Feature: The organic herb garden on the Sun Deck.
Key Selling Points: The food and wine! The Bordeaux region offers gorgeous vineyards, delicious food and top-level wines, and the world-class French-focused cuisine and wine on board can help sell staterooms.
AMAWATERWAYS LAUNCHES BORDEAUX CRUISES
AmaWaterways officially launched its new Bordeaux itinerary in late March on the 142-passenger AmaDolce. The seven-night “Taste of Bordeaux”; cruise on the Garonne and Dordogne rivers includes visits to Cadillac’s Roquetaillaide Castle, a Grand Cru Classe wine tasting in Pauillac and an excursion to Chateau de Montaigne in Libourne.
Optional pre- and/or post-cruise land extensions are available in Paris and the Loire Valley. Ten of AmaWaterways’ 24 Bordeaux sailings will be special wine-themed voyages featuring some of the world’s top wine experts.
AmaWaterways river cruises include complimentary Internet access, unlimited wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, and complimentary bottled water replenished daily in all staterooms.
For more information, call 800-626-0126 or visit www.AmaWaterways.com
JUST THE FACTS
CRUISE LINE: Viking Cruises
SHIP: Viking Forseti
SIZE: 190 passengers maximum; 443 feet long and 37 feet wide
ENTERED SERVICE: 2013
ITINERARY: The seven-night “Chateaux, Rivers & Wine”; cruise includes visits to Bordeaux, Cadillac, Libourne, Bourg, and Pauillac, with many short bus excursions from the ship.
PRICE: Starting from $2,056 per person, double occupancy, including port charges.
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A version of this article appears in print in the April 2016 issue of Agent@Home Magazine.
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