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Champagne on the River Marne

French Waterways

  • A plane in a circle with a strikethrough No fly
  • A car with a tick VIP on selected river cruises
  • A plate with a knife and fork Full board

Explore the picturesque Marne Valley

This holiday features four day-cruises on the scenic French backwaters, while staying six nights in a 3Q-rated hotel. After breakfasts at your hotel, make yourself at home on the eco-friendly day-cruiser ‘Liliana’ and admire the passing scenery as you cruise various stretches of the River Marne and the intricate canals which connect the champagne centres of Reims and Epernay. A light lunch of local specialities will be delivered to the boat each day for you to enjoy with included drinks as you cruise.

Our programme of included excursions take you through rural countryside to the historic attractions of the Marne Valley and include a visit to a family-owned Champagne House for a tasting. You’ll also have free time to explore Reims and Château Thierry, before you return to your hotel for dinner each evening.


Hands shaking Included travel insurance

Bed6 nights in a hotel

Dinner plate17 meals: 6 breakfasts, 5 light lunches and 6 dinners

PersonSaga Cruise Escort


  • Return coach travel from Folkestone by Eurotunnel or ferry, and transfers
  • Welcome drink
  • Complimentary bar throughout your cruise

MapIncluded excursions

  • Visit to Noyon cathedral
  • Visit to the Church of Our Lady in Mezy-Moulins
  • Visit to Memorial Chapel of the Battles of Marne
  • Guided visit to the Marne American Memorial Belleau Wood
  • Visit and tasting at a Champagne House
  • Time at leisure in Château Thierry or Reims

View Full Itinerary

Day 1 UK to Château-Thierry, France

Marne Valley

From Calais, you’ll continue by coach to Château-Thierry (a journey of approximately 197 miles, which should take around four hours, excluding comfort stops. You will also pause en route to purchase lunch). There will be a short stop in the town of Noyon, home to a fine Gothic cathedral before continuing to the locally rated 3-star Best Western Île de France in Château-Thierry (3Q) where you’ll stay for the next six nights.

The hotel is set on a hillside overlooking the Marne Valley. Enjoy a welcome drink and dinner at the hotel tonight.

Day 2 Château-Thierry to Dormans

Cruise the river Marne

Transfer by coach to the port of Château-Thierry to board your Backwaters Cruiser for the journey upstream to the town of Dormans. A light lunch is served on board and you will pause at Mont St Père to visit the 3-storey Church of our Lady in nearby Mézy-Moulins.

Then, continue cruising past the town of Jaulgonne, before arriving in Dormans. During your cruise, which covers a 16-mile stretch of the river, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a champagne tasting, courtesy of one of the riverside producers. Perhaps take the shuttle service to explore Château-Thierry, returning to the hotel for dinner this evening.

Day 3 Dormans to Ays (Epernay)


Return by coach to Dormans, pausing outside the town to visit the Memorial Chapel, built to commemorate the two Battles of Marne fought in World War One, the first of which saw a strategic victory saving Paris from German capture. Board your day-cruiser to sail upstream, passing the villages of Port-å-Binson and Reuil, before continuing along sections of canal and river to the village of Ay, which claims to be the original home of Champagne.

Ay is connected to the town of Epernay, on the opposite bank of the River Marne, where the Champagne houses of Moët & Chandon and Perrier-Jouet as well as many smaller producers, are based. Today’s cruise covers 19 miles and your cruiser will pass through five locks.

Day 4 Reims


After breakfast at the hotel you’ll be joined by a military historian who will give a talk about the Battle of Belleau Wood before you set off on a visit to the nearby American Aisne-Marne Cemetry and Memorial and the Belleau Wood Monument.

Continue by coach to Reims, the unofficial ‘capital’ of Champagne, for an afternoon of exploration at your leisure. Highlights include the Place Royal and the Notre-Dame Cathedral, one of the finest examples of the 'French Gothic' style. Enjoy lunch with your fellow travellers at a brasserie in the city centre. Return to the hotel for dinner.

Day 5 Ay (Epernay) to Vaudemanges


Travel by coach to Ay where you’ll board your cruiser to spend the day on the water. Journey through Mareuil-sur-Ay and Tours-sur-Marne before making a lunchtime stop at Condé-sur-Marne.

Continue your cruise, ascending through eight locks with the opportunity to stroll the towpaths between some of them, before arriving at the summit pound at Vaudemanges. Return to your hotel for dinner, having cruised 12 miles.

Day 6 Vaudemanges to Reims

Cruise the backwaters aboard Natalia

Return by coach to Vaudemanges where you’ll re-board your vessel and sail through the 1.4-mile canal tunnel of the Mont-de-Billy, a journey of around 30 minutes. This is one of the great constructional wonders of the French canal network, having taken 15 years to dig before starting service in 1866. Continue cruising through woodland, past the village of Sept-Saulx, pausing in Beaumont-sur Vesle to visit the Paul Sadi Champagne House for a tasting ahead of lunch on board. In the afternoon your cruise continues through Sillery and into Reims.

Perhaps enjoy a stroll along the towpath as your barge passes through three locks within pleasant parklands. Return to your hotel for the final dinner of your holiday. Today’s cruise covers 17 miles.

Day 7 Château-Thierry to UK

Check out after breakfast and board your coach for your return journey to Calais (a distance of approximately 197 miles, which should take around four hours, excluding comfort stops).

You’ll pause en route to buy yourself lunch, before continuing to the UK via Eurotunnel or ferry.

Cruise the French waterways aboard Liliana

The building of Liliana is due to be completed in 2022. As a day-cruiser, there will be no cabins or restaurant on board. Due to her small size, Liliana will be able to navigate inland waterways and narrower rivers and canals not accessible to larger crafts. The 19-metre, air-conditioned lounge will have panoramic windows to frame the riverside scenery. The galley, where lunch will be served, will also feature a complimentary bar service, available throughout your cruise. There will be seating available on the viewing deck, but seating under the sun awning will be limited. There will be two toilets on board, one suitable for wheelchair users. Liliana will have a hybrid engine, using electricity 95% of the time, so you can expect your cruise to be mostly silent and without exhaust fumes.


Length: 38 metres
Breadth: 4.85 metres
Cruise line: Backwaters
Maiden voyage: 2022
Passenger capacity: 60
Officers and crew: 4
Passenger decks: 1
Lift: No

The 3-star Best Western Île de France is a comfortable hotel set in a rural location on the outskirts of Château Thierry in the picturesque Marne Valley. You can unwind in the spa which has an indoor pool, sauna, massage treatments (extra cost) and fitness centre, relax with a drink at the bar, or drink in the panoramic views from the terrace. Breakfast at the hotel is buffet-style and you can enjoy regional cuisine for dinner in the bright restaurant. There are 37 rooms, all with satellite television, free wireless internet access, hairdryer, safe, iron, and tea and coffee-making facilities. Accommodation is arranged over three floors. There is a lift.

Accommodation contact details

In case you need to leave contact details with a friend or relative…

Best Western Île de France
02400 Château Thierry
Tel: 0033 323 691 012

Champagne on the River Marne

French Waterways