Rhone River Cruise: Burgundy and Provence

May 12-19, 2024

Itinerary | The Ship | Pricing | FAQ | Reserve

SS Catherine

Grand Suite, Suite, and Deluxe Balcony categories are now sold out, waitlist open. French Balcony (15 available), Classic Cabin (1 available), and Classic Single (1 available) categories are available.

There is no better way to see France than from the top deck of a 5-star vessel sailing up the Rhone River. Fantastic wine, ancient and modern architecture, outstanding cuisine, incredible history, and unspoiled natural beauty.

Winemakers Chris Peterson of Avennia Winery, Sean Boyd of Rotie Cellars, Peggy and John Bigelow of JM Cellars, and Morgan Lee of Two Vintners will co-host this 7-day, all-inclusive cruise program. Join the ship in Arles, the heart of Provence. Cruise up the Saone and Rhone Rivers through storied wine regions to Macon in Burgundy.

We’ll have the opportunity to sample wines from Burgundy, Provence, and points in between. Enjoy Scheduled evening discussions, cocktails or a glass of wine on deck, dining with friends in the Cezanne Restaurant, wonderful cuisine on and off the ship, and a wide selection of shore tours each day.

This specially chartered cruise includes accommodations on the luxurious SS Catherine as she travels from Arles north to Lyon, all meals, adult beverages, most shore excursions, taxes & gratuities. By chartering the entire vessel, we’re able to offer exclusive low rates to our guests and provide a unique educational and entertaining program on board.

  • Sample vintages as we cruise the Saone and Rhone Rivers.
  • Shore excursions in the villages on the river
  • Dine with old and new friends
  • Evening entertainment on board and ashore
  • Wine discussion throughout the week

Itinerary

The route of the SS Catherine

DAY 1: Arles (Embark)

Arrive at the Marseille airport, where you will be met and transferred to the ship. You’re encouraged to come early to experience a revitalized Marseille or spend time in Nice, Cannes, or elsewhere on the Côte d’Azur. The ship departs the dock at 7 PM this evening. Guests can board the ship as early as 1 PM.

DAY 2: Tarascon/Arles

Explore one of two sun-drenched Provençal towns today, each with an allure all its own. Known for its remarkable Roman ruins, Arles so inspired Van Gogh that he painted some 200 paintings there.

Beaune

Tarascon boasts an ancient castle, as well as a local legend about a ferocious dragon. Arles has existed since the sixth century BC, when it was first founded by the ancient Greeks. It was here that the Romans built their first bridge across the Rhône River, creating a vital overland route between Italy and Spain and facilitating the expansion of their empire.

Long renowned as one of the region’s most attractive cities, Arles lured artist Vincent van Gogh, who painted hundreds of works here (including Sunflowers and The Yellow House) in just 15 months. A short distance from Arles is the ancient and charming town of Tarascon. Its many medieval sites include a 12th-century church and a 15th-century castle that is rich with tales of a beloved ruler. Bask in the warmth of the Provençal sunlight in either of these friendly Mediterranean towns.

Tarascon

DAY 3: Avignon

The walled city of Avignon is one of the most fascinating towns in southern France, with a host of historic gems to explore—including the fortress residence of rebellious popes who broke from Rome and once lived and ruled here. You’ll see the Palace of the Popes and much more today, and also have a chance to kayak under a 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct.

DAY 4: Viviers

Meet some new friends today in the village of Viviers; encounters that really get at the heart and soul of the French people and their culture and traditions. No matter whom you get to know—a pottery maker, a dance teacher or a local homeowner—you’ll have an enjoyable and truly authentic experience, something you’ll remember for years to come.

An enchanting village where time seems to have stopped centuries ago, Viviers has a long and storied past that goes back more than 1,600 years—and a splendid architectural heritage to match. At one time, Viviers was divided along religious lines—the clergy lived in the upper part of the town, the laity in the lower part. Your exploration of the town will take you through both parts, as you begin at the crest and make your way to the riverbank.

Cheese

DAY 5: Tournon (Tain-l’Hermitage), Lyon

If you love fine wine, you’ll love the twin villages of Tournon and Tain l’Hermitage. Whether you opt for a guided walk or a more vigorous vineyard hike, you’ll also have a chance to taste the local specialty—wonderful wines made primarily from Syrah grapes.

DAY 6: Lyon

As the epicenter of French gastronomy, Lyon is a city of tantalizing contrasts. There’s much to explore here, from the work of culinary visionaries to silk weavers’ secret passageways. After your choice of excursions, embrace the locals’ favorite mode of transportation with a patisserie-fueled bike ride—a great way to see the sights. Two rivers: one tranquil, one torrential. Two hills: one for labor, where the sound of the silk weavers’ looms used to echo; the other for prayers, crowned by a spectacular basilica.

Two cities, as different as night and day: one boasting colorful Old-World façades, medieval mansions and hidden passageways; one with a sophisticated urbanity reminiscent of Paris. Situated at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, and with roots stretching back over 2,000 years to the days of Julius Caesar, Lyon is a place of fascinating dualities.

Today you have your choice of ways to explore this city of contrasts: Sample its culinary riches with a visit to its peerless market hall or follow the footsteps of the silk weavers in the old quarter. For a more active option, see the city from its extensive—and lovely—bike
paths.

DAY 7: Mâcon (Beaune)

The pace of life is decidedly more relaxed in Burgundy, where endless rows of grapes hang heavy on the vine. The capital of the region’s wine trade, Beaune, is renowned for its history, beauty and highly prized wine, as well as its medieval-era hospital—the Hospices de Beaune. Located in the southernmost part of Burgundy, Mâcon, a Saône River port, is your gateway to Beaune.

DAY 8: Lyon (disembark), transfer Lyon Airport for flights

Disembark the ship. If your flight departs today, you will be transferred to Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport for your flight home. Alternatively, you may opt to spend a few more days in Lyon, consider a TGV Train to Paris, or join the post-cruise extension to Champagne.

Pricing

Your cruise costs (per person, based on double occupancy)

CategoryBrochure PriceNW Travel Charter Price
Grand Suite$12,199$10,899 Grand Suites sold out
Suite$9,799$8,699 Suites sold out
Deluxe Balcony$6,599$5,999 Deluxe Balcony sold out
French Balcony$6,099$5,499
Classic$4,799$3,599
Classic Single+n/a$5,489
You may waitlist for any cabin category.

These prices apply for payment by Visa or MasterCard. An additional discount is available to guests paying by check in lieu of credit card (Visa/Master Card). Discount (per person) Classic: $100, French Balcony: $120, Deluxe Balcony: $150, Suite: $250, Grand Suite: $300 Port tax of $220 per person is included in all pricing.

+Just six single cabins are available in Classic Category
If you’re interested in sharing a cabin, there is a single traveler list started.

To reserve your stateroom:

An initial deposit of $1,000 per person is required to confirm your reservation. A second deposit of $2000 per person is due June 15th, 2023. Balance of payment is due January 10th, 2024.

Booking Early has its benefits.

An early booking incentive is in place through the end of February 2023. Guests will earn an on board credit of $300 per person, provided their reservation is booked and deposited by February 28th, 2023. This credit may be used on board ship in the spa or for any of the additional shore tours developed and managed by Northwest Travel Service. Uniworld provides one shore tour each day that is included in your cruise costs. There will be a multitude of additional wine tasting opportunities, a truffle farm excursion, many Michelin lunch opportunities, and other tours along the cruise route.

Booking early will guarantee:

  • Best choice of stateroom selection
  • Priority for pre- and post-cruise tours
  • Priority for limited-capacity shore tours

The Ship

SS Catherine Accommodations

To get a better sense of the cabin amenities and layout, visit this page at the Uniworld site.

Grand Suite

  • Lavishly appointed river view royal suite (401 sq ft – 38 sq m) with an open-air balcony
  • Handcrafted Savoir® of England beds, generous built-in closets, hair dryer, individual climate-control thermostat, direct-dial telephone, flat screen TV with infotainment center, safe, separate spacious living room and a bathroom with a separate rain shower and tub, and a secluded toilet and bidet area
  • Triple accommodation option available. The sofa converts into a comfortable bed to accommodate a third person
  • Marble bathroom includes L’Occitane en Provence and Hermes bath and body products, plush towels, special towel warmers, backlit magnifying mirror, heated mirrors, cozy bathrobes and slippers
  • Additional amenities and services include: in-suite butler service; packing and unpacking assistance; in-room breakfast; daily fruit and cookie plate, and an elegant evening snack; Nespresso coffee machine and fine teas; fully stocked mini bar; bottle of wine upon arrival; shoe shine; free laundry service; and a special dinner in Bar du Leopard

Suite

  • Lavishly appointed river view suite (305 sq ft – 28.3 sq m) with an open-air balcony
  • Handcrafted Savoir® of England beds, generous built-in closets, hair dryer, individual climate-control thermostat, direct-dial telephone, flat screen TV with infotainment center, and safe
  • Triple accommodation option available. The sofa converts into a comfortable bed to accommodate a third person
  • Marble bathroom includes L’Occitane en Provence and Hermes bath and body products, plush towels, special towel warmers, backlit magnifying mirror, heated mirrors, cozy bathrobes and slippers
  • Uniquely decorated and additional amenities and services, including: in-suite butler service; packing and unpacking assistance; in-room breakfast; daily fruit and cookie plate, and an elegant evening snack; Nespresso coffee machine and fine teas; fully stocked mini bar; bottle of wine upon arrival; shoe shine; free laundry service; and a special dinner in Bar du Leopard

Deluxe Balcony

  • Lavishly appointed river view stateroom (194 sq ft – 18 sq m) with open-air balcony
  • Handcrafted Savoir® of England beds, generous built-in closets, hair dryer, individual climate-control thermostat, direct-dial telephone, flat screen TV with infotainment center, and safe
  • Marble bathroom includes: L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, special towel warmers, backlit magnifying mirror, heated mirrors, cozy bathrobes and slippers

French Balcony

  • Lavishly appointed river view stateroom (194 sq ft – 18 sq m) with a French balcony
  • Handcrafted Savoir® of England beds, generous built-in closets, hair dryer, individual climate-control thermostat, direct-dial telephone, flat screen TV with infotainment center, and safe
  • Marble bathroom includes: L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, special towel warmers, backlit magnifying mirror, heated mirrors, cozy bathrobes and slippers

Classic Stateroom

  • Lavishly appointed river view stateroom (162 sq ft – 15 sq m)
  • Handcrafted Savoir® of England beds, generous built-in closets, hair dryer, individual climate-control thermostat, direct-dial telephone, flat screen TV with infotainment center, and safe
  • Marble bathroom includes: L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, special towel warmers, backlit magnifying mirror, heated mirrors, cozy bathrobes and slippers

Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ)

FAQ for 2024 in France

Uniworld Experience

In July 2015, Northwest Travel chartered the River Royale for seven nights in Bordeaux. My previous river cruising experience up to that time had all been with Viking River Cruises. I could not have been more pleased with my personal experience as coordinator and with the comments and reviews provided by my guests during and after the cruise. Since then, Northwest Travel has chosen Uniworld for 6 river cruise events with the same fantastic service and attention to detail. It was an easy decision to choose Uniworld for this 2024 event.

If you have enjoyed other river cruise companies, I guarantee you will love what Uniworld has elevated the experience to.

Air Transportation

Flight details for arrivals and departures:

My first recommendation for flights is to be aware of how much connection time you’re allowing via Airport such as Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Amsterdam or London/Heathrow. Better to have 3-4 hours connecting and cool your heels in the terminal that try to make a 1-hour connection via Paris. If your inbound flight is even slightly delayed, you’ll have a tough time making that connection. Even if you get there, your bag may not.

The ship departs from the port of Arles in the south of France late in the afternoon on May 12th. It’s suggested that you plan to arrive early to take full advantage of your time aboard. You’re able to board the ship as early as 1:00 PM. Arles is well worth a few days on its own. Think about arriving a few days early.

Marseilles (MRS) is the closest airport to Arles, the start of the cruise. Uniworld provides transfers to the pier in Avignon for guests arriving on from 6:00 AM until 4:00 PM on May 12th. There are also fast trains that will take you from the terminal at Charles de Gaulle Airport to central Arles. With one change of train en route, the journey will take a little less than 5 hours. Trains also depart from Central Paris (Gare de Lyon) with about the same travel time.

Flights will range in price depending on schedule, carrier and class of service. Historically, you should expect to pay $1200 for flights into Marseilles, returning from Lyon (LYS) from Seattle or Portland. Fares are about $200 less from San Francisco.

Vancouver continues to be an excellent alternative to Seattle or Portland for discount travel to Europe. Comparisons made for May travel show Vancouver flights between $700-$800 round trip.

The cruise ends in Lyon the morning of Sunday, May 19th. Flights may be booked to depart any time that morning. Uniworld will provide airport transportation for all flights departing from Lyon (LYS) on the 19th from 6:00 AM until 4:00 PM.

Hotel suggestions for guests arriving early or staying later. Both cities are worth a few more days. Arriving early allows you to adjust to any jetlag or time change. It also guarantees that you won’t miss a departure due to delayed flights.

Arles: Two hotels selected that are well-rated and moderately priced. Either a medium walk or a short Uber to the ship.

Hotel L’Arlatan-Upscale property with distinctive style
Maison Volver-A little less expensive on a quiet street

Lyon: Both properties were suggested for guests with the group in 2022. There are no hotels that I can suggest close to the ship, so taxi or Uber is necessary.

Fourviere Hotel-Former Convent that makes for a unique accommodation.
Hotel de L’Abbaye-Traditional property close to shopping and restaurants

Flights for Guests coming to Nice:
You will depart for Nice (NCE) on Wednesday, May 8th, arriving on May 9th.

Tour Extensions

Three-night Nice/Monaco Historic Grand Prix pre-cruise tour includes:

  • Services of a local guide
  • Three nights in Nice at Le Meridien Hotel with breakfast
  • Welcome cocktail near the hotel
  • Walking tour of Nice’s old quarter
  • Afternoon sightseeing cruise
  • 1-day Hop on/hop off bus pass around Nice and the Cote d’Azur
  • Daylong excursion to Monaco to witness the Monaco Historic Grand Prix**
  • Transportation to Avignon to join the cruise***

*Le Meridien Hotel is located on the Promenade des Anglais, right on Nice’s famous pebble beach, adjacent to the Albert 1st Gardens and a 15 minute walk from historic Old Nice.

** First organized in 1997, the biennial Historic Grand Prix is a celebration of the rich history of what many consider to be the crown jewel of Formula 1 racing. It does so by inviting cars of a type that competed at Monaco between 1927 and 1985 to race on the challenging street circuit once again. This day will include round trip transportation to Monaco and the viewing suite, complete with food and drink.

**Coach transportation from the Nice hotel to the ship in Arles for boarding. En-route, we’ll stop near Aix-en-Provence for wine tasting and a light lunch.

Single price for this tour is $2690. A discount of $70 applies if paid by check.

Double price is $2390 per person. A discount of $70 applies if paid by check.

To confirm this tour, a deposit of $500 per person is due. Balance is due with the cruise payment in January 2024.

Extra nights are available at the hotel for early arrivals for $325 a night, including breakfast.

Inbound airport transfers are not included. Nice-Cote d’Azur Airport is less than 4 miles from the hotel. Uber transportation will cost about $20 for the ride. Taxi is roughly the same amount. If you’re not using the Uber app yet, you should be.

Any guest not wishing to participate in Monte Carlo race day will deduct $700 per person from the package cost.

Three-night Champagne post-cruise extension includes:

  • Coach transportation from the Lyon Pier to our hotel in Reims
  • Services of a local guide in Champagne
  • Burgundy wine tasting visit at Chassagne Montrachet with a light lunch en-route to Reims
  • Three nights’ hotel in Reims at La Caserne Chanzy
  • 2 full days of touring and tasting the Champagne houses in the region
  • Evening Champagne Dinner
  • Coach transportation from Reims to CDG/Paris for flights home

* A similar tour in 2017 and 2022 was provided prior to our departure from Lyon. The actual Champagne houses on the visitation schedule won’t be known until early 2024. Here is a sample list of some of the houses visited in 2018. Moët and Chandon, Taittinger, Mercier, Pommery, & Comtesse Lafond and a number of independent producers.

Single price for this tour is $2,700. A discount of $75 applies if paid by check.

Double price is $2,250 per person. A discount of $60 per person applies if paid by check. A deposit of $500 is due at time of confirmation. Balance is with cruise balance in January 2024.

Aboard Ship

The order of the day is casual. There is no reason to pack any formal wear for your time aboard. The cruise line asks that you dress appropriately for dinner and evening time. There will be evening events scheduled both on and off ship. Our winemakers will discuss the regions at associated wines as we progress on our route.

You need not be concerned with motion during the cruise. River cruise ships are not subject to the same type of side to side motion common to ocean-going vessels.

There are three scheduled meals per day with table sizes ranging from two to ten guests. Seating is not assigned. Dine with a group of friends each evening or mix it up to enjoy your meal with friends met along the way. Wine, beer, and spirits are included with your cruise.

DRESS

If you choose to participate in one or more of the Michelin starred dining options off the ship, you’ll want to dress accordingly. Paul Bocuse restaurant in Lyon, for example, defines their dress code as “elegant casual.” Jackets and trousers are required.

It can be quite warm in the South of France in May. Shorts and tees are perfectly acceptable ashore for touring. Dinners aboard would like a higher standard with a ‘no shorts’ policy in the dining room.

Documentation

You’ll need a valid passport, which much have at least 6 months validity from the date of entry in France. No additional visa is needed for US or Canadian citizens (at least not yet).

Your stateroom

The SS Catherine was launched in 2014. She holds 158 guests in a variety of stateroom configurations and sizes. Some cabins offer picture windows, while others provide French or full-sized balconies. Determine what’s right for you by looking over the cabin descriptions above or visiting the web page at SS Catherine Staterooms.

Dining

The ship provides three meals a day, beginning with a breakfast buffet, plated lunch and dinner. Tables are not assigned. You’re free to dine with different group of friends each evening. The ship is able to accommodate a wide range of dietary restrictions and allergies.

The SS Catherine has a wonderful little alternative restaurant located aft on Camargue Deck. This 30-seat Bar du Leopard provides an opportunity for a semi-private dining experience for smaller groups.

Sightseeing

At least one Uniworld shore tour per day is included in the cost of your cruise. These tours are supplemented by additional tours that are available as an option. Tours will include visits to Michelin restaurants, additional visits to wine producers, and a truffle farm experience.

I anticipate that additional wine visits will cost approximately $30-$45 each, mostly to cover transportation costs and tasting fees. Pricing for Michelin Experiences, including the restaurant of Paul Bocuse, will be determined by the menu and Euro exchange. In 2017 and 2022, lunches at these restaurants ranged from $150-$900 per person, depending on the restaurant. These events were so popular and sold out so quickly, that additional experiences will be added this year. Specific pricing will be available in the latter part of 2023. Early booking guests will earn priority in selecting these tour options, though participation may be limited to one per person until additional availability is determined.

Weather

May is an excellent time to visit the region. Summer tourists have not yet arrived en masse, and the weather is fairly moderate with average temperatures ranging from 60°-75° in Lyon to 63°-78° in Avignon. Both locations average about an inch of rain for the month. We’ll have over 14.5 daylight hours for touring in May as summer approaches.

Deposit and payment schedule

Payments made to Northwest Travel Service are non-refundable. If you need to cancel, I will do everything possible to find someone to take your place. Cancellation insurance is an option to protect your deposit. Trip cancellation will cost between 6% and 10% of the total cost of your tour. I’ve had very good results with two insurance companies with links provided below.

An initial deposit of $1000 per person is required to confirm your reservation; a second deposit of $2000 per person due June 15th, and  the balance due by January 10th, 2024.

Port or Starboard? Which side should I choose?

I’ve cruised this itinerary a few times and the cruise line has confirmed my opinion that there is little to no beneficial “edge” of one side of the ship or the other. The ship may dock with either side to the shore and there is every possibility that you’ll either raft next to another ship or have a ship tie up next to you. Pick a cabin adjacent to your friends or choose one across the hall from yours so that you’ll always have a view. If you’re doing it right, you won’t be spending much time in your cabin anyway!

What if I need to cancel my cruise?

Because payments are nonrefundable, travel insurance is suggested. Both of the companies listed below have a policy rate calculator online. Enter the cost of your tour and personal data to receive a no-obligation cost estimate.

Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance
There are a lot of insurance companies out there. I don’t sell insurance myself, but can suggest a couple places below that will provide no-obligation quotes. These are two that I have had relatively good luck on with payments of claims.

Generali Travel Insurance
Travelex Insurance

Make Your Reservation!

If you have any questions about this tour, please contact Brad Cilley at brad@nwtravel.com or by phone at 425 375 2676.

SS Catherine

    Cabin type
    Grand Suite-sold outSuite-Currently sold outDeluxe Balcony-sold outFrench BalconyClassicClassic Single

    Are you arriving early for additional nights at the hotel?
    YesNo

    Pre-cruise tour to Nice/Monaco
    YesNo

    Are you planning to attend the Monaco Race Event?
    YesNo

    Post-cruise tour to Champagne
    YesNo

    Affiliation:
    Avennia WineryJM CellarsRotie CellarsTwo Vintnersnone of the referenced winemakers

    Payment (required)
    I would prefer to pay by check to take advantage of the discountI will pay by Visa or MasterCard (secure link will be emailed to you for payment)