Barge cruising is much better than it may sound at first! Originally they were actual barges, but then retrofitted to be lovely little country inns. Barges are essentially extra small Riverships that are designed to cruise the same rivers and mostly are found on smaller tributaries and canals. They do not have all of the accessories and amenities of a full size rivership, but they do offer their own advantages.
Just as riverships offer a smaller group setting than typical ocean cruises, barges are that much more intimate. They typically are sized to accommodate only 4 to 20 guests, with the majority being 8 – 14 guests! A family or group of friends could easily be the entire group on board, with exclusive run of the ship, with precious time spent with one another without distraction. If you do make sure you reach out to a charter specialist!
While we do not rate barge cruises here, we do recommend checking the star rating of barges, as they range considerably from 1 star to 6 stars, much like a hotel rating system as far as what to expect.
With 4 stars or higher, you can expect nice accommodations, and fresh regional gourmet food professionally prepared and served with great wines! You can expect all onboard meals to be included, albeit with a single dining area. Usually there is a quaint lounge area with just enough seats for the number of guests, and a nice little all-inclusive bar. Everyone will know your name right away! The crew and staff are quite small, and often hosted by a family that owns the ship, captains the ship, prepares the meals, and acts as your local host.
By the way, you can occasionally find a special interest barge cruise, such as Golfing or Biking!
Fun Fact: The vast majority of Barge cruises are in France, but there are more than a few in England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Italy.
Typically visiting smaller towns along the countryside, they usually (but not always) include shore excursions with a local guide. A barge will be traveling considerably more slowly than a rivership, and will not be going a very long distance – say a maximum of 80 to 100 kilometers depending on itinerary. Because of the slower pace on and off the barge, enjoy the scenery and the local life from your floating boutique hotel!
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