Allure of European River Cruising the Rhône River in Provence
Luxury river cruising offers the best of what seasoned travellers want; stress-free, all-inclusive travel, dining, and daily guided excursions, all onboard a 5-star boutique river ship, while slowly plying Europe’s beautiful waterways.
Rhône River in Provence
On a very hot day in August, embarking on a European river cruise ship for an 8-day cruise on the Rhône River in Provence is a real pleasure. It is a unique and elegant experience as the long and lean river ship glides along the Rhône in the south of France, beginning with a port of call at Tarascon (Arles). From the ship’s mooring, river cruisers are within minutes of Van Gogh’s sun-drenched Provençal town of Arles. This is where he painted Starry Night Over the Rhône, one of his most famous works. In Arles, we join a local guide on a half-day inclusive tour exploring the UNESCO World Heritage sites and their post-impressionist heritage. Walking in the footsteps of Van Gogh and learning the stories that put Arles back on the map as a tourist destination is enchanting.
River journeys transcend every age group, i.e., multi-generational families, solo travellers, or the young-at-heart. Excursions range from sightseeing at a gentle pace to going active by hiking or biking the steep hillside vineyards or scurrying up ancient Roman ruins.
Visiting the Alpilles
Among the pleasures of our Provence cruise are the select programs in the Masterpiece Collection. Making it convenient and easy to travel to the heart of the Alpilles mountains, to Les Baux-de-Provence, a village classified as one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. At the foot of Les Baux, we enter a limestone quarry (Val d’Enfer), for a one-of-a-kind exhibition, Carrières de Lumières, a multimedia show projecting classical art on the floor, pillars, and walls of this cave from Roman times. It is a must-see when visiting Provence and the fortified hilltop villages.
We complete our day ashore with an olive farm tour in Fontvielle at Moulin à Huile Saint Jean, in the Alpilles Natural Regional Park. Strolling the olive groves was an immersive education in growing, harvesting and processing olives at this six-generation farm. A dedicated family shared their stories and passion for olive cultivation, managing 11 hectares and 4200 olive trees in this protected area.
We end our first day of tours and sightseeing by sailing to Avignon and docking near the Pont Saint Bénézet bridge. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset overlooking the Rhône, accompanied by a gourmet meal paired with local wines. Tomorrow we will step off our hotel-style river ship with ease and grace to explore Avignon and its UNESCO World Heritage sites before we continue our cruise north to discover more of Europe’s great landmarks.
Additional Visitor Information:
Arles Tourism Office (website)
9 Boulevard des Lices
Tourism Office of Avignon (website)
41 cours Jean Jaurès
Carrières de Lumières (website)
Moulin à Huile Saint Jean (website)
Route de Saint Jean
++Having travelled on the great rivers of Europe for more than a decade, there are few journeys more endearing than slowly plying Europe’s rivers. We have used river cruising to bookend overland travel across Europe. It is a bespoke way of travel to be up-close and personal to iconic landmarks, flower-laden villages, and picturesque hamlets.