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Experience a wonderful Rhone river cruise through Burgundy and Provence
The Government has given the go-ahead for all river cruises. For up-to-date advice on travel and COVID-19, see our homepage.
The beautiful Rhône valley is the undisputed centre of French gastronomy, famed for its Burgundy vintages, Lyonnaise cuisine and delicious cheese. On this exclusive new river cruise with travel partner Emerald Waterways, you'll sail through the unspoilt countryside with stops at Tournus, Avignon and Chateaneuf-du-Pape - with plenty of foodie highlights included along the way.
Your journey begins in Lyon, where you'll board your Emerald Waterways Star-Ship, the Emerald Liberté, one of their most impressive yet. It offers a luxurious and relaxing way to travel with fine-dining restaurants, bar areas, spa and fitness facilities, as well as a delightful sun deck to take in the stunning scenery as you sail by.
Your first stop is Tournus where you'll embark on a hunt for truffles with a local farmer and take part in a cheese tasting on board. Burgundy truffles in particular are known for their hazelnut-like aroma and delicate flavour, both of which you will have the opportunity to try. You'll then continue to Belleville-Sur-Saône and the Beaujolais province, for a tasting in one of Burgundy's most important wine-producing regions.
Your next stop, Tain l'Hermitage, is all about chocolate and you'll visit the Valrhona Cité du Chocolat museum. Your itinerary also takes in Avignon, once the seat of papal power and now a thriving hub of Provençal culture and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where you'll taste the famous wines and learn about traditional wine-making techniques. You'll also attend an exclusive Provençal dinner onboard prepared by local special guest chef, Fabien Morreale, and delight the taste buds on a gourmet city tour of Lyon.
A 'no fly' travel option is available and includes Eurostar tickets to Paris, the TGV to Lyon and a coach to the ship.
Reasons to book
Emerald Liberté Star-Ship
The glorious Rhone
- Return flights from the UK; no-fly option also available
- Seven nights' full-board river cruise in an Emerald Stateroom
- Wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
- Captain's welcome and farewell reception and dinner
- Special Provençal dinner on board hosted by local chef Fabien Morreale
- Guided tour of Arles including visit to the Roman Amphitheatre arena
- Guided tour in Avignon
- Walking tours in Viviers and Tournon
- City tour of Lyon or guided bike tour
- Guided tour of Beaune and the Hospices de Beaune
- Regional wine, cheese and olive tasting on board
- Optional canoeing experience
- Guided biking tour to Glun
- Guided hike through vineyards
- Transfers to and from the ship
- Port taxes and charges
- All tipping and gratuities
- ABTA and ATOL protected
Day1Fly out to LyonLyon, France
Welcome to Lyon, an ancient city christened the "gastronomic capital of the world" by a number of famous food critics. You will be met at the airport and transferred to the lush surrounds of your Emerald Waterways Star-Ship. This evening, enjoy a welcome reception on board.
Day2Tournus truffle tourTournus, France
Today, your exploration of France's culinary treasures will unveil a truly memorable product, truffles. You will have the opportunity to meet a local truffle farmer to see how these luxury ingredients are gathered from their secret locations in the forests of Europe. Burgundy truffles in particular are known for their hazelnut-like aroma and delicate flavour, both of which you will have the chance to experience during your included tasting.
Alternatively, enjoy a guided bike tour of the surrounding area, passing through several quintessentially French villages and learning about the gastronomy of the region. Later, a cheese tasting on board will introduce you to a number of local specialities.
EmeraldPLUS: A cheese tasting on board
EmeraldACTIVE: A guided bike tour around Tournus
EmeraldEXCURSION: A truffle discovery and tasting
Day3Belleville-sur-SaôneBelleville-sur-Saône , France
Discover the world-renowned Beaujolais province today, an important wine-producing region in Burgundy that is known for the luscious and fruity characteristics of its produce. This region is just one of several in the world that focus on a specific variety of grapes, and its wine-producing history can be dated back to the 19th century.
You will have the opportunity to learn the secrets of what makes this ancient grape variety so special during an included visit to a wine estate, including a tasting of their produce.
EmeraldEXCURSION: A winery tour and tasting in Beaujolais
Day4Tain l’HermitageTain-l'Hermitage, France
Nestled on the banks of the Rhône, Tain l'Hermitage is surrounded by postcard-worthy fields of vines, a noteworthy feature of this wine-producing commune. A walking tour of the town will highlight its popularity amongst those who wish to explore France's culinary delights, as wine and gourmet chocolates are yours to find around every corner.
After your guided tour, you will have the opportunity to visit Valrhona Cité du Chocolat, home to chocolatiers who create some of the world's finest artisanal chocolates, with a range that covers a plethora of unique and recognisable aromatic profiles. Enjoy tasting delicious samples during your time here.
Alternatively, embark on a guided hike through some of the region's beloved vineyards.
EmeraldACTIVE: A guided hike through vineyards
EmeraldEXCURSION: A guided tour of Tain l'Hermitage with Valrhona Cité du Chocolat
Day5See historical AvignonAvignon, France
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed ancient centre of Avignon is yours to discover today during a guided tour, stopping along the way to learn about its storied past and delightful culinary traditions. Meet local artisans, taste regional produce and take your senses on an immersive journey as you peruse the stalls in a local food market.
Alternatively, embark on a guided active walk in Avignon, passing places that include Palais des Papes, a true medieval Gothic icon. Enjoy passing through squares adorned with lavish façades and open-air dining establishments before Jardin des Doms offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
This evening, enjoy an authentic Provençal dinner on board, hosted by renowned Chef Fabien Morreale.
EmeraldPLUS: A Provençal dinner hosted by Chef Fabien Morreale
EmeraldACTIVE: An active walk through Avignon
EmeraldEXCURSION: A gourmet walking tour of Avignon
DiscoverMORE: A guided tour of Orange, including the Antique Theatre (extra expense)
Day6Châteauneuf-du-PapeChâteauneuf-du-Pape , France
A ruined medieval castle sits above the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with a backdrop of vineyards and fields full of lush grapevines. The rich history of this region is yours to uncover today, as are famous red wines and their diverse array of styles.
Today, you will have the opportunity to learn about Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines and their cultivation during your time in the lavish cellars of a wine estate. Enjoy learning about traditional winemaking techniques before a tasting of the local produce.
EmeraldEXCURSION: A visit to a Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine estate with tasting.
Medieval and Renaissance architecture in Lyon will offer the perfect backdrop to your discovery of the flavours of Burgundy and Provence.
Enjoy a guided tour of Lyon's UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic centre this afternoon. Your local guide will take you through the heart of Les Halles de Lyon - Paul Bocuse, and discover more than sixty stalls of high-end regional products, including cheeses, cured meats, breads, gourmet chocolates and local specialties.
Alternatively, enjoy a guided bike tour through the heart of Lyon.
EmeraldACTIVE: A guided bike tour in Lyon
EmeraldEXCURSION: A gourmet tour of Lyon
DiscoverMORE: A visit to Pérouges (extra expense)
Day8Depart LyonLyon, France
After breakfast, it's time to bid farewell to your fellow guests and transfer to the airport for your onward or homebound flight, taking memories that will delight your senses with you
Emerald Liberté review by Sue Bryant, cruise editor, Sunday Times Travel
Launched in 2017 to sail the Rhône and Saône rivers between Lyon and Arles, the 138-passenger Emerald Liberté brings a fresh, contemporary look to the French waterways. The ship has a clever design with a pool at the back covered by a retractable glass roof, perfect for hot summer's days cruising through the countryside of Provence. In the evenings, the pool area converts to a cinema, adding an extra dimension to the entertainment.
Fellow passengers are mostly from the UK, North America and Australia (Emerald Waterways is Australian-owned) and are generally a jolly crowd, mainly aged between 50 and 70.
Top tip: Emerald Waterways is almost all-inclusive, but not quite, so if you enjoy a cocktail or two, think about upgrading with a drinks package; ask when you book as various options are available and they're good value.
Style & character
The overall look is chic and minimalist, the whole ship flooded with light and styled with lots of neutrals - grey and white, with splashes of black, and contemporary chandeliers and lots of glass in the atrium. Giant pots of orchids and greenery soften the look. The top deck, covered with artificial grass, has a large sitting area, a space for barbecues and a putting green, while the pool on Horizon Deck below can be open to the elements or enclosed, conservatory style, on cooler days. Imagine a contemporary boutique hotel and you'll get the picture.
Service is bright and friendly, with happy crew who are genuinely keen to please. Tips are included so there's no pressure. Emerald Waterways also covers tips for drivers and guides on shore excursions.
There are eight cabin grades over three decks. The three lowest grades, on Riviera Deck, have picture windows, while all the others have an enclosed balcony area - not a balcony as such, but a big, floor-to-ceiling window that slides right down so you can sit and feel the breeze on your face. It's a good system because you use the space in the cabin whether or not the window is open. Better still, there are insect screens so you can have fresh air without worrying about mosquitoes.
The décor is quite minimalist, like the rest of the ship (possibly a bit too minimalist for some), with neutral colours, and big, fluffy duvets on the very comfortable beds. Bathrooms are extremely compact although they come with a decent array of toiletries. Bottled water is replenished daily and every cabin comes with bathrobes and slippers, a nice touch.
The most prized cabins are the four Owners' Suites on Horizon Deck, with two balconies, as well as a comfortable living area and extras like concierge service, a stocked minibar and a more luxurious bathroom. At the other end of the scale, cabins 100 and 101 are for solo travellers and get snapped up fast.
Food & drink
There are two places to eat. Light breakfasts and lunches, as well as daily afternoon tea, are served in the comfortable Horizon Bar and Lounge - so juice, pastries and one hot dish for breakfast, and sandwiches for lunch as well as salads, soup and maybe a pasta dish. You can take your plate out onto The Terrace if you want to eat al fresco. The main Reflections restaurant is on Vista Deck, where there are lavish breakfast and lunch buffets and waiter-served dinner.
French specialities are always served on the lunch buffet, so expect local cheeses, classics like Salad Niçoise and on some days, crepes, although there's plenty of more international food. Poached salmon with steamed vegetables, steak and fries, grilled chicken breast and Caesar salad are always available. When the ship is in Avignon, a special three-course Provençal dinner is laid on, prepared by renowned local chef Fabien Morreale. There's also a lunch barbecue on deck once per cruise, weather permitting.
Meals are open seating but you're expected to turn up for dinner when it's announced at 7pm rather than wandering in an hour later.
Wine or beer is included with lunch and dinner and is generously poured; and the waiters were happy to offer us rosé instead of the house red or white, when we asked. One word of warning, though; if you want a table for two, get there early as people have a tendency to sneak in before dinner and bag the best tables.
Value for money
Emerald Liberté isn't a five-star deluxe product and doesn't claim to be so; if you want ultra-luxury, sister brand Scenic is better for you. As such, though, Liberté represents excellent value for money, with gratuities, wifi, mealtime drinks and several excursions all included, as well as airport transfers. If you're not bothered about a butler, round-the-clock cocktails and a wider choice of tours, this smart, four-star ship represents excellent value.