A luxury hotel barge escape with European Waterways is a unique, boutique cruising experience that offers an immersive, all-inclusive gentle voyage of discovery within the heart of many of Europe’s finest waterways. Each cruise focuses on the culture, history, fine wine, and gourmet cuisine of the region–from the renowned Burgundy vineyards to the storybook castles of the Scottish Highlands and beyond. Accommodating just 6 to 20 passengers, and a 1:2 crew guest ratio, European Waterways provides an impeccable level of personalized onboard service, whilst traversing the intimate inland waterways that are inaccessible to larger vessels.
A hotel barge refers to a specific style of the hull, which is designed to navigate in shallow inland waterways. Most barges were built to carry goods into hard-to-reach areas of the country. Hotel barges, which are fully crewed and are operating today, are usually cargo hulls, which have been redesigned and totally rebuilt. They are barge hulls over which cabins and saloons have been constructed in order to accommodate travelers. Luxury hotel barges are state-of-the-art conversions accommodating 4 to 20 passengers.
The cruises include all gourmet meals with wine, all shore excursions, an “open bar” and bicycles for the use of the guests, and various other luxury facilities. These vessels cruise on small waterways, mostly canals. The purpose of a barge cruise is not to rush from Point A to Point B, but to relax in a stress-free environment with fine food and wine, enjoy the delights of the countryside you are passing through, and get to know the “soul of the country.” The hotel barges travel neither far nor fast.
Are these hotel barges only available for groups to charter only to can I book just one or two cabins?
You may choose to charter the entire vessel or book one or a number of cabins on board and join other like-minded passengers. When the vessel is chartered, you and your party will have the full capacity of the boat and may request certain deviations from the regular schedule and the service. When doable, our crews will make all efforts to accommodate. These special requests must be made known at the time of the first deposit and will be confirmed in writing.
What is the maximum number of people a hotel barge can accommodate?
Our vessels carry between 4 and 20. We can also tandem two barges and take groups of up to 24 persons.
What is the minimum child age limit?
When booking a whole boat charter, we welcome children and infants of any age. We have family itineraries available with activities offered to suit all ages.
When booking on a “per cabin” basis, children under the age of 12 years are not permitted. On the Athos barge, children under the age of 18 years are not permitted.
Which direction will I be cruising?
The cruise direction might not be set until approximately 3 weeks prior to the departure date, but is often sooner. The reason for this is that our barges are usually scheduled to operate from A to B and the following week from B to A (in the reverse direction). However, if a specific departure date does not have any bookings, the barge does not cruise empty, when this occurs, this affects the direction schedule. The pick-up and drop-off locations remain the same irrelevant to the cruise direction.
What amenities can I expect on the hotel barge?
All the hotel barges are air-conditioned and heated and the cabins have private, well-appointed bathrooms with showers. Many of the barges have on-deck hot tubs and other facilities such as a small exercise room. They also each have a music system such as a CD player/iPod dock and most have WiFi internet access, although this is sometimes subject to local reception.
Is smoking permitted onboard?
There is a strict non-smoking policy on all barges for safety reasons and for the comfort of other passengers. Guests wishing to smoke are requested to do so off the barge or on the outside deck away from fellow passengers.
Can I bring my dog?
We permit small dogs on board some of our barges. However, it is only possible when reserving a whole boat charter. There is a charge applied for a deep-clean after the cruise and dogs are not permitted in passenger cabins. Please contact us for further details.
Are the hotel barge cruises expensive?
Hotel barges come in many styles and levels of luxury from rustic and comfortable like a good country inn to elegant, like a fashionable country house hotel. However, the essence of barging is not decor…but the taste and texture of the region that is revealed in the welcome greeting of the villagers, the smiles and hearty charm of the lock keepers, and the personal & friendly attention of local artisans and guides. Hotel barge rates do tend to reflect the level of luxury, cabin size, and the season…but since they are inclusive, they are of great value. Meals, wines, open bar, guided excursions and admissions, transfers to and from each hotel barge…all included!
Smaller vessels are ideal for families, groups of friends, or individuals who are attracted to the luxury of a hotel barge cruise.
Will I have a language problem?
No. All our crew members speak English and are generally British. Other languages like Italian, German and French are also spoken. When cruising through mainly rural areas, one is quite likely to find the locals speaking with a strong dialect. Although sometimes difficult to understand, we still encourage you to try to communicate with them. English is the main language on board.
Will I be able to make special requests?
Special dietary requests can be made to the Chef or barge Captain prior to your cruise. If there is a specific beverage you would like to find at the bar or a certain dish you wish to try, we can usually accommodate. Please advise our reservations department at least 4 weeks prior to your cruise. These requests should also be submitted to us as early as possible. If there will be a birthday or other special event to celebrate during your cruise, please let us know. We will try to accommodate these requests, although we ask that you understand in some cases we may be unable to do so. Please make sure that you advise us of any food allergies or medical conditions that require special attention. If you are chartering the barge the itinerary is customizable, we will always do our best to visit anywhere you desire en route.
What sort of activities will I find during my hotel barge trips?
Lots! Each morning and again after lunch, guided tours to historic and cultural sites of the region provide guests many interesting choices from visiting chateaux, famous vineyards, country market towns, private gardens to museums celebrating art, weapons, textiles or bread! Other interests, like golf, ballooning, riding, and tennis is also accommodated and, of course, in between, you will enjoy fine food & wine every day. Each hotel barge has a designated crew member guide and an air-conditioned van or bus that travels with it, for daily excursions to places of interest such as nearby chateaux, colorful local markets, ancient monasteries, or fascinating specialty museums. Of course, there is also the joy of the cruising itself.
Is hotel barging only for the sedentary, older traveler?
Not at all! Canal cruising is for those who want a “close-up, personal” experience in Europe. Mature & younger travelers find the pace and comfort of a hotel barge the ideal way to explore the real heart & soul of a country. More active types like to take off on village walk, hill climbs, or bicycles…meeting up at the next lock. The unique advantage of a barge are that we can tailor an itinerary and celebrate a special event to suit the guests
What do the rates on the hotel barges include?
All meals catered for by our onboard Master Chef, good regional wines served throughout the cruise, an open bar with a large selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, chauffeured and guided sightseeing, and use of all barge facilities such as bicycles. Some barges also have an on-deck jacuzzi. Local transfers to your barge are included and we will advise you of your meeting point at the time of booking. On our Family Charter Cruises equipment for babies and children will be included on most vessels; cribs, travel cot, high chair, car seats, toys, children bicycles, and baby bicycle seats.
What do the rates on the hotel barges not include?
Gratuities are not included in the cruise fare. Tipping is entirely discretionary but is greatly appreciated by the crew if you are fully satisfied with the level of service on board.
As a guidance our passengers on average tip approximately 5% of the cruise fare. All tips should be given to the Captain on board and are shared between the whole crew. Gratuities can only be made onboard by cash payment.
Optional hot air ballooning. Medical Cancellation Insurance: We strongly recommend the purchase of medical cancellation insurance within 14 days of submitting a deposit for your cruise.
How long are the hotel barge cruises?
Our hotel barge cruises are six nights / seven days in length, starting on Sunday afternoon and finishing on Saturday morning. It is possible to do multiple cruises joined together and we occasionally have special extended cruises.
What seasons do the hotel barges cruise?
In France, Germany, Italy, Scotland, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, Ireland, and England, most of our hotel barges cruise from early April to late October.
If I am physically challenged can I cruise on one of your barges?
One of our hotel barges is wheelchair accessible with all the facilities required for those who are less physically able, including a lift, although guests cannot be wheelchair-bound, and unfortunately, we can only accept less physically able travelers aboard a chartered vessel. There are some excursions that are not feasible for travelers who are physically challenged. Please be sure to check with us prior to booking. Barges, as a rule, are not suitable for those who are physically challenged since they rarely have elevators between decks, and the mooring is not alongside quays or piers.
Will I feel confined?
Not if you enjoy meeting the locals, viewing passing vineyards and chateaux from a hot tub on deck, or sharing experiences with a congenial group of travelers on a journey more like a moving house party. You will be able to get on and off your barge practically at will, to take a walk along the towpath or a bicycle ride to town. (All the barges have bicycles onboard for passenger use). Meet and talk to the locals, view the vineyards, or accompany the crew as they shop in the early morning for delicious, freshly baked bread and croissants. Learn the secrets of fine cuisine from your gourmet chef. Savor an amazing variety of local cheese and other delicacies. All of this is in addition to the included sightseeing tours en route. The gentle movement of the barge, anchored at night, has caused dedicated insomniacs to report wonderful, restful sleep. It is the relaxed atmosphere aboard, the friendly and helpful crew, the peace and tranquillity of the countryside, together with the wonderful cuisine, lively conversation, and interesting sightseeing that make it magical.
I've never barged before, where should I go first?
Surprisingly, this question comes up pretty often. Hotel barge cruising is now available across Europe. Because our vessels are small enough to navigate the smaller canals and rivers, we concentrate on these waterways and leave the 100 passenger cruise ships behind! France is very popular, but have you considered the beauty of the Scottish Highlands or the intrigue of the Venice Lagoon?
General visa and passport information
Passengers must hold a valid passport. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have a valid photo ID. Please note that certain destinations insist on at least 6 months validity from the return date. You may need a visa to travel to some of our destinations. To find out whether you need a visa for the country you’re travelling to please contact your own government, embassy, or consulate. For any other information, including health information we recommend you contact your Foreign Office, for example, if you are from the UK please see: https://www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo
Do I need travel insurance?
Travel insurance is strongly recommended for all passengers, and in many cases, it is a condition of your contract with the Operator that you have adequate insurance in place for the duration of your booking. It is your responsibility to ensure that your travel insurance is suitable for your needs.
Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!