Travel Dream - Winter 2014/15 - page 6

hat is hotel barging? Despite the growing
popularity of cruising, particularly on river
boats, this is still a little known niche concept
within the vast cruise industry. Maybe the term
“barging” deters interest, conjuring up images of
narrowboats or coal lighters. In fact, nothing could be
further from the truth.
Most hotel barges started life as cargo vessels but have
since been painstakingly converted to offer luxury
boutique accommodation for small groups of up to 20
passengers. This is cruising, but in a very different style to
ships plying the big rivers or oceans. The pace is slow,
with a 6-day cruise often covering little more than 50
miles along a rural canal. Passengers can walk or bike the
towpaths and never be left behind as their floating hotel
glides gently along. The idea is to offer guests full
immersion into the culture, history and gastronomy of
one of a number of fascinating regions of Europe such as
Burgundy, the Midi, Alsace, or the Italian Veneto.
Every day, when not cruising, a crew member leads an
excursion, perhaps to a vineyard for a wine tasting, a
market where the chef might buy fresh, local
ingredients for the evening meal or a visit to a unique
“off the beaten track” location that you would never
find on your own. These could be to still-inhabited
troglodyte cave dwellings, a private chateau or to see
an olive oil press at work and sample its produce.
Surprisingly for such a largely unknown travel concept, the
leading hotel barging company, European Waterways, has
been offering its exclusive floating hotels for nearly 40
years. There are 18 vessels in the fleet, the best known of
which is
, star of Rick Stein’s award winning BBC TV
series “French Odyssey”, transporting him along the Canal
du Midi on a voyage of culinary discovery. Other hotel
barges offer the same intimate atmosphere, all with high
levels of personal service and access to the tranquillity of
smaller waterways which larger vessels cannot reach.
About half of European Waterways’ bookings are for
whole boat charters. The small passenger capacity
offers a unique opportunity for groups of friends or
family to enjoy their own bespoke private cruise.
Otherwise, clients book a cabin to join the floating
house party, hosted by the Captain and pampered by
the chef and the rest of the crew.
Whether you fancy a soak in the on-deck spa-pool, a
game of boules on the bank or just to sit and watch the
sun go down over the countryside with cocktail in hand,
a “slow boat” European Waterways barge cruise offers
the ultimate in experiential travel.
Luxury Hotel Barge Cruising
A truly unique experience with
European Waterways
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