Jo Ann Buening
Jo Ann Buening
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River Cruising – No Longer a Well Kept Secret
As we sailed the Saone and Rhone Rivers through the South of France, we couldn’t help but think ... this type of travel would be great for our clients who may enjoy traveling in Europe, but don't want to have to pack and unpack and/or spend hours and hours each day on a coach. No early morning 'bags out' with this type of travel. No fighting for deck chairs in the morning as oftentimes happens on some large cruise ships. Like traditional ocean cruising, your vessel is your floating hotel with meals and accommodations included, except instead of ‘island’ or ‘country’ ports of call, you visit cities along the river; usually with daily tours included or the ability to select optional tours (at an additional cost). This river cruise experience was on Uniworld's 128-passenger River Royale. On our itinerary, labeled 'Burgundy and Provence', we sailed from Chalon sur Saone to Arles and while on board, passed through 15 locks, a process we found very interesting. Every Uniworld ship is uniquely decorated by the Red Carnation Hotel brand; think of it as a boutique-style five-star floating hotel. Menus featured regional specialties (plus standard food choices), along with wine, beer and soft drinks included at lunch and dinner. The staff was very attentive and all spoke English. Some of our unique optional excursions … First - it was off to the truffle farm with wine-tasting at a local vineyard. We watched 'Amy', the truffle dog as she helped her master search for these tasty morsels. What trees do you think truffles grow beneath? Call us or stop in and ask; we'd be happy to tell you. Did you know 'truffle dogs' are actually fed truffles from birth? This way they acquire the smell and taste to hunt them. Of course, we saved the best for last with a 'hands-on' cooking class with a French chef at a five-star hotel; this even included shopping for our produce at the local market and choosing our menus. We enjoyed preparing the food as well as a wine-tasting activity in the cellar, followed by wine-pairing. Afterwards, what could be more fun than dining with Chef Jean Claude Altmayer and enjoying the meal we had prepared (together) with him? Imagine – preparing a meal with someone whose long and notable history included having cooked for five French presidents! On these excursions, voice boxes were used for the tour guides to talk to the passengers. They were wonderful and we could always hear what was being said. Every morning we disembarked Uniworld’s River Royale for our morning tour, equipped with our voice boxes. What fun days – venturing out and about in the area with our guides and then having the choice to stay in town or return to our beautiful riverboat to relax. As this article was being written, we were sitting on the top sundeck of our riverboat in Avignon, France. The breeze was cool, the moon full and the stars were out. When we departed, it was with relaxing, fond memories of Burgundy and Provence. River cruises can be experienced in many areas of the world including Asia, Egypt, Europe, Russia and the United States. We’re very lucky to now have two riverboats cruising some of America’s great rivers, including the Mississippi … the Queen of the Mississippi and the American Queen. We’ve been fortunate to have toured both vessels extensively and can share with you what makes either of them special. Interested in a River Cruise? Please call us at 608-784-9820; ask for a River Cruise Specialist and let us know the region in which you are interested. You can also reach us via e-mail at [email protected] or [email protected] Remember, most riverboats hold less than 200 passengers and river cruising has become so popular that booking nearly one year in advance is oftentimes necessary to obtain the best cabin choice as well as great pricing. Let our expertise help make your river cruising vacation all it can be! 020215