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Barge Cruising in France - the Basics | Cruising in France

Cruising in France

...Travel blog about river and canal cruise vacations on luxury barges and riverboats

 

Barge Cruising in France - the Basics

Written by Pierre on December 17, 2008
Summary:

Barge cruising is a different type of travel experience. “Slow,” “luxurious” and “local” are three words that come to mind…

Barge cruising in CamargueBarge cruising in Burgundy

Canal barges vs. riverboats - Canal cruises are boat trips on barges that travel on man-made waterways. These barges usually are remodeled commercial cargo hulls that have become obsolete for modern freight transportation. The canals are narrow and not very deep. They were dug decades or centuries ago, and they normally allow for just two boats to pass each other. The barges are small. Depending on the size of the cabins, their capacity varies from 4 guests to 10 or 12… sometimes 20. By contrast, river cruisers typically have over 100 passengers and travel on much larger rivers: the Seine, Rhone, Rhine, Danube, etc. Because they are small, barges can reach deep into the countryside, away from major tourist destinations, for a more unique and personal encounter with the local culture. You can even charter the smaller ones for your own family or affinity group (wine, gardens, golf, bicycling, cooking, art, etc.) Imagine… the whole boat just to yourself!

The lap of luxury - As I said, canal barges are small. However, they are more comfortable than you might think. Again, depending on the number of guests, some of the deluxe ones have very large cabins with gorgeous private bathrooms (usually with a shower, but sometimes a bathtub). Many of these boats even have saunas and hot tubs on board. Living rooms and dining rooms are decorated with beautiful fixtures and furnished with fine furniture.

 

Daily life on board a barge - One of the most striking features of a canal cruise is the slow pace. The boat sails only during the day and usually covers short distances: typically 50 to 100 miles a week. So, there is ample time for strolls in the neighboring countryside, bicycle rides along the towpath or minivan excursions to a local castle, monastery, winery, museum or other historical site of interest. The other “claim to fame” of a barge cruise is the gourmet food and the wines. During the course of a cruise, guests will sample dozens of cheeses, wines, local dishes and desserts.

 

Your hosts - Many of these small boats are owned and operated by a husband and wife team who are totally dedicated to barging. They operate the boat as they would their own home with additional rooms for a bed and breakfast (except that, in this case, “breakfast” means all the meals… every day). Your hosts are a combination of captain, cook, butler, sommelier, social director, chauffeur… everything. They “baby” their guests in every way they possibly can.

 

How long and when? - Barge cruises normally last a week, starting on Saturday or Sunday and ending the following weekend. They operate from April through October. In the south of France, where the climate is milder, some of them start as early as March.

 

You can find more information about barging on the FAQs page of our website. You can also see itineraries for a couple dozen of these canal cruises.

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