Meet Our World Class Captains!

From the dramatic lochs and glens of the Scottish Highlands, to the sun soaked Mediterranean vineyards of the Canal du Midi, we thought it was about time to introduce you to some of the incredible Captains at the heart of your barging experience.

Anjodi - Laurent Charbonnier

Laurent, a familiar face on the Canal du Midi, is entering his 19th season and will mark his tenth year as captain of Anjodi in 2024. Known for his exceptional customer service and playful sense of humor, Laurent never fails to delight his guests. He first crossed paths with his wife, Sarah, while working as crewmembers on L’Impressionniste. They now reside with their three children in close proximity to the Canal du Midi.

Anjodi - Captain Laurent

L'Impressionniste - Gillian Rooney

Gillian hails from Scotland. After owning her own business in the hospitality industry, she decided to move with her family to the French Alps several years ago to continue working in hospitality, particularly in ski tourism during the winter and at a privately owned castle in the summer. Gillian joined European Waterways last year as a tour guide and has now taken on the role of Cruise Director on L’Impressionniste.

La Belle Epoque - Craig Jenner

Craig comes from a family with a background in barging, having been raised in France where his parents owned the barge Elisabeth. He has also operated other barges and worked as a pub landlord! This year, he joins European Waterways as the Cruise Director of La Belle Époque, bringing with him extensive hospitality experience and a strong passion for hotel barging.

Craig - La Belle Epoque

Panache - Bryan Bodart

After several years in the hospitality industry, Bryan began his career at European Waterways four years ago on the Renaissance as a host. He quickly progressed within the company, taking on other positions to achieve his goal of becoming a captain. Before becoming the Cruise Director on Panache for his second season now, he served as a guide/deckhand. He is also currently practicing to obtain his boat license in the near future.

Bryan - Panache

Kir Royale - Charles Mercier

Charles is French and a passionate sailor who has spent several years in the Caribbean yacht charter business. Upon returning to his mother country, he worked as a tour guide on L’Impressioniste and Finesse before being offered the position of Cruise Director on the newest vessel in the fleet. Currently, Charles is fully engaged in the refit project in Holland and will be prepared to set sail when the barge launches in June.

Charles - Kir Royale

Renaissance - Hadrien Famy

Hadrien is a Parisian with a love and innate understanding of all things French. Two years spent on a working visa in Australia did not diminish his passion for travel, and upon returning to France, he was excited about the prospect of discovering his own country through the canal system. His first season with European Waterways was spent as a deckhand on L’Impressionniste, where he literally learned the ropes. From there, he joined Renaissance, where he will be returning for his tenth season as Captain.

Hadrian Renaissance

L'Art de Vivre - Matthew Price

With nine seasons of barging experience, including working as a tour guide on Anjodi, Enchante, and Renaissance, Matthew is now in his forth year as Cruise Director on L’Art de Vivre, having also spent one year as Cruise Director aboard hotel barge Finesse. Brought up in England but with a strong maternal French influence, Matthew holds a degree in Transport Design. Barging combines all of his passions – France, travel, history, architecture, and the arts – which he enjoys sharing with passengers.

L'Art de Vivre - Matthew Price

Spirit of Scotland - Helen de Cent

Helen’s passion for barging has led her to assume all roles on-board during her 12+ year career. She has been captain/cruise director of Spirit of Scotland since its launch in 2017. Helen earned her pilot’s license in 2019, but her true calling lies in interacting with passengers. This year, she will be serving as Cruise Director, delegating much of the piloting responsibilities to a fellow crew member.

Helen Spirit of Scotland

Enchanté - Nicky Gulland

Nicky is English but has been living and working in the Midi for quite some time. After serving as a tour guide on Anjodi, she became the Cruise Director of Enchanté in 2022, working alongside experienced pilot Elie. This upcoming season will mark her third season. However, Nicky has informed us that she will not be available for the entirety of the season this year. As a result, she is training guide Elizabeth to take over in her absence.

Nicky - Cruise Director Enchante

Scottish Highlander - Declan Morgan

Declan, an Irish native, spent several years in France managing the hotel barge Meanderer. Last year, he served as a tour guide on the Scottish Highlander. This year, he has taken on the role of Cruise Director in place of Mick Forster, who had to step back due to health issues after 8 years as captain. Fortunately, Mick is expected to return next year, and we are sure we will be using Declan’s huge experience elsewhere.

Declan - Scottish Highlander

Finesse - Mathias Plassais

Coming from a maritime training background, Mathias has always been drawn to boats. He joined European Waterways in 2018 and started his career as a deckhand on La Belle Epoque. He quickly demonstrated his desire to progress within the company and held positions as a deckhand-guide on Renaissance and cruise director on L’Art de Vivre while obtaining his boat license. He is now in his second season as the Captain of the Finesse.

Mathias Finesse

La Bella Vita - Rudy Toninato, Diego, and Roger

Aboard La Bella Vita, guests can expect authentic Italian family hospitality from the three Captains – Rudy, Diego, and Roger. Born in Padua, Rudy and Diego are brothers, while Roger is their cousin. Following family tradition, they all became Captains and have been involved in sailing since 1974 when their father/uncle Mario built and started sailing with the first boat, the Motonave Cinzia. The family runs a fleet of trip boats on the Venetian lagoon, but La Bella Vita is their pride and joy.

Rudy - La Bella Vita
Rudy Toninato

Magna Carta - Dominic Read

Dominic Read has been piloting hotel barges for over 30 years and designed and built Magna Carta for her first cruise back in 2002, assisted by European Waterways for whom he has also piloted barges in Scotland. Dominic captains Magna Carta, assisted by wife Katie who trains the cabin crew whilst also looking after young son Alfie. Despite everything involved in providing an exceptional cruising experience on England’s Royal River, Dom still finds time to play in a band in a local venue – you might even be able to go along!

Dominic Magna Carta

La Novelle Etoile – Bill & Lisa Desmond

Captain Bill Desmond together with his lovely wife and Cruise Director Lisa have owned and operated La Nouvelle Etoile since acquiring the barge in 2021.  The American couple met over 40 years ago while both were working in hospitality before Bill moved on to become an architect, engineer and CEO/COO and Lisa a full-time mom and later a CEO in the telecommunications industry.  Both native Californians and parents of 5 daughters and 10 grandchildren, their love of travel and entertaining is what drew them to barging in Europe as they host their many loyal and illustrious guests while cruising annually through the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Germany.

Bill and LIsa - La Nouvelle Etoile

Nymphea - Leigh Wooton

Leigh Wooton has been involved in barge cruising since 1977 and has owned Nymphea since 1978. He has lived in Burgundy and the Loire Valley since then. Leigh was closely involved in the design and construction of the hotel barge La Belle Epoque while working as manager of European Waterways operations in France for a number of years. Leigh is also an Administrator for the Barging Representative Federation in France, together with various other industry bodies and is a mine of information about all things to do with Inland Waterways.

Leigh Wooton

Rosa – Julian Allsop

Julian has a 20 year long history in the barging industry, and has been captain of Rosa for the past three seasons. Before his time on Rosa, he worked aboard a variety of other European Waterways barges such as La Belle Epoque, L’Art de Vivre and Anjodi. Very knowledgeable on French wines, his experience also even extends to working on a Venetian taxi in Sète.

Julian Allsop

Shannon Princess - Ruairi & Olivia Gibbons

The Shannon Princess is owned and operated by the Gibbons family – Ruairi and Olivia, with occasional help from their son Ross. Together they have combined their love of boating and delicious food with their years of experience in hotel barging. Ruairi is the barge’s captain and experienced tour guide with an insider’s knowledge of the River Shannon and its loughs. Olivia is the onboard chef, showcasing the best of Irish ingredients throughout the cruise whilst overseeing the deck and the interior. Along with the rest of the crew,  they provide excellent, friendly service and will ensure that all guests on board enjoy “the craic”.

Athos - Julian and Dannielle Farrant

Athos is owned and operated by Julian and Dannielle Farrant. Julian has captained the Athos for 25 seasons, traversing the canal more than 5000 times. While traveling in 1997, Dannielle worked aboard the Athos as a hostess. She was romanced by the Languedoc (and Julian), and made France her home. The Athos tour guide for eight years, she now works behind-the-scenes to ensure that cruising the Canal du Midi is your best holiday ever.

Julian & Dannielle Athos

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