Have you ever wanted to go on a barge cruise in France? I’d been Googling ‘barge cruises in France’ for quite a while before I contacted European Waterways and was introduced to the idea of luxury hotel barging, which I hadn’t heard of before.
What I didn’t realise is that hotel barging is not such a new way of holiday travel, in fact it began in 1966. European Waterways began hotel barging in France in 1974 and have, over the years, expanded their fleet to expand across Europe.
I must be getting old, because WOW how time has flown since that first introduction! Suddenly the hotel barge trip is inching closer, and I’m getting seriously excited about cruising on the luxury Hotel Barge Panache.
Small luxury floating hotels (on re-vamped barges)
I can’t wait to be meandering along on a luxury hotel barge visiting riverside villages and small moorings off the beaten track – because I’m told that’s what you might expect on barge cruises in France.
Our travel wallet arrived the other day, complete with handy leather baggage labels, our itinerary, a couple of postcards and other useful information about the cruise in the Champagne region of France where we’ll be travelling along the River Marne.
Yes, I’m looking forward to exploring waterways and places less travelled, as far away from the famous Instagram hotspots as possible.
Barge Cruises in France – 5 Things I’m really looking forward to.
- Getting to know the villages and quiet towns at the heart of the Champagne region.
- Being away from the hustle and bustle of major tourist spots. No crowds.
- Visiting some of France’s premiere wineries, vineyards and champagne estates.
- History, champagne, wine, gourmet food, culture, and a little luxury on the barge.
- Being able to just get off the barge and explore the region by foot or bicycle, and not have to wait for coaches, buses or transfers as you often have to on a large cruise ship.
I asked Nick Ward, from European Waterways, if he’d answer a few questions that have been burning at the back of my mind.
Here’s what Nick had to say …
Where did the idea of luxury barge cruises begin?
The home of barging is Burgundy. It began in 1966 with the first Hotel Barge Palinurus and it is now very much a way of life along the likes of the Nivernais Canal and the Canal du Midi, though it has spread further than France and is expanding across Europe .
What was the inspiration behind converting old barges into luxury floating hotels?
It was somewhat of a counter culture, a recognition that there was a market for experiential travel in which your vessel was part of the journey, a tranquil experience that provided a respite from the noise and pace of modern life.
Why go hotel barging?
The list is long! Exceptional service, a degree of spontaneity that isn’t available on larger river cruises, incredible onboard food and wine, exclusive private excursions that simply cannot be obtained elsewhere, small passenger numbers, and of course, the barges themselves are works of art.
How long has European Waterways been in operation?
European Waterways was established in 1974
In your opinion what is the most exciting or rewarding thing about barging?
It has and always will be the people, be it our charming, inquisitive guests, our knowledgeable, diligent staff or simply the friendly, relaxed locals that we meet along the towpath every day
Why should anyone consider a barge cruise for their next holiday?
We’d say that our cruises are not just for one type of person. If you want to be pampered from morning till night, all week long, it’s for you. If you want to discover the history of the local area and immerse yourself in their traditions and cuisine, it’s for you. If you want to take to the towpath with a bicycle and picnic and explore by yourself, it’s for you. If you’re a gastronome, oenophile, nature enthusiast, historian, single, married, young or old, it’s for you. We have an itinerary, region and vessel to suit everybody.