Uniworld’s revamped Bon Voyage is all about fine dining and specialist excursions, as Gary Buchanan discovers on its inaugural voyage
Sitting in the shade of an ancient chestnut tree in the tranquil courtyard of Chateau Ambe Tour Pourret, I’m relaxing with a glass of fine Bordeaux wine. It’s warm for early April, even in south-west France, but that suits me just fine.
Earlier, Celine Lannoye, daughter of the chateau’s owner, explained how the well-drained, warm gravelly soil is perfect for the cultivation of their 40-year-old vines. It’s not yet noon, but I relish sampling a selection of the dark, garnet-coloured grand cru wines with hints of plum, pepper and cinnamon.
This Uniworld Masterpiece Collection excursion also includes a cooking class in the chateau’s demonstration kitchen, with individual hobs for our eager group of not-so-masterchefs. I’m learning how to cook seasonal Bordelaise specialities under the direction of chef Jerome, who offers some tricks of the trade to his willing novices.
We adjourn to the chateau’s dining room to savour chicken supreme with mushroom cream, courgettes and raisins in homemade pesto.
The fruits of our labour are surprisingly good but not a patch on the rich 2016 vintage wine that accompanies the meal.
This is just one highlight of my preview voyage departing from Bordeaux aboard Uniworld’s Bon Voyage. Following an eight-month, €12.5 million transformation from the former River Royale, this vessel is more opulent than ever and reflects a classy French vibe. Passenger capacity has been reduced to 124, and four spacious suites have been created, as well as new dining venues.