As Told by Our Guests...

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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

Everybody 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

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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.

Travelling Solo
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.

Multi Generational Cruises

Multi Generational Cruises - Family Picnic

With capacity for between 6 and 20 passengers, a private hotel barge charter is perfect for a multi generational getaway

A Home Away from Home

Saloon

All hotel barges in the fleet benefit from an annual refurbishment and this may vary from redecoration and refurnishing of the...

Enriching Excursions

Excursions

Every hotel barge cruise includes daily excursions to some fascinating local places of interest - châteaux, Cathar hilltop...

Insider Experiences

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These experiences form the heart of a European Waterways cruise; spontaneous, unique adventures that just couldn't be had anywhere else

Hotel Barging Experience

Barging Experience

Far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, hotel barge voyages allow you to travel in luxury without the strains of...

Outstanding Service

Service

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...

A Gastronomic Experience

Dining

The classic traditions of French and International cuisine are an unforgettable highlight of your cruise. The onboard chefs are...

Themed Charter Cruises

Walking

We can arrange a wide selection of themed charter cruises which will appeal to all types of interest groups, large or small...

Family & Friends Cruises

Family Cruise

Families or groups of friends can charter any of the hotel barges. You will have the whole vessel to yourselves and she becomes a...

Barging & Biking

Spirit Of Scotland Biking

We know that many of our passengers enjoy taking some exercise during their hotel barge cruise, so each vessel carries...

Shopping & Markets

Wonderful Local cheeses

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...

Wine & Whisky Tours

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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.

European Waterways Europe Map

Popular Destinations

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.

La Belle Epoque

La Belle Epoque - Cruising - 490

La Belle Epoque is a deluxe, 12 passenger hotel barge that cruises the picturesque Burgundy Canal in Northern Burgundy

Finesse

The Ultra-Deluxe hotel barge Finesse

Finesse is an ultra deluxe, 8 passenger hotel barge that cruises the River Saône and Canal du Centre in Southern Burgundy

Kir Royale

Hotel barge Kir Royale cruising Champagne

Kir Royale is a ultra deluxe, 8 passenger hotel barge that cruises the renowned Champagne region of France

L’Art de Vivre

L’Art de Vivre is a first class, 8 passenger hotel barge that cruises the charming Canal du Nivernais and River Yonne in 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.

Whisky Cruises

For lovers of whisky, join our Whisky Trail cruise that takes in distilleries close to the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness.

Wine Appreciation Cruises

Burgundy and the Languedoc region are perfect for our wine appreciation barge trips in France.

Family Cruises

Families can charter any of our vessels and enjoy a home from home experience while exploring the best of France’s waterways.

Biking Cruises

Cycling the long towpaths running next to the canals in Scotland and France is a relaxing activity that complements any of our holidays.

Verified Reviews

Video Feed

We uploaded our first video in 2010 and since then we have added over 100 hotel barging videos and received over 3,000,000 views on YouTube. We hope you enjoyed watching our videos…

Video of the Week

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Travel Expert, Lindsay Myers recounts her cruise aboard La Belle Epoque for NBC Access Hollywood

Hotel Barge L'Impressionniste

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Hotel Barge La Belle Epoque

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The Lock-Keeper Blog

The Lock-Keeper has gone viral! Every few weeks we will be blogging about the Hotel barging experience; From the history of our hotel barges to some of the off the beaten track excursions we visit. Intrigued? Then read on…

Spotlight on L’Art de Vivre: From War Barge to Hotel Barge in Burgundy

A historic barge with a fascinating past, now a luxury hotel barge cruising the Canal du Nivernais in Burgundy, offering stylish interiors, gourmet dining, and unforgettable excursions. Read More

Family Fun Afloat: Multi-Generational Family Cruises in Europe

A hotel barge cruise is a fantastic option for multi-generational families looking to enjoy a unique and relaxing escape together. With the entire barge privately chartered for your group, you... Read More

European Waterways – The First 50 years! Memories of the Founder

Derek Banks shares the fascinating journey of how he went from cleaning and servicing boats on the River Thames to owning and operating a fleet of luxury hotel barges in... Read More

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.

La Belle barge provides small-scale cruising with a very French flavour

Mike Grenby spent 6 days on the Burgundy canal, read about his Belle Epoque adventure here Read More

La Belle barge provides small-scale cruising with a very French flavour

Mike Grenby spent 6 days on the Burgundy canal, read about his Belle Epoque adventure here Read More

Slow Barge through the Loire Valley

Karen Pasquali Jones takes a tranquil cruise aboard Renaissance, through Burgundy and the Upper Loire Read More

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. You can find all our cruise rates here.

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