Ellen has been a broker of European canal barge cruise vacations for over 30 years, but has never considered it “work.” Ellen especially enjoys booking 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, Barge Ladies offer both knowledge AND service above all else.
Ellen’s journey to becoming “The Barge Lady” began while working as a travel agent at a small agency in Chicago. In 1986, an opportunity came to launch a small barge in Burgundy. In the ensuing years, Ellen’s professional and personal lives would be deeply intertwined with barging, not only through booking many happy guests but also as a leader in the barging industry. Among many other accomplishments, Ellen has launched dozens of vessels into the market, and created a way to both feature and differentiate each barge with her Barge Rating System, now in widespread use. Ellen and her team have welcomed thousands of guests to the canals of Europe, and are 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. Professionally, her biggest thrill was the selection between 2011 and 2019 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 travel expert Wendy Perrin’s WOW list, a popular web site that recommends travel providers while also offering personalized destination information.
Responsibility for recommending “that perfect barge cruise” creates the PERFECT excuse for Ellen to visit Europe. A true Francophile, she has toured in France over fifty times to meet the barge crews, experience the sightseeing, and, of course sample the divine food and wine. The barges of England, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, and Italy have also been host to Ellen’s many European explorations.
The Barge Lady has become a family business, with the addition of both her 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. She spends time with her two grandchildren, accompanying them to activities around Chicago, and also enjoys sharing meals with friends and family at the many wonderful dining venues in town.
“I am so grateful for my wonderful life combining work, family, and travel, and I love to share this joy with Barge Lady friends and guests.” – Ellen