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Bordeaux River Cruises

When one thinks of the region of Bordeaux, it is impossible to not also think of wine. With almost 300,000 acres of vineyards growing 15 different grape varietals—everything from popular Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc to lesser known varietals such as Carménère and Mauzac—Bordeaux is unequivocally the top wine-producing region in France. Similarly, when one thinks of a Bordeaux river cruise, it is impossible to not think of château tours and Grand Cru tastings. Fortunately, on a Scenic Bordeaux river cruise, itineraries abound with both.

Bordeaux River Cruising 

As they sail relaxingly down the Garonne River, a 357-mile-long waterway that begins in the Pyrenees Mountains, wine aficionados can explore Château Guiraud, a producer of 1st Grand Cru Classe dessert wines with a history that dates to the mid-18th century. The château’s wines begin when the grapes are picked by hand, and they culminate after two years of maturation in French oak barrels. Guests can also take a cycling tour to Château de Myrat, a winery started by the Pontac family, which first began making wine in 1533.

As the cruise transitions to the Dordogne River—a 293-mile-long waterway that is protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Culural Organization (UNESCO)—wine-centric activities include a sunset tasting at Château Soutard in Saint-Emilion, where the winery’s Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines glow a breathtaking red and gold in the fading rays of sunlight. Other experiences include a tour of Château Franc Mayne and the ancient Roman ruins found on its estate; a tour and tasting at Chateau Gruaud-Larose, an estate that fosters vineyards that have survived since the 18th century; and a cycling tour to Château Lagrange, a Third Growth (Troisièmes Crus) estate that Napoleon III selected to be part of a French wine exhibit at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1855—an event that celebrated and showcased the finest French products and arts.

Bordeaux River Cruises

Sail with Scenic on the Left Bank of the Gironde and you will discover the commune Pauillac as well as Château Giscours. Home to some of the finest wines in the world, Pauillac is best known for harboring three of the five premier cru châteaux of Bordeaux, while Château Giscours is famous for its spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

An Indulgent Culinary Experience

While in the Médoc district of Bordeaux—a district that is home to the revered wine villages of Pauillac, Margaux, Saint-Estephe, and Saint-Julien—Bordeaux river cruise guests can opt to attend a four-course dinner at Château Giscours, an estate that was also selected by Napoleon III for the Exposition Universelle, and one that produces a red blend that consistently earns 90-plus points from critics. This indulgent culinary experience is enhanced by Grand Cru wine pairings with each course, and it also features live musical performances of well-known classical arrangements.

A Bordeaux river cruise with Scenic includes plenty of indulgent experiences that extend beyond wine glass or the vineyard. For example, guests who choose to explore the historic, fortified city of Cognac can learn the fine art of brandy distillation with tours and tastings at Remy Martin, one of the city’s six most exceptional distilleries. While in Bergerac—a town that slowly developed around a castle built along the shores of the Dordogne River at the end of the 11th century—gourmands can learn about foie gras and taste the delicacy at a local farm. Later in their journey, guests can slurp oysters along the coast in Arcachon, one of France’s best-kept secrets for summer getaways. The town features a recently restored indoor market that is populated by food vendors as well as various bars and cafes. And finally, back in the city of Bordeaux, guests can accompany a chef to a local food market where they will learn of the region’s delicacies and can see firsthand how a chef evaluates ingredients.

Explore Bordeaux History

Scenic Bordeaux river cruises aren’t limited to just epicurean experiences and discoveries, however. History enthusiasts will relish the opportunity to tour Roquetaillade Castle, a fortified stone structure that was built by Cardinal de la Motte in 1306; though the historic site is also home to the ruins of a much older earth-and-timber castle that was built by King Charlemagne during his journey to the Pyrenees Mountains. Guests with a penchant for history and archaeology will also relish the opportunity to tour the vast underground catacombs of the Monolithic Church in Saint-Emilion. The church, which is Europe’s largest monolithic cathedral, was built in the early 12th century atop a series of caves where it is believed a Breton monk named Emilion (after whom the city is named) lived and performed miracles during the 8th century. After exploring the catacombs, visitors should take the time to climb the 196 steps of the church’s bell tower, where they will be granted panoramic vistas of the medieval village.

Scenic Bordeaux river cruising itineraries also include activities that will appeal to nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, such as visits to Terres d’Oiseaux, an almost 300-acre nature preserve that is home to more than 100 species of birds; and an 18-mile, round-trip cycling tour through the Blaye region of France, which, throughout history, has provided Bordeaux with an extra line of defense against invasion.

Bordeaux River Cruises

While the Left Bank of the Gironde is best known for its red wines, the Right Bank is known for its whites. In this region, you will visit the town of Cognac, famous for Cognac Fine Champagne, the stronghold Blaye, known for its World Heritage-listed city walls and fort, and Libourne, home to exceptional Grand Cru classé wine and quaint 16th century townhouses.

Scenic Space Ships: All Inclusive Luxury Riverboats

Every Scenic French river cruise begins aboard one of the company’s boutique vessels or custom-built “space ships,” so named for their spacious guest cabins, dining, and entertaining areas. Each of these four-deck space ships includes numerous dining and sightseeing areas, as well as a lounge and bar area that offers panoramic views. Additionally, guests can soak up the rays at the top-deck swimming pool or retreat to the wellness center, which is equipped with a fitness area, beauty salon, and massage rooms. These ships are also noteworthy for their luxury suites, which are outfitted with sun lounges, 32-inch high-definition TVs, and complimentary wireless Internet access. 

Bordeaux river cruises take place aboard the Scenic Diamond, a 443-foot-long vessel that was refit in 2013. The ship can accommodate 167 passengers in 84 cabins, as well as 53 crew members.

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