Cruise on a Hotel Barge in Europe

An advantage to barge cruising is the chance to get up close and personal with some of the most historic and culturally rich regions in Europe. Think about strolling through the Keukenhof Gardens in Holland, one of the largest and most enchanting floral gardens in the world, or savoring the fine wines of Burgundy, touring the medieval town and castle of Nérac in Gascony, or sampling the famous Lucques olives — just some of the stops for European Waterways.

“Springtime in Europe is magical. The landscape is colorful and picturesque, like it jumped straight out of a Monet painting,” said Derek Banks, managing director of European Waterways. “Cruising the canals and waterways at this time of the year, you immediately understand why Europe in the Spring is so much about celebrating art, literature and culture.”

In the spring, the 12-passenger hotel barge Panache cruises Holland’s waterways, past windmills and storybook towns such as Haarlem, where Handel and Mozart played the church organ, and Leiden, the birthplace of Rembrandt. Guests will also visit the world-famous Royal Delft pottery.

Burgundy is both a fine wine and a famed region in the heart of France traversed by L’Impressionniste. Each day, guests have the option to follow the barge (on foot or on a bicycle) along the canal towpath, as well as explore the villages nearby. Then they can accompany their guide to sample a variety of Burgundy wines from the cellars of the Domaine Chateau André Ziltener. On another day, they can enjoy a tour of Dijon to see the indoor food markets with their local produce and, yes, the famous mustard shops.

On Enchanté, an eight-passenger hotel barge that cruises the Canal du Midi, guests can enjoy the hotel barge’s hot tub on the sun deck while viewing the distant Pyrenées mountains. During the six-day cruise, they can tour the medieval city of Carcassonne and visit an olive oil press to taste the famous Lucques olives, considered among the best in the world. They can also enjoy lunch in beautiful Lagrasse, a small village that is well known for its potters and artists and its Eighth century abbey.

Aboard the Rosa, guests will travel through an area of southwest France known as Gascony. An old Dutch “Clipper” barge, the Rosa has been fully restored and refitted and is stocked with enough bicycles for every guest to claim their own and explore the area at their leisure. Among the guided tours, the cruise itinerary includes a winery tour and tasting at the Château Bellevue la Fôret. Other activities include a tour of the medieval town and castle of Nérac, a crossing of a 1,000-foot-long aqueduct and a tasting at a producer of one of the region’s products, Armagnac.

European Waterways is the continent’s largest all-inclusive luxury hotel barging company, offering vacations in nine countries and carrying around 2,500 passengers a year. Founded nearly 40 years ago, they own, operate and market a private fleet of luxury hotel barges with cruises in France, Italy, Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.

(Photo courtesy of European Waterways)

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Susan McKee

Susan McKee is an independent scholar and freelance journalist specializing in history, culture and travel.