The purpose of a barge cruise is not to rush from Point A to Point B, but to relax in a stress free environment with fine food and wine, enjoy the delights of the countryside you are passing through, and get to know the "soul of the country." The barges travel neither far or fast
Is Barging Only for the sedentary, older traveler?
Not at all! Canal cruising is for those who want a "close-up, personal" experience in Europe. Mature & younger travelers find the pace and comfort of a barge the ideal way to explore the real heart & soul of a country. More active types like to take off on village walks, hill climbs or bicycles...meeting up at the next lock. The unique advantages of a barge is that we can tailor an itinerary and celebrate a special event to suit the guests
What is there to do except eat well & drink wine?
Lots! Each morning and again after lunch, guided tours to historic and cultural sites of the region provide guests many interesting choices from visiting chateaux, famous vineyards, country market towns, private gardens to museums celebrating art, weapons, textiles or bread! Other interests, like golf, ballooning, riding and tennis are also accommodated. If it's Burgundy, there's a visit to Beaune or Macon...along the Thames in England the route might be Windsor Castle to Oxford. (In between, there is fine food & drink)
How will we do the sightseeing?
Each barge has a designated crew member guide and an air-conditioned van or bus that travels with it, for daily excursions to points of interest such as nearby chateaux, colorful local markets, ancient monasteries, or fascinating specialty museums.
Will I get bored & feel confined?
Not if you enjoy meeting the locals, viewing passing vineyards and chateaux from a hot tub on deck, or sharing experiences with a congenial group of travelers on journeys more like "moving house parties. You will be able to get on and off your barge practically at will, to take a walk along the tow path or a bicycle ride to town. (Almost all the barges have bicycles on board for passenger use). Meet and talk to the locals, view the vineyards, or accompany the crew as they shop in the early morning for delicious, freshly baked bread and croissants. Learn the secrets of fine French cuisine from your gourmet chef. Savor an amazing variety of local cheese and other delicacies. All of this in addition to the included sightseeing tours en route.
The gentle movement of the barge, anchored at night, has caused dedicated insomniacs to report wonderful, restful sleep. It is the relaxed atmosphere aboard, the friendly and helpful crew, the peace and tranquillity of the countryside, together with the wonderful cuisine, lively conversation and interesting sightseeing that make it magical.
Are Barge Cruises expensive?
Barges come in many styles and levels of luxury from rustic and comfortable like a good Country Inn to elegant, like a fashionable Hotel. But the essence of barging is not decor...but the taste and texture of the region that is revealed in the welcome greeting of the villagers, the smiles and hearty charm of the lock keepers, and the personal & friendly attention of local artisans and guides. Barge rates do reflect the level of luxury and the season...but since they are inclusive, they are great value. Meals, wines, open bar, guided excursions and admissions...all included!
Generally speaking, the smaller the vessel, the more personal the service, and the more exclusive the experience. This is reflected in the pricing. Small vessels are ideal for families, groups of friends, or individuals who who are attracted to the luxury of a barge cruise.
What is not Included?
Do cabins have private bathrooms?
All cabins have private, nicely appointed bathrooms with showers. Some suites include bathtubs. Several barges have saunas and on deck hot tubs or jacuzzis as well.
Are there telephones & TV?
Usually there are no telephones, TVs or computers. For emergency communications, barges do carry a cellular phone. However...anyone who chooses to break the tranquillity of the voyage for urgent business like baseball scores, elections or market closings...public phones are handily spaced along the canals. As for TV, a few barges have satellite TV for those who can't miss CNN.
Will I get seasick?
Never...canals are not tidal and are controlled waterways. The gentle movement of the barges anchored for the night have caused dedicated insomniacs to report wonderful, restful sleep.
What clothes should I pack? What's the attire on board?
Most passengers enjoy the relaxed atmosphere on board barges and fancy dressing is not the custom. Comfortable, casual attire, sneakers or docksiders on board. Sweaters, a windbreaker and shorts or cotton pants are recommended. At the Captain's final dinner, a little "dress-up" is O.K. Ties are rare, and there is no need for anything formal.
Are kids welcome on barges?
Most adult passengers appreciate the atmosphere and company of grownups, so kids under 17 are accepted only on full charters. Family charters, reunions of generations, (from grandparents & parents, teens and even babies), grow more popular each year, seem to appeal to all ages, and are welcome on barges.
When's the best season for barging?
All seasons are lovely on the Canals, but seasonal rates do vary barge to barge and region to region, and do reflect special activities (grape harvest in Fall, tulip time in Spring). Some barges have a quiet time in July or August, and most offer Value rates in early Spring and late Fall when weather can be beautiful or unpredictable.
What about tipping?
Always appreciated. Never required. Gratuities are not included in the price of your trip - tipping is at your own discretion. We include suggested tipping guidelines with your pre-cruise documents. On the barges, we suggest a guideline of 5% of the cost of your cruise to be given to the captain at the end of the cruise. The captain will distribute it to the crew. On the river ships, we suggest $10-$15 per person per day - the gratuity will be divided among the crew at the end of the cruise.
Will I be able to make special requests?
If there is a birthday or other special event to celebrate during your cruise, or a special request for your diet, please let us know - the crew on board is eager to tailor the barging experience especially for you!
What is the difference between a river boat and a barge?
River boats accommodate from 60 to 250 passengers, and navigate the major waterways of Europe, such as the Rhine, Danube, Rhone, Po, Elbe, Douro and Volga. The recent completion of the Main-Danube canal, makes it possible to travel all the way from the North Sea (Amsterdam) to the Black Sea (Bucharest or Constanta) on a "Grand European River Cruise" that spans eight countries.
On a river cruise, you will sail from one fascinating city to another, sometimes stopping at small romantic villages, visiting fairytale castles and lush vineyards. There is always something interesting to see - often on both sides of the river - and frequent stops are made for shore excursions, or just to give you a chance to taste the nightlife, or experience the daytime ambiance, of a foreign town.
Aboard the river ships you will find elegant dining rooms, spacious sun decks, comfortable lounges, fitness facilities, and sometimes swimming pools. Limited laundry service is available on most river ships, but not on most barges. A river cruise, like an ocean cruise, is a "one-unpacking vacation" - no more early morning wake-up calls for long coach rides from hotel to hotel! All meals on board are included in the cruise price, but your bar tab is charged to your shipboard account Aboard the river ships you will find elegant dining rooms, spacious sun decks, comfortable lounges, fitness facilities, and sometimes swimming pools. Limited laundry service is available on most river ships, but not on most barges. The shore excursions may be optional at a supplemental cost.
Do all river cruises offer the same services?
Not all river cruises offer exactly the same services and amenities. On some, the dining room is "open seating" so that you can enjoy dining with different guests throughout your holiday, while on others, restaurant seating is assigned when you arrive on board (but of course, you always have the option of requesting a change in table assignment). A great variety of fascinating shore excursions are sometimes included in the cruise price, while on certain ships, they are only available for purchase on board. Some of the river cruises forbid smoking in their restaurants and most public areas, while on others, there will be a designated smoking section in the onboard dining room. Generally, smoking is allowed on deck outdoors. Some of the river cruises are sold only in English-speaking countries, and service on board (announcements, shore excursions, etc.) are done only in English; while other cruises are also sold in Europe and around the world, so that announcements etc. will be multilingual, and you will have a chance to mix with a variety of nationalities.
What is the attire for a river cruise?
Clothing: informal and casual clothing is the norm on board for river ships Soft-soled shoes are essential for the decks, and comfortable walking shoes are a must. (Sneakers are excellent.) There are no formal events during these cruises. At the Captain's Dinner on the last evening, a little "dress-up" is the norm, but real formal wear is not usual. The weather in Europe can be very changeable, so take a sweater or windproof jacket & a raincoat or umbrella.
How much baggage can I bring?
Although the barges are spacious enough, there is limited storage facility on board. For this reason we recommend limiting your barge cruise baggage to one suitcase and one carry-on per person. But pack wisely, as there are no laundry facilities on the barges, and laundromats are few and far between in the rural areas. Since river ships are larger, and often the cruises are longer it is not necessary to restrict the luggage you bring on board to one piece. Most river ships do offer optional laundry service, but not dry-cleaning. If the vessel you have chosen has a pool, a jacuzzi, or hot tub - don't forget your swimsuit! Generally, the canals and rivers are not recommended for swimming.
What kind of electricity is there on board?
All of our vessels are wired for 220 volts but not 110 volts. We suggest you bring an adapter, converter, and /or the necessary wall plugs for your particular appliance that corresponds to the standard for the countries you will be visiting. Before using any electrical appliance while on board, please check with the crew to ensure that it is suitable for the barge's electrical system. Some of our vessels have hairdryers in the cabin, or available at reception - your pre-cruise documentation will advise you about this.
Will I have a language problem?
All our crew members generally speak English. Some speak other languages as well. When cruising through mainly rural areas, one is quite likely to find the locals speaking with a strong dialect. Although sometimes difficult to understand, we still encourage you to try to communicate with them
Is my money safe?
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT RIVER BARGING
as of July 30, 2001
WHAT IS A RIVER BARGE?
A River Barge is similar, in a way, to a floating hotel. Accommodating only 50 passengers, these luxury vessels are barges that have been completely refitted and refurbished. They navigate the picturesque rivers and once moored, guests will find themselves in the heart of enchanting towns and cities. These barges do not carry bicycles on board, but have large sun decks, jacuzzis, exercise equipment and other features of larger river vessels. In addition to individual and family holidays, these luxury barges are well-suited for groups, incentives, and special interest tour programs.
Like canal barging, the trip is a leisurely journey into the heart and soul of the country, while in a stress free and relaxing environment, with wonderful food prepared in the great French tradition, beautifully presented and accompanied by good regional wines.
IS RIVER BARGING ONLY FOR THE SEDENTARY, OLDER TRAVELER?
Although during the cruising part of the day on a river barge you can not disembark, there is plenty of walking, visiting, sightseeing, shopping, and tasting to do for the better part of your day. During your daily, guided, sightseeing excursions, which are included, you'll be taken to some of the most interesting places. Plenty of time will be available to explore on your own.
WHAT TYPE OF FOOD IS SERVED?
Each river barge has several onboard chefs trained in the finest French tradition.
Breakfast buffets contain a variety of cereals, juice, fresh fruit, baked goods such as croissant, danish, whole grain breads and more. Lunch will usually feature several different salads using the fresh produce of the region, a main course of quiche, salmon, chicken prepared in the style of the region, desert and/or a cheese course. Dinner is a traditional candle-lit 4- course meal, beautifully prepared and presented. Red and white wines are served with both lunch and dinner.
HOW WILL WE DO THE SIGHTSEEING?
Your exclusive river barge has its own air-conditioned motor coach, driven by a crew member and/or guide to take you to nearby chateaux, colorful markets, exciting museums, archaeol
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CABINS ON A RIVER BARGE AND THOSE OF A CANAL
Generally speaking, cabins on river barges are significantly larger. All twin/double cabins on the Chardonnay and the Provence are suites with a sizable sitting area separated from the sleeping area. All cabins are air-conditioned with individual controls and have ensuite bathrooms.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED?
Air transportation, transfers to and from the pickup and drop off points, bar drinks and gratuities to the crew. Bar drinks may be purchased for a nominal charge.
ARE THERE TELEPHONES AND TV?
Each cabin has closed circuit tv and telephones. CNN is available on most evenings when the barge is moored.
WILL I GET SEASICK?
Barges do not cruise at night and the current of the rivers is slight. Usually there is very little motion so it is extremely doubtful that you will suffer any kind of motion sickness.
WHAT KIND OF CLOTHES WILL I NEED?
Most passengers enjoy a relaxed and casual life style onboard our barges. Comfortable, casual attire, sneakers or docksiders are the usual. For the Farewell Dinner on the last night, a little "dress up" is OK. Ties are rare, and there is no need for anything formal.
ARE KIDS WELCOME ON RIVER BARGES?
Most of the passengers appreciate the atmosphere and company of young adults and adults. Children under the age of 14 are accepted only on full charter. Family charters, and reunions grow more popular each year.
WHAT IS THE BEST SEASON FOR RIVER BARGING?
Each season has its own special appeal and attractions. The best weather is usually in the late spring and early fall. Seasonal rates do change and there are good values to be had in the early spring and late fall.
WHAT ABOUT TIPPING?
Always appreciated. Never required. Gratuities are not included in the price of the barge trip. We suggest, as a guideline 5% of the cost of your cruise to be given to the Barge Manager for distribution at the end of your cruise.
CAN I MAKE A SPECIAL REQUEST?
Special dietary requests can be made and we will do our best to accommodate. Barge kitchens are relatively small and there is not much room to store a great variety of different foods. Think of our food service as an invitation to the home of a famous chef who is preparing a special meal. If you have allergies, please let us know and chef will be able to prepare alternatives in most cases, provided the information is received in advance.
WHAT ABOUT CELEBRATING A SPECIAL EVENT?
We love to have a party! If you are celebrating a special birthday, anniversary, or other important event, just let us know. We'll try our best to help you celebrate with a little something special.
IS THERE A DOCTOR OR NURSE ONBOARD?
There is no medical staffl onboard, however there are procedures in place in the event that medical attention is required. There are qualified physicians and hospitals all along the route, as well as pharmacies. We do suggest that you carry an extra copy of your important prescriptions with you when you are traveling.
WILL I HAVE A LANGUAGE PROBLEM?
Absolutely not. Our crews are fluent in English and French. Many speak Spanish and German.
WHAT KIND OF ELECTRICITY IS ONBOARD?
All of our vessels are wired for 220 volts but not 110 volts. We suggest you bring an adapter, converter, and/or necessary wall plugs for your particular appliance. Hairdryers are available in all cabins.
IS MY MONEY SAFE?
Prior to my sailing: Yes - Click Here
Is my money safe?
Yes - Click here
During my sailing: Some of our river barges are now equipped with in-room safes