What's the first thing you think of when someone says they are traveling to Bordeaux? It's wine, isn't it? The Bordeaux wine area has over 8,000 châteaux that produce wine and over 50 well-known appellations such as Medoc, Pomerol, and Sauternes. Many of these regions can be visited on Viking River Cruises 8-day "Châteaux, Rivers, & Wine" cruise tour on the Garonne, Gironde, and Dordogne Rivers. This cruise sails round trip from Bordeaux, and even travelers who are not wine experts or aficionados can appreciate the fascinating towns, spectacular châteaux, history, and three UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the itinerary.
The 8-day itinerary is almost all-inclusive, with all meals and complimentary wine, beer, and soft drinks offered during meal service. In addition, the cruise has 6 included tours with an audio headset and guide. The Viking Longship Forseti offers free Wi-Fi, and the ship is lovely on the inside and outside. The onboard activities are fun and educational and include wine tastings, lectures, French lessons, and information on how to pair a great wine with every meal.
The cruise features three nights in Bordeaux, scenic cruising on the Gironde and Garonne Rivers, and free time to explore the ports of call. All of the ports have complimentary shore excursions.
Viking also has five optional shore excursions for those who want to focus on a particular area of interest. Some of these tours were offered on the short preview cruise I did on the Viking Forseti. Everyone who participated in the optional tours came back with terrific memories and lots of stories to share. Passengers who do not select the optional tours have free time to either relax on the river ship or explore the town or village where the ship is docked on their own.
The five optional tours are:
- A Taste of Cognac: Camus
While the ship is docked in Blaye, guests ride on a bus through the Bordeaux countryside to the town of Cognac. There, they visit the historic Camus distillery. While at Camus, the guests learn all about the wine-growing family who have owned the business for five generations and have an opportunity to taste some of the cognac. The highlight of the visit is the chance to make your own cognac blend and take home the bottle. Don't worry, a master blender guides each guest through the process. The name of this unique blend will even be entered into the Camus record books.
- Home-Hosted Visit: Château Siaurac
While the ship is docked in Libourne, guests ride on a bus to Château Siaurac, which is in Lalande-Pomerol, a small appellation between Pomerol and Saint-Emilion. This family-owned Château has been in the same family since 1832, and one (or both) of the husband and wife current owners serve as guides of the home, grounds, winery, and vineyards. A tasting of the Château Siaurac wines is included, as is a casual lunch of local delicacies in either the dining room or outdoors in the park/garden.
- The World of Truffles: Hunting & Tasting
Bordeaux has more to offer visitors than wine. The Périgord region is well-known for its truffles, those delightful mushroom-like delicacies that provide a distinctive flavor to food. They grow underground near oak and hazelnut trees. Although pigs were once used to find and dig up the truffles, dogs have replaced them since they are easier to transport and cost less to keep (since they don't eat as much). On this excursion, guests visit a truffle farm, meet the farmer and his dog, and get to see the smart canine at work. Of course, they will learn more about the famous black truffles of Périgord and taste a sample.
- Market Tour: Le Marche des Capucins
While the ship is docked in Bordeaux, guests can accompany the chef on an early morning tour to the Le Marche des Capucins, Bordeaux's oldest covered market. Guests see how the chef shops for local and seasonal ingredients for the ship's galley.
- Day on the Bay: Arcachon
Oyster lovers can try some French ones in the seaside village of Arcachon, which is on the coast just a little southwest of Bordeaux. This Victorian fishing village is sure to be picturesque, and guests take a boat out to a local oyster farm where they learn about farming and the varieties of oysters. Afterwards, everyone has lunch at Cap Ferret, which is on the Arcachon Bay.
After this cruise tour, if you haven't had enough time in France, you can move to the eastern side of the country and sail on the Saône and Rhône Rivers on Viking's "Portraits of Southern France" 8-day itinerary.