Every day of his river cruise from Avignon to Lyon was a highlight, writes David Libeau.

Boarding Uniworld's SS Catherine in Avignon on a gorgeous sunny day I knew immediately I had made the right holiday decision.

The staff, who were all either French or Eastern European, were charming and welcoming. I knew I was going to be very comfortable in my suite (whoever said all you need is clean sheets?). The bed was the best I have slept in, with superb linens and then there were L'Occitane or Hermes toiletries.

After having been travelling for a while and shifting cities every few days, it was a treat to unpack (there was ample wardrobe space) for this seven-night luxury river cruise.


The thing about Uniworld is that everything is included, all meals of course, beverages, including champagne, and even the daily choice of shore excursions.

My fears the ship would be packed with senior citizens were unfounded. I enjoy active holidays and this was absolutely catered for. In fact there was a very fit and active cycling group on board (who turned into evening party animals). Each day, walking, cycle tours or even kayaking on the Rhone and under the Pont du Gard became part of my programme. For those who wanted a more leisurely holiday, there were tours to suit. Best of all I never felt stuck on a tour because they always included free time and at any time you could peel off and do your own thing.

Never, ever have I seen such stunning lavender-sky sunsets as in Provence. Hard to capture on camera, you just need to go and experience them for yourself. It is no wonder van Gogh loved to paint in this beautiful part of France.

Friends have asked for my highlights of this Avignon to Lyon tour and the answer is that every day was a highlight.

Avignon itself is gorgeous and along the way we visited Arles, Viviers, Tain l'Hermitage, Tournon, Beaune and Lyon and they all delivered their own magic and sensory overload.

The Uniworld-contracted local tour guides were relaxed and knowledgeable and ensured that the tours were always very enjoyable.

The brochure for this river cruise said "Burgundy and Provence will capture your heart and delight your senses" and having travelled extensively around the world I was a little sceptical of this marketing-speak. They were, however, spot on and the whole experience exceeded my expectations.

Every day was between 31C and 36C and the low humidity meant was quite comfortable. I can recommend travelling in June as the weather is settled, not too hot and it is outside school holidays.

Shipboard life was relaxed and could be very sociable if that is what you are looking for, however there was no compulsion to do anything in particular. Casual comfortable clothing was the order of the day and if you wanted to dress up a little in the evening you could do so.

The food was delicious, regionally sourced produce matched with excellent regional wines, although if you had a particular wine preference you just need to ask.

This was my first Uniworld experience; it will not be my last - and with Uniworld operating cruises across all the major European river systems, there is plenty of choice.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises' eight-day Burgundy & Provence voyage aboard the SS Catherine sails from March to November. Prices start from $4299 pp, twin share.

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