• Fri. Sep 23rd, 2022

Vintage alcohol cruise: Climb aboard this luxury boat in Bordeaux and taste the joys of the French vineyards

ByRandall B. Phelps

Jun 22, 2022

A vintage alcoholic cruise: Climb aboard this “floating castle” in Bordeaux and taste the joys of the famous French vineyards (and drinks are included!)

  • Lesley Bellew boards Uniworld’s SS Bon Voyage to cruise down the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde rivers
  • She tastes local wines on board – white from Blaye and a red 1er Grand Cru Classe from Saint-Emilion
  • His group of 90 manages to pass 800 bottles of wine during the trip

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Our cruise director passes over the tannoy at the end of the Bordeaux crossing of our SS Bon Voyage and declares: “This is a record. You spilled 800 bottles of wine.

I’m one of 90 passengers on this classy week-long cruise, and we’ve also racked up gastronomic bragging rights – our floating chateau’s guest chef is James Martin.

Boarding starts well. As the crates are transported to our cabins, everyone crowds into the glitzy lounge. It’s 11 a.m. and the orders are precise: “Champagne, please”. Beverages are included across the entire Uniworld Boutique River Cruises fleet.

Lesley Bellew boards Uniworld’s SS Bon Voyage in Bordeaux for a spin along the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde rivers

“While the crates are transported to our cabins, everyone is huddled together in the glitzy lounge (above),” Lesley says of the start of her tour. ‘It’s 11 a.m. and the orders are precise: “Champagne, please”‘

As Lesley's boat leaves Bordeaux, pictured is celebrity chef James Martin giving a cooking demonstration for the passengers

As Lesley’s boat leaves Bordeaux, pictured is celebrity chef James Martin giving a cooking demonstration for the passengers

As we leave Bordeaux to sail along the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde rivers, James offers us a demo. He also shares a useful cheat; how to make a fruit and cream cake with a cheap supermarket flan case as a base.

James recounts childhood summers in Saint-Emilion. While his father traveled the region tasting wines, he worked in a hotel kitchen.

“At the age of eight, I came back from France knowing that I wanted to be a cook,” he says. “This is where I learned to use the best ingredients. And that’s what we’re served on James’ menu; Thai-spiced crab risotto, monkfish ceviche, pan-fried sea bass, and bread-and-butter pudding with white chocolate and single malt whisky.

After each outing, the crew welcomes guests 'home' on the 'beautifully appointed' SS Bon Voyage.  Above, one of the ship's suites

After each outing, the crew welcomes guests ‘home’ on the ‘beautifully appointed’ SS Bon Voyage. Above, one of the ship’s suites

The SS Bon Voyage suites have a butler, Lesley reveals.  Above is one of the suite's bathrooms

The SS Bon Voyage suites have a butler, Lesley reveals. Above is one of the suite’s bathrooms

The cabins are

Staterooms are “sumptuous” with handmade Savoir beds, fine linens and a marble shower room

Pictured is the ship's solar deck.  Drinks are all-inclusive in the Uniworld Boutique River Cruises fleet, notes Lesley

Pictured is the ship’s solar deck. Drinks are all-inclusive in the Uniworld Boutique River Cruises fleet, notes Lesley

It is accompanied by local wine chosen by our sommelier; Blaye white and a red 1er Grand Cru Classé produced in Saint-Emilion. The SS Bon Voyage sails 30 miles to Blaye, moored under a UNESCO-listed fortress and opposite La Petite Cave wine bar.

Then we turn our attention to the cognac of Maison Rémy Martin, where the old cellars are full of cobwebs for the spiders to protect the barrels from insects.

After each outing, the crew welcomes guests ‘home’ on the beautifully appointed SS Bon Voyage.

Staterooms are no less sumptuous with handmade Savoir beds, fine linens and marble shower rooms, while suites have a butler.

Lesley tastes a Blaye white wine on her tour, before the SS Bon Voyage sails to the French commune (pictured)

Lesley tastes a Blaye white wine on her tour, before the SS Bon Voyage sails to the French commune (pictured)

On a day trip to Saint-Emilion, pictured Lesley stops at Veritable Macaron De St Emilion, a bakery that uses a centuries-old almond macaroon recipe

On a day trip to Saint-Emilion, pictured Lesley stops at Veritable Macaron De St Emilion, a bakery that uses a centuries-old almond macaron recipe

Wine expert Susy Atkins leads guests on a tour of 17th-century Abzac Castle, in an area she says is “arguably still the world’s premier wine region”.

We venture to Saint-Emilion, to Le Veritable Macaron De St Emilion, a bakery that uses a centuries-old almond macaron recipe.

We taste them straight from the paper they were baked on – and like James Martin, we pledge to return to this fairytale village and our floating castle.

TRAVEL INFORMATION

SS Bon Voyage’s Brilliant Bordeaux round-trip cruises sail weekly until October 30. uniworld.com (0808 168 9110).