This L-O-N-G photo itinerary describes 9 days with activities, rides, and attractions.
For those who wish to skip our optional Paris PreTour (which includes your chance to witness the final two hours of the 2023 Tour de France from a VIP seat at the Champs-Élysées finish line), an included shuttle links GVA International Airport to embark. GVA hosts morning non-stops from the US, and is two hours closer to embark than Paris.
Those who opt for our Paris PreTour will arrive at our Burgundy embark following a 200mph TGV train ride from Paris. More about our exciting Paris & Tour de France combo is provided later in this itinerary.
Either way, our Saône River embark is in the village of Tournus. After we’ve been welcomed aboard and moved into our staterooms, we’ll settle down for our first route talk before a sunset dinner cruise. Tonight our luxury cruise ship will move upriver through locks to reach Chalon-sur-Saône.
Day 2 – Our following day’s ride passes through legendary vineyards and wine villages to reach Beaune, where doctors and sadists will love the included tour of the medieval “hospital.”
Beaune, the epicenter of Burgundy, is where tastings and auctions held in caves beneath the town set the price you’ll pay if you want to serve a premier cru at your next dinner party.
On our tour of a famous chateau and its cave you’ll learn the proper way to swirl, sip, and spit. In a Burgundian tradition dating back 23 centuries, graduates of this course will receive an honorary tastevin.
Mileage choices to Beaune are a flat 19, canal ’n’ rail-trail 28, or challenging 39. The optional afternoon ride is a fast 19 mile return to the river. After cleaning up, our Chalon-sur-Saône dock is adjacent to the city’s pedestrian center with its cathedral and picture-perfect Place St. Vincent.
As we sit down to our second gourmet dinner (paired wines included) in the ship’s panoramic dining room, we’ll untie to start a week-long voyage spanning the entire navigable length of France’s Saône and Rhône Rivers.
Day 3 – Today our morning rides will explore the seven fabled villages of Beaujolais. Because these villages are perched on the side of the Cote (a winemaker’s term for a range of hills dressed with vines), most of us will be happy to explore and taste wines in two or three of the villages closer to the Saône.
Strong teams will climb into the forested mountains, and stop to take each other’s photos at a couple of signed cols.
After covering a mild 25, moderate 31 or challenging 42 miles, you’ll find the ship where it was re-positioned to serve lunch.
This afternoon many will race the ship 32 easy miles to Lyon, where it will pause for the afternoon and evening.
Although this cruise includes three gourmet meals per day, we suspect a couple of dozen serious foodies will enjoy an epicurean evening in Lyon—the celebrated capital of French Cuisine.
Following three days on the Saône, in the early hours of day four we’ll enter the Rhône. To design this tour Jan and I scouted thousands of miles of French roads. Using a cruise ship allowed us to be ultra-choosy. On this tour you’ll cycle the finest and most interesting segments of the Saône/Rhône. While you rest up for the following day our ship will cruise past stretches that are relatively ordinary. (To accomplish this feat with an inn-to-inn cycling tour we’d need flying hotels.)
Day 4 – This is another day when the ship moves four hours downriver after breakfast, parks for 90-minutes to serve us lunch, and then cruises downriver another two hours before stopping to retrieve afternoon riders. On days like this you can ride in the morning, in the afternoon, both or neither.
While on most bike tours your non-cycling option is to spend a dismal day crammed in the back of a van—if you decide to skip a ride on this tour, your choice is either a relaxing scenic cruise or a reclining, picture-window seat in Sergio’s big touring coach, which shows up at the gangplank each day to transport non-riders to inland attractions.
Our day in the Rhône Valley (between Burgundy and Provence) is ideal for all. The strongest riders will want to take it easy before tomorrow’s ascent of Ventoux. The weakest riders will enjoy a day without climbs. All will be tempted by a short AM detour to Malleval, an amazing medieval village of stone houses.
Many who ascend that far will climb a bit further to cycle across the soaring stone arches of the Pélussin Viaduct.
After 32 to 45 miles you’ll reach the Valrhona tasting room at the world famous Cité du Chocolat.
If that ain’t enough you can race the ship 25 miles downriver to La Voulte. Earlier dinner tonight.
Day 5 – On Tuesday we wake in the shadow of Mont Ventoux, where breakfast includes a mountain-delayed sunrise. Of the three routes to Ventoux’s summit, all 17 TdFs to include this challenge have used the classic climb from the southwest. In deference to this tradition our long riders’ truck-and-bus convoy will soon depart for a remote ride that starts in the village of Bédoin.
If you’d like to take your place among the legends and heroes who’ve ridden our sport’s most celebrated climb, Santana will again support ascents of Ventoux, where over 150 cyclists attending Santana’s earlier versions of this cruise successfully “summited.”
If 57 miles over Ventoux seems excessive, another worthy choice for our first morning in Provence is a 41 mile ride to Pont du Gard. Because all of today’s rides end in Avignon, a wondrous town filled with shopping and history, the shortest 12- and 18-mile rides can get you there before the ship, which will remain parked near Avignon’s center through the evening.
Are you aware of the 70-year period when Rome and Italy were deemed unsafe for the head of Western Christianity? During those decades seven successive Popes (each one of them born in France) shunned the Vatican and ruled from Avignon. There they used the church’s wealth to create an immense and amazing palace. In the centuries following the Church’s 1378 return to Rome the French faithful protected and maintained the palace while praying for the Pope’s return.
The Catholic hierarchy has not only rejected the idea of returning to France, they’ve never again elected a French-born Pope! Late this afternoon we’ll meet downtown for a tour of the magnificent Palais des Papes.
Day 6 – Today our bus and truck convoy will climb to the highest of the Luberon hill towns. On this “mostly downhill” day even the shortest 26-mile route explores the villages of Gordes (with its stone houses and bories), Rousillon (with its Sedona-red landscape), Lacoste, Oppède, and Ménerbes (where Peter Mayle was inspired to write My Year in Provence).
In addition, most riders will find the strength to cross into the valley where the monks of Sénanque Abbey tend famous fields of lavender. Stronger riders will push on to conquer a particularly scenic summit (easier than Ventoux) featured in multiple Tours de France.
Day 7 – Vincent van Gogh spent many tumultuous and productive months painting landscapes while residing in Arles (where he cut off a portion of his ear) and St. Remy (where he was subsequently institutionalized). Our 7th and 8th days of rides highlight the vistas and history of Van Gogh’s Provence.
By Thursday, when everyone should be ready for 40 miles, our easy loop stops to tour the famous St. Remy asylum where a kindly Doctor encouraged his patient’s artistic evolution. Outside the asylum Santana will again hire artists to guide tours retracing the footsteps of a genius. Stopping in places where Van Gogh planted his easel, they’ll show us how the master, in his most productive period, feverishly re-interpreted the real world.
The same ride features Glanum, a recently unearthed Roman city that was buried in a mud-flow. To understand this Pompeii-like time capsule, we’ve hired local historic interpreters. From Glanum a beautiful climb on a quiet back road reaches Les Baux, where we’ve covered the admission fee of my favorite French castle so you can inspect its massive catapult and trebuchet. Halfway back to the Rhône we’ll pause for a tour and tasting at a co-operative mill that presses boutique olive oils.
Our ride ends at the center of Arles; the last Rhône town before the river enters its delta at the edge of the Mediterranean. Slightly smaller than Avignon, Arles is centuries older—and perhaps more interesting.
We’ll spend two afternoons and evenings here. On one of them we’ll attend a bloodless bullfight in a magnificent Roman Coliseum that predates Christ.
Day 8 – Our final morning ride is through the Camargue, the Rhône River’s Delta and Camargue Nature Preserve where all routes cycle past herds of wild horses, flocks of pink flamingos.
Those who want to stretch the flat 32 mile route by an extra nine miles will loop to the beach and lighthouse, where they can dip their front tire into the Mediterranean.
At the Rhône River’s lowest port, we’ll repack our bikes. An eighth evening aboard our exquisite river cruise ship includes a farewell celebration.
Day 9 – Disembark Day
Our tour includes early-AM shuttles to Marseilles’ MRS International Airport (a friendly terminal where dozens of our boxed tandems have been accepted without charge!) or the nearby train station with TGV service.
Optional Tour de France Paris PreTour Package
An optional PreTour package includes 2023’s Tour de France finish-line weekend in Paris. With this option you’ll be able to cycle the barricaded finishing circuit of the TdF on Sunday morning (after the police close it to traffic and before the late afternoon arrival of the pro peloton).
Although watching the final 8 laps from the curb is free, Santana’s long association with ASO (the owners of Le Tour de France) will again allow us to obtain a cache of passes normally reserved for the Le Tour’s top sponsors.
Within this curb-front VIP pavilion (nothing between you and the riders) we’ll enjoy gourmet treats, fine wine, and reserved VIP seating at the finish line. Either way, the biggest party in Paris includes the late afternoon appearance of the pro peloton that will ride 8 laps of the same circuit you cycled this morning before they sprint to the final finish of their weeks-long contest.
Santana’s TdF PreTour package includes a 3-night stay in a 4-star hotel, a short stroll from Arc de Triomphe, TGV tickets from Paris to our Cruise Embark, and luggage trucks for your blanketed-bikes and large luggage. Those who opt for this inexpensive and efficient program can arrive via Paris CDG Airport where we’ll have someone to meet flights (exact times will be in the airfare update).
Our PreTour package includes a choice of routes for an easy ride from the TGV station in Macon through vineyards to reach our ship’s embark.
Burgundy & Provence 2023
The Saône & Rhône River valleys are the perfect place to replace a string of hotels with a no-repacking week aboard the luxurious Amadeus Provence.
On most days the Amadeus Provence will move through the night to find a perfect place to start a morning ride. After we are off, it will move ahead 20-30 miles to where it docks and waits to serve a late lunch. The day’s shortest and easiest rides stay close to the river. Longer options loop inland, and find a few hills. Our late afternoon tie-ups are always at the center of a town that merits your pre-dinner exploration. Once everyone is seated for dinner in the panoramic dining room, the ship can untie and move to our next day’s ride. Instead of spending your precious vacation time re-packing and moving between hotels each day, this floating resort transports you overnight while you sleep.
Newer than most of Europe’s river ships, the Amadeus Provence’s staterooms are the largest and nicest we’ve found. Instead of French balconies, most staterooms on this ship feature an innovative wall of glass. Flip a switch and the top half glides down to allow both of you to lean-out and share beautiful views up and down the river.
Mozart & Strauss Deck Staterooms
All Mozart & Strauss Deck staterooms are 188 square feet, Haydn Staterooms are 172 square feet, still plenty of room for a king-width bed. Suites are over 50% larger (284 square feet!) and provide room to entertain your friends. The Haydn Deck Staterooms have a tall and wide fixed window. With the same floor-plan and amenities as upper deck staterooms, you can’t tell which deck you’re on with the curtains closed.
Resort Style Bathrooms in every room
Suites on the Amadeus Provence are 50% larger than the staterooms, more than enough room to entertain your friends or enjoy your sanctuary gliding down the Seine River.
Mozart & Strauss Staterooms
Compared to an inn-to-inn tour, where every day starts where the previous day ended, you’ll experience better rides while gaining an hour a day by not having to repack and change hotels. The french balcony staterooms on the Amadeus Provence are not only cleaner, fresher, and quieter than most hotel rooms, on this bicycle tour you’ll sleep better by not having to adjust to a new mattress, pillow, and thermostat each night.
On any day you don’t feel like riding, an inland cruise comes with fascinating scenery. While aboard you can nap, read, use the WiFi, catch some rays on the sundeck, or enjoy a massage or spa treatment.
Lounge & Bar
Another daily option is to hop aboard Sergio’s picture-window coach to reach and enjoy the mid-ride attractions without pedaling.
Panoramic Dining Room
Meals? The ship’s panoramic dining room accommodates all, and serves three gourmet-quality meals per day curated by our 5-star chef, each with enough choices to please everyone.
Bike Parking on the Sun Deck
(about to go under a low bridge)
Frequently Asked Questions
Burgundy & Provence 2023
Q: What are the exact dates?
A: Santana’s Burgundy & Provence Cycling Cruise will take place July 25 to August 2, 2023. 9-days/8-nights. Sunny summer days along the Saône & Rhône River Valleys provide exceptional short-sleeve cycling with daily highs in the upper 70s.
Unlike most French hotels, our ship is fully air conditioned, and has a refreshing pool. This peak week for a French River Cycling Cruise is custom-aligned to allow you to witness the Tour de France finale in Paris the weekend prior to embark. Details on this option will be provided a year in advance.
Q: What’s the cost?
A: Due to the current strength of the dollar our first-in per-person double-occupancy pricing for this 9-day cycling cruise starts at $4,499. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE. Our reservations page shows pricing of available staterooms.
Q: Single rooms?
A: The Amadeus Provence does not have single staterooms, but we are offering a 70% single supplement on Haydn Deck Staterooms.
Q: What’s “Early-In” Pricing?
A: To manage the risk of chartering entire cruise ships, couples who commit early are rewarded with discounts of up to $1,000 per stateroom. Lowest pricing in every category is limited to the first few rooms. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE.
Q: What about tipping?
A: Jan and I don’t accept tips. A comprehensive “cruise extras” fee of $500 per person includes port fees and a long list of off-ship activities, tours, admissions, interpretive guides, site fees, non-rider touring coach, and ride support (gps route files and a pair of SOS vans driven by pro mechanics). Note that this is less than the average cruise passenger pays for a week of “deluxe excursions.” Shipboard gratuities of $185 per person includes wash & fold laundry and valet bike handling.
Q: Are all staterooms the same?
A: No. Lüftner Cruises designed the Amadeus Provence to be the most luxurious ship that can navigate the Saône & Rhône Rivers and their locks. Newer than most of Europe’s river ships, the Amadeus Provence’s staterooms are the largest and nicest we’ve found. This cruise ship is the perfect place to dine, sleep, and relax between rides. All Mozart & Strauss Deck Staterooms are 188 square feet, Haydn Deck Staterooms are 172 square feet, plenty of room for a king width bed. Suites are 50% larger (284 square feet) and provide room to entertain your friends. Instead of French balconies, the Mozart & Strauss deck staterooms on this ship feature an innovative wall of glass—Not only does this increase the interior footprint of each room, you can flip a switch and the top-half glides down to allow both of you to lean-out and share beautiful views up and down the river. The Haydn Deck staterooms have a wide fixed window.
Q: How are staterooms assigned?
A: In any sub-category all rooms are identical. Using the PayPal timestamp, those who reserve earliest get the conveniently located staterooms closest to the front of the ship. If friends desire a pair of adjacent staterooms the timestamp of the first reservation determines the location of both rooms. In short, out of fairness to all our guests, we will not take requests for specific room numbers. Those who book early obtain prime positioning.
Q: Are rental bikes available?
A: Yes. If you own a nice bike that fits, however, bringing it with you is relatively easy and inexpensive. More info on this in Bill’s Travel Tips. Single bike rental, about $450 per-person for the event, includes delivery at the PreTour OR cruise embark and retrieval at the end of the final ride.
Q: How do we get to and from the tour?
A: Detailed info by August ’22. Those who arrive for the PreTour (or on embark day) and depart on the disembark day will receive airport transfers.
Q: How many miles each day?
A: In addition to our daily pair of zero-mile options (remaining on the ship or reaching prime attractions via Santana’s non-rider touring coach), every day has multiple cycling routes. Anyone who can ride 30 flat miles will be able to enjoy multiple days of cycling. Longer routes are available, and typically allow 60 or more miles. Our welcome aboard page has more info on mileage. At each morning’s breakfast you’ll get a map charting the day’s cycling routes and recommended stops. During a brief route talk you’ll hear about each route’s attractions. Santana’s vets have learned to love and rely on their handlebar-mounted GPS units. Available for less than $170, these touch-screen marvels prevent the age-old problem of getting lost or riding unplanned miles. Would you rather use your smartphone? Use the tips in our GPS Guide to make sure you’re ready to go. Santana supplies free electronic mapping and route files. Simply select the route and follow the highlighted map.
Q: What’s the next step?
A: A near-immediate sell-out of this event is anticipated. Early-in pricing is limited to the first few rooms in each category. Pricing listed on the Stateroom Reservations section is the current pricing. To lock-in availability and the lowest pricing on a RISK-FREE basis, reserve your space through our reservations portal. Our secure website is open 24 hours per day, accepts all major credit cards, and automatically adjusts for remaining stateroom availability. Reserving your spot is RISK-FREE. In each category the prime location staterooms will be assigned in the same order as the timestamp of your booking.
Q: What do you mean by RISK-FREE?
A: When you use your credit card and book through PayPal, we’ll give you 14 risk-free days to think it over and clear your schedule. If you change your mind, send an email to Cancellations@SantanaAdventures.com within 14-days to cancel the PayPal transaction and obtain a full refund. Please do not send your request to any other email addresses. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.
Q: What if we change our minds after 14 days?
A: Because full-boat charters are binding, non-cancelable contracts, Jan and I will only enter into this charter based on your confirmed-through-PayPal commitment. In effect, we undertake a huge risk by guaranteeing full payment on your behalf. After entering into this obligation, we cannot afford for you to back out—for any reason. This is no different than the clear written policy that existed for all except one of Santana’s prior chartered-ship cruises. While preparing for our 2009 Danube event I neglected to include the following proviso. That’s the year a group of friends, after verbally agreeing to pay in full and then stringing Jan along for many months, decided to cancel their plans. Lesson learned! Here it is (again) in writing:
Santana’s acceptance of your registration and non-refundable deposit for this event is subsequent to your agreement to pay the remaining balance in full. While Santana allows limited refunds on rallies and tours, Santana’s cruises are non-cancelable and non-transferable. When the possibility of paying yet not attending is unacceptable, Jan and I recommend Travel Guard trip insurance. For the past 25 years hundreds of our clients have relied on Travel Guard coverage without complaint. An informative application will be mailed with your invoice; and further information is available online. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.
Q: Have you ever relaxed your refund policy?
A: Jan and I have willingly resold a number of fully prepaid staterooms for a fee of $1,000 per stateroom—which is waived when vacating participants find someone to take their place. When there has been more than one pending resell request, those who paid-in-full earliest had their space resold next. Using this non-guaranteed method (which is grossly inferior to trip insurance) Jan and I have cheerfully refunded over $500,000 in otherwise non-refundable and non-transferable cruise fares. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.
Q: What’s the difference between a SAG-wagon and Santana’s SOS/treasure vans?
A: Most tour companies use SAG-wagons that haul luggage and “sweep” the route between overnight stops. The drivers refill water-bottles, fix flat tires, and retrieve riders who can’t manage the easiest route between the widely spaced hotels. The problem, of course, is that the roving vans tend to be annoying until you actually need help. At that point it’s common to wait for two or more hours until one shows up. Although SAG drivers can fix a flat, they don’t have the tools or know-how to handle serious mechanical problems. Instead, they drive you to a bike shop (which explains why SAG-wagons disappear for hours at a time). This tour’s pair of SOS vans are driven by pro bike mechanics who bring tools and spares. When you phone one of our drivers with the coordinates from your GPS, they’ll arrive in a flash to get you back in the saddle. Because Santana expects participants to fill their own bottles, fix their own flats, and choose a ride they can finish, our SOS drivers are underworked, and have time to retrieve your shopping treasures.
Q: Are beverages included?
A: Beer & Wine are included at dinner. Other alcohol is not included but can be charged to your room. Soft Drinks, Coffee, Espresso Drinks, and Juice are all complimentary at meal times.
Q: Which meals are included?
A: During Santana’s earlier charters of Lüftner cruises the culinary staff appreciated our appetites as much as we appreciated their multi-course gourmet meals. A 5-star chef will curate a new menu for each meal, and will always include a surprising selection of local fruits and produce, regional specialties, the freshest-possible seafood, vegetarian options, and grilled-to-order meats. A changing assortment of desserts and pastries are produced aboard each day. Breakfast and Lunch are served from a viewing queue, perfect for active cyclists. Dinner is a plated multi-course menu with plenty of gourmet options for all of our participants.
Q: Does the Amadeus Provence offer WiFi?
Q: Does the ship have an elevator?
Q: Will there be menu selections for vegetarians, vegans and picky eaters?
A: Yes to all of the above.
Q: What if we have more questions?
A: The quickest and easiest way to get help is to use Santana’s Contact Form. One of our team members will follow up with you as soon as possible.