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 Make a Reservation 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

SPECIAL OFFER

Save $250 per person when you book by December 18, 2020!

Special Air Rates & Services: As part of our special air program, FlexAir, available with this tour, you can choose from a wide variety of flight options. Visit the Tour Details tab and click on "Special Air Rates/Services" drop down. 

Overview

Discover the beauty, history, and culture of the Loire Valley as you ply the tree-lined canals adjacent to the Loire River. Enjoy visits to spectacular châteaux, wineries, farmsteads, and small villages, plus savor delicious cuisine and wine and take optional afternoon bike rides. 

Highlights Include

  • Royal Châteaux: Begin your journey with a two-night stay at the Hotel Le Choiseul a historic property located at the foot of Château Amboise. Continue with visits to the celebrated royal châteaus of France. Learn about King Francis I as you feel his presence at his royal residence, Amboise; his royal hunting lodge, Chambord; and his childhood home, Château de Clos Lucé. Admire the 15th- and 16th-century architecture and gardens and hear about the king’s most famous guest, Leonardo da Vinci, who lived his final years here. You’ll also stroll through the elegant Château de Chenonceau, which spans the River Cher.
  • Six-Night Canal Cruise: From Nevers to Briare, ply the waters of the Loire canals aboard your intimate boat. Stops along the way feature charming villages and imposing châteaus and churches. Meet local purveyors as you savor wines from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, and sample cheese and other fare from local farms. Some afternoons may be spent enjoying the views of the countryside or bicycling along canal-side pathways to explore independently.
  • Small Ship Experience: Launched in 2016, the MS Deborah shines among CroisiEurope’s fleet of fine small river boats. With a distinctive décor, superb regional cuisine, thoughtfully designed cabins, and an intimate ambiance, this small boat is a delightful way to see the French countryside. The boat is exclusively reserved for Smithsonian Journeys guests. See more information on the Tour Details page. 

I think the name Smithsonian says it all. 

- Wade C.

Itinerary

Day 1 & Day 2 – Depart the U.S. for Paris and Amboise, France

Depart the U.S. for Paris, France and Charles de Gaulle International Airport. Upon arrival transfer by motor coach to the Hotel Le Choiseul in the town of Amboise. A stop will be made in Chartres, a city famous for its magnificent cathedral that has been designated as a World Heritage site. Lunch will be served and there will be time to visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres. Afterward, continue to Amboise. Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will be available at the hotel with suggestions regarding local sights, restaurants, and independent activities. This evening, join fellow travelers for a short presentation and welcome reception at the hotel. (L,R)

Day 3 – Amboise

A hearty breakfast will be served each morning during your journey. Start exploring with a visit to the stunning Chateau d’Amboise, built in the 15th and 16th centuries and residence of French kings. Rich in history, the chateau showcases both Renaissance and Gothic architectural design. After touring the royal apartments, enjoy a stroll through the meticulously manicured formal gardens. Afterward, visit the recently restored tomb of Leonardo da Vinci in the Chapel of Saint Hubert. After having lunch independently, visit the Chateau du Clos Lucé, a smaller 15th-century palace that was the childhood home of King Francis I, and the place where Leonardo da Vinci spent the final three years of his life as a guest of the king. Gather this evening for dinner, accompanied by regional wine, at the hotel.  (B,D)

Day 4 - Route des Châteaux – Amboise / Nevers

This morning, depart the hotel for a day of discovery in the Loire Valley. Visit the impressive Château de Chenonceau, world-renowned as one of the most beautiful chateaux in France and home to an extraordinary collection of furnishings, tapestries, and paintings. The Château, in its present form, was built between 1513 and 1517. Your excursion continues to Château de Chambord, a magnificent royal palace conceived by King Francois I and inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. It combines Italian style with elegant French design. After a luncheon featuring local specialties and wine at a local farm, drive to Nevers and board MS Deborah to  begin cruising the Loire Canal. After settling in, gather for a reception to meet the Captain and crew. Afterward, enjoy a welcome dinner on board. This evening, gether for an evening tour of Nevers by lantern light.(B,L,R,D)

Day 5 - Nevers / Marseilles-lès Aubigny

This morning, continue touring the town of Nevers. Begin with the Espace Bernadette Soubirous, the final resting place of the simple country girl from Lourdes who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary 18 times. Afterwards, continue to the city center  to view the Ducal Palace, considered the first of the Loire's ubiquitous palaces. Built on a hill, the palace overlooks the center of the Old Town, the Republic Square, and park. Stroll through the remarkably preserved vieux carré, with its half-timbered houses and picturesque streets, before reaching the Nevers Cathedral, dedicated to Saints Cyricus and Julitta, a national monument of France. End the tour with a sampling of local food products. Lunch will be served on board and spend the afternoon sailing to Marseilles-lès Aubigny. An optional bike hike along a portion of the EuroVélo 6, the bike route that extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea will be offered. Then join fellow travelers and the Smithsonian Journeys Expert this evening for an aperitif and an informal discussion about the day’s discoveries.  (B,L,D)

Day 6 – Marseilles-lès Aubigny/Herry

This morning, depart by motorcoach for a visit to the Fontmorigny Abbey, a privately-owned French historical monument. Now one of the main cultural sites in the region, it is testimony to over eight centuries of French religious heritage. The contemporary stained-glass windows are truly remarkable. Continue on to visit Apremont-sur-Allier and its floral garden. Classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France, this small medieval jewel on the bank of the River Allier, a tributary of the Loire, is an absolute must-see. The village offers a stunning point-of-view of the castle that towers above it. During the afternoon cruise or take a ride on one of the onboard bikes or relax on deck and enjoy in the magnificent scenery. (B,L,D)

Day 7 - Herry / Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre

Depart this morning for a visit to La Charité-sur-Loire. Begin exploring the  priory, one of the most important restoration sites in Burgundy.Then visit a local farm, and experience the rustic charm that can be found only in France. Afterwards,  return to the barge and spend the afternoon cruising. Ride one of the onboard bikes or walk along the canal. In late afternoon, gather for an aperitif and exchange experiences of the day. (B,L,D)

Day 8 – Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre / Lere

Depart by motorcoach for a visit of Pouilly-sur-Loire to visit the Tour de Pouilly-Fumé: a wine-tourism center located in a beautiful setting. Visit the vineyards, the wine cellar and enjoy a taste some the fine regional wines. In early evening the MS Deborah arrives in Lere. After dinner there is time to explore the area on your own. (B,L,D)

Day 9 – Lere / Briare

This morning, take an excursion to the town of Sancerre set in the historic Berry Region. Sancerre overlooks the picturesque Loire Valley. Discover this beautiful medieval town by following the Fil d'Ariane, a red line painted on the streets taking you through the old wine-making neighborhoods, past bakeries, fascinating buildings, and lovely art galleries. Visit a goat farm for an opportunity to sample the local cheese and Sancerre wine. Spend the afternoon cruising to Briare through the Briare Aqueduct whose 14 masonry supports were engineered and built by the Eiffel Company. Until recently, it was the longest navigable aqueduct in the world. In early evening the MS Deborah arrives in Briare. Gather with fellow Smithsonian Journeys travelers for a festive farewell reception and dinner. (B,L,R,D)

Day 10 – Briare / Paris / Return to the U.S.

Early this morning, disembark and transfer to Charles de Gaulle International Airport to board your flight to the U.S. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)