A Bordeaux river cruise conjures dreams of legendary wine chateaux, among them Lafite Rothschild, d'Yquem, and Margaux. On this itinerary, you'll enjoy wine tastings, special pairings, and perhaps even a bike ride through vineyards or a truffle hunt. Cruises all start and end in the city of Bordeaux, looping into the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and Western Europe’s largest estuary, the Gironde. Trips last four to 11 days; longer voyages add cities such as Cognac and the coastal oyster center of Arcachon. The season runs from March through December, but harvest — which varies from late August to early October — is a special time to visit.
What We Love
Impressive Chateaux: Beyond great wines, you'll see gorgeous old chateaux resembling castles and palaces. Tasting opportunities abound, but advance appointments are essential.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Bordeaux's picturesque port, Blaye's centuries-old city walls and fortresses, and the Saint-Émilion region are all steeped in history.
Best Known For
The Wine: Sip elegant reds — typically blends of cabernet and merlot grapes — or complex, sweeter whites, such as Sauternes and Cadillacs. Every port offers an opportunity for tastings.
The Food: Savor seafood platters and slurp local oysters, or try “Entrecôte à la Bordelaise,” rib steak in red-wine sauce. Pop into a bakery for “canneles,” petite caramelized pastries.
Shop for Cruises
Bordeaux: With its grand 18th-century buildings, tempting shops, and a vast pedestrianized area, this city is second only to Paris in French historical monuments.
Libourne: The town's renowned market overflows with produce, cheeses, charcuterie, and flowers. Nearby, Saint-Émilion offers medieval streets and a 12th-century Monolithic Church, which was dug into the rocky hillside.
Blaye: Tour the 17th-century citadel and roam the city walls, or take a side trip to Cognac for a snifter of the town's namesake brandy.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Beware of Strong Tides: Tidal flows may affect sailing times and prevent docking, necessitating busing to a destination.
Sailing Distances Are Short: If you're a fan of long, lazy days floating down a river, this may not be your trip.
Gayle Keck is a San Francisco-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.