Discover the beauty, history, and culture of the Loire Valley on this unique small boat experience, featuring spectacular châteaux, wineries, and farmsteads. As you ply the tree-lined canals along the Loire, enjoy the pleasures of small villages and rustic charm of the countryside. Plus, savor delicious regional cuisine and wine.

Starting at: $5,990 * Price includes special offer Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Château du Chambord  Chateau de Chenonceau, River Cher  Loire River Canal, Briare   View of Sancerre, Loire Valley  Vineyard near Sancerre  Chateau de Trousse-Barriere  Castle Acre Priory, Loire Valley

Loire Valley Canal Cruise

Aboard the 22-guest MS Deborah

10 days from $5,990

Discover the beauty, history, and culture of the Loire Valley on this unique small boat experience, featuring spectacular châteaux, wineries, and farmsteads. As you ply the tree-lined canals along the Loire, enjoy the pleasures of small villages and rustic charm of the countryside. Plus, savor delicious regional cuisine and wine.

or Call 855-330-1542

Accommodations

* Click on hotel name to visit hotel web-site.

Hotel Le Choiseul

Amboise, France

The Hotel Le Choiseul Amboise is an elegantly-styled small luxury hotel beautifully situated on the Loire River. The hotel is a cluster of three 16th and 18th-century houses nestled together at the foot of the Chateau Amboise. Surrounded by Italian-style gardens, Hotel Le Choiseul promises a delightful stay in an exceptional location. Guestrooms are appointed with traditional furnishings and bright floral fabrics that create an ambiance evocative of a French country estate. In Restaurant Le 36 you’ll savor traditional French cuisine while overlooking the Loire. Guestrooms boast modern amenities that include air conditioning and complimentary Wi-Fi.

The room block is comprised of run-of-house guestrooms with twin or double beds. Single rooms are not offered on the program. Some rooms may not have elevator access.

Number of nights: 2

Hotel Jardins du Marais (Post-Cruise Extension)

Paris, France

Les Jardins du Marais is an upscale boutique hotel named for the legendary Marais district of Paris known for its tangle of medieval streets, chic boutiques, charming restaurants and galleries. Nearby you’ll find cultural and historic highlights like the Place des Vosges, the Musee Picasso, the Hotel de Ville, Paris’ City Hall, and the historic Place de la Bastille. After a day of touring, relax in the bar with a glass of chilled champagne or a cocktail. The restaurant offers a menu features inspired French specialties. Guest rooms are well-appointed and welcoming with amenities that include complimentary WiFi. The room block will be comprised of run-of-house guestrooms with twin or double beds. Single accommodations are not offered on this program.

Number of nights: 2

Activity Level

Activity Level 2: Moderate 

Land program plus canal cruise that pulls into a pier for disembarkation. Morning, afternoon, or full-day excursions at a moderate pace. Standing and walking for long periods of time during village walks, chateau visits, and/or outdoor activities. Walking over sometimes difficult terrain (e.g. cobblestones, city hills, stairs without handrails, absence of elevators); some longer walks to get to city centers where coaches are prohibited. Optional biking opportunities available.

Appropriate for: Travelers who are physically fit and comfortable with longer days of touring (both walking tours and coach time).

Paris Post-Program Extension

Day 1 – Briare / Paris

Disembark your canal boat and travel from Briare to Paris via Fontainebleau where you’ll stop and tour the Chateau Fontainebleau, a World Heritage site. After the tour, enjoy lunch at a popular local restaurant. Continue to Paris and check-in at the Hotel Les Jardins du Marais located in the historic and fashionable Marais district. Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will be available at the hotel with suggestions regarding local sights, restaurants and independent activities. The evening will be at leisure. (B,L)

Hotel Les Jardins du Marais

Day 2 - Paris This morning, meet a local guide for a walking tour that will take you through the heart of the fascinating Marais district, a renowned artistic and cultural mecca. Marais translates to “marsh,” but the neighborhood is much more upscale than its name suggests. Afterward, let your interests be your guide, and set-out to explore the city on your own. This evening, gather for a farewell reception at the hotel. (B,R)

Hotel Les Jardins du Marais

Day 3 – Return to the U.S.

This morning, depart the hotel and transfer to the Charles de Gaulle Airport to begin your journey home. (B)

Special Air Rates/Services

FlexAir is designed to provide you with the flexibility and choice you need to personalize your air travel experience. Explore a wide range of flight options in consultation with our experienced travel professionals to select the flights, routing, class of service, and dates of travel that most fit your needs. Our partner tour operator has negotiated contracts with a wide variety of carriers that allow them to hold flight reservations and then issue your ticket close to departure without additional fees. This protects you from the need to purchase published-fare tickets, which must be ticketed within 24 hours of purchase. FlexAir reservations provide the flexibility to adjust reservations without penalty and to accommodate extensions and upgrades right up until ticketing time, usually around 45 days before departure. We look forward to providing you with more choice and the best possible itinerary for your air travel plans.

Program Includes:

  • Guaranteed transfers between the airport and your overseas accommodations upon arrival and departure (in most cases). We will provide you with all of the details you need to guarantee your transfer.
  • Air schedule change and delay assistance. Book FlexAir to ensure assistance should schedule changes or delays impact your air travel plans.
  • Flight insurance worth up to $250,000, subject to policy terms, is automatically included.
  • Confirmed airline seat assignments at the time of booking (in most cases).
Ship

MS Deborah

While most of our European river cruises accommodate between 120-140 travelers, on our French upscale canal cruiser we’ll take a maximum of just 22 participants in 9 cabins, plus your Smithsonian Journeys Expert, Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director, and the ship’s crew to assist you. While our larger river cruises cover longer stretches of river and move at faster speeds and many times visiting several European countries, our canal cruiser moves at a much slower pace. And because of the barge’s small size, we’ll visit small waterways inaccessible to the larger river vessels which allow even greater immersion into the region. While our larger river ships have been compared to deluxe hotels with more amenities and greater choice, our barge cruise can be compared more to a manor house, with a distinct character, familial ambiance and more intimate and attentive service.

Launched in 2016, MS Deborah is a 22-guest canal barge-style cruiser that will take you into the heart of charming canal-side towns and villages. Savor French cuisine with breakfast and lunch, and enjoy regional specialties and cheeses served with beer, wine, or soft drinks at lunch and dinner. Dinner is plated with a set menu, however, dietary restrictions can be accommodated. At the end of each day, return to your cozy cabin, which features a modern bathroom with a shower. Wi-Fi is complimentary, but access may be limited at certain times during the trip. All cabins are outside facing and include a desk, individual climate control, personal safe, and luggage storage with features like above-headboard storage and USB ports next to the beds. Cabins on the Main Deck are accessed by a spiral staircase and there is no elevator service aboard ship. Every cabin has two twin beds that are fixed to the floor (meaning that couples will need to sleep apart) and a small desk with stool. There's a closet with ample space for hanging clothes. Electric voltage is 220 volts (European plugs only) and one has two USB ports. While most of the TV channels are French, you can get English news channels such as CNN and the BBC. Enjoy breakfasts at leisure and casual single seating for lunches and dinners. The upper deck includes the dining room, a small bar area, lounge with picture windows and a sliding glass door that opens to a charming outdoor area with café tables and a Jacuzzi. Lectures and discussions will be held in the lounge most evenings. The sun deck has umbrellas and lounge chairs to read and take in the scenery.

MS Deborah

While most of our European river cruises accommodate between 120-140 travelers, on our French upscale canal cruiser we’ll take a maximum of just 22 participants in 9 cabins, plus your Smithsonian Journeys Expert, Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director, and the ship’s crew to assist you. While our larger river cruises cover longer stretches of river and move at faster speeds and many times visiting several European countries, our canal cruiser moves at a much slower pace. And because of the barge’s small size, we’ll visit small waterways inaccessible to the larger river vessels which allow even greater immersion into the region. While our larger river ships have been compared to deluxe hotels with more amenities and greater choice, our barge cruise can be compared more to a manor house, with a distinct character, familial ambiance and more intimate and attentive service.

Launched in 2016, MS Deborah is a 22-guest canal barge-style cruiser that will take you into the heart of charming canal-side towns and villages. Savor French cuisine with breakfast and lunch, and enjoy regional specialties and cheeses served with beer, wine, or soft drinks at lunch and dinner. Dinner is plated with a set menu, however, dietary restrictions can be accommodated. At the end of each day, return to your cozy cabin, which features a modern bathroom with a shower. Wi-Fi is complimentary, but access may be limited at certain times during the trip. All cabins are outside facing and include a desk, individual climate control, personal safe, and luggage storage with features like above-headboard storage and USB ports next to the beds. Cabins on the Main Deck are accessed by a spiral staircase and there is no elevator service aboard ship. Every cabin has two twin beds that are fixed to the floor (meaning that couples will need to sleep apart) and a small desk with stool. There's a closet with ample space for hanging clothes. Electric voltage is 220 volts (European plugs only) and one has two USB ports. While most of the TV channels are French, you can get English news channels such as CNN and the BBC. Enjoy breakfasts at leisure and casual single seating for lunches and dinners. The upper deck includes the dining room, a small bar area, lounge with picture windows and a sliding glass door that opens to a charming outdoor area with café tables and a Jacuzzi. Lectures and discussions will be held in the lounge most evenings. The sun deck has umbrellas and lounge chairs to read and take in the scenery.

Testimonials

WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

I think the name Smithsonian says it all. 

- Wade C.
Reading List

Highly Recommended

The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France
By: Ina Caro
Caro takes us on an unforgettable driving tour of France, from Provence to the Loire Valley to Paris. With Caro as an epicurean, knowledgeable, and delightfully opinionated guide, we can always be sure to find the most breathtaking vistas, the most extraordinary châteaux, the most inspiring cathedrals, and the very best meals.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Loire Valley
By: DK Eyewitness
DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: the most maps, photography, and illustrations of any guide.DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Loire Valley is your in-depth guide to the very best of the Loire Valley in France.Whether you're on the hunt for a bike ride through the valley, a visit to fortresses and cathedrals, or a relaxing afternoon shopping at local markets, our DK Eyewitness Travel Guide has everything you'll need to experience the best of the Loire Valley. Explore old world villages and storybook chateaux, try local delicacies and superb wines, or take a walking tour and experience stunning views: We have everything you'll need to make the most of a trip to the Loire Valley on any budget.Discover DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Loire Valley   • Detailed itineraries and "don't miss" destination highlights at a glance.    • Illustrated cutaway 3-D drawings of important sights.    • Floor plans and guided visitor information for major museums.    • Guided walking tours, local drink and dining specialties to try, things to do, and places to eat, drink, and shop by area.    • Area maps marked with sights.    • Insights into history and culture to help you understand the stories behind the sights.    • Hotel and restaurant listings highlight DK Choice special recommendations. With hundreds of full-color photographs, hand-drawn illustrations, and custom maps that illuminate every page, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Loire Valley truly shows you the Loire Valley as no one else can.Recommended: For an in-depth guidebook to France, check out DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: France, which offers the most complete coverage of France, trip-planning itineraries, and more.
Lonely Planet French Phrasebook & Dictionary
By: Lonely Planet, Michael Janes, Jean-Bernard Carillet, Jean-Pierre Masclef
Lonely Planet French Phrasebook & Dictionary is your handy passport to culturally enriching travels with the most relevant and useful French phrases and vocabulary for all your travel needs. Ask about tucked-away vineyards, bargain with local farmers at the market or order wine like a professional; all with your trusted travel companion. With language tools in your back pocket, you can truly get to the heart of wherever you go, so begin your journey now!Get More From Your Trip with Easy-to-Find Phrases for Every Travel Situation! Feel at ease with essential tips on culture, manners, idioms and multiple meanings Order with confidence, explain food allergies, and try new foods with the menu decoder Save time and hassles with vital phrases at your fingertips Never get stuck for words with the 3500-word two-way, quick-reference dictionary Be prepared for both common and emergency travel situations with practical phrases and terminology Meet friends with conversation starter phrases Get your message across with easy-to-use pronunciation guides Inside Lonely Planet French Phrasebook & Dictionary: Full-colour throughout User-friendly layout organised by travel scenario categories Survival phrases inside front cover for at-a-glance on-the-fly cuesCovers Basics - time, dates, numbers, amounts, pronunciation, reading tips, grammar rules Practical - travel with kids, disabled travellers, sightseeing, business, banking, post office, internet, phones, repairs, bargaining, accommodation, directions, border crossing, transport Social - meeting people, interests, feelings, opinions, going out, romance, culture, activities, weather Safe Travel - emergencies, police, doctor, chemist, dentist, symptoms, conditions Food - ordering, at the market, at the bar, dishes, ingredients The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet French Phrasebook & Dictionary , a pocket-sized comprehensive language guide, provides on-the-go language assistance; great for language students and travellers looking to interact with locals and immerse themselves in local culture.About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet is the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, and has been connecting travellers and locals for over 25 years with phrasebooks for 120 languages, more than any other publisher! With an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community, Lonely Planet enables curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves.
The Loire: A Cultural History (Landscapes of the Imagination)
By: Martin Garrett
Gustave Flaubert called the Loire "the most French of French rivers." It is the longest river in France and the most varied in scenery and moods. Beginning as a mountain stream in the Ardèche, it issues, 630 miles later, into the Atlantic beyond the great modern port of St.-Nazaire. Small and rapid at first, the Loire runs through dark volcanic hills; further downstream it becomes the broad, slower river of sandy islands, poplars, and châteaux and of the vibrant cities of Orléans, Blois, Tours, and Nantes (the former capital of Brittany). It is lined with vineyards, forests, medieval fortresses, and flamboyant Renaissance palaces. It is fed by countless tributaries, from rivulets to mighty rivers like the Allier, Cher, and Vienne, each with their own remarkable sights.Martin Garrett follows the Loire's course through cities and countryside, tracing its dramatic history from the days of feuding warlords and barons to the battles of 1940. Looking at the wide range of literature, art, and architecture created along its banks, he considers works from Du Bellay and Balzac to Virginia Woolf, from Renaissance palace builders to Le Corbusier.

Also Recommended

The Most Beautiful Villages of the Loire
By: Hugh Palmer, James Bentley
Usually associated with splendid Renaissance cha teaux and historical monuments, the Loire valley is in fact a place of even greater interest than the image of popular perception. The Loire River itself is the longest in France and passes through a succession of landscapes, many of them of a richness that proves this is truly "the garden of France." And there is variety too, reflected in the buildings and settings of the beautiful villages so stunningly illustrated in this book. Traveling west, James Bentley and Hugh Palmer take us first to the communities around Orleans, the villages of the Loiret and Cher departements. We then progress to the lands around Blois and Tours, where, it is said, the purest French is spoken. Here begin the villages with the great chatea ux, such as Chambord, Cheverny, and Azay-le-Rideau, reached by long roads lined with poplars or lying beside the banks of one of the many tributaries of the Loire. The slopes here are frequently vine-clad, producing the delicious white wines that make such a fine accompaniment to the traditional fish cuisine of the region. And finally we arrive at the villages around Angers and Nantes where willow-lined rivers divide a landscape of quiet opulence, and green fields alternate with market gardens growing vegetables, flowers, and fruit. Over thirty villages of the Loire valley are described and beautifully photographed in this book, which is completed by special sections on wine and food and abbeys and churches. As with all the volumes in The Most Beautiful Villages series, there are appendices listing the most important sites, markets, hotels, and restaurants. 275 color illustrations.
Traveller's History of France
By: Chastleton Travel
Leonardo da Vinci: The Amboise Connection
By: Pamela Shields BA
This book was written to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death in 1519 at Clos Lucé, Amboise, France. This is where he and his painting of the Mona Lisa spent his last three years. Leonardo’s life began with his illegitimacy in Florence, fame and success in Milan, public humiliation in Rome and ended as the close friend of the most powerful king in Europe. When François I met Leonardo in Italy in 1515, he invited him to live near him in Amboise. Here, Leonardo found a security incomparable with his previously precarious existence. He entered old age basking in the gentle climate of the Loire Valley with no more financial insecurity, no more wars on his doorstep, no more jealous rivals. No longer forced to take commissions, Leonardo spent his days editing notebooks filled with his scientific studies and treatises on painting and anatomy. He had with him his paintings of The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, St. John the Baptist and the Mona Lisa. Leonardo was a tourist attraction. He still is. Fans can see where he lived, where he died and where he is buried. In Close Lucé, they can even see working models of some of his visions. The book contains many interesting, little known facts. For example. Did you know that Leonardo designed and made elaborate wigs for his models as seen in his (lost) painting of Leda and the Swan? That he dissected thirty corpses? Or that to dissect an eye ball he first immersed it in egg white then boiled it? When François I decided to move his capital from Paris to Romorantin, his childhood home, he asked Leonardo to design a new town to include two new châteaux, one for himself and one for his mother. The plans for his mother’s château is now part of the Royal Collection in Windsor Castle in England.
Leonardo da Vinci
By: Walter Isaacson
The #1 New York Times bestseller from Walter Isaacson brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography that is “a study in creativity: how to define it, how to achieve it…Most important, it is a powerful story of an exhilarating mind and life” (The New Yorker).Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo da Vinci’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson “deftly reveals an intimate Leonardo” (San Francisco Chronicle) in a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy. He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history’s most creative genius. In the “luminous” (Daily Beast) Leonardo da Vinci, Isaacson describes how Leonardo’s delight at combining diverse passions remains the ultimate recipe for creativity. So, too, does his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. His life should remind us of the importance to be imaginative and, like talented rebels in any era, to think different. Here, da Vinci “comes to life in all his remarkable brilliance and oddity in Walter Isaacson’s ambitious new biography…a vigorous, insightful portrait” (The Washington Post).
Chambord: Five Centuries of Mystery
By: Jean-Michel Turpin
Chambord occupies a special place among French Renaissance châteaux. Designed by Francis I as a hunting lodge for his friends and family and subsequently transformed into an immense residence, Chambord is an astonishingly bold architectural creation. To mark the 500th anniversary of this prestigious piece of French heritage, Jean-Michel Turpin invites us into the château, and especially into lesser-known and mysterious wings of Chambord, and throughout its beautiful grounds in the Loire Valley. The story spans five centuries and is illustrated by archival and contemporary photographs, many never before published.  
The Geography of Wine: How Landscapes, Cultures, Terroir, and the Weather Make a Good Drop
By: Brian J. Sommers
Wine is more than taste, smell, and appearance—it is a reflection of a place and its people. Why is Bordeaux a great place for red wines? Why do some places produce Rieslings and others produce Chardonnay? A fun and fascinating examination of terroir (the French word for the geography of a vineyard) this book takes connoisseurs—and potential connoisseurs—on a tour of wine regions, and explains the principles geographers use to understand the critical factors that make up the “wine character” of a place.From the Loire Valley to Napa Valley, Madeira to South Africa, Australia to Chile, The Geography of Wine is an entertaining and informative introduction to viticulture for worldly wine lovers everywhere.
Gone with the Wine: Living the Dream in France's Loire Valley
By: Rosanne Knorr
In charming and whimsical detail, Gone with the Wine shares the delights of France's Loire Valley where the climate is mild, the people are hospitable, and wine is so plentiful it's pumped from vats like a service station for winos. With their pate-loving dog, this American couple trades long work hours, traffic jams and fast food for art, biking and goat's cheese direct from the supplier. They garble French but learn how to earn the best baguettes. Besides being a delightful story, Gone with the Wine provides fascinating and fresh insights on everyday life, history and the people of the earthly paradise called the 'Garden of France.' Joyful reading for real-life voyagers and armchair travelers alike!
Chocolat: A Novel (A Vianne Rocher Novel)
By: Joanne Harris
Even before it was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, Joanne Harris' New York Times bestselling novel Chocolat entranced readers with its mix of hedonism, whimsy, and, of course, chocolate.In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne's uncanny perception of its buyer's private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival. Chocolat's every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere. It's a must for anyone who craves an escapist read, and is a bewitching gift for any holiday.
24x36 World Wall Map by Smithsonian Journeys - Tan Oceans Special Edition (24x36 Laminated)
Travel Insurance

For the convenience of our travelers, Travel Guard provides an on-tour Insurance Plan. On-tour emergency evacuation insurance (up to $100,000), medical expense coverage (up to $25,000), dental expense coverage (up to $500), travel medical assistance and worldwide travel assistance (U.S. Residents only). It also includes up to $25,000 medical and up to $500 dental expense coverage, and 24-hour worldwide travel and medical assistance. Please click here to view complete coverage details.

Please visit www.TravelGuard.com/SmithsonianJourneys or call Travel Guard at 1-800-208-6142 to learn about additional (optional) coverage.