All About Canal Barging/FAQs
Below are some of the most common questions we’ve been asked during our decades in business. If you have any further questions, give us a call at 1-800-880-0071 or reach out via our contact form.
Our top team of five Barge Ladies collectively boast over seven decades of experience in the worlds of barge cruising, luxury hospitality, and culinary tourism. Because we visit, inspect, vet and review each of our vessels regularly, our carefully curated collection of 50 barges are well known to us both professionally and personally; it is a tough job, but someone has to sample the cuisine, taste the wine, and explore the culture along the inland waterways of Europe! For more biographical information about each Barge Lady, see our “about us” section here.
As leaders with longevity in the barging industry since 1985, our greatest pleasure is using our unparalleled expertise, educated insights, and exclusive connections to confidently match our guests with their “perfect” barge cruise. As leaders with longevity in the barging industry since 1985, our greatest pleasure is using our unparalleled expertise, educated insights, and exclusive connections to confidently match our guests with their “perfect” barge cruise
Throughout Europe, there is an intricate series of antique waterways of canals and rivers meandering through the countryside. Once used for transporting cargo, the barges now plying these preserved canals are floating boutique hotels, having been lovingly refurbished to offer small groups a boating experience of deluxe accommodations, top service, interesting sightseeing, and gourmet cuisine. Known as “barges”, this type of vessel carries only between 2 to 22 passengers. A dedicated, English-speaking crew accommodates guests both onboard and ashore; a private Chef crafts regional and seasonal cuisine; a Tour Guide coordinates onshore excursions; a Hostess performs daily tasks; and a Captain expertly pilots the barge from mooring to mooring. Leisurely in pace and intimate in ambiance, almost all barges gently cruise approximately 50 miles over the course of a week at the canal speed limit of 4 miles per hours. The landscape caries between pastoral and rustic countryside and verdant woodlands.
The day begins with a colorful breakfast buffet of pastries and breads brought in from the local village boulangerie, and various fruits, yogurts, cereals and freshly brewed coffee and tea. Some barges offer breakfast made to order such as eggs. All barges follow the same format – they cruise in the morning, and after lunch the Tour Guide chauffeurs everyone on the scheduled, guided excursion to appoint of interest near the waterway. These daily excursions include wine tasting, and visits to local markets, artisans, villages and chateaus. Alternatively, they go on the excursion in the morning, and return to the barge for a late lunch while starting the cruise portion of the day. While the barge is cruising, active guests can bicycle and meander into the countryside and canal side villages. Or, guests can stay on the barge and relax on deck or in the salon to admire the bucolic and romantic scenery gently glide by. Socialize with others, read a book, take a snooze, or help the Captain steer…there is always something to do! Meanwhile, your attentive crew will be offering to fix you a drink and ensuring that you are comfortable at all times. Lunch a presents a bountiful buffet of rustic salads, homemade soups, and savory quiches. A selection of regional cheeses is often served, and a sweet treat may be included as well. Lunches are always accompanied by quality wines selected by Chef. The evening’s present a cocktail hour, where the crew prepares and serves drinks and canapes. The day culminates with a grand (yet informal) gourmet meal that Chef has been preparing for hours. Wine pairings, cheese boards, decadent desserts, and traditional nightcaps are also part of the evening’s repast. Retire to your cabin and drift off to a restful sleep, perhaps dreaming about tomorrow’s fun and festivity.
All barges provide WIFI (sometimes with limited reception), AC and heating, bicycles, toiletries, hair dryers, daily maid service in the cabins, fully stocked open bar, and media and entertainment systems. Some barges (such as some 4 star and all 5 and 6 star barges) offer bathrobes and slippers. Most barges offer a safe inside each cabin. Laundry is only available on a select few barges, and mostly at an additional fee to the launderer.
We will advise you the meeting and drop off location and time upon booking. Barge crew will meet you at the pre-arranged location, whether it is a hotel, railroad station, or rental car office. Customized meeting and return drop-off points may be arranged for charters.
In France and Italy, from early April through the end of October. In Holland at Tulip Time, from early April through mid-May. In Ireland from mid-April to early October. In England from mid-April through the end of October. In Germany from late September through the end of October.
Cruises are of a 6-night / 7-day duration. In our experience, this is the perfect length! Long enough that you can really relax and enjoy, short enough that you can easily combine the barge cruise with a visit in one of Europe’s major cities.
Yes, we provide a booking form where you can itemize your dietary needs. The chef will gladly accommodate vegetarians, allergies, and the like. If you have extraordinary needs, please inform us at the time of booking so we can confirm their availability.
Our barges reserve the right to refuse to book or board individuals who are disabled in a wheelchair, or with serious medical conditions related to aging such as dementia or incontinence. We expect potential guests to disclose these conditions prior to booking a barge cruise. The barges often cruise away from medical facilities, the barges and excursions are not wheelchair accessible, and crew cannot be responsible for the care or oversight of guests with physical or mental impairment. Neither an individual barge (its owners and/or operators) or Barge Lady Cruises will assume liability in the case of injury, accident, worsening of medical condition, lack of access to care and the like. If you have any question about what constitutes a “serious” medical issue, please ask us.
The crew will call the medics, take you to the hospital, or do whatever is necessary to provide you with the care needed. We recommend the purchase of travel insurance including emergency medical coverage and evacuation. The crew will call the medics, take you to the hospital, or do whatever is necessary to provide you with the care needed. We recommend the purchase of travel insurance including emergency medical coverage and evacuation.
Since there is a speed limit of 4 miles an hour on the canals, you will go slowly! You will not be sea sick, as the canals (and even rivers) are non-tidal and have no currents. All barges moor for the night, so you will never be cruising at night.Since there is a speed limit of 4 miles an hour on the canals, you will go slowly! You will not be sea sick, as the canals (and even rivers) are non-tidal and have no currents. All barges moor for the night, so you will never be cruising at night.
Not inside the hotel barge, for obvious reasons! Possibly on deck, if your fellow cruisers agree.
We advise you to bring clothes that are informal and comfortable. Bring comfortable walking and/or athletic shoes, as you will be walking on the daily excursions, enjoying yourself on deck, and have the option to walk or bike along the tow path. During the day, The Barge Ladies wears slacks, jeans, shorts, capris, exercise wear, informal tops, and sweatshirts/sweaters. For dinner, we sometimes freshen up our attire with a new top, cardigan or scarf, although this is certainly not required. Please note: It is not necessary to bring dresses of any kind, expensive or special jewelry, or high heels. During the day, men wears slacks, jeans, shorts, exercise wear, informal shirts, and sweatshirts/sweaters. For evening, some men change into long pants, a fresh shirt, knit or button down, although this is certainly not required. Your last night on board there will be a celebratory farewell dinner. Some guests may choose to dress up slightly this night, although this is not required. If your itinerary includes meals at casual bistros, the dress code is what we call smart-casual; neat yet informal attire along the lines of comfortable and presentable outfits. If your itinerary includes a Michelin-Star restaurant, the dress code is “country club casual” attire. For women, this means coordinated separates or blouses and slacks. For men, this means shirts such as knit polo’s or collared button down and slacks or khakis (ties are not required). If your barge has a hot tub, be sure to bring a swimsuit. If you are on a family cruise during the summer months, we suggest packing a swimsuit, as an impromptu swimming hole may pop up! If you plan on biking or hiking along the tow path, bring clothes that you can wear to work up a little sweat. During cooler months, we suggest packing clothing that can be layered.
Barge cruise bookings are handled by the Barge Ladies. Your payment(s), usually a deposit and a final payment, can be easily made and managed using our secure, online payment portal. We accept VISA, MasterCard, and AMEX. We can also accept checks and wire transfers.
Every country has immigration regulations regarding passports, visas and entrance requirements in general. As these are subject to change at any time, we do not publish them, but do urge that you contact the embassies of the countries you are visiting. Be very certain, in particular, that the expiration date on your passport is correct with regards to current regulations.
Chauffeured transfers to and from the barge pre- and post-cruise at a designated meeting and drop off point. Six night’s accommodation with private bathroom. Daily maid service of cabins and bathrooms. All meals on the barge’s dining program*, which include breakfast, lunch and dinner. (*There are some barges that offer dining on shore at the guest’s expense). Wine pairings with on board lunches and dinners. Open bar with top shelf liquor, local and regional wines, premium spirits, waters and soft drinks. Unlimited coffee and tea service. Daily escorted sightseeing to local places of interest, including all entrance fees. Use on all onboard amenities such as hot tub, bicycles, electronics, music, games, library, etc.Chauffeured transfers to and from the barge pre- and post-cruise at a designated meeting and drop off point. Six night’s accommodation with private bathroom. Daily maid service of cabins and bathrooms. All meals on the barge’s dining program*, which include breakfast, lunch and dinner. (*There are some barges that offer dining on shore at the guest’s expense.) Wine pairings with on board lunches and dinners. Open bar with top shelf liquor, local and regional wines, premium spirits, waters and soft drinks. Unlimited coffee and tea service. Daily escorted sightseeing to local places of interest, including all entrance fees. Use on all onboard amenities such as hot tub, bicycles, electronics, music, games, library, etc.
Air or other transportation to the designated meeting and drop off location in Europe. Travel insurance. Optional and discretionary crew gratuity, which The Barge Ladies advise between 5-10% of the cruise price.