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Day 4: Bordeaux, Medoc

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This morning was our “go active” bicycle tour. This was the excursion that I was most excited about during our river cruise. I feel like a local riding a bicycle, especially in Europe. 

Since our bicycles were in a different location that morning, we had a taste of the local life by taking a quick tram ride to pick up our bicycles and meet our local guide. 

Our group of 25 was split into two groups. It was a husband and wife team that were our local guides for each group.  Instead of the two and half hour tour offered on our ships this season, we got a taste of the tour in about one hour since we were limited on time.

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Our local guide told us that we were going to skip the main street and hit the backroads and alleyways of Bordeaux.  

During the tour, our guide stopped at points of interests and gave us some historical information.

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The ride was not strenuous at all for me as we often took breaks to stop and listen to our guide.

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At the end of the one-hour tour, I definitely wanted more. I highly recommend that you take this “go active” tour if a Bordeaux river cruise is on your to-do list.

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Once we got back to the ship, some of us headed over the lounge for a late breakfast of pastries and coffee.

Later that morning, we were in for a real treat!  We were invited over to the sun deck lounge to taste the local Arachon oysters.  Along with the tasting, a representative from the oyster farm was on hand to tell us a bit more about the oysters.

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Not too long after the tasting, lunch was served in the sun deck lounge.  It was a simple lunch of kabobs, salads, and pizza, but was my most favorite lunches served on the ship as we had the choice to dine al fresco on the sun deck.

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After lunch, it was time to board our luxury motorcoaches for a scenic drive through the Medoc Wine Trail.  During the drive, we stopped at several picturesque grand estates to take some photos before our visit to Chateau d’Arsac.

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At the winery, I was surprised to see art installations sprinkled all over the estate. I thought that this was one of the most unique wineries I have ever seen.

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The owner of the estate was an avid art fan, and he displayed his collection through the vineyard, the onsite lake, and inside the buildings.

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At Chatau d’Arsac, the highlight of the afternoon was discovering our “wine sign.”  By answering a series of questions after some winetasting, they were able to tell us our wine preferences and what kind of wine would please our palette.

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That evening, we bid farewell to our group and the staff onboard our ship during our Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner.  This was one of two nights during our cruise, which were more dressier affairs. Women brought out their sparkling evening attire, while men wore dress shirts, ties, and slacks that evening.

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My favorite dinner during the river cruise was that night’s Captain’s Farewell Dinner.  

On the menu that evening:

Smoked Aquitaine sturgeon, horseradish dressing, apple brunoise and red chard leaves tossed in vinaigrette

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Pumpkin cappuccino with roasted pumpkin seeds

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Grilled lobster tail, carnaroli risotto with saffron and green peas, sauce Armoricaine

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Apricot sorbet

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Roasted turbot filet with Vermouth sauce, baby spinach and mashed Vitelotte potatoes

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Black Angus beef, grilled tenderloin, sauteed fois gras, sauce Perigeaux, vegetable bouquet and pomme

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A selection of local cheeses

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Crispy Guanaja feuillantine with homemade orange basil sorbet

Macarons, dates with marzipan, chocolate crunch

French press coffee, cappuccino, espresso, or a selection of loose leaf Newby teas

I hope you enjoyed our blog posts from our Bordeaux river cruise!  

If you have any questions regarding our river cruises, please don’t hesitate to contact your local travel agent or you can also send us an email at info@uniworld.com.

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NOTE: This tour was part of an abbreviated version of Uniworld’s new Bordeaux itinerary. For actual day-to-day information, please click here  Bordeaux, Vineyards & Châteaux

Join Uniworld’s President and CEO Guy Young for an exclusive “President’s Cruise” on the May 11, 2014 departure.


Day 3: Cadillac, Sauternes

Today, as an early riser, we had the option of coffee and pastries in the Gascogne Lounge on the River Royale at 6 am, or yoga with Lucian at 7 am.  

I chose to sleep in this morning and catch up on the morning news watching SkyNews and BBC News in my stateroom.

At 9:15 am, we boarded our luxury motorcoaches to head into wine country to explore the sweet white wine of Sauternes.  

On our way there, we spotted some Bordelaise cattle which looked a bit different from the cows I’ve seen at home in the U.S.

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We had the opportunity to take photos near the world-renowed Château d’Yquem, known for its unique rank of Premier Cru Supérieur in the 1855 classification. This estate is owned by the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, better known as LVMH. This super exclusive (hard to gain access) winery can be visited only be a select few and not open to the public.

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The first part of our tour was a visit to the family-owned Château de Myrat.

As our motorcoach dropped us off, we were greeted by one of the family members whose uncle is the winemaker at the estate. She brought us to the picturesque estate grounds and gave us the history and background of her family as winemakers.

The estate, located in the commune of Barsac, produces Sauternes which were ranked Grand Cru of Second Growth class in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. 

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Our guide discussed the grapes grown in this region and how their harvest each year is highly dependent on the typical climate and moisture of this area. We learned about how the microclimate in the area plays an important role to achieve botrytis infection known as “noble rot.”  If the weather does not work in their favor, there is no other way to produce Sauternes.

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At the end of our wine tour, we headed over to the winetasting room to sample their Sauternes wine, buy wine to take home, and take photos (see Chris with his magnum bottle of Sauternes below). Behind him is a map of the world where guests are encouraged to pin where in the world they call home.

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After our visit  to Château de Myrat, we visited Château d’Arche for a three-course lunch including a Sauternes wine pairing.  This château  was named after Comte d’Arche, owner of the estate from 1733 to 1789.

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During our lunch in their lovely and bright casual dining room at Château d’Arche, we were treated to smoked salmon, roasted chicken, and peach melba paired with three selections of Château d’Arche sweet white wine which each had a different level of complexity and sweetness.

As each dish came out, we were given some information about the wine and how it pairs with each dish.

I was surprised to know that one can enjoy Saunternes with a main course dish as well.  I thought these sweeter wines should be served with cheeses and desserts.  

In the afternoon, we returned to Bordeaux and enjoyed the view of this UNESCO World Heritage site from the sun deck with our wine, beer, or warm cup of tea or coffee in hand savoring the moment.  Note that beginning this year, Uniworld is going even more all-inclusive on our ships in Europe including all beverages in the price of our river cruises including spirits, local wine and beer. 

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Our cruise manager, AJ, mentioned that Bordeaux is still considered an “up and coming” region.  I look forward to seeing the development of the city and what’s in store in its future.  

This evening we were treated to an Epicurean Adventurer dinner curated exclusively for Uniworld by two-star Michelin-rated chef, Philippe Etchebest of Saint-Emilion. He is France’s celebrity chef and starred in the France’s version of Hell’s Kitchen.

Epicurean Adventurer Dinner Menu:

Caviar d’Aquitane
Premium selection, crab cremeux, avocado, citrus fruit chantilly

Esturgeon
Marinated and plancha seared, buttered cabbage, black pork belly, sauce vigneronne

Agneau du Quercy
Roasted loin with cilantro and mint, caraway carrots, eggplant caviar, lamb jus

A selection of local cheese, fruit, and crackers

Le Chocolat
Jivara, passion fruit mousseaux, coconut biscuit, sorbet

It is important to note that on a Uniworld river cruise, our team on the ship will cater to your needs as you wish in the dining room.

I ordered a side of sirloin steak in addition to the lamb to get a taste of the steak always available on our ships in Europe as an alternate menu item.  

In addition to the steak, guests will have the choice of a garden salad with Uniworld’s signature house dressing by Mrs. Beatrice Tollman, salmon filet, whole chicken breast, french fries, baked potato, and assorted vegetables.

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This evening, we were docked in Bordeaux which made an evening stroll an appealing way for some to end another fabulous day of good food and drink in Southwestern France.

It was definitely treat for me to get some fresh air, take some photos, and to get a sense of the local Bordelaise life.  For those that are night owls like me, I felt safe walking at night on the evenings I went out for a walk. Bars and restaurants were crowded and still open as I walked back to the ship on some nights close to midnight.

Stay tuned for more photos and updates … you won’t want to miss our “go active” activity next!

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NOTE: This tour was part of an abbreviated version of Uniworld’s new Bordeaux itinerary. For actual day-to-day information, please click here  Bordeaux, Vineyards & Châteaux

Join Uniworld’s President and CEO Guy Young for an exclusive “President’s Cruise” on the May 11, 2014 departure.


Day 2: Blaye & Bordeaux

Our second day aboard the River Royale on the Bordeaux, Vineyards & Châteaux itinerary was all about history.

After arriving in Blaye around midday, we quickly hopped aboard our luxury motorcoaches, which were already waiting for us (they follow the ship from shore) for a scenic drive along the “Route de la Corniche Fleurie.” The drive took us along the shore near the river and was full of beautiful blooming flowers and summer homes.

At the end of the drive, we were treated with the opportunity to explore a fully functioning windmill that was once used in the production of flour. Our guide explained how the windmill worked and also explained to us all the different types of wood that were used in its construction. Every part of the windmill was constructed from different types of wood that were optimal for the operation that they were performing. As you can see in the photos, the gears were coated with grease to reduce friction. We were then given a live demonstration of the windmill at work.

After touring the windmill and its museum, it was time to jump back on our motorcoach and take a short drive back to the Blaye Fortress. Of course, this being the Bordeaux region, there were plenty of grape vineyards to be seen throughout the drive.

As we arrived at Blaye Fortress, we couldn’t help but be amazed by the size of the Citadel. Our local guide explained that in the 17th Century, Louis XIV ordered Vauban, Marshal of France, to strengthen the existing fortifications at the Citadel of Blaye to protect the city of Bordeaux, located upstream of the estuary on the Garonne River. The Blaye Fortress was one of three (Fort Paté and Fort Médoc are the other two) built to protect the city.

Designed between 1685 and 1689 as a veritable walled city with a total area of 38 hectares, the Citadel of Blaye was built around a parade ground, a monastery dedicated to the Minims order, and several army barracks. Inside the fortress, there are several remarkable buildings and ruins, including the 12th-Century Rudel castle, the Liverneuf gate (12th Century), and the Éguillette tower (15th Century).

Today, the Citadel is used as a park, campground, historical ground.

After a tour of the Citadel, there was no need for the motorcoaches since the River Royale is one of just a few ships that is allowed to dock just steps away (literally, just look at the photo). So, after a very short walk we were back on our river ship and ready for another amazing dinner.

During dinner, the River Royale sailed back to Bordeaux and those brave enough to face the chilly, rainy Bordeaux night were taken on a night illuminations tour by double decker bus around the city. We would highly recommend you take the tour. After all, Bordeaux is often referred to as a “little Paris.”

Our full day of touring, the Chateaux and Vineyards of Sauternes is next so make sure to check back tomorrow…

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NOTE: This tour was part of an abbreviated version of Uniworld’s new Bordeaux itinerary. For actual day-to-day information, please click here  Bordeaux, Vineyards & Châteaux

Join Uniworld’s President and CEO Guy Young for an exclusive “President’s Cruise” on the May 11, 2014 departure.


Day 1: Saint-Émilion

The first day began with a 5 am departure time for Libourne for some wine tasting in Saint-Émilion. For early birds, it offered a great opportunity to watch the scenery go by while sipping on coffee or tea and enjoying a few pastries as an early breakfast in the panoramic lounge. For those not inclined to wake up too early, there was no need to worry since some of us hardly even noticed that the ship left the dock and on its way towards Libourne.

After breakfast we were invited to attend a very interesting and informational nautical lecture given by the Hotel Manager Sebastian Wendling. The lecture covered a variety of information on the rivers we would be sailing, the areas we would be visiting, and the challenges of piloting a river ship in the Bordeaux region. We were also told about the mascaret, a phenomenon that happens when the tide from the Atlantic Ocean meets the river waters.  This is one of only three rivers in the entire world you can experience this phenomenon!  During the mascaret, people can be seen surfing or kayaking the tidal wave on the river. Unfortunately, after much excitement of the passengers to witness this unique spectacle during our cruise, the mascaret didn’t materialize for us.

The morning was spent onboard the River Royale and after a buffet lunch, we were taken to the small town of Saint-Émilion for wine tasting, a guided walking tour of the Medieval town square, and the Monolithic Church and its underground galleries.

After a short drive from the ship on our luxury motorcoach, we arrived at Chateau Soutard. During our guided tour learned about the history of the winery and the wine making process in this particular region. We then were guided to the tasting room to savor their red wines.

The second part of our excursion was a guided walking tour of Saint-Émilion town square.

First, some background and history.  Saint-Émilion dates back to almost 2,000 years when the Romans planted its first vineyards. The town on the other hand, dates back from about the 8th century, when Emilion, a Breton monk came to the area and chose to settle in a hermitage carved into the soft limestone found in the area which we were able to access by borrowing a key from the tourist office.

After navigating a tricky, cobblestoned path down a hill, we arrived in Saint-Émilion Square and were greeted by a stunning view above the rooftops and countryside, as well as a tour of Saint-Émilion’s caved dwelling and the Monolithic Church. Built from, or rather hacked out of, the local yellow limestone, the church is hewn into the rock face. While photos are not permitted inside the church, it’s a site you won’t soon likely forget.

By the way, while Saint-Émilion is best known for its wine, it’s also known as the birthplace of the macaron. The recipe goes back to the year 1620, when the Ursuline sisters established their convent in the town. Your tour guide can recommend a shop where you can try this delicious French cookie.

We then headed back to the River Royale for a delicious Welcome Gala Reception and Dinner which did not disappoint and hit the spot after an afternoon of exploring.

Our visit to the Citadel of Blaye is next, so stay tuned for more updates from our river cruise…

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NOTE: This tour was part of an abbreviated version of Uniworld’s new Bordeaux itinerary. For actual day-to-day information, please click here  Bordeaux, Vineyards & Châteaux.

Join Uniworld’s President and CEO Guy Young for an exclusive “President’s Cruise” on the May 11, 2014 departure.


Uniworld Names Iconic French Actress Catherine Deneuve as S.S. Catherine’s Godmother

We are excited to announce that iconic French actress, Catherine Deneuve has been named Godmother of the S.S. Catherine!

The S.S. Catherine, the newest addition to Uniworld’s award-winning fleet of river cruise ships, will be christened on March 27, 2014 in Lyon, France.

Full Press Release below:

Read More


"European Jewels" Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

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Baked to perfection during Uniworld’s "European Jewels" boutique river cruise, the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is an irresistible Viennese treat.

With this simple to follow recipe, it’s easy to enjoy a small taste of Vienna year round. 

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1/4 cup (50 g) bittersweet Couverture or cooking chocolate
  • 1/8 cup (30 g) icing sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 tbsp (44 ml) rum
  • 2 tbsp (30 g) sugar
  • 3/8 cup (50 g) breadcrumbs
  • 3/8 cup (50 g) crumbled ladyfingers
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) milk
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) hazelnuts or walnuts, roasted and grated
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) butter (melted for greasing)
  • 3 tbsp (45 g) sugar (for the baking forms)

Chocolate Sauce

  • 2/3 cup (150 g) dark chocolate
  • 1/4 pt (150 ml) milk
  • 1/8 cup (20 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 ml) cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, cut open
  • 1 cup (80 g) soft butter
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) cognac
  • 1/2 pt (300 ml) cream (half-whipped, for decoration)

Preparation

Cake

  • Grease 6 small soufflé molds with melted butter and dust with sugar; refrigerate so that the mixture can rise without running over the sides.
  • Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
  • Whisk the egg yolks with rum and icing sugar until fluffy. Pour in the melted chocolate.
  • Whisk the egg whites and sugar and a pinch of salt until half stiff, and carefully fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites.
  • Combine the breadcrumbs, ladyfinger crumbs, and milk and fold into the mixture, along with the nuts and the rest of the egg whites.
  • Fill the molds 3/4 full with the mixture. Fill a deep baking tray with about 3/4 inch (2 cm) of water (or use a double boiler) and place the molds in the water.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 340°F (170°C) for about 20 minutes.

Chocolate Sauce

  • Heat the milk with the cream, sugar, and vanilla bean.
  • Remove the vanilla bean and melt the finely chopped chocolate in the mixture.
  • Whip up the butter and pour in the chocolate mixture, stirring regularly.
  • Pour in some cognac for extra aroma.
  • Loosen the small cakes from their molds and arrange on plates. Pour on the warm chocolate sauce, and decorate with whipped cream.
  • Serves 6

@UniworldCruises department heads, hotel managers, and operations team during the pre-season kick-off.

@UniworldCruises department heads, hotel managers, and operations team during the pre-season kick-off.


Is Travel Insurance A Good Idea?

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Chances are your vacation will be a relaxing, enjoyable and fun, but it’s also important to be prepared for the unexpected. There are many pros and cons for purchasing travel insurance, but we believe there is value in purchasing a travel protection plan for peace of mind, protection against the unexpected and concern over losing the financial investment in a trip. Read on for more.

What is travel insurance?

Simply put, Travel Insurance, also referred to as Travel Plan Protection, is an insurance policy that is intended to cover unexpected events that may arise before or during your trip. Covered occurrences typically range from cancellation of all or part of your trip, medical emergencies or evacuations, lost baggage, theft and more.

Types of travel insurance coverage?

While trip insurance coverage can include a number of different coverage’s, comprehensive policies are the most popular and most widely know travel insurance plans. Comprehensive plans typically include coverage for a wide range of concerns, including:

  • Trip cancellation: Most comprehensive travel insurance policies will provide coverage for reimbursement of prepaid reservations if your trip is cancelled, interrupted or delayed.
  • Medical benefits: Chances are your regular medical insurance will not provide coverage while you are abroad (this is especially true if you are under Medicare or some other form of national health service). For this reason, it’s important for your protection plan to  include health coverage benefits in case you end up needing medial attention or services while on your trip.
  • Emergency Evacuation Coverage: Should you experience a serious medical emergency that requires you to be transported home, emergency evacuation coverage will help protect you from the high costs of these services.
  • Baggage Protection: Another coverage typically found in most comprehensive travel insurance policies, baggage protection provides coverage if your baggage or personal property is lost, stolen, or damaged during your vacation.

Where to buy travel insurance?

Travel insurance can typically be bought directly from your tour operator, a travel insurance company or your travel agent. You can also compare travel insurance options online through a website like Insure My Trip.  Here at Uniworld, we offer a comprehensive travel protection plan called the Uniworld Travel Protection Plan. You can learn more about our travel protection plan by clicking the link above.

As with any insurance policy, it is important to thoroughly read through your travel insurance policy and take note of any exclusions or clauses that may affect your coverage’s and any applicable limits.

Whether you purchase travel plan protection will depend on your individual situation, but it does provide you with peace of mind should something unexpected arise and affect your trip. Luckily, as travel insurance plans have become more popular, providers have become more competitive and sites like Insure My Trip can help you find the right coverage at the right price. Additionally, you can always discuss possible coverage’s with your travel agent, broker, or trip provider.

So, now that you know a little bit more about travel plan protection, are you more inclined to purchase it with your next trip? 


Wesley Bosnic at @latimesevents travel trade conference… panel discussion on #rivercruising. (at Los Angeles Times Travel Show)


Hi from Sundance, Utah! @ Uniworld Sales Team (US - East Coast) Meeting #teamuniworld #uniworldcruises (at Sundance Resort)

Hi from Sundance, Utah! @ Uniworld Sales Team (US - East Coast) Meeting #teamuniworld #uniworldcruises (at Sundance Resort)


@uniworldcruises Thanksgiving potluck

@uniworldcruises Thanksgiving potluck


River Beatrice… home away from home. -Nola  #rivercruise

River Beatrice… home away from home. -Nola #rivercruise


Found this in Salzburg today and had to share!  -Nola  #rivercruise

Found this in Salzburg today and had to share! -Nola #rivercruise


Happy Halloween (at Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection)

Happy Halloween (at Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection)


Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound butternut squash, split in half lenghwise and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup onion sliced thinly
  • 3 garlic cloves sliced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh thyme leaves to garnish


Directions

Preheat oven to 400 °F. Spray a 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil. Place butternut squash cut side down in prepared dish. Pierce with a knife several times. Bake for approximately 35 minutes. Remove from oven, scrape the butternut squash pulp into a bowl; discard the peel. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat. Sauté the onion and garlic stirring constantly for approximately 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, roasted butternut squash pulp, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add 1/2 cup cream, transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return squash mixture to the saucepan stirring constantly over medium heat (do not boil) until heated through and serve. Garnish if desired by drawing initials of your guests on top. 

Enjoy!