River Cruises in France

Romantic landscapes and spectacular historical landmarks are yours to discover through France's pastoral south.

Few countries inspire travellers quite like France. It is a land of elegant culture and fine cuisine, set against a dramatic backdrop of rolling countryside, rustic villages and chic cities. It’s no surprise that France has inspired some of Europe’s most famous artists, sculptors, fashion designers and more.

 A culinary heritage few can match, a capital synonymous with romance, and a history packed with intrigue, it is little wonder that France welcomes more international visitors each year than any other country.

A river cruise is the perfect way to explore the culture, history and beauty of this incredible part of the world, transporting you through the nation’s unspoiled beauty spots and culture-rich cities. An Emerald Waterways river cruise will take you to the very heart of France, via the Rhône and Saône rivers.

  • Feast in Lyon, the culinary capital of France
  • Take a journey through time and visit the ancient walled city of Avignon
  • Explore the towns which inspired many of van Gogh’s finest works
  • Attend a Provençal dinner, prepared by Top Chef finalist Fabien Morreale,on board
  • Cycle on a guided tour through French countryside
  • Cheese and wine tastings

Explore Gallic History and France’s Incredible Past

Journeying south along the Saône and Rhône takes you on a trip through France’s charming and ever-interesting past. Roman ruins, the sites of the French Revolution and the former papal residency all contribute to the region’s enigmatic history.

Cutting a dramatic course through mountain ranges and winemaking regions, the Rhône is dotted with 16th-century castles and Roman ruins – offering an insight into the incredible past of this part of the world. The fortified city of Avignon is awash with historical intrigue, boasting the remnants of Celtic beginnings, Roman invasions and a 68-year period when the city was the centre of the Catholic church.

The Palais des Papes is a highlight of the Sensations of Southern France river cruise, the medieval gothic palace which served as the seat of the papacy from 1309 to 1377. Sat atop ancient Avignon, the Palais des Papes looks protectively over the beautiful old city, which still boasts fortified ramparts, ancient city walls and a medieval old town centre. 
An image of a Cotes du Rhone vineyard

Rhône Wine Region

The beautiful Rhône Valley in southern France is one of the world’s oldest wine-producing regions, with grapes cultivated here since the Ancient Greeks colonised the area in the 4th-century BC. The valley’s tradition for wine-production carried forward to the time of the Romans, and achieved continental fame in the 13th-century, when the papacy of Rome moved to the Palais des Papes in Avignon, and established numerous successful vineyards in the area, including the prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Such is the historic quality of Rhône Valley wines that, in 1930, winegrower Baron Le Roy campaigned for the characteristics of Rhône wines to be officially recognised, giving rise to the AOC decrees which govern many different appellations across France today. Le Roy proposed limiting the growing area, grape varieties, methods of cultivation, alcohol content and harvesting period within the Rhône Valley AOC, so that the region’s beloved wines may be enjoyed for generations to come, whilst adhering to the same time-honoured techniques and traditions.

The Rhône Valley benefits from varied terroirs which make it possible to grow a large number of different grape varieties. Between Avignon and Vienne, some twenty-six grape varieties are cultivated, with the major fruits being Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre and Cinsault for red wines, and Marsanne, Viognier, Roussanne and Maccabeo for whites.

Join us for a river cruise on the Saône and Rhône rivers and discover some of the region’s most endearing wine experiences.

Explore the Rhône on board Emerald Liberté

Built specifically for our Sensations of Southern France river cruise, Emerald Liberté skilfully navigate the rivers Rhône & Saône. Mirroring the effortless sophistication and beauty of the French countryside she navigates, Emerald Liberté offers an authentic experiences throughout the heart of France.

Emerald Liberté offers an authentic experience throughout

In 2017, we proudly welcomed the Emerald Liberté Star-Ship to the Emerald Waterways fleet – custom-built for river cruising in France. Completing our Sensations of Southern France river cruise itinerary on the Rhône and Saône, the Emerald Liberté boasts an open-air Sun Deck, providing the perfect setting for guests to enjoy the beautiful scenery and Mediterranean climes of this enchanting part of the world.

The Emerald Liberté boasts a wonderful dining venue, The Terrace, which is the perfect spot for al fresco dining and drinks with friends as the southern stretches of France pass you by.

The intimate Emerald Liberté calls in at some of Southern France’s most delightful cities, towns and villages. From Lyon, recognised as one of the world’s great culinary cities, to Arles, van Gogh’s peaceful retreat and inspiration for many of his most famous works of art, the Rhône and Saône set a course through an amazing, intoxicating stretch of France.