Welcome to our exclusive collection of hotel barge cruises. For over 40 years, we have specialised in creating luxury barge holidays on some of the most beautiful waterways in Europe.
As Told by Our Guests...
The welcome we received and everything on board was perfect
Pauline Taplin, Hampshire, UK
This is a treasure that most people don’t know about
Denise Thorson , New Jersey, USA
Everbody should do this at least once in their life
Charles Baertl, Texas USA
For a very special occasion this is the place to be
John Thorson, New Jersey, USA
The Hotel Barging Experience
Whether your interests lie in gastronomy and wine, local history, and culture, or just relaxing on deck with a good book and a glass of Chablis, a “slow boat” voyage with us offers the ultimate in experiential travel. Each day as your ‘floating boutique hotel’ glides sedately along at walking pace, you can relax on deck and take in the passing countryside, then perhaps hop off at the next lock to stroll along the towpath or enjoy a little exercise on one of the barge’s bicycles.
With capacity for up to 20 passengers on board, a hotel barge cruise offers a more intimate, informal atmosphere than on larger river and ocean cruise vessels, so it is an excellent choice for couples, single travellers, families, or small groups.
Making New Friends as a Couple
Many of our guests choose a hotel barge cruise with us because they relish the chance to meet other like-minded travellers who enjoy the finer things in life, such as great service, fine dining, wine and good conversation. They are keen to find out more about local culture and history, but at the same time want an absorbing, slow-paced voyage of discovery.
Private Whole Barge Charters
When you charter one of our hotel barges – be it for a precious family gathering or friends’ reunion, a one-off celebration, or as a special interest group – we can arrange tailored itineraries to please everyone, whatever your ages or interests.
Our gentle voyages are also ideal for the single traveller who will be welcomed into the fold by the crew and their fellow ship-mates to join the ‘floating house party’, with everyone dining together around the same table and enjoying all the private escorted daily excursions as a group.
On board, there is a relaxed, intimate ‘house party’ atmosphere, whether you choose to cruise with other like-minded people, or charter the whole barge privately as a family or a group of friends.
With capacity for between 6 and 20 passengers, a private hotel barge charter is perfect for a multi generational getaway
All hotel barges in the fleet benefit from an annual refurbishment and this may vary from redecoration and refurnishing of the...
Every hotel barge cruise includes daily excursions to some fascinating local places of interest - châteaux, Cathar hilltop...
These experiences form the heart of a European Waterways cruise; spontaneous, unique adventures that just couldn't be had anywhere else
Far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, hotel barge voyages allow you to travel in luxury without the strains of...
Crews are mainly British or French and they all speak English, so there is no need to worry about a language barrier when they are...
The classic traditions of French and International cuisine are an unforgettable highlight of your cruise. The onboard chefs are...
We can arrange a wide selection of themed charter cruises which will appeal to all types of interest groups, large or small...
Families or groups of friends can charter any of the hotel barges. You will have the whole vessel to yourselves and she becomes a...
We know that many of our passengers enjoy taking some exercise during their hotel barge cruise, so each vessel carries...
Even if you are not normally a lover of shopping, the vast array of fascinating shops and markets you can discover on one of our...
Many of our cruises are through some of the best wine- growing regions of France, such as Burgundy, Bordeaux...
Where We Cruise in Europe
Discover the fascinating world of barging, through the vineyards of Burgundy, on the shady Canal du Midi in Southern France, the historic Po Valley in Italy, or the River Shannon in rustic Ireland. Navigate the Royal River Thames, through the stunningly rugged landscapes of Scotland, picturesque Alsace & Lorraine, or the colourful tulip fields of Holland.
Our Exclusive Collection of Hotel Barges
The hotel barges in our 18-vessel fleet have a wealth of history behind them. Most of the vessels are owned by us, and others by experienced hands-on operators who work with us and meet our required high standards. You’ll find a wide variety of styles, sizes and pedigrees within the fleet, due to their specific purpose when originally built.
All our barges offer a similar cruising experience, with each having its own characteristics and personality. Styles will range from the feel of a traditional, classic cosy floating ‘country house’ with varnished wood and brass, rich textures and fabrics, and interiors to reflect the beauty of the region, to a more spacious contemporary appearance, designed with style and elegance in mind.
Each barge has been awarded a cruise rating, with each category primarily referring to cabin sizing. Our Ultra Deluxe cruises enjoy very spacious cabin suites, comparable to luxury hotels. Deluxe barges offer comfortable, slightly smaller cabins, whilst our lead-in First Class barges enjoy compact but cosy cabins.
Vessel sizes also vary, mainly to conform with the dimensions of the locks on the different waterways on which we cruise. Size also influences the number of passengers which are carried, from 6 on our smallest hotel barge, Nymphea, in the Loire Valley, up to 20 passengers on our largest vessel, La Bella Vita, cruising the Venetian Lagoon and River Po. Whatever the size or style, you can rest assured the level of service remains impeccable throughout your stay.
Nymphea is a first class, 6 passenger hotel barge that cruises the River Cher in the heart of the Loire Valley
Rosa is a first class, 8 passenger hotel barge that cruises the Canal de Garonne in the Gascony and Bordeaux regions of southwest France
Athos is a first class 10 passenger hotel barge that cruises the historic Canal du Midi in southwest France
Finesse is an ultra deluxe, 8 passenger hotel barge that cruises the River Saône and Canal du Centre in Southern Burgundy
Themed Barge Holidays
We can arrange a wide selection of themed charter cruises which will appeal to all types of groups, large or small and centred around interests, from local culture and gastronomy, to more active pursuits such as golf and walking.
In the Press
There have been many interesting and entertaining articles written by journalists and travel writers from across the globe about their journeys on our luxury hotel barge cruises.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who owns European Waterways?
European Waterways has grown to become the largest hotel barging company in Europe. It remains a private company that is still owned and run by its directors – John Wood-Dow and Derek Banks. Some might say they were pioneers in hotel barging holidays!
What is the difference between a barge cruise and a river cruise?
- Hotel barges cruise the smaller rivers and canals that are often inaccessible to larger vessels
- Hotel barges accommodate a maximum of 20 passengers, with a passenger to crew ratio of 2:1 or less; ensuring attentive and personalised service
- Cruises cover shorter distances, at a very slow speed and never at night
- Cruising just a few feet from the towpath, it’s easy to step off and explore on foot or bicycle
- Unique cruising experiences that are not available to larger vessels e.g. Eiffel’s aqueduct at Briare, or the boat elevator at Arzviller
- With an on-board chef, meals focus on the specialities of the region
- Private, whole barge charters are possible for families, friends and special interest groups
- The pace is gentle, with time for immersion in the local culture, history and gastronomy
- Excursions are in small groups to places “off the beaten track
- Canals are quieter, usually with little other water-borne traffic,
and never any rough weather!
What is barge cruising?
Barge cruising refers to a type of leisure travel where passengers can enjoy a relaxed and luxurious vacation experience onboard a barge that navigates along scenic canals, rivers, and other waterways. These barges are typically smaller in size and offer a more intimate and exclusive setting compared to larger cruise ships. Barge cruises often focus on exploring specific regions or countries, such as the Canal du Midi, Burgundy and Champagne regions of France, and provide an opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture, history, and cuisine. Passengers can enjoy onboard amenities, gourmet meals, and personalized itineraries that include excursions to nearby attractions and destinations. Barge cruising is known for offering a more tranquil and slow-paced travel experience, allowing passengers to relax and appreciate the scenic beauty of the surrounding landscapes.
How much does a cruise in Europe cost?
The price of a cruise in Europe will vary, depending on several factors. These include your chosen destination, departure dates, and the category class of hotel barge chosen for your luxury European cruise. Cabins start from approximately $4,000pp based on two people sharing , while prices for a whole barge charter start from $40,000 booking our 6-night all inclusive cruises. You can find all our cruise rates here.
How fast do barge boats go?
The speed of a barge boat can vary depending on several factors such as the size, load capacity, and the power of its engines. On average, barge boats tend to cruise at speeds ranging from 4 to 12 miles per hour (6 to 19 kilometres per hour). European Waterways luxury barge cruises are generally less than 70 miles in a week, at only 3mph.
What do you wear on a barge trip?
Practical comfort and casual clothing is the norm for most excursions. The dress code for dinner is relaxed and informal. For the Captain’s Farewell Dinner on
the final evening, guests often dress up, which is optional. The weather in Europe is generally warm. June, July, and August is the warmest, often being in the mid 30’s.
Suggested things to pack: Light clothing including shorts and T-shirts. A sweater or lightweight jacket is recommended for evenings and the air-conditioned interiors. During spring and autumn, you may need medium weight clothing. A lightweight raincoat for showery times would be advisable. In summer, a sun hat can be useful. Comfortable walking shoes with textured non-slip soles are recommended. Most barges have a spa pool so don’t forget your swimwear. Towels are provided.
How far does a barge travel?
The distance a barge can travel depends on various factors such as its size, operational speed, and the waterway it is navigating. Generally, barges are used for slow-speed transportation, often carrying bulk goods, and are mainly used in inland and coastal waterways. European Waterways cruises are generally less than 70 miles in a week, at only 3mph.
What is the best time to take a European cruise?
The best time for a European cruise is between early April – late October. During this time, days are bright, with the sun often shining and warm weather upon us. Many hotel barges do not cruise during the winter season, as many of the canals are closed for navigation. That’s why, here at European Waterways, we generally only offer cruises between the spring and autumn seasons.
Where does a European cruise go?
The beauty of European cruising is that there are so many different destinations to choose from! You can cruise in Burgundy, the Canal du Midi, or Alsace & Lorraine in France; perhaps in Venice, Italy or venture north to the dramatic Scottish Highlands. You can browse all European cruising destinations by clicking on the ‘destinations’ tab at the top of this page.
Where do barges travel?
Barges can travel on rivers, canals, and inland waterways. They are commonly used for transporting goods and materials such as coal, grain, oil, and other cargo. European Waterways luxury barge offer the widest choice of any hotel barge company with destinations across 9 countries – from the picturesque vineyards of Burgundy to the spectacular Scottish Highlands.
Are barge cruises expensive?
The cost of a barge cruise can vary depending on factors such as the length of the trip, the destination, the level of luxury or amenities provided, and the cruise operator. Generally, barge cruises tend to be more expensive than conventional ocean cruises due to the smaller size of the vessels and the more exclusive and intimate experience they offer. The all-inclusive nature of many barge cruises, which often include meals, drinks, guided tours, and other activities, can also contribute to the overall cost.