European Barge Cruising

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Have you ever pictured yourself floating softly along Europe’s winding canals? Dining every night on fresh local foods and spending precious and magical moments exploring hidden nooks of France, Germany, and Belgium. That’s the experience of canal barging—an exact type of European cruise that has grown a very loyal following of classy travelers, but which is still unpopular to many.

A barge trip may not be the first option of European river cruise that comes to mind, but don’t underrate these peaceful and romantic journeys. Unlike large cruise vessels, barge trips in offer a chance to see a place in depth, all while relishing a relaxing journey on the continent’s inland waterways.

Canal barging is a kind of luxurious cruise on very small boats that meander through Europe’s artificial canals, some of which were made as far back as the 16th century, when cargo barges used them to ship cargo around the region. Now that trains, trucks, and cargo planes have taken over that job, the canals are used as tourism routes for small vessels that are still called barges, even though they’re more like intimate floating guesthouses. As opposed to their forerunners, these vessels are equipped with all the high-end facilities: private tour guides, cooks, and a captain who is often the owner of the vessel and is familiar with the route. Days are packed with events that enable you to explore the rural areas’ culture and laid-back lifestyle.

Canal barge vacations are similar to other cruises in that they have start and end dates and follow set itineraries. But since groups are very small they offer boats that carry 12 people or less, and none carry more than 24 guests have access to a lot of privately guided experiences. And if you don’t feel like sharing the boat, you don’t have to: A multigenerational family can book an entire barge to themselves, whereas if you’re a couple who’s feeling social, you can join a mixed boat.

Barge trips are available all over Europe. In England, they ply the Thames River, through London and beyond. Barge tours in Germany include sailing on the Rhine River, past islands and castles. French barge itineraries include journeys in the wine region of Burgundy, the chateau country of the Loire, and the waterways of sunny Provence in the South of France. A French barge trip is a great way to learn about that country’s many wine regions.

We have the experience and the relationships to make unforgettable river Barge trips. We pride ourselves on our outstanding customer service diligence and attention to detail. Whether you’re planning a first barge trip or the latest of many, let us be with you to create a river barge trip that’s impeccable.

How does Canal barging differ from river cruises?

Most people often confuse Canal barging with river cruising because both are on waterways of Europe, but the vessels are much smaller, slower about 50 miles per week. You could walk faster, they go on canals and really small waterways. Whereas river cruises are larger—100 to 200 people—and they travel several hundred miles per week.

The upshot is that barging will take you deep into a country’s rural areas, which are not accessible to river cruises (or big-ship Ocean cruises either).

However, if you’re looking for a lot of nightlife, fanfare, shopping, a more formal atmosphere, and city excitement, then canal barging is not for you. “It really is deep countryside and it is laid back.”

Private Space and Intimate time

The charm of river cruises is the big ship size, with some Cruise ships holding up to 246 passengers, for example. They’re generally considered very useful for socializing and making new friends — but they’re not so small that you’d feel confined with fellow guests who you might not get along properly with. Barge cruises, meanwhile, are on a much smaller scale, with some like European Waterways’ Enchanté in France holding just eight guests and others like French Country Waterways’ Esprit holding up to 18. Not different from what you’d find on the canals in Paris and Amsterdam, these small barges are more like houseboats with much more private quarters and living spaces, making them suitably perfect for a family or group of friends to charter the entire vessel.

Personalized Experience

Given the slow speed of barge cruises, guests have more flexibility when it comes to itineraries. On river cruises, even if guests don’t participate in an excursion, they still have to adhere to boarding calls. On barges, the cruises move so slowly down the river that passengers have the option of hopping off and walking or riding bikes along the shore and catching up with the boat at one of the next locks. Most barge cruises have bikes on board, too, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own wheels or tracking down a rental.

Dining

If the phrase “cruise food” makes you think of buffets that are more alluring in their absolute volume than they really are actually appetizing, it’s time to try out a barge cruise. Here, gourmet cuisine is certain. Menus reflect the region, and most of the food is sourced locally. Many barge cruises also pass through famous wine regions in France and other countries, so you know the wine pairings are on point come dinnertime.

Canal barges are stepping up their game when it comes to cuisine. How about Hungarian goulash with paprika from Budapest on a Viking cruise, Greek baklava at a Grand Circle table, or local wine combinations on a Uniworld sail. But barge cruises are able to hone in a bit more, since they’re attending to a smaller number of people. In France, the crew on European Waterways will hop off early in the morning to get fresh pastries on board from the local patisserie and set up candlelit dinners at night highlighting market fresh cuisine with fine wines. French Country Waterways also features over two dozen wines on the journey, most of which comes from Grand Cru or Premier Cru vineyards.

On Board Facilities

Canal barges make the most of space on board, adding almost anything from hair salons and gyms to sundecks sporting running tracks and pools. Both barge and river cruises are designed for guests to watch the beautiful scenery pass by and relish the slow pace of cruising, some, like Enchanté, still boast a saloon, sun deck, and spa pool, despite only being 100 feet long.

Access the Locality

Another benefit of cruising on a smaller, shallower based vessel is the fact that it can access waterways that are unreachable to larger vessels. This avails holidaymakers the chance to immerse themselves deeper into their country of destination, exploring the culture, history and sites that could otherwise remain unknown to them. Examples are the Briare Aqueduct running over the River Loire, the commune of Arzviller, located on the banks of the Marne-Rhine canal, and the Malpas tunnel, allowing the passage of the historic Canal du Midi in France.

The fact that considerable amount of time on the itinerary is spent inland means that local dishes and wine are within easy reach, and there are regular stops in villages or towns en route to visit local restaurants or wineries. Some hotel barges make this a feature and the local cuisine is frequently a highlight of their itinerary, taking passengers to the best local venues and/or modifying their on-board menu to the region they are passing through.

Excursions

Many passengers are not prepared for the speed of a European river cruise, which can be quite hectic. The ships stopover in a port every day, sometimes two, and there’s typically a walking tour or coach tour included; if you don’t want to miss out, you could literally be on the move from morning until dinnertime.

A barge cruise slows it all down. Because barges have to travel during the daytime, stops in the small towns and villages are usually restricted to a few hours in the morning. Then it’s back to the boat for the extensive lunch mentioned above, with afternoons spent fiddling through the countryside. Naps are encouraged, as is quiet reading time or hanging out with other passengers over a glass (or more) of local wine. When the boat docks before dinner, you might have time to wander through the village or take a short bike ride, but that’s about it. (On some canals, you’ll be able to bike in the afternoons, meeting up with the barge at a designated lock.)

Why choose Canal Barging

Comfort and Coziness

Barges are just absolutely cozy. The lounge looks like a living room, one with an all-inclusive bar. It never fails to astound how there can be one person in the lounge reading a journal or magazine. Then another person comes in and sit to relax, then another and another. It is as though friends are joining you in the living room. It’s unlike on a larger ship, where you may not have seen this person before. You don’t have to get to know the person all over again. There’s that bond that is hard to describe, but you sense it. You’re both exploring a beautiful region of the world through a cozy means of transportation.

Explore History

For anybody with a keen interest in history, Canal Barging is a dream come true. We’re passionate about delivering a truly captivating experience for all our guests, so we organize our shore excursions to include a diverse range of impressive historical sites.

The different regions through which you’ll travel on our itineraries are bursting at the seams with historical attractions, including UNESCO World Heritage sites. We make sure that, if you’re interested, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the very best of the region.  Witness the sweeping Canal du Midi, awe-inspiring Vézelay, the majestic palace of Fontainebleau and so much more

Be Amazed at the Aqueducts

The aqueducts were built to enable trade, irrigation, and urban water supplies dating back to Roman times and are real achievements of engineering, as well as a testimony of human determination. They really do epitomize the lifeblood of the many regions through which our European canal barge trips travel, and the itineraries help to appreciate some of Europe’s most iconic aqueducts.

Even after so many years of use, a lot of these aqueducts are still in very much in use today, not only providing a dynamic service, but also permitting visitors to enjoy a truly exciting experience and learning the history behind them.

The Luxury of Quality Service

The dedicated crew strive to create a delightfully peaceful environment on the luxury barges, and they’re a place where guests can truly feel at home and experience the warm ‘grown-up house party’ feel that’s so characteristic of France and other European countries.

Everything is designed to make sure you experience the very best of this wonderful voyage, your way – with a little support from us, of course! From each barge’s locally-inspired design, interior decor and the thoughtfully named cabins (often reflecting the region you’re sailing through), to the splendid food and the welcoming and committed crew (both English and French speaking), we’ll help guarantee that your trip is everything you’ve ever anticipated and so much more.

We have compiled a list of Canal Barges available for booking and prices for a single charter or the whole vessel for a sweet and memorable vacation across the canals of Europe.
If you need more information or assistance with a booking contact us. We are in direct contact with barge owners.

MEANDERER

Price: $36,600 per full charter

Destination/Route: – Canal de Briare & Canal Latéral à la Loire

ROI SOLEIL

Price: $38,900 per charter

Destination/Route: Canal du Midi

L’IMPRESSIONNISTE

Price: €5,690 per person

Destination/Route: France – Burgundy

 

ANJODI

Price: $4,750 per person

Destination/Route:  Canal du Midi

SCOTTISH HIGHLANDER

Price: $6,190 per person

Destination/Route: Scotland – The Caledonian Canal

ENCHANTÉ

Price: €6,290 per person

Destination/Route: France – Canal du Midi

L’ART DE VIVRE

Price: €4,650 per person

Destination/Route: The Canal du Nivernais in Burgundy

LA BELLE EPOQUE

Price: €5,690 per person

Destination/Route: The Burgundy Canal

FINESSE

Price: €6,890 per person

Destination/Route: France – Burgundy

RENAISSANCE

Price: €6,990 per person

Destination/Route: France – Upper Loire & Western Burgundy

NYMPHEA

Price: €4,190 per person

Destination/Route: France – Loire Valley

ATHOS

Price: €4,750 per person

Destination/Route: France – Canal du Midi

ROSA

Price: €4,590 per person

Destination/Route: France – Gascony & Bordeaux

PANACHE

Price: €5,690 per person

Destination/Route: France – Alsace & Lorraine, France – Champagne

LA NOUVELLLE ETOILE

Price: €7,550 per person

Destination/Route: France – Picardy & Paris

ELISABETH

Price: $5000 / Person

Destination: Northern Burgundy, Along the Canal de Bourgogne

NAPOLEON

Price: € 4594 / Person

Location: Provence, Along the Rhone River

MAGNOLIA

Price: $3984 / Person

Location: Southern Burgundy, Along the Canal de Bourgogne

PROSPERITE

Price: $6750 / Person

Location: Southern Burgundy, Along the Canal de Bourgogne

GRAND CRU

Price: $7250 / Person

Location: Southern Burgundy, Along the Canal de Bourgogne

LE PHENICIEN

Price: $4,380

Destination: Canal du Rhône à Sète & Rhône River

SHANNON PRINCESS        

Price: $5,350/ person

Destination: Lough Ree, Lough Derg & River Shannon

RENDEZ-VOUS

Price: $31,500 Private Charters

Destination/Route: Burgundy Canal

MAGNA CARTA

Price: $5,850/person

Destination/Route: River Thames

HIRONDELLE

Price: $38,480 to $60,465 per charter

Location: Champagne

PIVOINE

Price: $59,245 to $93,090 per charter

Destination/Route: Champagne

LILAS

Price: $59,245 to $93,090 per charter

Destination/Route: Burgundy

FLEUR DE LYS

Price: $45,570 to $71,610 per charter

Destination/Route: Burgundy

ALOUETTE

Price: $27,160 to $42,680 per charter

Destination/Route: Burgundy

LA BELLA VITA

Price: $4,050 per person

Destination/Route: Po Valley & Venetian Lagoon

TANGO

Price: $5400 per person

Destination/Route: Bordeaux

SAVOIR VIVRE

Price: $3750

Destination/Route: Southern Burgundy

SAVANNAH

Price: $5100

Destination/Route: Canal du Midi

SAROCHE

Price: $6500

Destination/Route: Southern Burgundy

RENDEZ-VOUS

Price: $5250

Destination/Route: Southern Burgundy

RANDLE

Price: $3148

Destination/Route: Northern Burgundy

SAINT LOUIS

Price: $5400

Destination/Route: Bordeaux

SARAPHINA

Price: $4363

Destination/Route: Canal du Midi

C’EST LA VIE

Price: $6700

Destination/Route: Upper Loire

HIRONDELLE

Price: $3879

Destination/Route: Champagne

LA VIE EN ROSE

Price: $3623

Destination/Route: Southern Burgundy

LUCIOLE

Price: $4584

Destination/Route: Northern Burgundy

MAM GOZ

Price: $4950

Destination/Route: Provence

MS DEBORAH

Price: €2658

Destination/Route: The Loire Canal

MS RAYMOND

Price: €2410

Destination/Route: The Marne-Rhine Canal

MS ANNE MARIE

Price: €2481

Destination/Route: Provence

MS MADELEINE

Price: €2295

Destination/Route: The Marne-Rhine Canal

MS DANIELE

Price: €2295

Destination/Route: Burgundy

MS JEANINE

Price: €2295

Destination/Route: Burgundy

Making reservations for a European barge cruise might require some preparation, but that investment pays off with a holiday that’s ecstatically free of hotel reservations and train schedules. By the time you’re floating through Europe with a wine glass in hand—swap in a bike helmet or fashion magazine as required—you’ll have no more reviews left to read, no tables to book, and no plans to make. All you’ll need to do is slow down to the stately pace of barge life.

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