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What is a Luxury Barge Cruise?

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 narrow boats 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 tranquillity 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.

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