As European barge cruising experts since 1985, the Barge Ladies are regularly asked, “Is there a private cruising experience in France available for just two, three, or four guests?” Happily, a barge cruise for such petite parties is indeed one of our favorite options to suggest!
Recently, a new generation of barge owners have introduced small ships focusing exclusively on accommodations, amenities, and itineraries crafted with privacy-loving cruisers in mind. These “micro-cruises” effortlessly offer the perfect way for two couples or small families to travel together in style.
“These charming vessels offer the bespoke experiences and personalized services associated with traditional barge cruising, all for just one or two couples,” Barge Lady Ellen says. “It’s no wonder that micro-cruising has emerged as one of the most popular barging holidays.”
The Barge Ladies are pleased to present a selection of our favorite boutique barges which can carry just two to four guests. From the bucolic vistas of Burgundy, to the southern sunshine of the Canal du Midi, to the pastoral allure of Provence — Welcome aboard your private French micro-cruise!
Randle – Northern Burgundy on the Canal du Nivernais, two cabins
Captain Tim Harrold and the Barge Ladies welcome you aboard France’s original micro-cruise! Since 2005, value-driven foodies and two-generational families have fallen in love with this petite vessel. Two wood-paneled staterooms, each with a private bath, hold up to four guests; one of them even features a darling bunk bed, making this this cabin configuration an ideal option for families with children. Bountiful breakfasts and light lunches are taken onboard in the comfortable wheelhouse, while five dinners, at the guests’ expense, are enjoyed at charming bistros ashore. Pickup and drop off in Paris augment the white glove services of this adorable micro-cruise.
Barge Lady Ellen says: “I have known Captain Tim for many moons and appreciate that he can create a bespoke experience for every party. The route on the Canal du Nivernais is one of the most scenic in France and also offers a wealth of unexpected experiences, such as a private visit to incredible pre-historic caves.”
Magnolia — Southern Burgundy on the Canal de Bourgogne, three cabins
Offering an contemporary approach to classic micro-cruising, the Magnolia is owned and operated by French couple Captain Nicolas and Tour Guide Magali Rancelot. Designed for outdoor lifestyles and convivial socializing, the Magnolia’s topside hot tub and outdoor kitchen beckons for hours of soaking up the sun, punctuated by leisurely al fresco luncheons. Groups of two, three, or four especially appreciate spreading out into Magnolia’s three comfortable cabins, each with an ensuite bath. Onshore, enriching experiences reflect Nicolas and Magali’s deep personal connections within the region; guests rave about truffle hunting with a friendly canine and a dinner party held in a private home.
Barge Lady Stephanie says, “I was the first Barge Lady to visit the Magnolia, and Captain Nicolas and Tour Guide Magali have truly become a part of our ever expanding Barge Lady family. Magnolia offers the perfect micro-cruise for a group of three or four gals ready for a Girlfriends Getaway. Maybe they will take me with them?!”
La Vie en Rose — Southern Burgundy on the Canal du Centre, three cabins
Offering an insider’s immersion into the Côte Chalonnaise and Côte de Beaune, France’s elite regions for Premier Cru wines, La Vie en Rose delivers a micro-cruise as beautiful as the “chanson” for which it is named! Owned and operated by French Captain Alexandre Arsie, this traditional Dutch barge has been thoroughly modernized while maintaining a classic maritime ambiance. Four vineyard visits introduce the area’s pampered Premier Cru grapes; onboard, a dazzling list of local varietals are poured, paired, of course, with freshly crafted gourmet fare. Al fresco dining on the spacious deck and brisk bicycle rides along the marvelous towpath ensure ample time outdoors before guests retire to one La Vie en Rose’s three cozy cabins.
Barge Lady Lori says: “I particularly enjoyed the integrity and charm of this traditional vessel with its open kitchen and comfortable salon, plus you cannot beat the expansive deck with sun loungers. Guests are immersed all week in wine tasting, as well as the history and culture of Burgundy. For wine lovers, this cruise is a must!”
Saraphina — Southern France on the Canal du Midi, two cabins
It’s the “Bon Appetit” barge! Owned and operated by Captain Finnegan and Chef Emily Campfens, culinary connections and colorful coziness are the stars of this Canal du Midi micro-cruise. Inclusive of the Saraphina’s cruise fare, four lunches and one dinner are taken ashore at local bistros, offering a “Chef’s Tour” of meals and menus! Other foodie-friendly activities include shopping for seasonal ingredients at the market in Narbonne and socializing with Chef Emily in her demonstration kitchen as she whips up gourmet fare and craft cocktails. Finally, after a long day of strenuous wining and dining, two cabins offer colorful havens of quiet comfort, where up to four guests can rest before another day of fabulous foodie fun.
Barge Lady Juana says: “Our guests adore cruising with Finn and Emily, and it’s easy to see why! The Saraphina’s high-end hospitality and casual-chic décor is perfect for those who wish to enjoy a variety of culinary experiences, passengers especially interested in the south of France, or multi-generational families looking to cruise together.”
Alouette — South of France on the Canal du Midi, two cabins
The Alouette is the smallest 5-star vessel in The Barge Lady fleet — but this mirco-cruise is decidedly mighty! Combining “floating country cottage” charm with superior amenities and service, the cozy intimacy of Alouette lends itself to personalized experiences and memorable connections. Foodies are invited to join Chef at the local market to select fresh ingredients to be served later onboard, while guided visits to an historic abbey and the walled Medieval cite of Carcassonne introduce the culture of the region. Back onboard, guests relax on deck as idyllic scenery floats by and retire at night to cabins featuring fine French fabrics and hand-tiled baths. As First Class TGV train tickets between Paris and the Canal du Midi are complimentary, joining the barge is glamorous and seamless, exactly like the overall experience on the Alouette!
Barge Lady Ellen says: “For two to four guests who crave the combination of complete privacy married to relaxed luxury, this deluxe micro-cruise hits all the marks. I adore recommending this 5-star barge on the Canal du Midi, where it always feels like a slow Mediterranean summer.”
Mam Goz — Provence on the Canal du Rhone a Sète, three cabins
Mam Goz (“Grandmother” in the Breton language) represents a second career for French owners Chef Eric and Hostess Christel Cochennec, who met while working in the airline industry. Now they welcome guests to Provence, an area in which they boast deep personal and professional connections. The region’s highlights are intimately revealed: the Pope’s Palace in Avignon, Van Gogh’s trail in Arles, and the coastal towns of the Camargue. Back onboard, guests relax in the cozy salon, laze in the petite hot tub, or visit Chef Eric in his open galley. Mam Goz is a marvelous micro-cruise for two couples interested in privately discovering Provence, or for Barge Lady guests who have cruised previously in Burgundy or Bordeaux.
Barge Lady Lori says: “I was the first Barge Lady to meet Eric and Christel aboard Mam Goz, and they welcomed me with true French ‘joie de vivre’. Their joy in showcasing the treasures of Provence is contagious! For sun lovers, the ship’s bow is the perfect perch from which to capture the light so lovingly portrayed by Impressionist painters in the south of France.”