All-Inclusive Luxury on the Rhone River

Posted by Guest Blogger on 6/2/2017
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Travel, France, Europe, River Cruise

Travel Pulse

Special Note:
The following article by travel journalist John Roberts originally appeared on the TravelPulse.com website and is being republished here with permission.

I have been forever spoiled.

If I ever go back to France to explore Provence, it will have to be this way.

It's all Tauck's "fault": The travel company ferried me along the Rhone River for my first experience (starting in Paris) in this French region, giving me such a unique taste of luxury, fun and adventure that I cannot imagine a better way.

Emerald Cabin

Tauck's MS Emerald has undergone a major refurbishment. The ship that sails on the Rhone River in France now carries 98 passengers when it used to sail with 118. This means everyone gets a lot more space all over the ship and especially in cabins, many of which offer floor-to-ceiling, slide-open doors that create a bed-facing balcony.

The views and spaciousness are such a treat, especially as you comfortably spread out in your room and take in the countryside of France.

Sailing under blue skies filled with puffy white clouds and persistent sunshine, Tauck takes care of passengers with excellent service standards and a program filled with surprisingly good entertainment. (I say "surprisingly" because many river cruises I have experienced simply offered an onboard pianist, a guest lecture or two and sometimes a cultural performer.)

While I always thought these acts were worth a watch, Tauck stepped up the game.

I still am humming tunes I learned from the mother-daughter French jazz duet, and you should have seen the attendance at the session in which passengers tried their hands at recreating works of Vincent Van Gogh as we were visiting Arles. A cheerful accordionist played a mix of French classics like "La Vie En Rose" and popular U.S. hits on his squeeze box as we sampled gelatos during our ice cream social.

The best, however, probably was the Crew Party: Passengers and staffers cut loose with line dancing and a musical chairs-type game that paired us up with some of our favorite crew, who warmed us all up via talent show of songs and dance.

MS Emerald offers a diverse breakfast and lunch buffet each day. Fresh made omelets and fish and pasta anchor the meals. I was happy to find tons of healthy choices like smoothies, piles of fresh fruits and salads.

Arthur'sArthur's is a dining venue situated at the back of the ship and open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., ready to serve you club sandwiches, half-pound cheeseburgers and a variety of other cooked-to-order items. Make sure to try the macaroni and cheese and the french fries.

Basically, you can eat or drink any time you want. Tauck promises service for no added charge 24 hours a day during your trip. I never used the room service or asked for a 3 a.m. glass of wine, but I often could be spotted sneaking down to Arthur's to grab a chocolate chip cookie (these are always available and baked fresh, too). The tea and coffee station, as well as a basket of fruit, are ready there any time of day.

The whole program is laid back but well organized.

All of our fellow passengers enjoyed the two-day Paris extension at the start of our cruise, and we spent the time exploring the city while staying at the luxury Intercontinental Hotel and being treated to a welcome group dinner. It was our first time, and we piled up 20 miles walking over a 24-hour period to take in as much as possible from the ideally located hotel spot.

Then, the itinerary put us on a high-speed train from Paris to Lyon, which takes two hours. We arrived at MS Emerald, ready to unpack in our new home on the Rhone for a weeklong sailing.

ms Emerald

An overnight in Lyon included excursions, of course, to see the city. Our cruise took us to Viviers, where we learned to play petanque (somewhat similar to bocce). Then, Arles to see the coliseum there, retrace some of Van Gogh's footsteps and visit the home of a duke for a group meal in a beautiful courtyard.

In Avignon, we stayed overnight and most of two days to explore the massive walled city and Palace of the Popes. Once we started back toward Lyon, we stopped in Tain L'Hermitage to attend a cooking class at the culinary school of the first woman in France to earn three Michelin stars, Anne-Sophie Pic.

We also took a few morning runs along the Rhone, which has perfectly maintained paths ideal for running, walking and biking. Tauck carries a dozen bikes onboard MS Emerald, and we hopped on those a few times to explore more. One of the tour directors also leads guided bike tours a few times during each sailing, and we took the opportunity to pedal around Lyon, Arles and Avignon.

In Avignon, I recommend biking to the Barthelasse Island in the middle of the Rhone. It has well-marked trails, takes you through peaceful countryside and offers incredible views across the river back to the famed Avignon Bridge.

Then, get a massage and hit the hot tub on the ship's top deck as you watch the sunset while sipping a cold beer. (See, I was spoiled.)

Travel Pulse

John Roberts' article originally appeared on the website TravelPulse.com, and is reprinted here with permission.

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