Sailing into Adventure: AmaWaterways Colours of Provence Cruise

Take a trip with Direct Travel's Director of Marketing Meredith Burbidge, as she details a recent journey with AmaWaterways!

As a busy mom, taking a holiday right before the biggest holiday of the year was admittingly playing with fire. And an exercise in extreme organization. It’s amazing how quickly any dregs of apprehension and thoughts of unwrapped gifts melted away the moment I hit the Air Canada lounge in Toronto.

I was travelling to Lyon, France and embarking on a 7-night Rhone River cruise with AmaWaterways, a Virtuoso Partner, on board AmaKrtistina. The cruise was scheduled to sail south to Provence, passing through the wine regions of Tournon and Avignon before ending in Arles, where Van Gough created some of his most famous masterpieces. Along the way, we would visit the magical Christmas Markets.

There are many aspects of travel over which we have no control, and I ran into one right before I left.  Two days prior to leaving Toronto, I received the news that the cruise might not sail as scheduled due to an unprecedented amount of rain in Lyon. The Rhone River was at risk of overflowing, and the authorities had paused all river traffic. AmaWaterways assured me they were monitoring the situation and were hopeful the waters would recede. I appreciated the transparency of their communication. I soon learned that is how AMA always operates with honesty and integrity. As luck would have it, the sky in Lyon cleared, the water receded, and our ship could sail.

Lyon: The other city of Lights

If you have already visited Paris, Lyon should be next on your list. With a rich history dating back over 2000 years, the old city of Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to its history, Lyon is the gastronomic center of France, boasting more restaurants than any other city in the country. This really is the foodie destination to end all foodie destinations. 

Every December 8th, Lyon holds its Fete des Lumières (Festival of light), an installation of temporary light shows projected onto the buildings of Lyon. It’s a mesmerizing event and all the citizens of Lyon line their windowsills with candles, adding to the enchantment of the evening. Combining this experience with the festive Lyon Christmas Market caused my holiday spirits to soar. 


I stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel Dieu–Lyon, a Virtuoso partner hotel, for one night before my cruise was scheduled to board. I am thrilled with the choice. A working hospital for the last 200 years, the landmark building was converted to a hotel about 10 years ago. The most notable attribute of the building its dome, which was once an important feature to aid in the hospital ventilation. Today, the Dome serves as the spectacular ceiling of the InterContinental’s Dome Bar. A drink in this elegant, magical venue is an absolute must for any visitor to Lyon. For my visit, Christmas lights hung from the ceiling and other festive décor dotted the glamourous locale.

AmaKristina and the Colours of Provence

One of my favourite things about river cruising is how relaxing it is and embarking on the AmaKristina was no exception. A quick taxi ride from my hotel, and I was at the ship. I gave my name, showed some ID and I was issued my room card. It took less then five minutes for me to get from my taxi and into my room.  

While I could extoll the beautiful décor, the elegant bar area, the excellent food and wine and the more than comfortable staterooms, what I really want to talk about is the feeling of an AMA river cruise.  It’s easy to conflate luxury with stuffiness or snobbery and the atmosphere on board my AMA ship was neither of those. It was relaxed and warm. A place where one immediately feels at home.  


I believe this stems from the tone set by co-owner, Kristin Karst.  I have been lucky enough to spend to time getting to know this remarkable woman, and she exudes the same warm welcoming feeling as her cruise line. In fact, during the pandemic, when ships were not sailing, AmaWaterways kept all their staff on payroll. Another example of AMA’s commitment to integrity.  As a result, once travel resumed, most of their staff returned to the ships, allowing for a smooth transition back into service. 

Cruise Highlights

As with most trips, there were so many wonderful moments. Too many for me to detail here. AMA includes all their shore excursions and for each port, there were excellent options. It was hard to choose! The cruise line places a focus on wellness, and this extends not just through the meal options and the onboard activity classes, but also to their shore excursions. There was always the choice of a bike ride, in addition to different levels of walking tours. I typically choose the most active walks, which were listed as hikes. The best one was up the hill where grapes for the famous Hermitage wines grow, and it was a bit of a challenge! The reward was a stunning view of the wineries, river and village.


One of the interesting things about the south of France is the amount of Rome ruins that can be found. We visited the cobblestoned villages of Les Baux, Avignon and Arles. All of which boost ancient histories and have antiquities found throughout their charming streets. 

The main star of the trip were the infamous Christmas Markets and the festive décor found around every corner. This was the perfect opportunity to check a few gifts off my list and I had a lot of fun choosing soaps, linens, scarfs and more. The weather at this time of year though Provence is between 4 and 15 degrees Celsius (40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) a little on the chilly side, easily managed with a mid- weight jacket and all the more reason to treat myself to a new scarf and enjoy the mulled wine in the markets!

I arrived back in Toronto well rested with my shopping completed. It was the perfect kick off to my holidays season and one I would recommend. If you are interested in a Christmas Market Cruise, they do sell out well in advance.  In fact, most of 2024 is already sold out so its not too early to plan your 2025 Christmas Market Cruise or any other 2025 AmaWaterways cruise. If this type of trip is on your wish list be sure to let your advisor know as we have a special offer coming in February! 


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