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A first time guide to France river cruising

River cruising is one of the best ways to explore France. Docking right in the heart of towns and ports, Scenic Space-Ships enable guests to explore at their leisure and eat some of the best local produce each region has to offer. With Scenic, you’ll experience more than simply a 5-star river cruise—you'll enjoy truly all-inclusive luxury in a class of its own as you cruise through France’s most celebrated locations. From Monet’s Garden in Giverny to the top wine-producing regions of Bordeaux, here are some of the important things you need to know to help you choose the right river cruise in France to suit your interests. 

Which French rivers will I cruise along?

The South of France

Flowing through the South of France, the Saône and Rhône rivers offer visitors access to some of the country’s most beloved destinations. Rich in magnificent architecture, picturesque scenery and delicious gastronomic fare, you certainly won’t go hungry in this stunning French region with highlights including the towns of Mâcon, Lyon and Avignon.


A journey along Bordeaux’s three waterways, the Gironde, Dordogne and Garonne, is simply breathtaking. Situated in the southwest of France, Bordeaux is famous for its exquisite wines grown on its rich fertile soil. Stroll through the vineyards and charming estates of Saint-Émilion, enjoy an enchanting concert at a 13th century Château in Médoc and sample fresh oysters caught straight from the waters of Arcachon Bay.

The Seine

The Seine is the lifeblood of Paris, measuring 777km long. Although Paris, the ‘City of Light’ is one of the highlights of a Seine river cruise, northern France offers beautiful landmarks, revered works of art and towns steeped in wartime history. Enjoy stops at Giverny, Rouen and charming Honfleur and walk along the historic beaches of Normandy, the site of the D-Day landings.

With so much to see, smell, taste and savour, you’ll want to choose a cruise where you have the freedom to explore onshore destinations at a pace that works for you. The broad range of Scenic Freechoice activities enables you to personalise your itinerary and select the activities you’ll enjoy each day.

It’s more than daily shore excursions...with Scenic, its enriching experiences paired with a level of truly all-inclusive luxury only Scenic can offer.

When should I take a river cruise in France?

The France river cruising season runs from April to October and your month of departure depends on what you would like to see and do. In spring as nature turns out a colourful floral display as blooms awaken from their winter’s sleep. In April, you can pay your respects at the Somme battlefields during a Seine river cruise to coincide with times of remembrance around Anzac Day. June to August marks summer in France and this is a time for celebration.  

You could arrive in July to celebrate Bastille Day, the French National Day, with outdoor performances, military parades and spectacular fireworks. July also marks the iconic Tour de France cycling event where you can watch keen cyclists race through the streets (dependent on the race location of course).  

For something more relaxed, enjoy a glass of prestigious wine at Grand Cru estates as you stroll through rolling vineyards in their peak. In autumn expect cooler temperatures, the perfect time for walking and admiring the changing colours of the leaves as well as feasting on hearty French stews. 

What should I pack for a France river cruise?

River cruising is all about exploring; so be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes and layers of clothing for when you’re out exploring the historic sights – it can get chilly near the water or early in the morning. In the evening, smart casual attire is perfectly acceptable, although you might like to dress up for our Scenic Enrich experiences which include classical concerts at legendary Châteaux or castles.  

On a Scenic Enrich event, expect more than a standard excursion. They are captivating visits to castles, galleries and museums after-hours being guided by cultural experts. 
On board, Scenic Space-Ships feature a gym, so bring your exercise gear with you if you like to sweat it out while on holiday. Pack your swimwear to enjoy a dip in our Vitality Pool on board Scenic Sapphire and Scenic Diamond. Scenic is also the first and only river cruise company to feature a Salt Therapy Lounge on board its ships where you can absorb the healing properties of salt minerals, known to improve many ailments and improve overall wellbeing (the Scenic Gem on the Seine does not include a Salt Therapy Lounge). With Scenic, it’s more than healthy's nourishment of mind, body and soul.
Other must-pack essentials items are a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, spare battery and memory cards, universal adaptor, any local currency and medication you might require.

What will I do on a France river cruise?

From sampling prestigious wines in historic Châteaux to visiting a local market with your on board Chef - there is an incredible array of activities to enjoy that enable you to immerse yourself in French life and culture. Take advantage of Scenic’s expert crew and the services of your Cruise Director and Enrichment Manager to help you get the most out of your French journey. You might like to explore ancient castles, war memorials or enjoy guided walking and cycling tours of local towns. On board, take a dip in the pool or admire picturesque views over a glass of wine on the Sun Deck. 
For food lovers, you can opt for a masterclass in French cuisine at Scenic Culinaire, Scenic’s on board cooking school during a South of France or Bordeaux river cruise. Relish the culinary wonders of French cuisine and treat yourself to the pleasure of sampling your own mouthwatering creations at the end of the class.
With Scenic Freechoice activities, you can choose from a range of handpicked, varied and fascinating shore excursions with expert local guides that cover a diverse array of interests. You can also choose from Relaxed, Moderate and Active activities, allowing you the freedom to select the pace that suits you on any particular day. With Scenic, it’s more than just interesting onshore activities, it’s a personalized river cruise that you can tailor to your preferences.  

On board, you’ll find that it’s more than good food and wine. Rather, it’s your choice of up to five dining venues with a dedicated team creating dishes inspired by the regional cuisines of France. True gourmands can also prepare their own cuisine at Scenic Culinaire, a series of cooking classes on our France river cruises that are led by expert chefs using fresh and regional produce sourced at local markets.  
For those who really want to be immersed into the world of fine French cuisine, choose from two new Scenic culinary cruises in France, considered the home of epic gastronomy. On both The Tastes of Southern France cruise and also the Flavours of Bordeaux cruise, you'll sample fresh, local produce, learn the art of French winemaking, visit Michelin-star restaurants and sample local delicacies such as mustards, olives, truffles and chocolate.  

What is it like to dine on a Scenic Space-Ship?

You can look forward to truly all-inclusive dining and beverages throughout your cruise. There’s no reaching for your wallet, leaving your suite number or checking the price list because all day, every day, your meals and drinks are included (with the exceptional of a small number of rare and fine vintage wines and spirits).

Start your day with a hearty and healthy breakfast including á la carte dishes such as Eggs Benedict or lamb cutlets... and why not enjoy a glass of bubbles (you’re in France, after all).

If you feel like a more casual lunch, try the River Café or treat yourself to an ice cream from the Gelato bar. In the evening you can enjoy a five course á la carte dinner served in the Crystal Dining room, whilst admiring the views of French waterways and landmarks through the expansive windows. Once during your cruise, all guests can enjoy an authentic French dining experience at L’Amour, a five-course menu featuring regional specialties paired with local wines from the region’s best vignerons.  

Exclusively for Diamond Deck guests, a six-course dégustation menu with sommelier paired wines awaits for up to 10 guests per evening. For those that prefer to dine in the comfort of their suite, room service is available and the mini-bar is fully restocked daily to your preferences, allowing you to enjoy an early night or watch your favourite movies over a glass of wine.

With Scenic, it’s more than simply great food and wine because our culinary team led by our Executive Chef, prides itself on creating a full epicurean experience in a class of its own.  

Which suite should I choose on a France river cruise?

All guests enjoy the services of a butler who will very quickly learn your personal tastes and preferences. It’s more than butler's knowing ‘whisky, no ice’. If this is your first-time river cruising through France, then we recommend you book a balcony suite. Welcome the daylight and picturesque views in at the touch of a button, as the glass glides down to convert your balcony into your own private and exclusive Scenic Sun Lounge. Admire the views of historic castles and vineyards as you pass by and at the end of the day, gently sink into your wonderfully comfortable queen-size Scenic Slumber Bed, choosing your personal preferences from the pillow menu.

For an even more luxurious cruising experience or to celebrate a special occasion, consider the ultimate in truly all-inclusive luxury river cruising and treat yourself to the Royal Owner’s Suite where you will be exclusively invited to dine at Table La Rive. Pop a complimentary welcome bottle of French champagne and plan how you’ll spend your 200 Euro per suite to use in the Wellness Centre.

It's more than a 5-star river cruise 

Regardless of which suite you choose, your Scenic Space-Ship will be your luxurious oasis as you explore the waterways of Europe and enjoy the ultimate in 5-star cruising, every moment of the day. It’s more than a 5-star river’s truly all-inclusive luxury that allows you to place your wallet somewhere safe and relax, leaving everything to us. Scenic is luxury cruising in a class of its own. 

Commitment to Health & Safety 

We understand the importance of maintaining your health and wellness whilst travelling. Our team has worked closely with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and government health agencies to implement a full range of health and wellness measures for our river cruise operations. Read further information on these policies.  

Cruise with confidence | Our commitment to your health & safety - Scenic° 

Top France River Cruises