Authored by Laura Lynch
Cruising has become one of the biggest trends in travel recently, though have you ever considered going on a canal barge cruise?
Canal barging is a unique form of slow travel popular throughout Europe, especially in France, Italy, Scotland and Ireland. The size of the canal dictates the size of the barge, but the maximum number of guests on board usually ranges from 4-12 passengers.
On board the barge are a handful of crew members who will help make your journey an effortless one, and while the options for barge cruises are vast, a luxury, all-inclusive barge cruise is definitely way to go.
While there are many reasons to take a canal barge cruise, here are the 6 most compelling.
6 Reasons You Should Go On a Canal Barge Cruise
Seeing the Countryside
Many of the canals that snake across Europe are very narrow, slow-moving waterways, like the famous Canal du Midi in France and the Caledonian Canal in Scotland.
They meander through the countryside, amongst breathtaking scenery that you can only see aboard a canal barge.
For wine lovers, France is the perfect canal cruising location, because the canals flow through Burgundy, Alsace, the Loire Valley, and Bordeaux. As the canal barging season extends through the grape growing season, the vineyards are always blooming and ripening right before your eyes.
All the Planning is Done for You
Some people really enjoy the task of planning an entire vacation, but there are times when you just want someone else to take care of the details for you. A canal barge cruise is perfect for those times, when you want to have a relaxing, stress-free holiday, but still get out and see the sights.
One misnomer about canal cruises is that you’ll be stuck on the barge all day with nowhere to go. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, on most barge cruises there is an excursion planned for every day of the cruise.
While cruising with European Waterways, for instance, there is a full, though not-too-strenuous, itinerary off the barge, where you’ll be taken to vineyards, castles, museums, and markets. Where ever the barge is moored for the day is where you’ll disembark to discover something new.
Gourmet Food & Wine
There are a variety of different canal cruises, but why settle for anything less than the very best! A luxury, all-inclusive cruise aboard the Finesse luxury barge includes all meals and drinks. Each meal is a gourmet affair, with multiple courses prepared by the chef, all expertly paired with wines of the region.
Dinners are served either on deck when the weather in fine, or at the dining room table. Each boat has different styling and design, but the dining area is always elegant and set to impress. Make sure to save room for the cheese course and dessert!
The chef will make sure that you’re never hungry, preparing mid-day canapes to snack on. That is if you have enough room after the 3-course lunch with wine pairings. The gourmet food on board can easily be compared to some of the best meals you’ve eaten.
The chef aboard the Finesse luxury barge was a pro at the sous vide cooking method and often made the most succulent meats and fish for meals. The flavors and seasoning were perfect. However, you never feel like the meal is too heavy or filling to finish four courses.
Walking & Biking Along the Canal
Along most of the canals, there are numerous locks that the barge must pass through during the journey. Those locks provide ample opportunity to get off the barge and either walk or bike on the paths that run along the canal.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to bring your own bike. One of the amenities on the barge cruise is the use of bikes. If you decide to take a walk or a bike ride along the canal, you just get off at one lock and get back on at another lock along the way.
If you just want a short walk, you can choose locks that are close together, or you can continue along to another one with more distance in between.
Hopping off for a walk is a great way to make sure you get your steps in. It’s also an opportunity to get away from everyone else and be by yourself for a little while, if you need the alone time.
Photo by Roman Boed
Guided Excursions are Included
It’s always nice to have your own personal tour guide along. On a barge cruise, the guide is with you at all time, even while on the boat. The guide may also double as the van driver, which allows them to give lots of useful information as you drive to the locations they have planned for you.
The type of excursions you go on depends on the area that you’re cruising through. In Burgundy, the excursions included visits to vineyards and wineries, to castles and chateaux, and to the small towns for farmer’s markets and to walk through museums.
The trips away from the boat last anywhere from 3-5 hours, and could be adjusted or changed based on what the passengers want to do.
Photo by Fonzie D.
Plenty of Time for Relaxing
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of cruising is often relaxation. A cruise is expected to offer plenty of down time to do things like catch up on your reading, play a game, take an afternoon nap, or unwind in the hot tub or spa.
On a canal barge cruise, you will have plenty of time for all of those things, as you cruise between moorings each day. But don’t worry, it’s never a full day of cruising, so you won’t get bored if you haven’t brought enough books on board.
During your free time on the boat, you can enjoy watching the scenery pass by, and even have an opportunity to learn more about the boat. The captain may offer a chance to see the wheel house and even steer the boat for a minute or two (under his close supervision, of course).
The chef may offer a chance to take some impromptu cooking lessons as he prepares the meals in the open kitchen. The tour guide may offer to take you with him in the morning to pick out the croissants and bread at the bakery. There’s never a dull moment.
Make it Happen
As you can see, there are many reasons why you should book a canal barge cruise for your next holiday. You can check out the different options for barge cruises on European Waterways, a trusted company for hotel barging in Europe.
Cruises range in price from roughly $5,000-$7000 USD per person. A week aboard the Finesse luxury hotel barge is $6,750/pp USD (€5,690 EUR).
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Pinterest image of Colmar France by Fonzie D.