Sailing with Viking River Cruises, we stopped by a number of ports on an itinerary themed “Portraits Of Southern France. Exploring many of the places that inspired a number of renowned artists, we sailed from Avignon north to Lyon in nearly perfect weather, just right for a relaxing summer cruise. Along the way, we traveled in comfort, unpacking just once and seeing 8 different places in one week. Different than an ocean cruise, a Viking River Cruise includes around-the clock complementary Internet access; beer, wine and soft drinks with meals; a guided tour at each port and more. Here is a sampling of what we saw on the unique itinerary no other cruise line does.
We began in Avignon, overnighting there with an easy first day, allowing passengers to get over the effects of jet lag. We would then sail south to Tarascon before returning to Avignon the next day for the first of the included tours at each destination.
In Tarascon we explored a castle visible from our ship, a ten-minute walk away. Tarascon is still associated with fairytales and legends dating back to prehistory. One of the main attractions is the castle of King Rene, built here because of the strategic location.
We took a Viking River Cruises bus to Arles for a walking tour of the town beloved by Vincent Van Gogh. We passed many sited depicted in his work including what is now known as the Van Gogh Café. Arles was once the richest city of the Roman Empire after Rome and the Roman arena there is still used today.
A destination of its own, scenic cruising is a big part of the river cruise experience. On the way to the next port, Viking longships pass countryside, towns, campgrounds, parks and, especially on this southern France itinerary, vineyards.
In Vienne, we took a small-scale train to a location high above the city for a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area. While modern buildings have replaced most of the ancient architecture below, the Rhone River winds its way though the area much like it did when Romans viewed it.
We went by bus for a general overview of Lyon then on foot through the old town area, stopping along the way for our local guide to detail areas of interest.
The delightful riverside town of Tournon is at the center of an important wine-producing region known for its Rhone Valley Wines. While there, we visited a winery typical of the area that produces 80,000 bottles a year.