S.S. Bon Voyage

Cycling slowly through the sleepy village of Pauillac I was captivated by the quaint golden stone buildings that have been weathered by time. This is the heart of the Médoc region of France where mosaics of ripening vines stretch as far as the eye can see. Nestled within these vineyards are extraordinary châteaux, the most famous of which are: Château Margaux; Château Latour; Château Petrus; and Château Mouton-Rothschild.  Few river cruise excursions are as sublime as this ‘Let’s Go’ bicycle trip which I signed up for during my cruise aboard Uniworld’s S.S. Bon Voyage.

This was just one highlight of the 8-day ‘Brilliant Bordeaux’ sailing I relished earlier this summer. Other destinations included: Blaye with its imposing citadel designed by Vauban; Libourne which lies at the meeting point of the Dordogne and Isle Rivers; the fortified town of Cadillac; as well as the fabled town of Saint-Émillion. The cruise also took in the largest estuary in Europe – the Gironde; a private wine-tasting of Sauternes at Château de Cazeneuve; as well as two nights in Bordeaux, known as ‘Port of the Moon’ due to the crescent-shaped Garonne River on which it is situated.

Bon Voyage has been designated a Super Ship by Uniworld and it’s easy to see why. The interiors of this comely 124-guest vessel are far from the cookie-cutter aesthetic. The signature décor is daring and colourful, while a classic French ambience abounds – from the polished wood lobby to Le Salon Champagne bar and authentic La Brasserie. The Soleil Deck is awash with sun-loungers sporting blue and white fabrics with Indian tiger motif; while at the stern, the infinity pool is the only one on European rivers.

My French Balcony cabin on Bordeaux Deck was extremely comfortable and I slept soundly in the ultra-comfy Savoir bed. The marble bathroom has oodles of Asprey of London amenities which underscores the company’s pursuit of excellence.

The main restaurant – Le Grand Fromage – consistently produced exquisite cuisine – not surprising as there are 14 highly-skilled chefs in the galley. I also found time for a bistro-style dinner in La Brasserie as well as local specialities during a leisurely lunch in Le Café du Soleil with its enchanting river views.

As the ship headed back to Bordeaux, I indulged in a superb wine-pairing dinner in the ship’s intimate La Cave du Vin. Here finest local produce is the order of the day – oysters from nearby Archachon; homemade foie gras; tender Pyrenean lamb and sweet Bordeaux Canelés, not to mention market-fresh cheeses. Uniworld is often claimed to be the world’s most luxurious all-inclusive river cruise line and it’s easy to see why. If ever a ship lives up to a promise of a ‘Bon Voyage’, this one does.

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Gary Buchanan

Gary Buchanan has been a specialist cruise writer for 22 years contributing to national newspapers and consumer publications. He is the author of five books about cruising and spends over seven months every year at sea sailing the world’s oceans. He’s a former chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and in 2014 he won the Cruise Lines International Association Award for Best River Cruise Feature.