Bordeaux vineyards chateaux Dordogne Garonne rivers France

Day 1: Bordeaux (Embark)

Arrive at Bordeaux–Mérignac International Airport.

If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship. Your ship is conveniently docked right in the heart of the city, so if time allows, why not stroll to the nearby food markets or take the tram to the popular Saint-Michel flea market, which is just a few stops away?

Day 2: Cadillac

The French phrase “la douceur de vivre” is an accurate description for your time in Cadillac, known for its deliciously flavored dessert wines. Meet a local Sauternes producer and also enjoy a delectable wine-pairing lunch at a 14th-century fortress.

Vous êtes arrivé à Cadillac, the area known for producing sweet dessert wines under the celebrated Cadillac AOC designation. You’re in for a treat!

Cadillac, châteaux and Sauternes vineyards with exclusive artisanal wine-pairing lunch at Château de Cazeneuve

It’s called the noble rot. Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that affects wine grapes, results in a concentrated and distinctive sweet wine that takes its name from the region, Sauternes. Today’s tour is devoted to an exploration of this region and its delectable wine.

You’ll visit one of the area’s finest estates for an intimate wine tasting as special as the wine itself, sampling the unique perfume and flavor of Sauternes. After your tasting, you’ll journey to Château de Cazeneuve, a polygonal 14th-century fortress with a royal pedigree. A favored residence of Henry IV, who inherited it from his mother, Jeanne d’Albret, the beautifully restored château still belongs to descendants of the Albret family. Here you’ll gather for a delectable wine-pairing lunch and learn how easy (and fun!) it is to pair a sweet wine with a whole new variety of dishes.

NOTE: Sailing this stretch of the Garonne depends on the tides. If it is not possible to sail to Cadillac, you will be transferred to your destination via motorcoach.

A special Captain’s Welcome Reception, and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 3: Cruising the Garonne River and Gironde Estuary, Pauillac

The legendary Médoc region abounds with prestigious wine châteaux in a dizzying array of architectural styles, as well as miles of grapevines stretching to infinity. Take a scenic drive to the tip of the peninsula or join a guide for a vineyard bicycle ride, followed by a wine tasting at a beautiful wine estate.

Enjoy the waters of the Garonne River and the Gironde Estuary before heading to the pretty town of Pauillac, gateway to the storied Médoc wine route and the prestigious “châteaux road.” Visit a celebrated winery for an exclusive special tasting. Or take a guided bicycle ride through the Médoc vineyards.

Exclusive guided "Let's Go" vineyard bicycle ride with wine tasting

Combine fresh air, gorgeous scenery and fine wine with a bicycle ride among the prestigious Médoc vineyards. Meet your guide and mount your bicycle in Pauillac and wheel out of town, pedaling through the lush landscapes of historic estates that have seemingly remained unchanged for centuries. Truly experience the atmosphere—the earth, the sunshine—of this famous wine-growing region. Do all those beautiful vineyards make you yearn to sample their fruit? Luckily, this adventure includes a stop at Château Lynch-Bages for a wine tasting.

Médoc châteaux route with exclusive wine tasting

In 1855, when Napoleon III asked for a classification of the best wines in France to give visitors, some 60 Médoc wines were awarded Grand Cru status—out of 61 total. A panoramic tour of this legendary landscape takes you from Pauillac to the tip of the Médoc peninsula, past storied vineyards of the region, including Château Latour, Mouton Rothschild and Pichon Longueville Baron, and through the villages of Margaux, Saint-Julien and Saint-Estèphe. You might be surprised to discover that the peninsula is only three miles wide, though it is 50 miles long, and the road carries you past a dizzying array of architectural styles— Renaissance, Greek Revival and medieval—as well as miles of grapevines. You’ll turn off the road and enter one of these estates for a private tour and a tasting of premier Grand Cru wines—but you won’t know which one of these exceptional châteaux is your destination until you open your invitation.

Day 4: Blaye, Bourg-sur-Gironde, Cruising the Dordogne River, Libourne

The Route de la Corniche Fleurie…could this be the most beautiful road you’ve ever traveled? Find out today on the drive to Blaye Fortress, passing through one impossibly picturesque hamlet after another, with exotic flowers (brought here by local sea captains) all along the way.

Sail across the peaceful waters of the estuary, where fishing huts rise above grassy marshlands edged by limestone cliffs, as you make your way to the town of Blaye. A visual feast awaits you on a storied road named for the many flowers that line it.

Scenic drive along the Route de la Corniche Fleurie with Blaye Fortress

This little road between Blaye and Bourg-sur-Gironde winds through picturesque hamlets with equally picturesque names—Pain de Sucre, Marmisson and Roque de Thau among them—limestone cliffs on one side, the Gironde on the other. Fishing huts on stilts stand above the waters of the estuary; charming 19th-century stone houses built by sea captains sit tidily along the road. Many of these captains traveled to far-off places and returned with exotic plants, which they planted in their gardens and along the road (hence the route’s name). But the history of these cliffs extends far beyond the 19th century—people have inhabited the area for thousands of years.

Upon returning to Blaye, your guide will take you through the 17th-century demilune-shaped citadel built by famed military engineer Vauban. This fortress design was the one Vauban, Louis XIV’s favorite military engineer, found most satisfactory, and he built some 300 of them in the Sun King’s realm. The citadel contains the ruins of a medieval castle, houses, squares, streets, even a convent, all enclosed within stark walls. If you stand on top of those walls, you will have a terrific view of the estuary— this view was the field of fire, giving the citadel command of the river.

This afternoon your ship sails to Bourg-sur-Gironde, which you may explore on your own. Climb the steep stone stairs rising from the riverbanks to the top of the village for a view of the confluence of the Gironde and the Dordogne, and be sure to check out the medieval gates and the Moorish villa.

Day 5: Libourne (Saint-Émilion)

The medieval town of Saint-Émilion is an ideal place to linger. Wander its cobblestone lanes, lined with wine shops and bakeries, and stop to admire the amazing rock-hewn church that extends beneath the city’s streets. Another treasure awaiting you underground? A wine tasting in the cellars of a premier Grand Cru estate.

With Libourne as your base, travel to nearby Saint-Émilion and immerse yourself more deeply in the region’s history and wine culture.

Saint-Émilion walking discovery tour with wine tasting

Hilltop Saint-Émilion offers both exceptional architecture and historic vineyards. The Romans were the first to plant grapes here, and this was the first vineyard region to be protected by UNESCO because of its history. Shops brimming with wine and wine tools line the steep cobblestone streets; medieval ramparts that bore witness to battles for control between French and English monarchs still stand; and vineyards encroach upon the village. Of all the sights, however, perhaps the most extraordinary is the 12th-century church carved into a cliff. Only the tower is aboveground; the rest of the church is subterranean. Its numerous underground galleries provided refuge during periods of strife, and include the grotto where St. Émilion, for whom the town is named, lived out his life in the ninth century. You have to see it for yourself—you’ll be amazed by its almost unfathomable construction. After touring Saint-Émilion, you’ll visit the cellars of a premier Grand Cru estate where you’ll taste some of the world’s most highly rated wines.

Day 6: Libourne, Cruising the Garonne River, Bordeaux

The French insist that the key to their superb wines is the soil in which they’re grown, the terroir. That same terroir also makes for extraordinary produce—the foundation for the country’s acclaimed cuisine—as you’ll discover today at a local farmers’ market. Tonight, see Bordeaux under the stars on an exclusive illuminations tour of the city.

Libourne “Village Day” with farmers’ market

How could you visit this rich agricultural land without delving into a farmers’ market? Libourne’s market is the heart and soul of the town; everyone comes here to choose the freshest vegetables, the ripest cheeses, the most luscious fruits, the loveliest flowers, and to chat with the producers and growers. Check out the stalls brimming with produce in the market square, then duck into the covered market and savor the enticing aromas of bread and cheese, fish and meat. After exploring the market, you and a small group of other travelers will be invited to push open the doors of ateliers, homes and shops, meeting the artisans who make some of the goods arrayed so enticingly in the market.

Exclusive “Bordeaux under the Stars” tour
It’s sometimes called the Port of the Moon, so what could be more appropriate—or magical—than to see Bordeaux under the moon and stars? Step aboard an open-top bus for a view of this extraordinarily beautiful city illuminated at night. The Bourse glimmers on the wide, shallow pool before it; the reflection of each lighted arch of the Pont de Pierre doubles the bridge’s graceful lines. Bordeaux has more protected buildings than any other French city but Paris, and your tour will show you just how lovely they are at night, each one masterfully lighted. This is a wonderful, unexpected way to see one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Day 7: Bordeaux

For Francophiles who are all Eiffel(ed) out, the city of Bordeaux is a delightful find, as elegant and sophisticated as big sister Paris, but with a younger and hipper vibe. Discover its many charms today, either on foot with a local expert or on two wheels, the locals’ preferred way to navigate the city’s charming back streets.

How to spend your last day in Bordeaux? You have a wonderful selection of exclusive opportunities to see this magnificent place, whose seamless blend of classical and neoclassical architecture led to its being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “Do as the Locals Do” with a walking tour of the city, or venture out on a bicycle ride through the city. Either way, you’ll have an up-close and personal view of one of the world’s most bustling and dynamic cities.

Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Bordeaux walking tour

Catch a tram at the Quai des Chartrons to the Place de la Comédie, the heart of Bordeaux’s Golden Triangle. Though Bordeaux was the capital of Aquitaine in the Middle Ages and has its share of Gothic churches, it reached its apex in the 18th century: The splendid honey-colored stone buildings from this era make up a city core that UNESCO has designated a World Heritage Site. (This is the district that inspired Baron Haussmann when he redesigned Paris at Napoleon III’s behest.) Trade with the French colonies built this handsome district, furnishing vanilla, sugar, spices and cocoa to inventive chocolatiers and bakers, who used these goods to create iconic desserts. Chocolate, once a Spanish monopoly, became part of Bordeaux’s culinary heritage when banished Spanish Jews brought the art of chocolate-making to France. What are Bordeaux’s present-day residents enjoying when they step inside the luxurious food halls and elegant shops in this neighborhood? Find out as you sample the delicious handiwork of Bordeaux’s bakers, as well as cheeses and chocolates—learn a few recipes, too! You’ll also visit one of the city’s wine bars and see firsthand how they wines of the many local châteaux are enjoyed by today’s sophisticated clients.

Exclusive guided “Go Active” bicycle ride through the back streets of Bordeaux

Hop on a bike and wheel with your expert guide along the Quai des Chartrons, a riverfront neighborhood that was the purview of British wine merchants back when they dominated the wine trade. It fell on hard times in the 20th century, but the tall merchant houses have since been reclaimed; now they house welcoming shops and cafés. Pedal past the antiques shops of Rue Notre Dame and the Church of St. Louis on your way to major city squares such as the Bourse and Parliament before heading back to the ship along the banks of the Garonne. Of course your outing will include a stop for refreshments at one of the delightful cafés you pass.

A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and  Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 8: Bordeaux (Disembark)

Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Bordeaux-Mérignac International Airport for your flight home.