Loire River 2021

French Châteaux Cycling Cruise

Loire River Cycling Cruise

Photo Itinerary

Santana is proud to announce the Paris and Loire Valley Cycling Cruise. Famous for easy cycling, the Loire’s softly-rolling landscape inspired the impassioned creation of 42 fanciful castles. Instead of repelling an enemy, the famous châteaux of the Loire were designed to capture a lover’s heart.

A patchwork of fields, vineyards, and forests — decorated with charming villages and legendary Châteaux. A cycling paradise sewn together by gentle paved lanes and meandering country roads.

Because some of the region’s finest sights and cycling are between Paris and the Loire’s navigable section, this 11-day event with 7 days of cycling is Santana’s first adventure where you’ll get to repack twice.

Here’s the overview:
  • August 21: Arrive Paris via CDG airport
  • August 21-23: A weekend stay at our favorite Paris Hotel
  • August 23: Shuttle to the Loire Valley includes Chateaux Tours
  • August 23-26: Loire-et-Maine Riverside Hotel and first days of cycling
  • August 26-31: Six-Day Lower Loire River Cruise aboard Loire Princesse
  • August 31: Disembark and AM shuttles to TGV station or Nante’s NTE International Airport

We start with a non-cycling weekend in Paris, where our favorite hotel offers non-stop shuttles from Paris’ CDG airport, and can accommodate all sizes of boxed bikes—even full-length tandems (but if you don’t want to bring your own bike, rental bikes and e-bikes are readily available). If you don’t know your way around Paris, we’ll share some ideas at our Welcoming Banquet. Except for a second great dinner in Paris, Sunday is unstructured.

Following Monday’s endless breakfast a pair of luxurious touring coaches will arrive at our hotel to transport us to the Loire. Before and after today’s lunch we’ll enjoy tours of two of the most fabulous Loire Valley Chateaux.

Later, we’ll check-in for a three-night stay at an upper Loire Valley 4-star hotel. At this riverside resort we’ll find time to assemble and test bikes (or accept rental bikes) before our Welcome-to-Loire Dinner that precedes our tour’s 7 days of cycling—two that return to our riverside hotel, and five that return to our chartered Loire River cruise ship.

The main goal of our Tuesday ride is an exploration of Le Mans, a town where the castle is decidedly less famous than the world’s oldest and most prestigious car race. We’ll actually cycle a portion of the famous 8.5 mile circuit on the way to a fabulous museum adjacent to the finishing-line grandstands. For a preview of today’s ride, we suggest watching the classic Steve McQueen movie Le Mans, or the more recent Ford vs. Ferrari.

Following three nights and two full days cycling in this upriver region, a Thursday morning shuttle provides a choice of starting points for a ride that ends at our Loire embark in time for a late lunch aboard the Loire Princesse, which will be our group’s own Loire River Palace for the next five nights. After you eat, clean up and settle in, we’ll walk across the bridge to the festive “Island of Machines,” an homage to the inventive minds of Leonardo da Vinci & Jules Verne. Museum admissions and your ride aboard the world’s largest elephant are included.

Tonight, after we’re all seated in the Panoramic Dining Room the Loire Princesse will circle Nantes’ Island and depart the city through a veritable canyon of flood-lit buildings and monuments.

On Friday we’ll wake up in the village of Ancenis, where our ship docks at the base of a medieval castle. This morning, our choice of routes to a guided tour of Chateau Serrant will all pause for coffee at “Le Jardin Des Kangourous,” where over 300 friendly and cuddly wallabies roam freely, and will pose for shared selfies.

Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

As will be the case most days, lunch aboard Loire Princesse separates our morning and afternoon rides. If you don’t care to spend more time in the saddle, take the afternoon off onboard the ship, or take a ride on our panoramic window coach that accompanies our tour.

Saturday’s ride through preserved marshlands include an introduction to Loire River vineyards, a prime reason that centuries of French Royalty chose this region when building their summer castles. As is the case on many of this tour’s days, our shortest morning ride will average a bit less than 25 miles. Longer options and afternoon rides allow daily totals of 50 or more miles. Perfect for relaxed cycling, the Loire Valley doesn’t have any steep climbs or long ascents.

Sunday’s ride features the castle and history of the Coronation town of Angers, where we’ll park our bikes in the preserved medieval center for a tour that includes the twelve-hundred year-old Castle d’Angers and a viewing of the Apocalypse Tapestry.

Since Angers is a few miles upriver from the Loire’s navigable segment, late this afternoon the Loire Princesse will untie and cruise back towards Nantes. Our panoramic dinner includes the beautiful stretch of the Loire that you missed while sleeping during your first night aboard.

Monday’s morning ride gives us a chance to race the Loire Princesse to our morning croissant stop in the riverside village of le Pellerin. From there we’ll cycle the paved lane tracing the Canal de la Martiniere. In Paimboeuf the Loire Princess will be waiting to serve us lunch.

The afternoon ride (or cruise) ends at the Atlantic Ocean harbor of Saint Nazaire, where WWII history includes German submarines and British commando raids. This afternoon you’ll receive tickets to 3 entertaining museums—all are a short stroll from the Loire Princesse. Two are housed in the harbor’s massive U-boat pen, a fascinating remnant of Germany’s WWII occupation. One of the fortified bunkers contains a preserved submarine to explore.

Leaving the ship behind in Saint Nazaire, Tuesday’s ride cycles west through a 150 square mile wildlife park. Stronger riders will put in the extra miles to pass the stunningly picturesque Château Bretesche. Routes converge at the Atlantic’s salt marshes of Guérande, where we’ll stop at the interpretive center to learn how today’s “paludiers” use thousand-year-old tools and methods to reap the annual salt harvest.

Our return route to the ship passes through the seaside resort villages of France’s Cote d’Amour. Back in Saint Nazaire you’ll be able to repack your bikes or visit a museum you may have missed yesterday. Sailing at sunset, the panoramic dining room will host a memorable farewell dinner.

On Disembark Day in Nantes, we’ll say farewell to the Loire Princesse. Our earliest included shuttles to Nantes’ NTE airport will arrive in time for the earliest departure. If you’d like to visit another destination in Europe, Nantes’ airport is a low cost hub. If you care to fly home the following day, our favorite Nantes hotel is adjacent to the center-of-city station that offers direct TGV service to the center of Paris-CDG airport).

Loire Princesse

Loire River Cycling Cruise

For the past five years Santana has chartered various river and ocean ships from CroisiEurope, a family-owned company based in France. Since day one we’ve attempted to charter their most exclusive ship. Exclusive? Because of the Loire’s heritage, landscape and castles, the French prohibited industrialization, dams, locks and channelization. Long segments of this wide and untamed river are barely three feet deep — far too shallow for a classic river cruise ship.

On Valentines Week of 2014 CroisiEurope announced the construction of the Loire Princesse—the first-ever cruise ship for Europe’s most romantic river. Designed with the help of a French University and avante-garde constructeur, the Loire Princesse is uniquely wide, and only two stories high. Instead of vulnerable props below a pointed keel, the Loire Princesse’s side wheel propulsion sits above and beside the ship’s flat bottom. Unlike other river cruisers, the roomier Loire Princesse draws less than 30 inches of water.

Last month, after turning us away for years, Croisi finally agreed to a charter of the Loire Princesse, the only cruise option for Europe’s most romantic river.

As on most modern cruise ships, two full-width twin beds convert to a king-width double. With most staterooms the beds face the window. If you choose one of the slightly smaller economy staterooms, however, the beds are turned 90-degrees and there’s not quite enough room to spread them apart.

All of the upper deck staterooms have a walk-out balcony with a small table and two chairs.

All staterooms are soundproofed. Those who book earliest obtain the staterooms farthest away from the centrally located paddle wheels. On our scouting cruise Jan and I had a lower deck stateroom nearest the paddlewheel, and were not bothered by the slight vibration and sleep-inducing white noise. Because Jan likes to be able to open a window, for our charter she’s staked-out an upper-deck room closest to the ship’s paddlewheel.

With one less deck than most ships we’ve chartered, this very special charter will have a third fewer rooms (48 vs. ~72). The ship’s upper deck lounge and lower deck dining areas are wider and more spacious than on other river cruise ships, and will have ample seating for all of us. The sun-deck is huge, and our bike parking and service areas will take up less than half the area.

Video of the Loire Princesse

Frequently Asked Questions

Loire River Cycling Cruise

Q: What are the exact dates?

A: August 23 to 31, 2021.

Q: What’s the cost?

A: Due to the current strength of the dollar our Valentine’s pricing for this 8-day cycling cruise starts at $3,999 per-person. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE. Our reservations page shows pricing of available staterooms.

Q: What about tipping?

A: Jan and I don’t accept tips. A comprehensive “cruise extras” fee of $375 per person includes a long list of port fees, off-ship activities, admissions, interpretive guides, sight fees, and ride support (gps route files, morning shuttles to give casual riders a head start, and an SOS van driven by a pro mechanic). Note that this is less than the average cruise passenger pays for week of “deluxe excursions.” Shipboard gratuities of $140 per person includes wash & fold laundry and valet bike handling.

Q: Are all staterooms the same?

A: The efficiently-scaled Loire Princesse has 48 double occupancy staterooms in four categories (sorry, no singles or triples). Launched in 2015, all rooms in all categories feature exterior view and private bath. The Loire Princesse has large public areas and lots of deck space. All of the upper deck staterooms have a walk-out balcony with a small table and two chairs. As on most modern cruise ships, two full-width twin beds convert to a king-width. With most staterooms the beds face the window. If you choose one of the slightly smaller economy staterooms, however, the beds are turned 90-degrees and cannot be spread apart.

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 rates are about $450 per person for the event, includes delivery to embark and retrieval at disembark.

Q: How do we get to and from the tour?

A: Detailed info will be sent out to anyone with a reservation. Those who arrive and leave on the embark and debark days will receive FREE Airport transfers.

Q: How many miles each day?

A: In addition to our daily pair of zero-mile options (cruising on the ship or grabbing a seat on our Panoramic-Window coach), every day has multiple cycling routes. Anyone who can ride 25 flat miles will be able to enjoy all six days of cycling. If you prefer hills or want to ride up to 60 miles a day, we’ve got you covered. 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 grades and difficulty. Santana’s vets have learned to love and rely on their handlebar-mounted gps unit. Costing as little as $200, these touch-screen marvels prevent the age-old problem of getting lost or riding unplanned miles. Santana supplies free electronic mapping and route files. Simply select the route and follow the highlighted map.

Q: What’s the next step?

A: To lock-in availability and the lowest pricing on a RISK-FREE basis, reserve your space through our PayPal portal. PayPal’s 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 time stamp 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 Matt@SantanaAdventures.com within two weeks to cancel the PayPal transaction and obtain a full refund. 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 (this charter will be our 57th!). 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 20 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 was waived when a vacating couple found 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 $250,000 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 SOS van is driven by a pro bike mechanic who brings tools and spares. When you phone him with the coordinates from your GPS, he’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 Croisi cruises the culinary staff appreciated our appetites as much as we appreciated their multi-course gourmet meals. Croisi’s 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 buffet style, perfect for active cyclists. Dinner is a plated multi-course menu with plenty of gourmet options for all of our participants.

Q: Does the Loire Princesse have free WiFi?
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 easiest way to get help is by phoning or emailing Matt, who is happy to help answer your questions.
+1 (949) 677-7896        Matt@SantanaAdventures.com

Q: What if I run into problems with Reservations or PayPal?

A: The easiest way to get help is by phoning or emailing Matt, who is happy to help guide you.
+1 (949) 677-7896        Matt@SantanaAdventures.com

Stateroom Reservations

Loire River Cycling Cruise

August 23 to 31, 2021