Uniworld Burgundy & Provence Review
The first tip for anyone going on holiday at the moment is to print off any paperwork that you are asked to produce - scrolling through emails to find the covid passport, the Passenger Locator forms for both Belgium and the UK, and the proof of testing on return is a pain! Print them off ready to produce when required. And double check that you have everything you need - 2 people on our flight were denied boarding as they didn’t have the declarations needed for their onward flights. But that’s where a good travel agent (like ourselves) come in to make sure that you have everything that you need!
Mandatory masks in all airports and on all flights made us feel safer - it becomes automatic when you get used to it, and they are also worn on transfer coaches and when on board the ship. It really doesn’t spoil things though - only required when walking around and not whilst sitting in the lounge, bars or restaurant.
The SS Catherine is fabulous, with a superb crew - the furnishings are beautiful with original artworks everywhere, from paintings to sculptures. The overall feeling is of space and light, with floor to ceiling windows allowing fabulous views. There is a beautiful lounge bar serving every drink you could think of, all included in the price of course. The restaurant is spacious with superb service from the staff - nothing is too much trouble - and the food is excellent with lots of choice and imaginative menus. The Leopard bar at the back of the ship is a wonderful place to enjoy a post dinner drink or two, beautiful furnishings with leopard sculptures and paintings - huge windows giving great views as the ship sails to its next destination.
We had a French balcony stateroom which had the comfiest bed ever! The cabin was beautiful with lots of storage space and even had underfloor heating in the bathroom. The floor to ceiling windows can be lowered at the touch of a button to leave a French balcony - perfect for enjoying the views.
On the Rhone, the bridges are very low, so there is no pool on the top deck, although there are lots of loungers and chairs to relax on, again with waiter service should you want a drink whilst watching the world go by. There is a lovely indoor pool and a gym if you want to work off some calories. Spa treatments are also available - this is the only thing that costs extra.
The itinerary was wonderful - there is so much to see in Lyon, from the artisan shops to the cobbled streets in the old town which are connected by secret passageways called ‘traboules’ which were used by the French Resistance to meet in secret.
Next we visited Macon and the vineyards. The following day we walked to the top of the vineyards in Tain L’Ermitage, for spectacular views of the river and the countryside below. (And wine tasting of course!)
Next stop was Viviers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape - a medieval walled village where time seems to have stood still! Medieval houses on cobbled streets - nothing has changed for centuries. Sitting in the sunshine, in the square, enjoying a coffee - perfect!
Avignon was simply spectacular - again, a walled town with the famous bridge which is actually a 2000 year old aqueduct built by the Romans. The Palace of the Popes is fascinating - home to the popes who fled Italy and made Avignon their home. The town itself is a great place to stroll around - the market and shops selling local wines and produce are well worth a visit.
Arles was our last port of call - the Roman Amphitheatre is still in use, and the Roman influence is everywhere from the remains of the theatre to the bridges built across the Rhone. Arles feels different to the rest of France - it is only relatively recently that they started to speak French in this region, the Provencal language is still spoken as well as French. Van Gogh lived in Arles and painted many of his most famous paintings here - Starry Night for example.
The ‘mistral’ wind was blowing while we were here - it blows down the Rhone river at certain times of the year and blows away any clouds leaving beautiful blue skies and ‘starry nights’ - artists have been coming here for centuries for the brilliant light.
I would highly recommend Uniworld - their ships are wonderful with the highest standards of service; everything is included in the cost from the flights and transfers; the fabulous food and drinks on offer (local produce and wines are served each evening at dinner so we experienced the very best that each region has to offer) to the the included tours and excursions. No need to tip either as that is taken care of in the cost as well - it really is ‘Premium All Inclusive’. We were able to sample local wines and produce and sample the handmade chocolate - again, all part of the ‘inclusive’ tours and excursions.
Highlights of the cruise (other than the excellent food and drink!) were definitely the places we visited - the local, knowledgeable guides were wonderful at bringing the past to life for us all, and I was amazed at the history of the towns and villages that we visited. From the Roman to the medieval it really was like stepping back in time - and we simply couldn’t fault anything at all.
If you'd like to speak to us about any Uniworld or French River Cruise, call 0800 810 8220