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Trip Report Uniworld's Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux River Cruise

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A few days ago I posted my October France travel report on the Europe Forum since I had spent the first five days in Paris. In retrospect, I'm thinking I'll post just the river cruise section here for those specifically interested.

After five days in Paris I boarded an early morning TGV to Bordeaux from Gare Montparnesse to meet up with a very much anticipated third River cruise. (The first was on Tauck through Provence and the second on Avalon through Netherlands/Belgium). Three hours later I cabbed it to the quay where Uniworld's River Royale was docked and awaiting passengers. Suffice it to say, it was an awesome week of river cruising, visiting chateaux and tasting wine after wine while traveling from vineyard to vineyard on each day's excursion. Ah yes, a real bacchanal. Well, it felt that way to me.

Loved my double rather ornate cabin with floor to ceiling windows (I upgraded on reserving when the single supplement was dropped). A friendly, easy going, well traveled group of 100-110(?) on the ship ensured lots of good conversation along with excellent menu choices, well prepared meals and accompanying wines. Drinks in the lounge included in the fare before and after dinner, along with nightly entertainment made for a lot of happy cruisers. Afternoon tea with finger sandwiches and sweets was served daily, a nice touch I enjoyed very much.

Unlike the two other cruises I have been on, there is no mini fridge in the cabin. Uniworld's policy of "going green" involves drinking water being replaced/refreshed each day in a glass carafe and a Uniworld metal container is provided for "take with" water. Shampoo and liquid soap are dispensed from pump bottles in both sink area and shower, rather than individual containers. This took some getting used to. The bar of soap I brought with me came in handy so I didn't have to reach up to pump the soap each time I washed my hands. The ever present large jar of wrapped candies on the credenza took the place of a chocolate on the pillow at turndown. That I liked!

The itinerary for this River cruise was very well paced, with built in leisure time which I appreciated after the other two, where the activities were back to back. This one provided opportunity for a breather here and there, without feeling that something vital would be missed. Of the three cruises I've been on, this one was the most enjoyable in terms of the ship's amenities, the itinerary and the ship staffing.

The River Royale is beautifully appointed. In addition to the lovely cabins, there is a library with comfy sofas, a coffee room off the main dining room, casual choice lunch restaurant on the top deck, as well as spa/exercise room, expansive sun deck - seating open and covered, whirlpool tub area with lounge chairs. Adjacent to the main dining room is a formal, intimate dining space for dinner, with seating for eighteen or so and available on reservation. The main dining room could be configured a little better. The booth-like window tables were isolating. Having experienced the rounded into the room booths of the other two ships, I believe they were more comfortable, although for those couples preferring their own company they were certainly better placed for that.

Three buses were provided each day for the various tours, one designated for "slow walkers". Walking sticks were available as well as bicycles offered as an alternative touring choice. It was a surprisingly fit group and many did opt to bike through vineyards or towns each time the choice was available. The local guides for each of the tours were outstanding in their knowledge and very personable. Our Tour Director would hold a briefing each evening for the next day during cocktail hour in the lounge and a written schedule would be placed in the cabin to that effect during the dinner hour as well. Florence was a hands on, extremely competent Tour Director, totally engaged, keeping everyone under her warm, watchful eye.

An ancient walled city, Bordeaux at night is magnificent. The optional cooking class I chose on the final day at The Grand Hotel Bordeaux was truly a highlight and I have the apron to prove it. Lunch in a bistro in Bergerac with my new ship acquaintance from Sydney was memorable. The chateaux in Sauternes where we lunched one of the days accompanied by three - you guessed it - Sauternes of that region - excellent! St. Emillion is a beautiful place and we toured the area and grotto where the saint was known to have lived. Dark, very dark. There were jaunts to Cadillac and Bourg. Seven days of fabulous, it was.

Weather wise, it could not have been better. Just a few rain drops, cool comfortable scarf wearing temps most days with a few warm ones here and there, excellent walking conditions. All in all, a perfect week at the end of October, my favorite time to travel.

I arrived home on November 1st, planning to write up my TR once recovered from jet lag and before the memories began to fade but the tragic Paris events of November 13 have overshadowed. One never gets over such atrocity, let alone forget, but as another contributor on this site has written, somehow one must pick up and move on. Paris, I stand with you.

I'm now researching where and when my next river cruise might take place. I seem to be addicted to this mode of travel!

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