AmaWaterways Provence Excursions During a Rhône River Cruise

The Colors of Provence cruise was a phenomenal itinerary that allowed us to explore many areas of Provence over eight days and seven nights. The AmaWaterways guided tours were fantastic, with plentiful options each day. 

We will discuss the excursions we signed up for in the French cities listed below during our Rhone River cruise. We’ll share how strenuous the hikes were and essential info, like whether restrooms were available during the tour. 

We’ll also mention the other excursions AmaWaterways offers in the same port for their Colors of Provence river cruise. The exact offerings may change year to year as AmaWaterways finds new experiences they may want to offer guests but this will give you a great idea of what to expect if you’re going on the Colors of Provence cruise or considering signing up. 

Disclosure: This page has affiliate links, meaning we may earn a small commission if you click the link and proceed with a purchase at no cost to you. We thank AmaWaterways for hosting us on this cruise. We only recommend cruises, experiences, products, and services we use. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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AmaWaterways Colors of Provence Excursions Review on the Rhone River

AmaWaterways Excursion Offerings

One of the most impressive things about the cruise line is that they offer more included excursion options than other river cruise lines we’ve sailed with. Whereas cruise lines usually have one or two included excursion choices, AmaWaterways usually has three. 

This is definitely a perk of sailing with AmaWaterways through Provence. 

Overview of the tours we chose for our Colors of Provence cruise: 

Looking down from L'Hermitage during an excursion on the Rhone River with AmaWaterways in France.

AmaWaterways Assists with Excursion Needs

AmaWaterways has materials on board for your comfort and needs during excursions. AmaKristina was equipped with walking sticks for complimentary guest use. We also noticed two canes with a small seat attached to them by the exit door that any guest could use.

Each stateroom also has a large umbrella, though we travel with our tiny one that fits inside my purse. The crew offers guests boxed water as they leave the ship for excursions, but we travel with our own reusable water bottles to reduce waste. 

The Best Refillable Travel Water Bottles

Memo Bottle

We love these because they’re flat, so a Memo Bottle fits in a pocket, on the side of a backpack, in a purse, etc., very easily and comfortably.

MiiR Bottle

They’re insulated and keep the liquid at the temperature you added it to the bottle, for HOURS and hours. They rock.

We also love that the wide-mouthed bottles are easy to get ice cubes into. Use code “SOMETIMESHOME” for 15% off your order.

Collapsible Water Bottle

This Nomader water bottle saves a lot of space when rolled up and empty. The only reason we don’t carry one is because we’re worried about squishing it when it’s filled with water. But it’s a great option if it fits your needs.

When you return from an excursion, the crew greets you with a cold washcloth for your hands and offers you a glass of iced tea or water.

wifi During Excursions

When you’re on the ship, there’s free wifi. However, when you are on land, you need a way to connect. We always travel with our Solis hotspot because of this. In fact, we often use it to connect while onboard because sometimes the connection is stronger than the ship’s WiFi if we’re in port.

If you like to be connected when you travel but don’t want to pay outrageous roaming fees with your cell phone carrier, buy this hotspot:

We Always Travel with Our Solis Hotspot
  • WiFi on up to 10 devices
  • Lightweight and pocket-sized
  • Affordable
  • Works in popular port cities worldwide
▶︎ Use code “SOMETIMESSAILING” for 15% off your purchase
Hand holding an orange Solis wifi pocket-sized hotspot.

Lyon Tours

The next morning of our cruise, after we had our first evening in our lovely stateroom, was a beautiful day and time for excursions in Lyon. It was our first glimpse into AmaWaterways’ organized tours.

Lyon morning tour options:

  • City Tour: Two walking tour options, one longer where guests saw more of Lyon and one shorter that took guests to fewer locations  
  • Les Halles Market Tour
  • City Bike Tour

Dan opted for the Les Halls Market Tour, and I participated in a city walking tour. There were two city walking tour options that day: one was longer and started an hour before the second option, which was a shorter tour. 

Since we had been to Lyon weeks before this Colors of Provence cruise, in advance of our barge cruise in the South of France, I opted for the shorter walking tour.

Longer Walking Tour Excursion in Lyon: Old City Area and Hilltop Basilica

If you’ve never been to Lyon, we recommend the extended tour, which goes to the Vieux area of Lyon. It is the oldest part of the city and is filled with a lot of history! The tour takes guests to the city’s old alleyways and secret passages and to the city’s famous basilica, which has stunning mosaics inside. 

You can see the Basilica – an icon of Lyon – from most viewpoints around the city. And the view from there, looking at the city below the hilltop, is spectacular! 

Shorter Walking Tour of Lyon 

I had a private tour with a great guide because I was the only guest who opted for the later shorter tour. We walked through the city as the guide shared historical information about Lyon, from its Roman roots to the present day.

I learned about Lyon’s Roman ruins from 50 BCE with the guide’s assistance and the historical map illustration she shared. 

I also learned that Romans brought vines to Europe because they didn’t want the soldiers to drink the water; wine was healthier and more sanitary. Today, there are more than 14 wine regions where this Rhine River cruise sails, most of which are around the water. 

Romans also brought olives from Persia in the Middle East. You see a lot of olive trees in the South of France and a lot of olives at food markets and halls. 

We stopped at the famous Place Bellecour, where a horse-mounted Louis XIV is a central, dominating sculpture in the square. Place Bellecour is also where Lyon’s tourism office is. Then we moved on to various historical areas in the city, where the guide shared information about the different buildings in town, like City Hall. 

She also educated me about the silk workers’ rebellion, which is why the main avenue through the city is very wide – it is wide enough for an army to protect the city.

Les Halles Market Tour and Food Tasting in Lyon

Dan loved the Lyon food tour offered by AmaWaterways. The guide shared stories of how the food hall came to be and how when they asked famous Michelin-four-star rated chef Paul Bocuse to lend his name to the food hall, he said yes! 

Though he passed away in 2018 at the age of 91, his name lives on in Lyon and the culinary world. There is a mural of him in a chef’s hat across the street from the backside of the food hall where foodies can delight in taking a photo with him. There’s also a sculpture of this world-famous chef in the Lyon tourism office in Place Bellecour. 

Guests of this AmaWaterways culinary excursion tried sausages, bites of cheese, and tastings of wine – all the great French delights! 

One of the things you quickly learn during the Colors of Provence cruise is that people who live in the north of France use butter for bread, and people who live further south use olive oil to accompany bread. People in Lyon use butter, but as we sailed further south and reached Avignon, for example, where the cruise ended, people accompanied bread with olive oil. 

Dan and I met up at the ship and discussed our morning toes while we enjoyed dipping our toes in the pool, basking in the sunny afternoon Lyon gifted us.

After lunch on the ship, AmaWaterways bussed us to the famous Beaujolais wine region.

Provence excursion in Beaujolais 

On the first full day of the cruise (technically the second day of the sailing), guests could visit Beaujolais, a famous wine region in Provence. This was the only option that morning unless you wanted to stay on the ship or explore Lyon more alone.

A bus drove us north from Lyon to the Beaujolais region, about 30 minutes outside the city. We visited a gorgeous, quaint city called Oingt (pronounced “Wa”) before going to a small winery.

Oingt is one of the official “beautiful villages of France,” a connotation a village applies for and gets if it meets specific tourist requirements. The village reminded us of a beautiful destination we visited together in Normandy, called Honfleur, and a village I visited years earlier in the Alsace region called Eguisheim. 

These quaint villages are always a highlight of any river cruise. They’re charming, quiet, historic towns you hope to encounter in France. Needless to say, they’re very romantic. The official name of the pretty villages of the Rhone region is, “Mon beau village du Rhone.” Oingt was awarded in 2021. 

Golden limestone buildings lining a street in a quaint village named Oingt, in France's Beaujolais region.

Three Regions of Beaujolais 

On the short bus ride up to Oingt from Lyon, our guide, Alex, shared that Beaujolais is comprised of three regions. The regions are red, green, and blue or – in French – rouge, verre, and bleu. 

The rouge region is known for its wines, the verre for its green hills, and bleu is the main city. Altogether, there are approximately 300 castles, or chateaux, in Beaujolais, which make up about 5% of the region. 

You may know Beaujolais as the region that debuts a new wine on the third Thursday of each November, making it a popular wine to drink with Thanksgiving dinner in the United States

But more than wine, Beaujolais is a UNESCO Global Geopark, renowned for its geological makeup. Oingt buildings showed evidence of this significant geology. The golden limestone used in constructing the village’s buildings gives the town a unique warm color. 

Visiting Oingt 

When we arrived in Oingt (pronounced “Wa”) on a mid-October day, the weather was overcast with a slight drizzle. However, we still deemed it perfect weather, free of harsh sunlight. We were grateful for the light rain instead of heavy and the warm fall temperature of about 68 degrees. 

Our guide walked us around the small town for about 30 minutes, explaining its history, including information about the golden yellow limestone, the shops there, the population of around 2,000 people, the unique views of the valley below, and the village plan. 

After our tour, we had around 30 minutes of free time. It wasn’t enough time to have a meal, but we preferred to walk around some more on our own and take photos anyway. 

Another idea in the town is to get a glass of wine or shop. Oingt has four wine shops, several little souvenir shops, and five restaurants open at various times. There are two public restrooms in the small village.

Wine Tasting at One of the Oldest Vineyards in Beaujolais

The group was split into two groups for the Beaujolais tours that day. We’re lucky that Maurice and Terese Berchoux, the owners of Domaine du Bois Pothier vineyard we visited, were there to host us. They were generous with their time, knowledge, and hospitality.

Group of people looking at an ivy-covered building at Domaine du Bois Pothier vineyard in Beaujolais, France during an excursion for an AmaWaterways cruise.

Their family has been making wine in the area for over eight generations. They have been producing wine for so long, in fact, they are the oldest family in the area continuously producing wine. The family planted the vineyard in 1285, and the house on the property is from Napoleon’s time. 

Though the grape harvest took place before mid-October when we visited, the leaves showcased beautiful fall colors. The green leaves that turned yellow were from Chardonnay grape vines. The green leaves that turned red were from red Gamay grape vines. 

Gamay grapes are a cultivar from the 15th century. Maurice and Teresa explained – via French to English translation from our guide, Alex – that the Gamay vines at Domaine du Bois Pothier are 55 years old. Further back on the property, other varieties of vines were 123 years old.

Yellow and green vineyard leaves during fall with a small stone building in the distance.

They shared that the roots of some of the vines are as deep as 24 feet in the ground. Not only do such deep roots establish the plant, but it enables it to get water deep in the soil. 

The plant’s roots are especially key during extreme heat and drought. Because regardless of the weather, French winemakers are not allowed to water their plants. Even during the summer of 2022, when France experienced several heatwaves, no watering was allowed.

After learning about the property’s vineyards, we went into a wine-tasting room to taste several excellent reds, whites, and a rosé. We munched on bite-sized slices of bread topped with cheese, paté, and sausage. 

Wine in France is incredibly affordable and the wine at this vineyard during our Provence excursion was indeed that. A bottle was anywhere from €8 to €14. And the good news is that you can bring wine back to the ship!

Visiting Vienne

Our ship sailed to Vienne on the evening of the third day of our Colors of Provence cruise. 

It was fun to see the Rhône River water flow as we chatted with fellow passengers at our dinner table. We were going reasonably fast, but unlike ocean cruises, we hardly felt any motion, thanks to how calm river cruising is.

We arrived in Vienne around 8:00 pm and had the option to go ashore, but we stayed onboard. It was fairly dark outside, and we wanted our first impression of the town to be during the day. In the morning, we got our wish! 

Breakfast was earlier this day, from 7:00 am to 8:30 am rather than 7:30 am to 9:00 am, like the days before. This was because the Provence excursions in Vienne and all aboard time that afternoon were a bit earlier. 

Vienne tour options:

  • Footsteps of Ancient Romans Walking Tour
  • Mount Pipet Hhike
  • ViaRhôna 11-mile Bike Tour

Moderate Hike Excursion to Pipet in Vienne

We don’t consider ourselves hikers, but we know that the best views of any city are always at the top of a hill, mountain, or tower. 

Although we wondered how strenuous a “moderate” hike was with AmaWaterways, we signed up, figuring it couldn’t be that bad. And it wasn’t! It was terrific. (We should say we’re no strangers to moderate walks, which is really the same thing as a moderate hike, isn’t it?)

Hiking Tour Tip: Borrow a complimentary walking stick from the ship if you have bad knees. The hike wasn’t bad, but if your knees often hurt during strenuous walks, you’ll be glad you borrowed one from AmaWaterways. Don’t forget to bring water too.

We learned a lot about Vienne’s Roman history during our Provence excursion. Though we did not go on the other tours, the main difference was that we went to the top of the hill (Mt. Pipet) in Vienne, and the other did not. 

However, the tours ended around the same time so they may have seen some other Roman ruins we didn’t see when you factor in the time we took to hike uphill.

We walked from the ship with our tour leader, who grew up in Vienne and spoke perfect English. Near the ship was our first tour stop at Jardin de Villa (city garden), where we saw our first glimpse of Roman ruins evidence in Vienne. 

Then she guided us to another public park where archeologists unearthed Roman ruins. The ruins were impressive and looked like people constructed them 100 years ago, not thousands of years ago.

Man sitting in front of the Roman ruins in Vienne during a Provence excursion with AmaWaterways.

Eventually, we zig-zagged through the town, and our guide brought us to the paved hill that would take us to the top viewpoint of Mount Pipet. She was an excellent guide, reminding us to beware of cars and such and encouraging us to safely hike the uphill pavement at the pace that worked for each individual. 

Reaching the Top of Mount Pipet in Vienne

It didn’t take the whole group more than 10 minutes to hike up the path – which doubles as a road – to the top of Mt. Pipet. The hill was likely a 45% incline. Sure enough, the view from the top was gorgeous! The French call this point “Belvedere de Pipet,” which means “Pretty View of Pipet.”

From there, we viewed the river and its bridges to the river cruise ships and up and down the Rhone River. We also saw castle ruins on the next hill over, the Roman Museum in the distance, and the Roman theater just below us.

Aerial view of the town of Vienne and the Rhone River in France during an AmaWaterways Colors of Provence river cruise.

We entered the small but pretty church on Mount Pipet, Chapelle Notre Dame de la Sallette, also known as the Monastery of Mount Pipet. On the exterior, there’s a very tall statue of the Virgin Mary carved from black volcanic rock. The interior has vibrant peach-colored walls, a blue ceiling, and modest finishings. 

While inside, our guide, Stephanie, said she’d like to sing for us. She blew away when the most beautiful version of Ava Maria came out of her mouth! We had no idea she had such a great voice. It was instantly a highlight of the cruise; what a treat! 

More About Hiking to Mount Pipet in Vienne During our AmaWaterways River Cruise

Mount Pipet isn’t just a great viewpoint but a historic hilltop. It was a sacred site during Roman times, then a fortress during the Middle Ages that belonged to the bishop. 

The 14th to 17th centuries brought the destruction of the stronghold following a royal decree from Cardinal Richelieu. 

Finally, the people of Vienne built a church and statue dedicated to Notre Dame de-la-Salette on the site during the 19th century. That is what is there today.

The Hike Down Mt. Pipet and Touring More Landmarks in Vienne

After the stop at Mount Pipet, our guide walked us downhill toward our next destination: a hidden, small cloister. We would not have found it without this Provence excursion from AmaWaterways! The Cloister of Saint-Andre-le-Bas was quiet and peaceful inside.

We enjoyed the interior of the sunlight-filled courtyard and the attractive plants and landscaping as we all took a quiet moment to appreciate the day. 

Afterward, we made a stop at the church tower of Saint-Andre-le-Bas. The tour’s last stop was one of the most impressive spots in Vienne and one of the reasons many people tour the town: to see the Roman temple. There are only two remaining Roman temples in France, and Vienne is home to one of them. The other is Maison Carree in Nimes. 

The Temple of Augustus and Livia survived because the people repurposed it into a church over the years. It was declared an ancient monument in 1840. It’s a great picture-taking spot!

Free Time in Vienne

Though we didn’t have much free time in Vienne, after the tour concluded, we could walk back to the ship with our guide or enjoy time on our own. We opted for time in town to grab a baguette and olives for a little onboard picnic for lunch, just us.

All aboard time was 12:30 pm, and we returned by 12:15 pm. The ship spent the afternoon sailing to Tournon, which we arrived at by evening. 

Restrooms in Vienne

  • We passed one or two public restrooms in town as we walked around. There was also a restroom at the top of Mount Pipet. Lastly, there was a restroom in the Cloisters.

Provence Excursions in Tournon

We arrived at our next destination while we were eating dinner. Thirty-eight river cruise ships with various cruise lines sail the Rhône River, and they all stop in Tournon. The AmaKristina ship with AmaWaterways is one of them.

Evening in Tournon

After we finished dinner onboard the ship on day 4 of our Rhone River cruise, we headed out to Tournon for an after-dinner stroll through town. We were surprised but delighted that it was nearly 70 degrees that evening in mid-October. 

Just off the cruise ship was a park, and behind that was an avenue with some restaurants. We passed patrons eating dinner on the sidewalk or having drinks; we were grateful to experience the town’s nighttime energy and the fantastic weather.

It was quiet as we neared the castle minutes away from the ship, past the restaurants. We meandered through a street parallel to the one closest to the cruise ship, just behind the restaurants, where we assumed the shops were lively during the day. 

Yet the streets were quiet at night, and shops closed. The pathways were aglow with the light from orange street lamps. Some locals passed us by, including a couple walking their dogs and one or two people on bicycles. 

We returned to the ship about 30 minutes later and had a drink in the lounge before bed. The following day we were up early for another Provence excursion hike.

Tournon tour options:

  • Steam Train Ride along Gorge du Doux  
  • Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting at Le Château de Tournon
  • Tain-l’Hermitage Hike and Wine Tasting

L’Hermitage Hike and Wine Tasting in Tournon

Our guide for our L’Hermitage hike, Geraldine, met us outside AmaKristina in front of the park, where the town’s sculpture of Marc Sugain stands. Geraldine was French and spoke perfect English, as all AmaWaterways guides do.

She quickly started to share her knowledge of where we were, informing us that Marc Sugain was from the area, and that he invented the first wire-cable suspension bridge in 1825. The suspension bridge he built to connect two sides of the Rhone River had to be destroyed because it was too low for boats to clear underneath it by modern standards.

We walked across the nearest modern bridge towards Hermitage, just a five to ten-minute walk across the Rhône River. Though this city was simply across the river from the ship in Tournon, it varied greatly.

When we reached the other side, we walked a road that winded through the hill. Geraldine explained that the vineyard’s land is private, but the road that runs through it — including the hiking trail — is public. 

The views along the hike were all stunning in their way, whether we were looking at the colorful orange and yellow fall leaves on the vines in the foreground or the incredible landscape of the towns below in the background. Our views were complete with a spectacular bird’s eye view of the Rhone River from the height of our hike.

Looking down from L'Hermitage vineyards during an excursion on the Rhone River with AmaWaterways in France.

Looking back at our photos and remembering that day, we can confidently say that it was one of the prettiest hikes Dan and I have ever done, primarily because of the view from our hike’s peak, between the sun-drenched grape leaves. (Another river cruise hike with incredible views was in Passau, Germany, during a Danube River cruise.)

Geraldine shared some regional viticulture information while we took a hiking break and snapped photos before hiking downhill. 

Hermitage, a French wine Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC), produces some of the most prestigious wines in the world. We learned that the land on Hermitage would cost around $1M per hectare (around 2.5 acres) if any land were available to buy today. You probably guessed there isn’t any land available to purchase, though! But that’s how great the land is for growing grapes and how desirable it is.  

One of the reasons it’s so desirable is its microclimate. It is usually 10 degrees warmer on the Hermitage hillside than on the Tournon side of the river. We learned from Geraldine that the temperature difference is because the Hermitage side is composed of granite and limestone, while the Tournon side is just granite.

How Difficult is the L’Hermitage Hike with AmaWaterways?

The hike was challenging in some spots and more moderate in others. The hike had some 45-degree angle spots that we slowly navigated. However, overall, it wasn’t bad. 

At some points, going down the angular hills was more arduous, especially for people with bad knees. Even we, at 39 and 44 at the time, were careful to sidestep down so as not to slip on the small rocks that were all over the trail. 

The most difficult part lasted five minutes in either direction – the way up and the way down – which wasn’t much time. If you want to do the hike but are concerned about the hills, grab walking sticks from the boat before disembarking. There’s no shame in needing them!

Also, know that the hike only goes halfway up the hill. When we docked in Tournon and saw the hill in the morning, we thought, “Wow, that must take a while to hike!” But you don’t go to the top of the hill.

Lastly, though the view from the tallest point we hiked to was best, you don’t have to hike the entire way if you want to stop at any moment. If you do, the group hikes back down the same way it goes up, so you can catch up with the group as they make their way back downhill, before everyone goes to the wine tasting. 

Post-Hike Wine Tasting in Tournon

When we reached the bottom of the hill in town, we headed to M. Chapoutier for a wine tasting. We arrived around 11:00 am and tasted four delicious wines before returning to the ship. 

One of the most extraordinary things about this company is that they are one of the only, if not the only, winery that has braille on its labels.

Founded in 1808, M. Chapoutier has over 600 acres of vineyards in France, like in Provence and Beaujolais. They have vineyards in additional locations worldwide, including Madrid, Portugal, and Australia.

The wines were great, and tasting them was a nice reward after our hike!

Back to AmaKristina After Tournon and Hermitage and an Afternoon Sail

River cruises are sometimes unpredictable, thanks to the rise and fall of the river’s water levels and worker strikes. An impending lock workers strike occurred during our cruise, but thankfully, AmaWaterways knew about the strike in advance. 

Because of this, the captain got the boat down two time-consuming locks while the guests were on morning excursions. Instead of boarding the ship in Tournon after the morning tours, we took a 45-minute bus ride to get onboard. 

The logistics and schedule changes that had to take place were likely no small feat for AmaWaterways, but they perfectly pivoted. The changes the officers and AmaWaterways team made enabled the guests to experience the Colors of Provence river cruise schedule unaffected. We boarded our ship as planned after the bus ride and sailed into the evening.

Visiting Provence’s Famous City of Avignon

Avignon is a well-known city in Provence. AmaWaterways will take you there with ease and you’ll be able to easily walk to the historic city center from the ship.

Avignon morning tour options:

  • Walking Tour and Papal Palace
  • Tastes of Avignon
  • Avignon Bike Tour

Avignon afternoon tour options:

  • Pont du Gard UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Grignan Truffle Farm Visit

Tastes of Avignon Tour Excursion

We opted for a food tour during our morning in Avignon. In retrospect, we wish we had chosen a city tour. 

While the food tour was enjoyable, and we most enjoyed the part of the tour when the guide explained the city’s history as we walked to our first stop, if you’ve taken a French food tour in the past, this tour doesn’t provide any new information specific to Avignon.

We stopped at Les Halles food market (many food halls in France are named “Les Halles”) and tried a few delightful bites, including olives and an olive tapenade, delicious French bread and wine, and various kinds of cheese. 

Dan and I bought some cheese and bread to have on the ship later in the day during the free 15 minutes we had in the market before the tour moved on. 

Our next stop was for cookies and chocolates at the sweets shop La Cure Gourmande. Founded in 1989, every sweet inside is still homemade.

Dan and I were not enjoying the tour and wanted to make the most of our time, so we left the group a few minutes early and walked back to the ship on our own. Be sure to inform your guide that you’re leaving the group if you do this. 

If guests want, they can have lunch or dinner in town whenever the ship is docked. Avignon would have been the perfect place to do this. However, we opted for lunch on our river cruise ship before the afternoon aqueduct tour.

Afternoon Excursion to Pont du Gard Roman Aqueduct

Instead of attending the truffle tour that afternoon, we went to the historic UNESCO world heritage site Pont du Gard, with an impressive and historic Roman aqueduct. A truffle tour sounded terrific, but we did a similar tour during our European Waterways barge cruise that year and wanted to see something different. 

A bus took us about 30 minutes from where the ship docked to reach Pont du Gard. 

This architectural and engineering feat took 40 years of preparation and 15 years of construction. Romans built it during the first half of the first century AD and used it until the 5th century. It is the tallest and best-preserved Roman aqueduct.  

The landmark is impressive, reaching three levels high. Our guide shared that each stone weighs as much as six tons! After our organized tour, we had free time to walk around Pont du Gard and quickly enjoy the onsite museum. AmaWaterways includes a museum ticket with the tour.

Couple in front of an aqueduct, Pont du Gard, in Nimes, France.

Provence Excursions in Arles

A port stop in Arles is a highlight of AmaWaterways’ Colors of Provence river cruise itinerary. 

We’re both artists; as such, we love learning about art wherever we go. For example, we first went to Europe together to see Picasso’s Guernica in Madrid. Three years after that trip, we visited the Van Gogh Museum for an Emerald Cruises river cruise to Amsterdam during tulip season. A few years later, we visited the port city of Malaga to see the city where Picasso was born. 

We were excited to stop in Arles and embark on a Van Gogh tour, bringing us to various spots where the famous artist painted.

During our cruise in 2022, we only had one morning of excursion options in Arles. But they changed the itinerary the next year to include a full day with morning tour and afternoon tour options.

Arles morning tour options:

  • Les Baux & Carrieres des Lumieres art projections presentation
  • Les Baux & Olive Farm Excursion
  • Les Baux & Saint Rémy de Provence, where Van Gogh painted Starry Night

Aarles afternoon tour options:

  • Arles walking tour
  • Bike tour through Arles to the Langlois Bridge, featured in several Van Gogh paintings
  • Van Gogh Walking Tour, including a visit to the Vincent van Gogh Foundation museum

Getting to the Center of Arles from the Port 

We were bused into the city from the port and walked to the city center through the old city walls gate. You can feel the city’s history as you walk around. 

An expert guide passionate about the artist met us as we got off the bus and toured us around the city. As luck would have it, though she lived in France for many years at that point, she was Dutch, like Van Gogh. 

An Excursion to Understand Van Gogh’s Arles Art

Vincent Van Gogh lived in Arles for a few months before he died. This AmaWaterways tour enabled guests to learn more about Van Gogh’s life in the South of France and what he created there. 

We both appreciate Van Gogh’s artistic genius and his legacy. Going to Arles to see where he painted famous works of art was special; we’re grateful this Rhone River cruise made it possible.

The tour included more points of interest besides Van Gogh’s haunts, like the exterior of the old Roman Coliseum and old Roman grounds nearby. 

We spent time in the hospital courtyard where Van Gogh was hospitalized, where he painted Garden of the Hospital in Arles. Today, the courtyard is called Espace Van Gogh.

We saw the famous yellow cafe, forever commemorated in his painting Café Terrace at Night. The cafe still exists and, thanks to Van Gogh’s art, is perhaps the most popular tourist destination in Arles. 

A couple in the distance with a yellow building with arches on the left at a hospital in France where Van Gogh was.
Visiting the yellow cafe in Arles, France, during an AmaWaterways Rhone River cruise excursion.

The tour ended at the Vincent van Gogh Foundation. It is a beautiful art museum where we had limited time to see paintings of innovative artists’ paintings from decades ago and from recent years. At the time, one original Van Gogh painting was on display there.

Visiting Provence’s City of Tarascon

The Colors of Provence river cruise itinerary with AmaWaterways takes you to ports you may never visit. Tarascon was a great example of that during our cruise.

In subsequent years the itinerary changed to eliminate Tarascon from the cruise, but we’re leaving this information here in case you find yourself there before or after the cruise or AmaWaterways adds the port back into the mix in the future.

Jump to debarkation info

About Tarascon

In the 1960s, the people of Tarascon voted to go by way of industry, not tourism. Thus, tourism isn’t a focus here. The lack of shops open during our time in Tarascon didn’t affect our visit.

The small city has approximately 15,000 inhabitants. But it had some fun attractions we opted to visit on a walking tour led by an expert guide. 

Walking Tour Excursion in Tarason

We opted for a walking tour of Tarason that afternoon. The first landmark we visited was a nearby castle, just a few minutes walk from where the ship docked. It was a beautiful day in mid-October, and the temperature was around 70 degrees. The afternoon sun shone on the castle, casting a slightly golden hue on its stones. 

Tarason’s medieval castle was constructed between 1400 and 1438 AC. The building remains intact because though it was not a castle for long, it was a prison afterward. Partially because it was a prison, there is no furniture inside. However, the city has done a nice job of putting art in various castle rooms for visitor interest.

Tarason castle in France during a Rhone River cruise excursion.

We could see carvings on the stones inside the castle, etched by construction workers and prisoners. Seeing these carvings bridged the gap present day and centuries ago. 

In one room of the castle, we saw centuries-old stone etchings by a prisoner who was a shipbuilder; the nautical-inspired etchings looked a lot like frescos. 

After we toured the castle, we saw the famous Tarascon sculpture beside the building. Our guide shared stories about the mythical creature, whose features include a turtle shell, dragon’s tail, and claws. 

Flowers in the foreground with a mythical sculpture in the background in Tarascon, France.

Our guide showed us the city’s most prestigious church afterward, which is said to have the relics of Église Sainte-Marthe de Tarascon inside. She then guided us on a walk through town, stopping at City Hall and the exterior of the local theater and, perhaps, one of the most iconic shops in Tarascon, a beautiful silk shop named Souleiado.

Back to the Tarascon-Docked Ship and an Afternoon Pool Dip

After our lovely tour, we returned to the ship and enjoyed AmaKristina’s sundeck swimming pool. 

Even in October, South of France temperatures were perfect for enjoying the heated pool. It was a gorgeous port to do so because from the top deck, you could see Tarascon’s castle on the same side of the river, and a view of the castle in Beaucaire, across the river. 

We had the entire sundeck to ourselves, including the pool!

Disembarking the Cruise: Onward to Marseille

The closest international airport to Avignon or Arles is in Marseille. A quick 40 to 45-minute high-speed train ride from Avignon will bring you there. Though Arles is further south and looks closer to Marseille than Avignon, when you look at a map, the train between Arles and Marseille is about an hour and a half. 

➔ Our Colors of Provence cruise itinerary ended in Avignon, but some of the AmaWaterways dates/sailings for the same cruise have final debarkation in Arles. 

We opted to take the train to Marseille when we finished our cruise; Avignon’s train station is only 10 minutes from the docked ship by car, and it was relatively easy to use our phones to order an Uber. 

We bid farewell to the crew and headed to the train station to get to Marseille.

As we got off the ship, we saw the next cruise’s passengers embarking on their Colors of Provence river cruise. While we started north in Lyon and ended in Avignon in the south, their cruise would take them on the opposite journey. 

View of the old port, Vieux Port, in Marseille with Notre Dame de la Garde basilica in the distance on the hill.

Optional Colors of Provence Cruise Extensions

Some guests who boarded in Lyon were joining us from their AmaWaterways extension in Paris, before they embarked on the cruise. When the cruise was done, some guests chose to do the cruise extension in Barcelona. 

This is an add-on to your regular cruise. When you book your cruise, you have the option to do the cruise only, or the cruise with the pre-and-post extensions added for an additional cost. 

Animated map on a blue background.

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