Barge Cruising FAQs
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about all things barge cruising. If you have any further questions, please email us at [email protected] or call us at 1-800-880-0071.
Our top team of six Barge Ladies collectively boast over seven decades of experience in the worlds of barge cruising, luxury hospitality, and culinary tourism. The Barge Lady and her staff each visit France and our other European cruise destinations at least once a year, making the rounds to all 50 barges! We cruise the barges that we represent – we meet the crew, dine on the divine cuisine, sip the wines, experience the excursions, and sleep peacefully in the cabins. There is no substitute for being able to describe a barge or activity from firsthand experience! We personally know the details of each barge cruise before recommending it to you. We believe we know barge cruising better than anyone in the world and invite you to benefit from our experience, knowledge and expertise at matching you to the perfect barge. For more biographical information about each Barge Lady, see our “about us” section here.
Since 1985, the Barge Ladies have matched enthusiastic travelers to their “perfect” European barge cruise. Our bespoke barging recommendations are based on our personal cruising experiences as well as our long-term relationships with barge owners.
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.
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 four miles per hour. The landscape caries between pastoral countryside, rustic landscapes, and verdant woodlands.
The barge cruising season runs April through October.
Cruises are 6-night / 7-days. 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.
- Chauffeured transfers to and from the barge pre- and post-cruise at a designated pick up and drop off point
- Six night’s accommodation with private bathroom
- All meals on the barge’s dining program*, which include breakfast, lunch and dinner. (*There are some barges that offer dining ashore at the guest’s expense)
- Wine pairings with onboard lunches and dinners
- Open bar with top shelf liquors, wines, spirits, waters and soft drinks, coffee and tea
- Daily escorted sightseeing to local places of interest, including all entrance fees
- Daily maid service of cabins and bathrooms
- Use of 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, The Barge Ladies advise between 5-10% of the cruise price
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.
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.
Not inside the hotel barge, for obvious reasons! Possibly on deck, if your fellow cruisers agree. However, you may have to step ashore to smoke.
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.
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.
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.
The Barge Ladies strongly encourage all guests to insure their cruise for cancellations on their part, specifically medical ones. Barge payments are either non-refundable, or for a select few barges, cancellation penalties apply. We have a referral for an insurance agent that we are happy to share with you, or some guests have their own source for insurance.