This is the last in our series about AmaWaterway’s Taste of Bordeaux river cruise. We discuss some conclusions and what you can learn. Here’s the initial blog post so you can read from the start.
We leave the room for the last time by 9 am, hang out in the lounge and catch a taxi to the airport by noon. We watch the next batch of passengers arrive – part of us wants to tell them about all the neat things that await them in the coming week. But we don’t want to spoil their fun. Part of the appeal of this trip is new discoveries.
This trip, like the region, is all about wine. There’s history (castles and fortifications), there’s geography (estuaries and rivers) and there’s French food and atmosphere. But mostly there’s wine. Not just any wine but world class wine. This is the wine that the English made famous since medieval times. And wine that was traded around the world by the 18th century. Wine that brought wealth the region and fame to rolling hills of the countryside.
You may wonder what made our cruise a “wine cruise”. The normal Bordeaux cruise would visit exactly the same ports as on our trip. The only differences are: there’s no on board wine lectures, there’s no wine paired dinner and at the wine tastings there would be three wines to sample instead of four. So even if you go on a “normal” Bordeaux cruise, it’s all about the wine. If you don’t like wine or aren’t interested in learning about wine, this probably isn’t the best choice for you.
Note also that there is a powerful tidal force on these waterways. Thus the itinerary is constantly changing so that the ship can still navigate. The cities and sights don’t change but when the ship arrives and departs. So each trip will be slightly different depending on the timing of the tides.
What we liked most and….
As always, AmaWaterways does a great job. Service is flawless. The next meal is always better than the previous one. Wine selections were local and excellent. Lots of excursion choices and with one exception, the local guides were outstanding. We enjoyed the on board bicycles, coffee / cappuccino machines (2) and the fitness room. The Chef’s table was especially memorable. The WiFi was excellent, not common for many ships.
And as always, AmaWaterways seems to attract a really nice crowd. Just about everyone on board was at least pleasant and in many cases people we would love to see again. It’s great to get to know the French but also getting to know fellow passengers from around the country and world is equally perspective enhancing.
Any river cruise is greatly enhanced by the cruise manager. In our case Elia did a great job. She was organized and punctual, funny and conversational and full of information. Truly she made the trip better.
The ship is very nicely appointed – not over done – but comfortable, thoughtful and functional.
What we liked least
While they tried very hard to accommodate gluten free, the end result was pretty blah. They made gluten free pasta, no problem but relative to what the Uniworld crew did on our Venice river cruise, AmaWaterways fell short.
We wish there was a little less focus on the wine. I know, I know. It’s a wine cruise in one of the most famous wine regions of the world. But we still got “wined” out a bit.
Finally, we wished they would have been able to control the noise level during the La Strada concert. People were at the bar to talk but unfortunately it was the same venue as the concert. Perhaps they could have accommodated bar drinkers on the top deck or somewhere away from the concert.
Pre and post extensions
Because we combined this with our Venice cruise, we chose not to do Ama’s pre and post cruise extensions. But we do recommend it. It’s truly an extension as the Cruise manager accompanying the passengers on both Paris (pre) and the Loire Valley (post). On our trip approx 30% of the passengers did the extension but on other trips the percentage can vary up to 75%. Doing the extension also means logistics are greatly simplified – from the time you arrive in Paris to the time you leave Paris luggage and transfers are taken care of by AmaWaterways.
However, if you don’t buy the offered pre and post cruise extensions we absolutely recommend a few days in Bordeaux on your own. You’ll get a taste of the city on your river cruise but there’s so much more. We found several excellent hotels and more importantly, several guides that would greatly enhance a visit. Local guides not only understand the history but can bring that history into context via a current perspective.
Another factor to consider is that Bordeaux is that it’s very easy to connect with other cities in Europe. So it pairs naturally with other river cruises – certainly the Seine and Rhone in France. But really any other river cruise since you can easily fly into Bordeaux. For example our flight from Venice was $80 each (one way) including luggage fees.
Always time to learn
I’ll conclude with a quote: “Every day is a new life to the wise one”. This is the saying under the banner of the Daily Cruiser – the daily newsletter on AmaWaterways ships. For us, travel is a great step toward wisdom. Every time we travel, we learn.
On this trip we certainly learned about wine. And the history of wine is the history of western civilization. To learn more check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_wine or the excellent book “A History of the World in 6 Glasses” By Tom Standage.
And we also learned about Aquitaine and Southwest France culture, life and history. And we learned about the city of Bordeaux – how it has an English culture as well as France (and actually German since the original Franks were Germanic). How vibrant and robust the city now is.
But we certainly learned from other passengers. We spoke with a doctor who told us about the Mayo Clinic hospital in Phoenix, educators and principals who told us about how to inspire teachers, a salesman who described the selling process to us, a student trying to figure out what she wants in life, a recent graduate whose energy and enthusiasm is infectious and confidence building. We spoke with the head waiter from Portugal and the waiter from Romania about their life on board. The discussions we had with the California vintner revealed a different perspective in terms of attitude and life. Also on the cruise we spoke with folks from Minnesota, a wine expert from St. Louis. Our cruise manager Elia was born in Germany but lives in France and she provide lots of insights of the local France view. And at each destination city we had guides who live locally and provide their unique perspectives. Where else do you get this experience than on a river cruise ship?
So yes, every day is a new life. We learn and we become wiser. Another river cruise, another outstanding perspective, all on the path to wisdom. “Au Revoir” AmaWaterways and Bordeaux
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