A gentle cruise on a crewed canal barge is the perfect way to discover the very soul of France, exploring its wonderful countryside and historical treasures. You will feel pampered with most amenities included and take to one of these beautiful barges like a duck to water!
Far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, crewed canal barge voyages allow you to stay on your ‘floating hotel’ without worrying about packing and unpacking every day, whilst enjoying a balanced menu of daily excursions and fascinating sightseeing. The journey starts when you are transferred from a designated meeting point to your new home for the next few days. Enjoy a welcome drink and the opportunity to meet your English-speaking crew and fellow passengers and settle in your comfortable stateroom or suite, with full ensuite facilities. Some barges will take you on a short cruise on your first evening and immediately the fascinating world of barge cruising begins to unfold before you. Then, perhaps after an aperitif, it’s time to indulge in your first on-board gourmet dining experience complemented by a nice glass of wine.
Relax and unwind
Relax and unwind each day. Once underway, your barge moves at such a leisurely pace from one peaceful mooring to the next, that you can get on and off at pretty locks and just wander along the towpath. You may come across some local villagers playing a game of pétanque or discover a vineyard. The barges all carry bicycles for tow path riding and other excursions ashore and the little villages and farms we discover as we cruise by become part of the adventure. Alternatively, just observe the ever-changing landscapes from the comfort of the sun deck. After a day of cruising or sightseeing, your barge moors for the night and you can relax over drinks and dinner before being gently rocked to sleep by the peaceful waters of the canal . In Burgundy and the Loire Valley, hot-air ballooning is an exciting option. Ballooning generally takes place in the early hours just after dawn or before sunset, when the air is still and the light is perfect for drifting gently along and gazing down at the beautiful countryside below.
Whichever barge you choose to cruise on, you can be assured that a lot of thought and care has gone into combining traditional features with modern comforts. Accommodation ranges from charming staterooms to suites with sitting areas. All rooms have storage facilities and private en suites.
Your crew is made up of an experienced Captain, who may also double as a tour guide, a Master Chef, a hostess who serves your meals and keeps the barge clean and tidy and a deck hand. The highly professional, English-speaking crews take their roles very seriously; they are always attentive to your needs and will share their rich local knowledge with you.
Each morning you will awaken to fresh bread, pastries and fruit, brought on board from local shops. Lunch is an arrangement of salads, pâtes, quiches and cheeses, accompanied with fine wines. Dinner is the culinary highlight of each day, prepared using fresh local ingredients and paired with fine wines.
Wine & Cheese
Whichever region of France you are cruising through, you can be sure there is a wonderful selection of wines and cheeses to enjoy! After a thousand years of wine production and the creation of hundreds of cheeses, the French are convinced that quality and choice are fundamental to everyday life and after your time on board, you will be too.
Every barge includes daily excursions to local places of interest – imposing citadels, elegant châteaux, colourful markets and renowned wine cellars. Many of the excursions are a short walk from the barge, if further, you will be taken by air-conditioned minibus. Each excursion is led by a knowledgeable English-speaking tour guide.
Shopping & Markets
Most cruises are through rural areas, but are often just a short distance from some wonderful old towns where there are great shopping opportunities. You can visit the brocantes (flea markets) for unusual antiques, boutique couturiers for the latest fashions or the vibrant local food markets.
Each crewed canal barge carries bicycles for everyone on board to use. Some barges offer the option of taking a bike each day and riding along a route that has been researched by your crew. They will provide a backpack with everything you need and a map showing you the best way to explore the surrounding countryside and villages.
Ask us for advice about the best way to travel to the designated meeting point for your barge. You may choose to hire a car, take a train or fly to your destination. To create a great French experience, why not add one of our Paris Packages to the beginning or end of your trip?
To set expectations, French Travel Connection has classified all barges according to 4 different ratings: Charming Class, Premier Class, Luxe Class and Ultra Luxury Class.
- Charming Class - For guests for whom the regional experience is the priority as opposed to luxury on-board amenities. Barges can welcome up to 24 guests and have fewer crew members. Barges are cosy and comfortable; each cabin had an en-suite bathroom. From 1,590 Euros per person. Our Charming class barges are the following: Anne-Marie, Jeanine, Madeleine, Deborah and Raymonde.
- Premier Class - This category includes barges with small en-suite cabins, decorated in keeping with the region visited. You will have an attentive crew. All meals and their local accompanied wines are included, along with excursions. From 3,590 Euros per person. View of Premier class barges: Rosa, Athos, Anjodi, Art de Vivre and Nymphea.
- Luxe Class – Our Luxe Class barges have spacious cabins, beautiful décor, hot tubs, refined cuisine with a variety of wines and highly-trained crew. From 4,190 Euros per person. From 4,190 Euros per persons. View our Luxe class barges: La Belle Epoque, Panache, Enchante, Clair de Lune, L’Impressionniste and Belmond Hirondelle.
- Ultra Luxury Class - Offering complete luxury with the best service possible , our ultra luxury barges are ornately decorated with fine fabrics and antiques. Many have grand pianos and hot tubs, and are committed to top-quality cuisine, wine and a truly personalised service. From 5,490 Euros per person. View our Ultra Luxury class barges: Renaissance, La Nouvelle Etoile, Finesse, Belmond Alouette, Belmond Napoleon, Belmond Fleur de Lys and Belmond Amaryllis.
Location of some of our barges: