A classic liquor cruise: hop aboard this “floating castle” in Bordeaux and sample the delights of France’s famous vineyards (and the drinks are all-in!)
- Lesley Bellew boards Uniworld’s SS Bon Voyage to cruise down the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde rivers
- She tastes local wines on board – whites from Blaye and a red 1st Grand Cru Classe from Saint-Emilion
- Her tour group of 90 manages to consume 800 bottles of wine on the trip
Our cruise director comes across the Tannoy at the end of our SS Bon Voyage’s Bordeaux cruise and declares, “This is a record. They poured back 800 bottles of wine.”
I’m one of the 90 passengers on this posh week-long cruise, and we’ve collected gastronomic boasts too – guest chef on our floating castle is James Martin.
Embarkation starts well. As suitcases are brought to our staterooms, everyone crowds into the glittering lounge. It’s 11 a.m. and the orders are concrete: “Champagne, please.” Drinks are all-in across the Uniworld Boutique River Cruises fleet.
Lesley Bellew boards Uniworld’s SS Bon Voyage in Bordeaux for a tour along the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde rivers
“As suitcases are carried to our staterooms, everyone flocks to the glittering lounge (upstairs),” says Lesley of the start of her tour. “It’s 11 a.m. and the orders are concrete: ‘Champagne, please'”
As Lesley’s boat leaves Bordeaux, celebrity chef James Martin gives the passengers a cooking demonstration
As we leave Bordeaux to sail along the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde rivers, James treats us to a demo. He also shares a useful cheat; How to make a fruit and cream tart using a cheap grocery bag as a base.
James tells tales of childhood summers in Saint-Emilion. While his father was touring the region to taste wines, he worked in a hotel kitchen.
“I came back from France when I was eight and knew I wanted to be a chef,” he says. “This is where I learned to use the best ingredients.” And that’s what we’re served up on James’ menu; Crab risotto with Thai spices, monkfish ceviche, pan seared sea bass and a bread and butter pudding with white chocolate and single malt whisky.
After each excursion, the crew welcomes guests “home” on the “beautifully appointed” SS Bon Voyage. Above is one of the ship’s suites
Suites on the SS Bon Voyage have a butler, Lesley reveals. Upstairs is one of the suite’s bathrooms
The staterooms are ‘palatial’ with handcrafted savoir beds, fine linens and a marble clad shower room
Pictured is the sun deck on the ship. Drinks are all-in across the Uniworld Boutique River Cruises fleet, notes Lesley
It is accompanied by a local wine selected by our sommelier; White from Blaye and a red 1st Grand Cru Classe made in Saint-Emilion. The SS Bon Voyage sails 30 miles to Blaye, docking beneath a UNESCO World Heritage-listed fort opposite La Petite Cave wine bar.
Next we turn to the cognac at the House of Remy Martin, where the old cellars are covered in cobwebs so spiders protect the barrels from insects.
After each excursion, the crew welcomes guests “home” on the beautifully decorated SS Bon Voyage.
The staterooms are no less luxurious with handcrafted savoir beds, fine linens and a marble-clad shower room, while the suites have a butler.
Lesley samples a white wine from Blaye during her tour before the SS Bon Voyage leaves for French Commune (pictured)
On a day trip to Saint-Emilion (pictured), Lesley stops at Le Veritable Macaron De St Emilion, a bakery that uses a centuries-old almond macaron recipe
Wine expert Susy Atkins takes guests on a tour of the 17th-century Chateau d’Abzac, in a region she says is “arguably still the best wine region in the world.”
We venture into Saint-Emilion to Le Veritable Macaron De St Emilion, a bakery that uses a centuries-old recipe for almond macaroons.
We taste them straight from the paper they were baked on – and like James Martin, we swear to return to this fairytale village and our floating castle.
SS Bon Voyage’s Brilliant Bordeaux round trip cruises operate weekly through October 30th. All-inclusive prices from £1,799 per person for the 21st August cruise when booked by 30th June. Additional cruise dates featuring celebrity chefs and wine will be announced at uniworld.com (0808 168 9110).