Life on Board a Barge Cruise - Everything you need to know about your barge trip in Europe
Who is the Barge Crew?
You will be welcomed by anywhere from two to seven in crew, depending on the level of luxury of your vessel. Your crew will not only speak English, but most of them are English! You may encounter French crew, but they are fluent in English. They specialize in YOUR comfort and well-being. Within the first five minutes onboard, they will know your name and will delight you with their hospitality throughout the cruise. Your crew will exude personal warmth, but are at the same time professional and service oriented.
What is a typical day in the life of a barge cruise?
Barging is slow paced and relaxing. You will spend 3-4 hours per day cruising in the morning or afternoon (note – barges DO NOT cruise at night); the other half day is spent enjoying a guided excursion to a regional highlight near to the cruise route. These include wine tasting at vineyards, visits to chateaus, sampling regional goodies at local markets, touring preserved churches, and window shopping in charming towns. Your daily excursions are outlined on the barge itinerary found on our website. Back on the barge, you can bike along the canal, stroll into tiny villages as the barge cruises, relax on the deck to soak in the incredible scenery, mingle with other guests, lose yourself in a book, take a nap, or visit your Captain in the wheelhouse.
Are there bikes on board?
Yes! Barges carry simple to use touring bicycles for guests to use at their leisure. On barges that cruise on canals, towpaths run alongside the waterway, perfect for cycling or strolling. It is very easy to get on and off the barge at the various locks along the canal. The crew will help you and the bike on and off the barge. A handful of barges cruise on petite rivers. Biking opportunities are not as plentiful, but can be arranged on some days.
What is the cuisine like on a barge cruise?
Food and wine are major highlights of barge cruising! Wake up to a beautifully presented breakfast spread of freshly baked croissants, pastries, cereals and fruits. Buffet style lunches, multi-course dinners and desserts are prepared fresh by your gourmet Chef every day showcasing local ingredients. “Continental Cuisine” is the style of food served on board…the barges DO NOT serve brains, sweet breads, tripe, or headcheese! Sample menus appear on all barges on our website. Almost everything is made from scratch – the pastas, sauces, quiches, ice creams, etc. The presentations are artistic and exquisite. A red and white wine is hand selected by your Chef to complement every meal. These wines are local vintages of the cruise region and are not exported, thus making for pleasurable discoveries. Of course…don’t forget the cheeses! An indulgent cheese selection is presented after each lunch and dinner, allowing you to sample a variety of local favorites. On barges with meals eaten on shore, you will dine at charming restaurants and casual bistros. These venues have been selected by the barge owner to create an authentic dining experience. Dine with the locals like a local!
Can the Chef Accommodate Vegetarians and Life Threatening Food Allergies?
Yes! Your Chef is a top professional and can handle almost anything! Be sure to let us know well in advance of departure your dietary allergies or health-related dietary restrictions. Vegetarian is a nonissue on barges these days but still important to let us know in advance. Throughout the cruise week a wide range of delectable cuisine is served, be adventurous and you may be pleasantly delighted with your new found love!
What do I wear?
When The Barge Lady and Monsieur Barge Lady go barge cruising, they bring comfortable “casual smart” attire. During the day, casual and comfortable are the keywords. At night, most guests change into something slightly dressier, although this is not necessary. There may or may not be a “Captain’s Dinner” on your cruise. The format varies widely from barge to barge, but will bear no resemblance whatsoever to those fancy affairs on the large cruise ships! The last night’s dinner will always be celebratory, may include more courses than the previous dinners, and usually offers an appearance – and toast – from the crew. Guests may dress up a bit for the last night, but this is not mandatory. If you itinerary includes a Michelin starred restaurant, we recommend “country club casual” attire.
Is there laundry onboard?
On only one barge, La Nouvelle Etoile, is there a washing machine and dryer for the guest’s use. The availability of laundry service varies widely. On most barges, there is none at all. As of this writing, both the Shannon Princess in Ireland and the Prosperite in Southern Burgundy offer scheduled on shore laundry service at the guest’s expense. It is always possible to rinse a few light items in your cabin sink. If laundry is a requirement for you, we suggest that you arrange to have it done at your pre- or post-barge hotel.
What, who and how do I tip the crew?
As a general guide, we suggest an amount of 5-10% of your cruise price for the entire tip amount.
For example, if Mr. and Mrs. Smith paid $10,000 for their cruise:
• 5% = $500, 7% = $700, and 10% – $1,000. (We think that 7% is average, and 10% is on the high side.)
• Remember that tips must be earned, and this is a simply a guide.
• This is a personal decision based on the level of service that you received, the crew is always appreciative.
• On the last day of the cruise, you will give your tip amount in ONE LUMP SUM in USD or local currency to
your Captain/Guide, whomever you interact the most with – this will be clear upon arrival.
• He/she will distribute it accordingly among the rest of the crew.
• Rest assured it will be distributed…if it is not, there will not be a crew the next day!
TIPS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED VIA CREDIT CARD OR PERSONAL CHECKS.
How does The Barge Lady tip?
She brings a few hundred dollars in local currency with her on the first day of the cruise and keeps it in her cabin. She stops at an ATM a few times throughout the week during the daily excursion to accumulate the tip amount. ATMs are readily available in the larger towns that you visit. Be sure to know your ATM pin number and to phone the issuing bank before leaving home to advise them your travel dates and what countries you will be visiting. This is for your security. We suggest you travel with two charge cards so you have a backup.
Are there creature comforts on board?
Hair dryers, internet access, cell phone reception, electrical requirements? YES, YES AND YES! Each cabin has a hair dryer. Your barge is equipped with a laptop or WIFI… HOWEVER, it can be unreliable, spotty and even nonexistent at many times. Why? You are in the rural countryside! It is similar to being deep in the Rocky Mountains – sometimes there is reception, and sometimes there is not!
• You will get cell phone service for most of the cruise route.
• Cell phone service in the larger towns is definite.
• Barges in France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany are wired for 220 volts, while
• Barges in England, Ireland, and Scotland are wired for 240 volts.
• You must bring the proper adapter/converters to charge any devices that you bring.
What is the weather like during my barge cruise?
Unfortunately, The Barge Lady is not a meteorologist and cannot predict the weather! We suggest you visit www.weather.com and enter your cruise region. April, May, and October are cooler and more unpredictable, while July and August tend to be hot. For guests barging in April, May, and October, we advise you to bring many layers (sweaters, turtlenecks, jackets), as the weather can be cool and changeable over the course of a single day.