Slow travel ensures that your cruise is relaxing as well as being fascinating and stimulating. Whilst on deck, watching the scenery drift by, take the opportunity to catch up on some reading, chat to fellow guests or simply day-dream
Do as much or as little as you like. The constantly refreshing vista of passing countryside, village and town, punctuated by bridges and locks, means that there’s always something to pique your interest. Indeed, many hotel barges welcome guests into the wheelhouse for a skipper’s eye view and even to take the wheel for the easier sections.
Off the barge, there are many historic towns and villages that can be visited and explored by foot or by bicycle.
Further away, the itineraries provide visits to stunning villages, castles, chateaux and vineyards – some of them on a completely unique and exclusive basis – which includes tastings of course.
Some barges are pleased to organise bespoke activities to suit guests interests – golfing, historic sites and battlefields, Michelin restaurants, hot air ballooning, horse riding and so on.
Do they speak English?
The majority of hotel barges operating in France are owned and/or operated by British or American people or companies. Captain and crew will all speak both English and French. Even on French managed boats, all will speak English. Nearly all boats will have the potential for other languages – a recent example being an all-Spanish guest cruise where one of the crew spoke fluent Spanish (as well as perfect English, French and Czech!).
Can we get off the barge?
The majority of hotel barges can stop practically anywhere so that you can alight at locks and bank-sides to take some exercise. It’s very easy and very enjoyable, and nearly all boats have well-maintained bicycles for guest use.
The same is obviously not as true for the boats that cruise larger rivers.
Does it rock and roll – will I feel nauseous?
Not in the slightest. The inland waterways are nearly always flat calm and the hotel barge is large, heavy and sedate.
What is a hotel barge like?
Barges are large flat-bottomed boats that were developed to maximise capacity (for carrying goods) and suit the calm shallow inland waterway rivers and canals. During the last 50 years commercial traffic has changed, requiring even larger vessels that almost exclusively ply the larger (northern) waterways. Built solidly to last, and providing a very safe, stable ‘ride’, numbers of barges have been converted for cruising hotel use, starting in the 1970s, as well as new vessels still being built specifically for this use.
Hotel barges are spacious and sedate, cruising at not much more than a fast walking pace. There is plenty of time to appreciate the passing scene.
A number of hotel barges are owned and operated as part of professionally managed fleets; significant numbers of boats are owner-operated.
Barges, their skippers and crews are governed by a number of safety regulations and licences, including regular survey inspections.
Barges for Singles + Couples
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Barges for Groups + Families
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What will the accommodation be like?
Hotel barges have been fitted out to varying high standards of appearance, comfort and facilities. They are also regularly updated and improved to maintain their quality level.
Guest cabins will usually have a choice of double or twin beds (specify when booking), wardrobe/closet space and en-suite bathrooms or shower-rooms. Some barges have single cabins. Because of the variation in hotel barge size, cabin sizes vary from modest to generous. All hotel barges are air-conditioned.
Public spaces include attractive saloon areas with large windows, dining areas and outside sun decks with comfortable chairs to take in the scenery, bask in the sunshine and dine in the shade. Some barges also have spa pools.
What is the food like?
The distinguished English chef Rick Stein made an entire, highly acclaimed, series of television programmes based around hotel barging and the cuisine and produce local to hotel barge cruise routes.
Rick Stein’s Delicious Waterway >
The general standard of hotel barge cuisine is very high indeed – a personal chef and excellent service. Most barges provide all meals, from breakfast to lunch to dinner, on-board but will vary this by taking guests out for one or more evening meals to a recommended high quality local restaurant.
Some barges exclude evening meals, which guests organise and pay for themselves, with guidance from the captain and hostess. A few hotel barges offer self catering and half-board cruises.
I follow a special diet – is this ok?
Nearly every barge is pleased to cater for dietary interests and requirements, for example vegetarian, kosher, low-carbohydrate, or gluten-free. All barges will require advance notice at the time of booking.
Grand Luxe Hotel Barges
Ultimate quality – Ultimate comfort
from $6,000 per person
Excellence Hotel Barges
Different barge styles; all very high quality
from $5,000 per person
Premier Hotel Barges
Great value, no quality compromises
from $2,500 per person
Where are these hotel barges?
There are hotel barges throughout France. Cruising routes include Paris and Champagne, Alsace-Lorraine, Burgundy, Provence, Languedoc (Canal du Midi) and Aquitaine and Bordeaux. All barges include visits to local vineyards.
Explore the Regions >
How long is a hotel barge cruise?
Generally a cruise lasts one week, six nights although some will offer 3 night cruises in low season. Most cruises are from Sunday afternoon to Saturday morning, although some are from Saturday to Friday.
Most barges’ cruises are ‘one way’, between two ports, and can therefore offer two directions of travel on consecutive weeks. Some hotel barges cruise a variety of routes.
When is the hotel barge season?
From April to October. Earlier months can be delightfully crisp, clear and sunny. Later months enjoy a softer mellow warmth. In between, the high summer months advertise deep blue skies, hours of bright sunshine and warmth that radiates off every old stone in each ancient village or historic chateau.
How much does a hotel barge cruise cost?
Hotel barges are organised barges into a number of categories, ranging from Supreme 6* to Premier 3* and actual pricing reflects the category, the cruise route and the time of year. They range from less than 3,000 USD per person per week up to 8,000 USD per person per week for the ultimate luxurious French hotel barge holiday or vacation.
Cruises are usually all-inclusive – of accommodation, food & drink, visits and other activities, and transportation to and from the meeting point.
Can I tailor the cruise to suit my particular interests?
Private charter cruise can be organised as bespoke cruises (within reason). Activities can be tailored to guests particular interests and many barges already have themed cruises on offer – wine, golf, family activities etc.
How does booking work?
Hotel barges are available for private cruises (charter) and some will also accept per cabin bookings (sharing the cruise with others). All barges require a non-refundable deposit at the time of booking with the balance being paid some months prior to the cruise. Cancellation insurance is strongly recommended as is early booking. There are a limited number of barge/weeks available during each season – allow 12 months to secure the week you want.
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perfect barge cruise
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