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Despite the growing popularity of cruising, particularly on river boats, this is still a little known niche concept within the vast cruise industry. Maybe the term “barging” deters interest, conjuring up images of narrowboats or coal lighters. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Most hotel barges started life as cargo vessels but have since been painstakingly converted to offer luxury boutique accommodation for small groups of up to 20 passengers. This is cruising, but in a very different style to ships plying the big rivers or oceans. The pace is slow, with a 6 day cruise often covering little more than 50 miles along a rural canal. Passengers can walk or bike the towpaths and never be left behind as their floating hotel glides gently along.
The idea is to offer guests full immersion into the culture, history and gastronomy of one of a number of fascinating regions of Europe such as Burgundy, the Midi, Alsace, or the Italian Veneto. Every day, when not cruising, a crew member leads an excursion, perhaps to a vineyard for a wine tasting, a market where the chef might buy fresh local ingredients for the evening meal or a visit to a unique “off the beaten track” location that you would never find on your own. These could be to still inhabited troglodyte cave dwellings, a private chateau or to see an olive oil press at work and sample its produce`.
Surprisingly for such a largely unknown travel concept, we have been offering our exclusive floating hotels for nearly 40 years. We have 17 vessels in the fleet, the best known of which is Anjodi, star of Rick Stein’s award winning BBC TV series “French Odyssey”, which transported him along the Canal du Midi on a voyage of culinary discovery. Other hotel barges offer the same intimate atmosphere, all with high levels of personal service and access to the tranquility of smaller waterways which larger vessels cannot reach.
About half of our bookings are for whole boat charters. The small passenger capacity offers a unique opportunity for groups of friends or family to enjoy their own bespoke private cruise. Otherwise, clients book a cabin to join the floating house party, hosted by the Captain and pampered by the chef and the rest of the crew.
Whether clients fancy a soak in the on deck spa-pool, a game of boules on the bank or just to sit and watch the sun go down over the countryside with cocktail in hand, a “slow boat” European Waterways barge cruise offers the ultimate in experiential travel.

About Barging

Hotel barging is a boutique, unique experience which offers an immersive, all-inclusive “gentle voyage of discovery” that focuses upon the culture, history, fine wine and gourmet cuisine of the region. With a 6 to 20 person capacity and 1:2 crew ratio, European Waterways is able to provide an impeccable level of on-board service and can transport their guests on the intimate inland waterways that are inaccessible to larger vessels. This fascinating network of smaller canals allows for flexibility, spontaneity and ample opportunity to hop off and explore the beautiful surroundings via bicycle or on foot. In addition to this are daily, chauffeured excursions “off the beaten track” to a wide variety of enthralling locations, from exquisite wine tastings to private tours of stately homes. With over 40 years’ experience and a fleet that spans nine countries, European Waterways is the largest luxury hotel barging company in Europe. For more information, call our Australian Toll Free 1-800-828-050 or visit

The  Ambiance

On  board,  there  is  a  relaxed,  intimate  ‘house  party’  atmosphere,  whether  you  choose  to  cruise  with  other  like-minded  people,  or  charter the  whole  barge  as  a  family  or  group  of  friends.  

The  Cruising  

Each  day  as  your  ‘floating  boutique  hotel’  glides  sedately  along at  walking  pace,  you  can  relax  on  deck  and  take  in  the  passing  countryside,  then  perhaps  get  off  at  the  next  lock  to  stroll  along  the  towpath  or  enjoy  a  little  exercise  on  one  of  your  barge’s  bicycles.  You  may  come  across  some  locals  playing  a  game  of  boules,  or  a  charming  canalside  village  to  explore  and  then  rejoin  your  hotel  barge  which  will  never  be  far  away.
During  your  gentle  voyage  of  exploration,  your  hotel  barge  may  negotiate  a  truly  impressive  feat  of  engineering,  such  as  Gustave  Eiffel’s  Aqueduct  across  the  River  Loire  at  Briare,  the  amazing  Boat  Elevator  at  Arzviller  in  Alsace,  or  the  world’s  oldest  canal  tunnel  at  Malpas  on  the  Canal  du  Midi.  Each  one  is  an  unforgettable  experience  in  its  own  way.

The  Excursions

After  perhaps  a  light  al  fresco  lunch  on  deck  accompanied  by  a  glass  or  two  of  chilled  rosé,  there  is  an  escorted  excursion,  maybe  to  a  bustling  local  market  where  your  chef  shops  for  the  evening  meal,  to  a  château,  or  a  vineyard  for  a  private  tasting.  Many  of  our  visits  are  to  places  ‘off  the  beaten  track’  that  larger  groups  cannot  access,  so  that  we  offer  you  full  immersion  into  the  culture,  history  and gastronomy  of  the  region.
The  Wining  and  Dining After  a  day  of  cruising  and  sightseeing,  there  is  time  for  an  aperitif,   or  maybe  a  relaxing  soak  in  the  on-deck  spa  pool,  before  a  gourmet  dinner  prepared  by  your  chef  with  the  freshest  local  ingredients.  To  enhance  your  immersive  dining  experience,  the  hostess  will  explain  the  characteristics  of  each  accompanying  wine  and  cheese  as  she serves  them.  A  perfect  end  to  the  day  as  you  relax  in  conversation  and  share  the  day's  experiences  with  your  fellow  passengers.

The  Experience

Our  hotel  barge  cruises  offer  a  balanced  daily  blend  of  gentle  cruising  and  fascinating  excursions.  Whether  your  interests  lie  in  gastronomy  and  wine,  local  history  and  culture,  or  just  relaxing  on deck  with  a  good  book  and  a  glass  of  Chablis,  a  “slow  boat”  voyage  with  us  offers  the  ultimate  in  experiential  travel.

Where to Cruise in France and Europe 

Discover the fascinating world of barging, through the vineyards of Burgundy, on the shady Canal du Midi in Southern France, the historic Po Valley in Italy, or the River Shannon in rustic Ireland. Navigate the Royal River Thames, through the stunningly rugged landscapes of Scotland, picturesque Alsace & Lorraine, or the colourful tulip fields of Holland.

For more details call one of our Barge Cruise Experts 1300 302 623 or send us your request. 
Happy Cruising with Cruise at Leisure 
Christian BLONDEAU
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