by Valerie Demetros
Taking a cruise used to mean endless buffets, midnight snacking and returning home a few pounds heavier. Some cruises are still like that, but for real foodies who prefer quality over quantity and want gourmet meals, a culinary river cruise is just the ticket.
10-day River Cruise from Arles to Paris
This wondrous French river cruise travels along the Rhône and Saône Rivers with guided sightseeing in famous French locales as well as out-of-the-way spots. You’ll see beautiful countrysides, quaint villages and towns, and captivating views of France.
This cruise features menus created just for you in the tradition of famous Chef Paul Bocuse and includes pastry demonstrations, onboard cheese tasting, and a tasting and wine-pairing dinner hosted by the on-board Master of Wine.
All of this happens as you cruise by Arles and discover the settings that inspired Vincent van Gogh.
You’ll cruise to Avignon and see the 14th-century Palace of the Popes — the largest Gothic fortress in the world. From there, take a guided tour of a Roman ruins and 16-century castle in Tournon and Tain l’Hermitage, as well as Beaune’s Hotel-Dieu Charity Hospital, built in 1443 in Dijon.
And with two overnights in Paris, you’ll have plenty of time to visit such classic landmarks as the Louvre Museum, Eiffel Tower and more on a guided tour or on your own. These sell out fast. Prices vary from $6,000 to $15,000.
Lilas: Auxonne to Lyon
If a smaller, more intimate culinary experience is your style, charter a private barge in France with a dedicated chef. Each barge offers unique accommodations, all with elegance and luxury. Spacious cabins include private bathrooms and state-of-the-art technology.
Some barges even sport heated pools, antiques and murals, and a grand piano.
Enjoy a visit to the bustling covered market escorted by your on-board chef through the stalls. Mingle with the locals as you help choose your dinner ingredients from the produce on offer. Prices start at €33,000. (check conversion rates)
8 Day Beer Cruise Amsterdam to Amsterdam
This springtime river cruise takes off from Holland’s beautiful Amsterdam. For beer enthusiasts, a beer expert joins the cruise and hosts lectures, beer tastings and food-and-beer-pairings for an authentic Holland and Belgium experience.
Highlights include a visit to breathtaking Keukenhof, also known as the “Garden of Europe,” and its 70 acres of parkland and lakes. One of the world’s largest flower gardens, it boasts nearly 7 million flowering bulbs bursting with color. Prices vary from $5,000 to $10,000.