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Rhône River Cruise: Sailing the South of France
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11 days

from $7,295 AUD

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Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include walking tours, visits to sites, safari drives, and easy hikes; and some days will have more physical activities such as longer hikes, kayaking, snorkeling, or biking.

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Premium expeditions are led by a National Geographic expert, an expedition team, or top guides, and tap into National Geographic's worldwide resources to allow for in-depth exploration and special access to sites and experts in the field. Itineraries are fully planned, with some free time. Accommodations are high-end or best available. Ground transportation and most meals and activities are included in the trip price.

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Expedition Overview

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EXPEDITION OVERVIEW
  • Explore the Pont-d’Arc Cavern, featuring reproductions of the prehistoric drawings found in the renowned Chauvet Cave.
  • Savor the fresh, fruity wines of southern France at sun-soaked vineyards and medieval wine cellars, and go truffle hunting in Burgundy.
  • Delve into the mysterious marshland of the Camargue alongside a local naturalist, on the lookout for wild horses and myriad wetland bird species.
  • Set foot in a Roman amphitheater and wander ancient streets on a visit to the ruins of Saint-Romain-en-Gal in Viennes.
EXPERTS ON THIS TRIP

A National Geographic expert and photographer will accompany this trip, and we will meet local guides along the way.

Itinerary

Glide along the Saône and Rhône Rivers, through the heart of the sun-baked, lavender-scented countryside of southern France. Discover medieval hilltop towns, follow in the footsteps of the ancient Romans in Arles and Avignon, and marvel at prehistoric cave art. Explore the enchanting landscapes that inspired Vincent van Gogh on hiking, biking, and kayaking excursions. Along your journey, sample the region’s culinary splendors, tasting your way through Lyon—the gastronomic heart of France—and sampling wines from acclaimed vineyards, including the world-renowned wine estates of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As we sail these storied waterways, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your interests, choosing from a variety of available excursions at each port of call—and benefit from the insights provided by the National Geographic Expert and the National Geographic photographer who accompany us on the journey.

Day 1: Lyon, France

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Arrive in Lyon, situated at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers. Board the Scenic Sapphire and settle into your spacious suite.

Day 2: Tournus

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This morning, cruise north on the Saône River towards Tournus, a charming town known for its Romanesque abbey. As we sail, enjoy a relaxing massage in the onboard spa, or hone your French cookery skills with a lesson in our ship’s culinary station. Visit Château de Cormatin, a 17th-century castle featuring exquisite gardens and sumptuous gilded rooms; or join a group of hounds and their owners on a truffle-hunting expedition in a nearby village.

Day 3: Chalon-sur-Saône/Beaune

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As we navigate further upriver today, choose to visit the renowned Nicéphore Niépce photography museum in Chalon with our National Geographic photographer. The museum is housed in the home of Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography who captured the world’s first photograph here in 1826 or 1827. Alternatively, explore Beaune, the wine capital of the Burgundy region. Admire the delightful Flemish architecture and colorful tiled roofs of the Hospices de Beaune, a museum and wine estate that was once a public hospital, and stroll through its 15th-century wine cellars. Or, visit the 800-year-old Château de Meursault, set among 25 acres of rolling vineyards, and taste some of the region’s acclaimed Pinot Noir.

Day 4: Tournon

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Sail the Rhône River to the enchanting medieval town of Tournon. Upon arrival, choose to partake in a wine tasting at a local winery, or venture out on a guided walking tour of Tournon’s “twin city,” Tain-l’Hermitage, set on the opposite side of the river, or choose a riverside bike excursion outside the village. The French gourmet chocolate manufacturer Valrhona is based here, and we’ll have the opportunity to visit their interactive museum and chocolate shop—an experience capped off with a sampling of their mouthwatering confections. You may also opt to hike to a winery on the legendary Hermitage hill, climbing scenic terraced slopes overlooking the Rhône.

Day 5: Avignon/Châteauneuf-du-Pape

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Continuing south to the Provence region, try your hand at making classic French dishes and regional delicacies with our ship’s chef as we sail. Disembark in Avignon and tour the city’s architectural landmarks on foot, including the Popes’ Palace—the seat of the Catholic church in the early 14th century, and the largest medieval Gothic palace in the world. Alternatively, taste the celebrated wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape at a Côtes du Rhône vineyard. This evening, return to the Popes’ Palace for an unforgettable experience: after the doors of the palace close to the public, enjoy an exclusive classical concert.

Day 6: Avignon/Luberon

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Enjoy an opportunity to shop with our ship's chef at an Avignon market, then cook up a delectable French feast in our ship’s kitchen. Or, choose to explore the picturesque hilltop villages of the Luberon region. You may also venture to the quiet, romantic town of Uzès, nestled among olive groves and cypress trees, and visit the Pont du Gard, an impressive ancient Roman bridge-aqueduct. Take in this striking monument from the ship at sunset as you sip a cocktail, and step ashore later this evening to enjoy Avignon’s night life.

Day 7: Tarascon/Arles

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Today, we anchor at Tarascon, a red-roofed Provençal town that exudes medieval charm. Choose to explore Roman history in nearby Arles, a thriving trading center in Roman times, and see the city’s magnificent Roman amphitheater and view a recently unearthed wooden boat with a local expert at the Museum of Ancient Arles and Provence. Alternatively, visit the hilltop village of Les Baux-de-Provence before touring a family-run olive farm or visit the Saint Paul de Mausole Monastery, the mental health institution where Vincent van Gogh committed himself and created many of his celebrated works. For guests interested in the natural landscapes, take a stroll through the stunning coastal wetlands of the Camargue, alongside a naturalist. Spend the afternoon wandering Tarascon at your leisure, or choose to stay on board for a Provençal soap-making workshop, learning to fashion fragrant soaps from regional ingredients.

Day 8: Viviers

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Cruise to the dreamy village of Viviers, where we’ll hear an organ recital at the Cathedral of St. Vincent. You have several options for the rest of the day: explore the lava cliffs of Monts d’Ardèche Regional Natural Park, by navigating the Ardèche canyon—one of Europe’s largest canyons—by kayak, or visit the fascinating Pont-d’Arc Cavern, a replica of the renowned Chauvet Cave, home to some of the world’s best preserved prehistoric drawings. Alternatively, stop by the aromatic Lavender Museum in St.-Remèze to observe the process by which lavender oil is extracted from the flower. Or take a walk through the hilltop village of Grignan, surrounded by fields of lavender.

Days 9-10: Lyon

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Return to Lyon and enjoy a wealth of activities to choose from: explore historic Lyon at your leisure, traversing its hidden traboules—centuries-old passageways that were used by silk workers to transport their goods—and climbing up to the neo-Byzantine Notre Dame Basilica for a panoramic view. Alternatively, head south to Vienne to explore the fascinating Roman ruins of Saint-Romain-en-Gal, including a well-preserved Roman town and amphitheater. Or visit the exclusive culinary school of a Michelin-star chef, the late Paul Bocuse, for a master class in French cuisine. You may also choose to discover the timeless cobblestoned streets of Pérouges, one of the best preserved medieval towns in France.

Day 11: Lyon

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After breakfast, disembark our ship and transfer to the Lyon airport for your fight home.

EXTENSIONS

Day 1: Paris, France

Check in to your hotel, then set off to explore the city at your leisure. Stroll on your own to the nearby Jardins des Tuileries and the grand boulevard of the Champs-Élysées, or take a seat at a sidewalk café and watch the city go by. Later, enjoy a welcome reception at your elegant Paris hotel.

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Day 2: Lyon

Ride the rails across the rolling green hills, vineyards, and villages of Burgundy to Lyon, where we’ll embark the Scenic Sapphire for our journey along the Rhône and Saône Rivers.

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What to Expect

This trip has an activity rating of light\/moderate and suits a range of interests and abilities. Travelers should be physically fit and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods, navigating uneven or slippery terrain, and climbing stairs without handrails. Choose from a variety of excursions, from short walking tours to options for extended hiking and biking.

Accommodations
This is an all-inclusive experience aboard a world-class river ship featuring fine dining, exceptional amenities, and butler service.

Expedition Team
A National Geographic expert and a National Geographic photographer will accompany the entire trip, and local experts will join us along the way.

ACCOMMODATIONS
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Renovated and enhanced in 2017, the Scenic Sapphire was custom built to navigate the inland waterways of France. The ship is equipped with a range of state-of-the-art amenities and a variety of casual and upscale dining options. A favorable staff-to-guest ratio ensures the highest level of service.

CAPACITY:
149 guests in 76 outward-facing suites
REGISTRY:
Malta
OVERALL LENGTH:
445 feet

PUBLIC AREAS:
The vessel is outfitted with four decks, including a spacious all-weather sundeck with comfortable lounge furniture for relaxation and al fresco dining. The ship also has three elegant dining areas as well as indoor bar and lounge areas, all equipped with expansive panoramic windows.

MEALS:
Fare served on board is inspired by regional French cuisine. The main dining area offers buffet and à la carte options three times daily, and exquisite multi-course meals with wine pairings are served upon request in three intimate dining rooms. The more casual café offers light meals and snacks, and a bar and lounge has a robust menu of wine, beer, and spirits. The ship also holds a cooking emporium staffed by culinary experts who lead hands-on classes and tastings of local specialties.

SUITES:
All suites face outwards and are equipped with en suite bathrooms, and most have private balconies that can be converted into all-weather sun lounges. Select suites offer spacious lounge areas and larger bathrooms. Each accommodation is equipped with a high-definition television, as well as Wi-Fi and a complimentary mini-bar.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
A plunge pool, a wellness center, a fitness center and rooftop walking track, and a gift shop. A National Geographic expert and photographer accompany each voyage.

PRICES & DATES

  • date Jul 29-09 Aug
  • Prices From Per Person
  • Ship Scenic Sapphire
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Trip PricesPer Person

Accommodations
Double Occupancy
Single Occupancy
Standard Suite (E)
Double Occupancy
$8,970 AUD
Single Occupancy
$16,815 AUD
Standard Suite (D)
Double Occupancy
$9,265 AUD
Single Occupancy
$17,405 AUD
Balcony Suite (C)
Double Occupancy
$11,515 AUD
Single Occupancy
$21,905 AUD
Balcony Suite (BA)
Double Occupancy
$11,915 AUD
Single Occupancy
$22,705 AUD
Balcony Suite (BB)
Double Occupancy
$12,015 AUD
Single Occupancy
$22,905 AUD
Balcony Suite (A)
Double Occupancy
$12,115 AUD
Single Occupancy
$23,105 AUD
Balcony Suite (B)
Double Occupancy
$12,115 AUD
Single Occupancy
$23,105 AUD
Balcony Suite (PA)
Double Occupancy
$12,165 AUD
Single Occupancy
$23,205 AUD
Balcony Suite (PP)
Double Occupancy
$12,215 AUD
Single Occupancy
$23,305 AUD
Balcony Suite (P)
Double Occupancy
$12,365 AUD
Single Occupancy
$23,605 AUD
Junior Suite (BJ)
Double Occupancy
$12,365 AUD
Single Occupancy
$23,605 AUD
Junior Suite (RJ)
Double Occupancy
$13,215 AUD
Single Occupancy
$25,305 AUD
Royal Suite (RA)
Double Occupancy
$14,465 AUD
Single Occupancy
$27,805 AUD
Royal Panorama Suite (RS)
Double Occupancy
$14,915 AUD
Single Occupancy
$28,705 AUD
Royal Owner’s Suite (RO)
Double Occupancy
$15,565 AUD
Single Occupancy
$30,005 AUD
Single Balcony (BS)
Double Occupancy
Sold Out
Single Occupancy
$14,410 AUD

Deck Plans

Jewel Deck
Sapphire Deck
Diamond Deck

All trip prices are per person based on double occupancy, are subject to change without notice and do not include airfare.

  • Transfers upon arrival and departure
  • Accommodation aboard a world-class ship operated by Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours
  • All meals, from dinner on the first night to breakfast on the final morning
  • Daily activities and excursions as indicated in the itinerary
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • All gratuities

What's Not Included

  • Airfare to and from destination
  • Trip cancellation insurance or any other travel insurance
  • Visas
Stephen Alvarez
Photographer Filmmaker
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Stephen Alvarez is an award-winning National Geographic photographer and filmmaker who produces global stories about exploration, adventure, culture and archaeology. He has published over a dozen feature stories in National Geographic magazine. On assignment he has traveled from the highest peaks in the Andes to some of the planet's deepest caves. His latest National Geographic story on the Origins of Art led from early human sites on the southern coast of Africa to Paleolithic art caves in France and Spain. For the past two years, he photographed the Seven Natural Wonders of the World with Microsoft Smartphones<\/a>. His images have won awards in Pictures of the Year International and Communication Arts, and have been exhibited at Visa Pour L'Image in Perpignan, France. Recent appearances include NPR, PBS, and CBS Saturday Morning. Stephen is also a frequent consultant and commenter on how new photographic technology is changing the world.

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  • Jul 30-Aug 9, 2020 - Scenic Sapphire
Don George
Author Editor
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Travel writer Don George is an editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, as well as host of the National Geographic Live series of conversations with notable authors. In four decades as a travel writer and editor, Don has visited more than 90 countries on five continents. He has traveled throughout—and written extensively about—Europe and Asia. He has also lived in France, Greece, and Japan, working as a translator in Paris, a teacher in Athens, and a television talk show host in Tokyo. Don is the author of The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George, and has received dozens of writing awards, including the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year Award.

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  • Jul 30-Aug 9, 2020 - Scenic Sapphire