Joie de Vivre: New Cruise Itineraries With French Port Calls

Luxury Cruise Guide


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Oceania Cruises’ 24-day voyage on the new 1,200-passenger Vista

13 April, 2022

For travelers who love “everything France” but prefer the ease of a cruise for their vacation, luxury cruise lines have introduced a stellar line-up of new 2022-2024 itineraries with French port calls, some on new ships.

Cruise ships often call at Le Havre, Honfleur or Rouen, northern France’s port gateways to Paris and the D-Day beaches, or southern France’s Nice or Saint-Tropez along the Cote d’Azur. Near the Atlantic coast, Bordeaux beckons with wine culture, while Sete is the gateway to medieval Carcassonne and the list goes on. So, travelers have diverse France options when eagerly seeking the “joie de vivre” on a luxury cruise.

Lengthier Voyages

Seeking to maximize a vacation with a lengthy voyage? Then, Luxury Travel Advisor suggests Oceania Cruises’ 24-day voyage on the new 1,200-passenger Vista, which sails between Rome and London on July 25, 2023. Cruisers will spend five days in four different French ports, as well as go ashore in Italy, Malta, Monaco, Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

This cruise will take guests to Saint-Tropez, Marseille and Brittany’s Saint-Malo, with views of Mont St. Michel or a visit to medieval Dinan with half-timbered houses and an impressive clock-tower. Plus, the ship will overnight in Bordeaux, so cruisers can explore the Cite du Vin museum and, on the second day, tour country wine estates, chateaux or quaint towns.

We’d opt for Oceania’s small-group tour, “Oceania Exclusive – Saint-Emilion,” to see vineyards edging the town’s moat and 13th-century walls. Travelers also will view a partially underground church, Eglise Monolithe, carved out of rock over three centuries. Plus, they’ll see a 13th-century tower and historic gate, prior to free time for shopping or sipping at a local wine bar.

As for the new ship, Vista recently was “floated out” from an Italian shipyard. In spring 2023, the ship will sail an inaugural season of Mediterranean/European voyages before arriving in the U.S. to operate New England/Canada, Panama Canal and Caribbean cruising.

Oceania’s Vista

Sailing in style, Vista’s guests will savor 12 dining options, eight bars, lounges and entertainment venues, plus the Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center and Aquamar Spa Terrace. They’ll relax in highly spacious private accommodations as even standard staterooms will offer 290-plus square feet of space. All Penthouse Suites and staterooms will have large bathrooms with over-sized rainforest showers. New concierge level veranda staterooms are being designed for solo travelers.

All Owner’s, Vista and Oceania Suites will have soaking tubs, and the palatial Owner’s Suites (as well as the ship’s Library) will be styled exclusively in Ralph Lauren Home décor. Vista also will offer staffed Concierge and Executive Lounges for guests in concierge staterooms and suites, respectively.

Another option for travelers seeking hefty time in France is Windstar Cruises’ 23-day “Star Collectors: Culinary Capitals of Spain and France.” Departing May 2, 2023, the 312-passenger Star Legend sails between Barcelona and Amsterdam with calls at La Rochelle, Lorient on Brittany’s southern coast, and Caen in northwestern France.

But there’s more. This itinerary also will include overnights in both Rouen and Saint-Malo, as well as a double overnight in Bordeaux. In Rouen, we’d suggest cruisers choose Windstar’s private car/driver shore trip to Paris that includes an overnight hotel stay there and two days of touring.

Ultra-Luxury

Ultra-luxury Regent Seven Seas Cruises will welcome its new, 750-passenger Seven Seas Grandeur in late 2023. As Regent’s sixth ship, this vessel is a sister to Seven Seas Splendor and Seven Seas Explorer. One new Seven Seas Grandeur voyage is an enticing, 14-day cruise roundtrip from Barcelona, Spain, on April 24, 2024, with a trio of Mediterranean calls at Sete, Marseille and Saint-Tropez, France. Guests also will head ashore in Spain, Monaco, Italy (including Sicily) and Malta.

Seven Seas Grandeur’s Compass Rose, the line’s signature specialty restaurant, will be a “feast for the eyes” thanks to a new design concept by Miami’s Studio DADO. At its entry, guests will encounter a cascading waterfall sculpture fashioned with laser-cut metal and hand-blown glass. Inside, Compass Rose will have a canopy of interwoven crystal and illuminated trees arching overhead, so guests will feel they’re dining in a gorgeous forest. As the sun goes down and dinner is served, guests will see floor-to-ceiling illumination by thousands of crystal-faceted leaves on pillars and branches. A mural — crafted with gold-leaf and Verre Eglomise — will depict flora and fauna at the forest’s edge, and twinkling lights will encircle the windows.

signature specialty restaurant Compass Rose

Accommodations-wise, Seven Seas Grandeur will offer 15 lavish, spacious suite categories. The crown jewel (as on the sister ships) is the 4,443-square-foot Regent Suite, complete with its own in-suite spa. New for that top suite is a skylit, glass-enclosed parlor adorned with two chaise lounges.

In addition, new “Behind the Design” and “Eco-Connect” shore tours will launch across Regent Seven Seas’ fleet this summer. Many are included within the line’s free unlimited shore excursion portfolio, while others carry an added fee. “Behind the Design” tours will offer insights about captivating architectural feats such as the La Villa Mediterranee and Mucem (the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations) in Marseille.

In contrast, new “Eco Connect” tours will focus on sustainability/ecology. In Bordeaux, for example, luxury cruisers will learn how converting to biodynamic and organic farming further elevated the already-high quality of Chateau de La Dauphine’s wines.

he Otium Suite on Silver Nova is a 1,323-square-foot suite with a 431-square-foot balcony.

Ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises also will launch a snazzy new ship in 2023, the 728-passenger Silver Nova, first in the new Nova-class. During the ship’s 10-day maiden voyage from Southampton, U.K., to Lisbon, Portugal, on July 15, 2023, guests will go ashore at both Saint-Malo and Bordeaux (with a double overnight stay), France, plus other European ports.

Running the ship’s entire length on four decks, Silver Nova’s 13 categories of suites will start at 357 square feet and include new aft options. Every suite will offer floor-to-ceiling windows with a private glass balustrade balcony. Top digs? That will be the new 1,323-square-foot Otium Suite with a 431-square-foot balcony. Inside this suite, guests will have 270-degree views, sleep on luxurious, custom-made mattresses and freshen up in a master bathroom with whirlpool and a walk-in shower.

For the first time, Silversea is building an asymmetrically designed ship with a horizontal layout to enhance spaciousness. Instead of positioning the enclosed swimming pool in the middle of the pool deck, it will be open to one side of the ship, providing a larger open area with unobstructed views. Nova-class also will bring more structure inside, so suites and public spaces will have huge glass surfaces that eliminate visual barriers, while elevators will have glass walls overlooking the ocean.

Beginning service this month is Silversea’s new, 596-passenger Silver Dawn, a sister to Silver Moon. The new ship will introduce Silversea’s new Roman-inspired, Otium Spa concept. That wellness focus will also extend into suites — reflected in new dedicated balcony, bathing and sleeping experiences. On May 5, 2023, Silver Dawn’s 12-day voyage from Lisbon to Southampton, U.K. will call at Saint-Malo, and offer a double overnight in Bordeaux. We’d suggest booking the line’s new shore excursion, “Exquisite Lalique with Michelin Star Experience.” That will include a scenic drive, visit to Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauterne wine tasting and three-course lunch with wine at the chateau’s one-Michelin-star Restaurant LALIQUE.

Ultra-luxury Seabourn also offers appealing voyages for fans of French culture, cuisine, heritage and lifestyle. We’d opt for the 14-day “Mediterranean Enchantment” voyage roundtrip from Barcelona, Spain, on October 29, 2023. The 600-passenger Seabourn Ovation will call at the four mainland France ports of Sete, Toulon, Saint-Tropez and Marseille, plus Ajaccio and Bastia, both on the isle of Corsica, France. Other port calls are in Italy and Spain. 

Situated in Provence’s Var prefecture, Toulon’s lovely Old Town is harborside with narrow streets, small squares and fountains, while the Upper Town reflects 19th-century grandeur. One sightseeing option is to take a cable car to Mont Faron, or cruisers might head for local history, art or naval history museums. Popular for locals and visitors alike is the waterfront neighborhood of Le Mourillon with its family-friendly beach area.   

While in Toulon, we’d suggest cruisers consider Seabourn’s shore excursion, “Bormes Les Mimosas: A Mindful Living Tour,” an extension of the line’s “Spa & Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil” program. After a scenic drive, travelers will enter medieval Bormes les Mimosas, the “Village of Flowers,” which is visually gorgeous with Oleanders, Eucalyptus and the iconic, yellow Mimosas. 

Cruisers will also see the 16th-century Chapel of Saint-Francois de Paule and 18th-century Romanesque Eglise (church) Saint Trophyme, before enjoying free time for shopping or “people watching” at a sidewalk cafe.

Back aboard Seabourn Ovation, cruisers can further relax with a Mindful Living yoga or meditation class. Or, how about a pampering massage — perhaps a bamboo massage, deep-tissue muscle massage, aroma stone therapy or Thai herbal poultice massage? 

Setting sail in 2023 is Explora Journeys, the new luxury lifestyle brand of MSC Group. One good option for France exploration is a 16-night “journey” from Barcelona to Southampton, U.K. Departing June 25, 2023, Explora I will call at the French destinations of Honfleur, Saint-Malo, Bordeaux and St.-Jean-de-Luz, plus Portuguese and Spanish ports.  

For many itineraries, Explora Journeys plans non-traditional arrival and departure times, as well as some late night and overnight stays. For example, at Bordeaux, Explora I will arrive at 11:15 a.m. one day and overnight before departing at 9:30 p.m. the following day.

As one of four sister ships planned (and the luxury line holds options for two more), Explora I will offer 461 staterooms and suites. Guests will have nine distinct, inclusive culinary experiences focused on food from local, sustainable sources. They’ll also discover three outdoor pools and one indoor pool with a retractable glass roof, allowing all-weather use. In addition, there will be 64 private outside cabanas, and both indoor and outdoor whirlpools. 

Accommodations-wise, Explora I’s guests will relax in one Owner’s Residence, 22 Ocean Residences and 67 Ocean Penthouses. The ship also will offer hundreds of Oceanfront Suites, Ocean Terrace and Ocean Grand Terrace Suites and 82 multigeneration-friendly connecting suites. Private terraces will be among the industry’s largest, while suites will have elegant interiors with floor-to-ceiling windows. 

More France Sailings

For those seeking an “everything France” voyage yet in a week-long trip, Azamara will operate a seven-night “France Intensive” voyage on its fourth vessel, the 692-passenger Azamara Onward, the former Pacific Princess. Fresh from a major revitalization, the ship will start cruising this month. On April 15, 2023, the ship will sail from Barcelona, Spain for Monte Carlo, Monaco. In between, though, calls will include Port-Vendres (just north of the Spanish border), Marseille, Sanary-sur-Mer, Nice (overnight) and Antibes, all in France.

With two days in Nice, cruisers could stroll the beachfront Promenade des Anglais and explore Nice’s Old City on one day, and then head for the mountaintop, medieval village of Eze on another day. While in Marseille, active travelers can exercise and eat at the same time via Azamara’s “Marseilles on Foot for Foodies” shore excursion, which dives into maritime history and offers stops for sampling local cuisine.

On June 25, 2022, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 (English and German are onboard languages) will sail a 10-day voyage between Liverpool, U.K., and Lisbon with calls at two less-visited French ports, as well as other ports in the Channel Islands, Portugal and Spain. In France, travelers will go ashore at Le Palais on Belle-Ile-en-Mer, Brittany’s largest island. Rugged coastal scenery and oyster tasting are big draws.

Also, Europa 2 will call at Saint-Jean-de-Luz, within southwestern France. It’s home to grand Baroque and Art Deco villas and high-end boutiques. Cruisers can also explore Biarritz, “the queen of seaside resorts,” or go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding.

he Otium Suite on Silver church, Eglise Monolithe.

Another Europa 2 sailing between Bilbao, Spain and Hamburg, Germany on July 31, 2023, will offer the same two France calls mentioned above plus three more at Honfleur, Bordeaux (overnight) and La Pallice (La Rochelle). This voyage is designated as a family sailing and, separately, as a Golf & Cruise voyage. For an added golf package fee, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will reserve play at four courses: Golf du Medoc (during the Bordeaux call), Golf de la Pree (La Rochelle) and Golf Barriere Deauville (Honfleur), along with the Royal Antwerp Golf Club in Belgium.

No line is more French than Ponant, founded in 1988 by French Merchant Navy officers and sailing with French-flagged ships. Departing October 8, 2023, Ponant’s nine-day “Southern France and the Italian Riviera by Sea” itinerary operates between Barcelona and Civitavecchia (Rome) in partnership with Smithsonian Journeys.

The 184-passenger Le Champlain will call at Sete, Marseilles and Nice, France; Bonafacio, Corsica, France; and several Italian ports. Tailored for English-speaking travelers, this Ponant journey will include lectures by two Smithsonian Journeys experts. Cruisers can explore UNESCO World Heritage Sites at Carcassonne and Avignon, and one shore excursion is included in the cruise fare for each port call.

On dozens of dates this year and in 2023, Viking will sail an eight-day “Iconic Western Mediterranean” itinerary between Civitavecchia (Rome) and Barcelona; it offers port calls at Sete (Montpellier) and Marseille, France, along with some Italian and Spanish ports; guests receive five included shore excursions. 

Operated by several 930-passenger ships including Viking SkyViking Venus and Viking Jupiter, the itinerary also offers overnight stays in both Barcelona and Livorno (for Florence and Pisa), Italy. 

Scenic’s luxury yacht, Scenic Eclipse, will sail several itineraries between northern Europe and the Mediterranean, among them an 11-day “Culture & Coastlines: A Classic European Explorer” itinerary. Operating between Copenhagen, Denmark and Lisbon, Portugal, it departs on September 11, 2023. What’s nifty is that this voyage will not only call at Saint-Malo, France, but also at off-the-beaten-path Douarnenez in Brittany. 

A major 19th-century sardine center, Douarnenez sports multiple harbors, bustling quaysides and narrow streets with craft workshops and fishermen’s cottages. Travelers can learn more at Port-Musee, a maritime museum with five boats open to the public. So, hop aboard a lobster boat, flat-bottomed freighter, British tug, barge and Norwegian coastal ship.  

The Atlas Lounge

Newly launched, Atlas Ocean Voyages just announced its new 2023 voyages for the 196-passenger World Navigator and soon-to-launch sister ship World Traveller. The latter sails a nine-night “Uncover Hidden Routes” itinerary between Lisbon and London (Tower Bridge) on June 27, 2023.

During that voyage, guests will explore France during calls at Port Medoc (Le-Verdon-sur-Mer), Le Palais in Belle Ile and Honfleur (for Paris and Normandy), plus others in Spain and Portugal. While Belle Ile is a hidden summer getaway for Parisians, Port Medoc is nestled amid a revered red-wine region. So, when it’s time for “joie de vivre,” French ports deliver much to delight luxury cruisers.

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