Meet L'Impressionniste Captain, Mélissa Gilly

Captain Mélissa Gilly has been sailing since she was 3 months old. Well-versed in navigating oceans, rivers and canals – she now Captains L’Impressionniste as she cruises through the French waterways of Burgundy. Meet Captain Mélissa…

How long have you worked for EW?

I have been working for European waterways for 6 years

Is it how you expected it to be?

When I started to work for European Waterways, it was just a job I planned to do for one season. Never did I expect it to become a career!

Tell us about your love of the waterways

I was 3 months old when I sailed around the world with my parents and my brother. Water is a big part of my life as far as I can remember, and even if I can’t – it’s in my blood. I’m in love with nature: I love hiking, climbing and kayaking, so being on a river or canal fuses my connection between water and earth. I love it so much, I live on a boat all year long!

What was your very first job?

My very first job was Tour Guide and Deck Hand on L’Art de Vivre, 6 years ago.


What inspired you to become a barge Captain?

The people I met throughout the years. I did not consider being a Captain at the beginning, but a lot of people on my journey told me it was an opportunity to take – especially my first Captain, who pushed me hard every time to go for it – and taught me a lot! After that, working with different Captains around France taught me a lot…

What are you most proud of about working for EW?

Year after year, European waterways became more than just a company to work for. They care about their crew and we want to work hard for them. I am really proud about how European Waterways goes from strength-to-strength each year, giving crew the opportunity to grow in their careers. Look at me –  from Tour Guide and Deck Hand to Captain!

What are your favourite daily duties?

  1. Drink my morning coffee on the water
  2. Pick up the bread when everybody is still asleep
  3. Pilot the boat of course!
  4. Pick up the guests, first contact with them is a really exciting time…
  5. Being able to problem solve something in no time – it’s the best feeling ever!
  6. Talking to guests, and hearing all their stories! Does that count as a daily duty?

What do you like most about being Captain of a barge?

Since the day I got my licence and became Captain, I took on all the responsibilities this job involves. It’s a huge thing, but I see also see this as a wonderful opportunity to create something unique onboard for the guests and crew to experience.

Spirit of Scotland crew -

Favourite region to cruise in?

The Nivernais Canal on the L’Art de Vivre will always have a special place in my heart. This is where everything started for me!

What makes your barge unique?

The crew! I always want the crew to get along well with each other . People will say “yes everybody wants that”, but do they always mean it? I certainly do! Living together 7 days a week, 24 hours a day can be challenging for the 6 or 4 of us! And, keeping the same crew from the beginning to the end is to encourage and trust in everybody skillsets!  Your reward is having a crew who care, helping each other and being dependable. At the end we are all in the same boat (quite literally!)

What feature do guests always love?

I have so many stories, but for me this is something exclusive for my guests while they are onboard. During a nice dinner with a glass of wine, or after dinner when I am behind the bar pouring them a welcomed digestive.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on a sailing boat, then in New Caledonia – a French island in the Pacific Ocean

Do you live on a boat?

Yes I do. I have for the past three years with my partner

Post-season pleasures?

At the beginning I used to travel a lot: Asia, South America, New Zealand, Australia and of course New Caledonia! Now I spend more time renovating the boat we bought, and I also give climbing lessons!

What would you do if you weren't a barge Captain?

This is a really relevant question. I don’t see myself doing anything else, which is tricky! One day it will be good to do something that would suit a family lifestyle, for example. But as it stands, I am very happy with what I’m doing!

Luxury hotel barge, L'Impressionniste cruising past chateuneuf in Burgundy, France

Meet Captain Mélissa aboard L'Impressionniste

Journey through Southern Burgundy’s vineyards on the 12-passenger luxury barge, L’Impressionniste, led by Captain Mélissa and her fabulous crew.
View our L’Impressionniste itinerary here >

For help in planning your post-lockdown escape along Europe’s charming waterways, please talk to a member of our team or order a copy of our brochure.

Inspired? Visit our Special Offers page to further inspire your wanderlust. 

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