A Taste of Bordeaux River Cruise Review

Wine tasting a plenty along the Garonne River

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A Taste of Bordeaux River Cruise Review

I’ve recently returned from a Taste of Bordeaux river cruise on the river ship AmaDolce, one of the original ships in the AmaWaterways fleet. In fact, I was at the christening ceremony of this very ship in Dürnstein back in 2009! The AmaDolce no longer sails the Danube, and has been transferred to the Garonne River in France. The Garonne is a tidal river, so no issues with low or high water that can affect the Rhine and Danube, however the itinerary is subject to the tides so our cruise timings were adjusted accordingly – it made no difference to the time in port or the order in which we visited them.

Reception on board Amadolce

Reception on board Amadolce

Boarding the AmaDolce in delightful Bordeaux, I was very impressed with the cleanliness and general upkeep of the ship - she looked as good as new! We actually arrived at 11am – 4 hours before embarkation was due to start, however that wasn’t a problem, as we left our cases at the front desk and were welcomed to sit in the lounge and enjoy the light refreshments on offer. The front desk staff were very friendly and welcoming – even to us early arrivals! As the rain was stopping, we debarked and headed into Bordeaux for a quick look around. The river boat docks right in the heart of the town so everything was right on our doorstep.

The Miroir d'Eau in Bordeaux

The Miroir d'Eau in Bordeaux - I dodged rain showers to get this picture!

Bordeaux is a very walkable city with a charming riverfront promenade. It is the largest city in Aquitaine with some 245,000 inhabitants and has been a major port since pre-roman times. In fact modern cruise ship can still navigate the river and dock in Bordeaux, after passing an amazing bridge where the middle section raises up to let the big ships pass under!

Our river cruise starts and ends here, with other destinations being Cadillac, Pauillac, Blaye, Bourg, and Libourne (for Saint Emilion)

Amadolce main lounge

Amadolce main lounge

Back on board, we had a look around the ship and discovered the main lounge – the hub of the ship – that had a bar, a buffet/snack area, tea and coffee machine and other refreshments, as well as some very comfy chairs and sofas. At the front of this lounge is an open air terrace that looks over the front of the ship. Behind the lounge is the reception and the floor below houses the main dining room. Towards the back is the Chefs Table restaurant, fitness room and hair salon. On the sun deck there is a hot tub whirlpool, running track, plenty of comfy seating and the ubiquitous giant chess set!

Amadolce Window Stateroom

Amadolce Window Stateroom

Our cabin was a D Grade Window Stateroom on the lower deck, mid-ship and just one deck down from the reception and de-bark area, so very handy for accessing the ships facilities. It measured 170 sq ft and had a fixed “river view” window. All cabins on this ship are the same size, however some higher grades have a French balcony, and the top suites are larger still at 255 sq ft. Even though it was below the water line, it was very quiet and we always had a great night’s sleep! Bathroom was compact but didn’t cause any problems and the shower was excellent!

AmaWaterways offer a number of tours for different walking abilities, and our first one was the Active Walkers walking tour around a vineyard in Pauillac. It certainly was fast paced and really enjoyable. Our guide took us through a vineyard and talked about points of interest along the way.

Other tours are conducted by luxury coach. The tour groups are small – about 20 or so guests, and all the guides use a Quiet Vox system, whereby they wear a transmitter and the guests wear an earpiece and receiver. This works really well when exploring the chateaus and vine yards!

AmaDolce arriving in Cadillac

AmaDolce arriving in Cadillac

The cruise was a great mix of vineyards and wine makers, old towns and historic chateaus – all very enjoyable and educational too learning about the differing grape varieties and the all-important “terroir” that affects the grapes and how they grow. Oh and there was plenty of wine tasting included –in fact AmaWaterways spend more on their wine tasting than any other river line in the area – we certainly tried some excellent vintages.

Ours was a Wine Theme cruise too, and was hosted by the two owners of Nice Wines winery in Texas who gave three talks and presentations during the week. We also got to sample their wines at onboard wine tastings, and enjoyed a wine-paired dinner using their vintages – it was great!

Food on board was very good. Buffet style for breakfast and lunch, although there was often a specialty hot food station, and a la carte in the evening. Open sitting with no fixed dining companions so you could choose where and with whom to dine, and plenty of choice on the menu to satisfy everyone, with vegetarians catered for too. There is also a Chefs Table restaurant at the rear of the ship that every guest gets to dine at during the cruise - you have to reserve your place but there is no charge for this.

Entertainment was provide by a resident pianist, with local guest entertainers coming on in the evening as the ship is often in port to the late evening or even overnight. Some guests ventured off into the local towns to explore the nightlife.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so below are some of my favourite photographs from the thousands I took on this trip! We travelled in August and the the weather was great – high twenties so not too hot – with only a small shower when we were in Saint Emilion and at embarkation.

oquetaillade Castle in Cadillac

Roquetaillade Castle in Cadillac

The Castle of Roquetaillade is a well preserved masterpiece of medieval military architecture. The Castle was initially built in the 10th century by Charlamagne, and was rebuilt in the 14th century by the family that still lives there today after 700 years. We were shown around by the current owner!

Château Guiraud, Sauternes, FranceChâteau Guiraud, Sauternes, France

After the castle visit, we were taken to the delightful Château Guiraud to try their famous sweet wines, made after the grapes have been infected with Noble Rot, a fungus that makes them taste sweet. The official 1855 classification recognised Château Guiraud as Grand Cru Classe wines. I'm not usually keen on sweet wines, but these really were excellent and we had some delicious savoury nibbles to accompany them!

Chateau, Bordeaux, FranceChâteau Mouton Rothschild


Château Margaux

Château Margaux

AmaDolce docked at Blaye
AmaDolce docked at Blaye

Blaye Citadel, France

Blaye Citadel, France

This 17th century citadel was built on a rock beside the Gironde Estuary, on the ruins of an ancient Gothic chateau. The town was an important stronghold during the wars against the English and the French Wars of Religion. Together with the city walls, the fortresses were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The military complex comprise some 230 acres and almost forms a small city of its own. We had plenty of time here on our guided tour and then free time to explore the town too.

Bourg-Sur-GirondeBourg-Sur-Gironde

Overlooking the point where the river Dordogne meets the river Garonne, lays the charming village of Bourg-sur-Girone, officially labelled as a historic village or 'Village Ancien'. Situated 66 feet above the river on a rocky spur, it offers spectacular views of the port and the roof tops of the lower part of town. The narrow street of the upper town opens onto a market square with several small museums. After our walking tour here we enjoyed an exclusive wine festival at the Maison des vins des Cotes de Bourg, where we sampled local wines, snacks and enjoyed traditional French music and dancing.

Château de Pressac, Saint-ÉmilionChâteau de Pressac, Saint-Émilion

We stopped here for a tour of the winery and of course more wine tasting!  It was during Autumn 2012, at the time of the new classification of Saint-Émilion, that Château de Pressac was promoted to the appellation of Grand Cru Classé de Saint Emilion.

Saint-Émilion, from LibourneSaint-Émilion, from Libourne

Saint-Émilion, from Libourne

Saint-Émilion, from Libourne

Libourne provides a gateway to one of Bordeaux’s most elite wine regions, Saint-Émilion, known for its picturesque architecture, monuments and celebrated vineyards. Both the village and its vineyards have been classed as UNESCO World heritage sites. We joined an excursion here and explored the monolithic church carved out of one piece of limestone rock, and went under the church to discover its catacombs and caves. Lots of free time here to shop for wine and macarons, or just discover the cobblestone back streets and alleyways. We also had a panoramic tour of the landscapes in Pomerol.

Château de Vayres

Château de Vayres

Château de Vayres

Château de Vayres

Lying about 15 miles from Bordeaux on the way to Saint-Emilion, The Château de Vayres is set in listed ground of outstanding beauty on the banks of the Dordogne and is one of the most prestigious historic buildings of the Aquitaine. The medieval castle was renovated during the renaissance period around 1690 and is today still furnished with exceptional furniture and tapestries.

Château de Montaigne

Château de Montaigne

We toured the magnificent Château de Montaigne, a 19th century castle with a 14th century tower, which was the family residence of the philosopher Micel de Montaigne. We also tasted the wines of the Mahler-Besse family here.

La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux

La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux

We ended our Taste of Bordeaux river cruise back in Bordeaux, with a tour that ended up at the Wine Museum, or La Cité du Vin. This building is shaped like a slosh of wine in a glass (apparently) and has great interactive exhibits detailing the history of wine. Your ticket also includes a glass of wine in the viewing gallery that offers great views of Bordeaux!

Bordeaux


A Taste of Bordeaux Photo Album

View more photos from this Bordeaux River Cruise on Flickr

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Taste of Bordeaux River Cruise

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