Hotel Barging :: Exclusive Style and Inclusive Price
To a large degree, every barge is different, each has its own style – just like a small private hotel. There is no ‘standardisation’ and that, of course, is at the heart of the barging experience. All barges work hard to provide the highest possible levels of personal attention, of cuisine, wine, visits and excursions. And each travels through the wonderful French countryside, towns and villages – a priceless experience in itself. Whatever comfort level one chooses, the result will be uniquely memorable.
That said, there are some common themes that enable barges to be described according to the quality of comfort that they provide, particularly concerning cabin size. There is a natural relationship with price.
***** Grande Luxe
What might also be termed ‘Five Star’ or Ultra Luxurious, these barges are the most sumptuous, featuring large staterooms and en-suites with baths; exquisite decorations, furniture and fabrics; the very best Cordon Bleu standard cuisine and personal service.
Luxury barges in this category include those in the Belmond (formerly Orient-Express) fleet and also a small number of exclusive owner-operated boats. Guide price per person, per cruise week, in the range $5,500 to $8,000.
A Grande Luxe cruise combines the very best in internationally acclaimed accommodation, cuisine and personal service with ‘up close and personal’ immersion in the very best and most authentic essence of ‘what is France’.
Superb, ‘Four Star’ level deLuxe barges that are consistently elegant, extremely spacious and comfortable. Cuisine, wine, facilities and crew quality will be remarkable and highly professional, leaving nothing wanting.
This is a standard that a number of barges seek to achieve and provide, with guide prices per person, per cruise week, in the range $4,000 to $5,500.
If this category includes the largest number of hotel barges cruising the canals of France, it is nevertheless one – a Three Star, First Class quality level – that means that guests have a fabulous time, staying on-board boats all of whose cabins are of a high standard, with en-suite shower-rooms and whose cuisine is also first-class, based on the freshest local produce.
A number provide ‘Dine Ashore’ options. The ambience on-board is often that of ‘cruising with friends’.
Premier barges vary in decorative style, sometimes based on the particular interests of owner-operators. Prices, from $2,000 to $5,000 (per person, per cruise week) reflect the diversity of barges offering this comfort level and the degree of difference – size, location, meals etc. – amongst them.
The vastly experienced professional river and marine cruise ship line CroisiEurope has recently introduced a small fleet of newly-built and newly refitted hotel barges. Their ambience, as one might expect, closely follows that of CroisiEurope’s fleet of riverboats – clean, contemporary and comfortable. The boats themselves are also larger than many others – each has twelve double cabins – and they are bookable by the cabin.
They provide first class consistent quality with modern facilities, expertly designed and operated and currently offering excellent value-for-money at $2,000-$3,000 pp pw.
Barging need not be a sophisticated, expensive, experience. There are a number of more modest barges providing simple, relaxed, ’home from home’ accommodation less than $2,000 per person per week, that is charming, comfortable and reliably good. Quite often, evening meals may not be included but if not the opportunity will always be made available to eat at a locally recommended restaurant – itself part of the attraction. And you will still cruise the incomparable French waterways, in style.
There are even a very few ‘working peniches’ in this category where guests can enjoy the special experience of participating in commercial barging – in comfort, and you won’t be expected to haul on ropes!
Peniches d’Hote (Barge-and-Breakfast)
Finally, there are a number of static, more-or-less permanently moored hotel barges located in some super places – by a quiet picturesque canal lock complete with a little bistro made from the former lock-keeper’s cottage, overlooking the Pope’s Palace in Avignon and by a Champagne House in Epernay are but three examples. Great venues for one or two nights stay and some exploration of the locality. Some will provide short cruises, on demand, but not all.
To a natural degree, Style and Price go hand-in-hand.
It should be remembered that charter prices are almost invariably ‘all in’ (for a number of cabins or the entire barge) and include food, drinks, excursions, etc. not to mention the high degree of personal service to be expected. Pricing will vary according to time of year, with ‘Value’ prices typically offered in April and October. ‘Per person’ rates are based on cabin double occupancy – there may be a surcharge for single occupancy, but this is not universally so.
On this website we provide approximate price-bands solely for guidance or comparison purposes, and a booking enquiry – direct to the barge or via a specialist agent – will provide you with a response that includes a full quotation for your party, at your chosen time of year.
Generally Included in the Price
(but possibly dependent on price and/or cruise details)
- Collection from (and return to) a convenient pre-arranged location. For example, where applicable, from a hotel in Paris, Dijon or Toulouse. Or from a nearby airport or a mainline train station – France has an excellent network of high-class, high-speed, railway services, the TGV.
- Welcoming champagne reception to ‘meet the hostess, skipper, chef and crew’ and be shown over the boat. Individual attention, genuine care and personal service available at all times. In English, but deep in France.
- Six nights’ accommodation – king or queen size double bed or twin singles – with en-suite facilities. Air-conditioning is near-universal. A very few barges offer short, three or four night, or ‘long weekend’, cruises.
- Full Board
Breakfast, lunch and dinner including first class or gourmet quality cuisine and specially selected regional AOC wines and local specialities. Where guests wish it, a number of chefs will welcome guests ‘into the galley’ (kitchen) to observe and learn something of their art.
- Half Board
A minority of barges (of equally high standards) are available on a less all-inclusive basis, providing breakfast and one other meal (lunch or dinner) each day. Guests can choose their own local restaurant for other meals (at their expense), often following the barge’s knowledgeable recommendation.
- Open bar fully stocked with cool soft drinks, beer, wine and spirits. On a very few barges, this is a paid bar.
- Chauffeured and guided visits and excursions to places of interest, villages, craftspeople, vineyards and chateaux, including entrance fees. Transport in the barge’s own private air-conditioned vehicle.
- Full use of the barge’s facilities – this will include sitting and dining areas, sun-deck, reclining chairs, books and travel guides, music system, games and good quality bicycles. Some barges also have deck pools and other features. Many barges provide on-board WiFi internet access and some, TV.
- The most magical, ultimate, experience travelling in unique style through the fabulous countryside of the most desirable country in the world. As many guests say, “Being treated like royalty”.
However, not quite everything imaginable is included:
- Travel to or from the collection point – air and train fares. Our specialist agent collaborators can provide these necessary services, together with arrangements to visit other European countries, cities and must-see places.
- Insurance – travel, cancellation, baggage, etc. Again, our specialist agents can assist.
- Discretionary purchases of a personal nature, souvenirs, etc.
- Special or optional activities such as hot-air ballooning, golfing, horse-riding, etc. – all of which can be possible, as can the tailoring of cruises to suit particular interests – history, art, cuisine, wine-tasting, etc.
- Crew gratuities – normally of the order of 5% – 10%, handed to the Captain on the last day, in euros. You will receive superb service and you will wish fairly to reward this!
- ‘Dining On-shore’ if this is not included.
- The services of a translator or highly specialist guide