Checking my beautifully presented (and personalised) itinerary booklet on the first night, I noted that it invited us to join the Captain’s welcome reception and dinner, and suggested we might want to take an after dinner stroll in Lyon. This tickled me as the Moët had been flowing as fast as the Rhône itself and an after dinner stroll back to our stateroom seemed like a much better idea. We also noted with interest another recommendation listed in the booklet: “Dine with as many different people as possible, and chat with everyone.” It wasn’t long before we broke our British reserve and chatted and smiled to our fellow guests at every opportunity, swapping life stories, jokes, opinions and, by the end of our cruise, email addresses.
The shore excursions were incredible. In Lyon, after the party the night before, we were driven to the renowned Beaujolais wine-growing region where there was a fascinating priory to explore and some stunning wine to taste.
Our first port of call was Viviers, a medieval town with a wonderful 12th century cathedral perched on top of the hill. The winding cobbled streets were a photographer’s dream and even the torrential rain couldn’t dampen our spirits.
The next day we moored up at Arles where Roman monuments, including a gladiators’ arena, made for an interesting tour. Arles was also home to Van Gogh at one time and there is said to be a quality of light here that inspired his work.Arles Amphitheatre – France
On a general note it’s true to say that the tours were very well organized affairs; groups were small and there was always a slightly different option for those that wanted to avoid steps and steep slopes. And in two of the places we visited there were ‘train tours’ around the town, which offered a fun way to explore whatever your physical condition.
Following the downpour at Viviers we were welcomed back on board the ship by hot towels and warm cherry schnapps (reached for not necessarily in that order), and when the weather was warm and we returned sticky, we were presented with cold towels and glasses of fresh fruit juice.
By this time the story swapping with all our newfound friends was well under way and we were told many times that in the US Tauck is considered to the ‘Rolls Royce of river cruising’. And we couldn’t find any reason to disagree.