Honey, if a barge is on my site, I like it. The question is -Do I like it for YOU?
Ellen has been a broker of European canal barge cruise vacations for 30 years, but has never considered it “work.” She still cannot wait to get to the office each morning and speak to her customers about barge cruising. It is Ellen’s goal to book travelers on “that PERFECT barge cruise.” Her recommendations are based on extensive experiences on board the barges, travel to all of the major European cities, a pinch of intuition, and above all, ideas about what will make the trip special for each and every guest. As Ellen often reminds her top team, we are “selling” knowledge AND service above all else. Ellen considers herself opinionated, but her customers seem to like it that way!
Ellen was just 19 when she first visited Europe – and fell in love with it. The thrill of visiting Paris and London has never subsided, and she is always looking for new museums, hotels, and special cultural experiences to introduce to the barge guests. Here she is outside the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal on a recent trip to Paris. Over the years she has curated a list of The Barge Lady’s favorite affordable Paris hotels and four star Paris hotels . In 1978, she began her career in travel as a retail travel agent and planned upscale vacations, which turned out to be the perfect background for segueing into the barge cruise industry.
When an opportunity came in 1986 to launch a small barge in Burgundy, it was too fascinating to pass up. For the next 30 years, Ellen’s professional and personal lives would be deeply intertwined with barging, not only booking guests but serving the industry, which has grown in number and sophistication of barges. Ellen has launched many vessels into the market and created a way to feature and differentiate each barge with her Barge Rating System, now in widespread use. Ellen and her team have welcomed thousands of guests, treating each one as an individual, and always on the lookout for ways to add interest and pleasure to each trip.
Ellen has received many accolades. She was featured in the book “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” and was called the “reigning expert on barge cruising” by Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor of the Today Show. Ellen has been quoted many times in the travel trade press and is considered a “go to” source for medial of all kinds. Professionally, her biggest thrill was her selection in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 as a Top Travel Specialist by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, joining an elite community of worldwide travel providers. Most recently, Ellen is a featured expert on the Wendy Perrin WOW list, part of the popular web site that also recommends travel providers and very personal destination information.
The responsibility for recommending the best barge cruise carries with it the PERFECT excuse to travel to Europe, which has remained Ellen’s first love. Ellen estimates that she has made over fifty visits to France, as well as trips to England, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands and Italy – to meet the crews, experience the sightseeing and sample divine food and wine. Upon her return, Ellen writes and re-writes the website, which is constantly updated with her own travels and those of the Barge lady team.
Ellen particularly adores France, where, speaking just a few words of French and lugging her carry-on bag, she has traveled widely and enjoyably. Ellen knows all of the French barges and the owners well – and has started to work with the second generation of owners. She visited many vessels on a recent trip to the Canal du Midi in southwest France. A visit to Belgium took her to the MS Elisabeth, where she is pictured with owners Martine and Bernard Buisseret.
The Barge Lady has become a family business, with the addition of BOTH daughters; Caroline Sack Klein and Stephanie Sack. Working with her daughters and realizing their unique talents has been the supreme thrill of Ellen’s life. Ellen’s husband Nick Sack, known in the industry as “Monsieur Le Barge Lady” accompanies her on many cruises. Here they are below, boarding La Nouvelle Etoile. Ellen is grateful for her wonderful life combining work, family and travel and loves to share this joy with Barge Lady guests.