THIS company was founded in Strasbourg in 1976 by Gerard Schmitter, the pioneer of French river cruising who died in February. The family-owned company is run by his children — Patrick, Philippe, Christian and Anne-Marie — and has been represented in Australia since 2007 by Cruise Abroad’s Peter Marshall. Ships: The 176-passenger flagship Gerard Schmitter made its maiden voyage in April, becoming the company’s 27th ship. Activities: There are themed walking and cycling cruises, but only for French-speaking passengers. Unique feature: Consulting chef Paul Bocuse, whose main restaurant, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, near Lyon, has been awarded three Michelin stars every year since 1965. Attractions for Australians: Bilingual cruises give Australians the opportunity to practise or polish their French. Superb French food with complimentary matched wines at lunch and dinner. Sample 2013 cruise: The seven-night round trip from Bordeaux, April to October. In Pauillac, take a tour to Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Latour and Chateau Mouton Rothschild, famous for their red wines. In Libourne, Saint-Emilion is a must. From $1417 a person twin-share. More: croisieurope.travel.