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Vintage booze cruise: board this luxury boat in Bordeaux and taste the delights of the French vineyards

Taste the delights of the French vineyards

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A vintage drinking cruise: board this ‘floating castle’ in Bordeaux and sample the delights of France’s famous vineyards (and the drinks are all inclusive!)

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

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Our cruise director comes over the tannoy at the end of our SS Bon Voyage’s Bordeaux sailing and declares, ‘It’s a record. You’ve downed 800 bottles of wine.’

I’m one of 90 passengers on this chic week-long cruise and we’ve also collected gourmet bragging rights – guest chef on our floating castle is James Martin.

Boarding starts well. As the suitcases are taken to our cabins, everyone piles up in the glitzy lounge. It’s 11 a.m. and the orders are specifically, “Champagne, please.” Drinks are all inclusive for the Uniworld Boutique River Cruises fleet.

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

“As the suitcases are taken to our cabins, everyone is piling up in the glitzy lounge (above),” Lesley says of the start of her tour. It's 11 a.m. and the orders are specific: "Champagne, please"†

“As the suitcases are taken to our cabins, everyone is piling up in the glitzy lounge (above),” Lesley says of the start of her tour. “It’s 11 a.m. and the orders are specifically: ‘Champagne, please'”

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

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

As we leave Bordeaux to sail along the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde rivers, James treats us to a demo. He also shares a handy cheat; how to make a fruit and cream pie using a cheap supermarket pie box as a base.

James tells stories about the summers of his childhood in Saint-Emilion. While his father was traveling through the region tasting wines, he worked in a hotel kitchen.

“When I was eight, I came back from France knowing I wanted to be a chef,” he says. “This is where I learned to use the best ingredients.” And that’s what we get on James’ menu; Thai-spiced crab risotto, monkfish ceviche, pan-roasted sea bass and a white chocolate and single malt whiskey bread and butter pudding.

After each outing, the crew greets guests back

After each outing, the crew greets guests back “home” on the “beautifully decorated” SS Bon Voyage. Above is one of the ship’s suites

Suites on the SS Bon Voyage have a butler, Lesley reveals. Upstairs is one of the suite bathrooms

Suites on the SS Bon Voyage have a butler, Lesley reveals. Upstairs is one of the suite bathrooms

Cabins are 'luxury' with handmade Savoir beds, fine linen and a marble clad shower room

Cabins are ‘luxury’ with handmade Savoir beds, fine linen and a marble clad shower room

Pictured is the sundeck on the ship. Drinks are all inclusive in Uniworld Boutique River Cruises fleet, notes Lesley

Pictured is the sundeck on the ship. Drinks are all inclusive in Uniworld Boutique River Cruises fleet, notes Lesley

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

Next, we turn our attention to brandy at Remy Martin’s house, where the old cellars are full of cobwebs, so that spiders protect the barrels from insects.

After each outing, the crew greets guests back ‘home’ on the beautifully decorated SS Bon Voyage.

The cabins are no less luxurious with handmade Savoir beds, fine linens and a marble-clad shower room, while the suites have a butler.

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

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

While on a day trip in Saint-Emilion, pictured, Lesley stops by Le Veritable Macaron De St Emilion, a bakery that uses a centuries-old almond macaron recipe

While on a day trip in Saint-Emilion, pictured, Lesley stops by Le 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 the 17th-century Chateau d’Abzac, in a region she says is “still the world’s most important wine region.”

We go to Saint-Emilion, to Le Veritable Macaron De St Emilion, a bakery that uses an age-old recipe for almond macarons.

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

TRAVEL FACTS

SS Bon Voyage’s Brilliant Bordeaux sightseeing cruises run weekly until October 30. All inclusive prices from £1,799 pp on the 21st August sailing if booked before 30th June. More celebrity chef and wine themed cruise dates to be announced on uniworld.com (0808 168 9110).

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