When you think of European river cruises, famous waterways such as the Rhine and Danube quickly come to mind. However, whilst these offer fantastic trips steeped in history and culture, this is not the only way to sail through Europe.
If you’re looking for something slightly different, why not think smaller? Instead of fast-flowing rivers, think leisurely canals. Instead of 180-capacity ships, think 12-person barges. And instead of crowded city tours, think unique local experiences.
Here are just a few reasons why we think you’ll love French canal cruising.
Although some of the service on larger river ships is very attentive, it is much easier for the crew to get to know you on a personal level when there are only a few people on board. With a maximum capacity of just 12 guests, you will form new friendships with everyone else on the ship – whether they are fellow guests or the chef serving you dinner every evening.
River cruise lines are adding more and more authentic excursions in each port, but what if every activity was something which reflected the local area? The small groups on these barge cruises allow for more intimate excursions which are unique, exciting and offer a certain amount of exclusivity. Examples include shopping for your dinner ingredients at a local market, private wine tastings at traditional chateaux and the chance to visit residences of the Duke of Burgundy. There are also plenty of opportunities to bike alongside the ship and climb back on board in the next village.
The smaller barges (those with room for two, four and six guests) are available for charter, meaning that you and your group will have the whole place to yourselves. There will be no one to share the pool with, no need to worry about sitting with strangers at dinner and plenty of time to catch up with family and friends. Even the larger barges only have capacity for up to six couples, which means you’ll be able to get to know your fellow guests much easier.
French cuisine is synonymous with luxury and elegance around the world and travelling through regions such as Champagne and Burgundy will offer plenty of chances to sample the local fare. Whether during a shore excursion or in the restaurant on board, you will be served some delicious local dishes paired with some of the best wines around. The chef will even talk to you briefly about the food before you tuck in each evening. What’s more, these gourmet meals and fine wines are all included in the price of your canal cruise.
Floating through France in a barge provides a much more leisurely-paced holiday than sailing on the larger rivers in Europe. There’s a wealth of space in which to relax on board and you’ll never feel like you are being hurried on and off the ship when you arrive in port. Because you’ll be part of such a small group, you have the power to shape your own itinerary to some extent, meaning you can do everything at your own pace if you choose.
If you have already been on a Rhine or Danube river cruise and you want to see a different part of Europe, French canal cruising is an excellent choice. Some of the itineraries travel along the Rhone, but most take place on smaller, more scenic rivers and canals. You will be stopping in quintessential towns and villages throughout Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace and along the Canal du Midi.
If you would like more information about our French canal cruises, call our friendly team for free on 0808 271 4241. We have itineraries available from Belmond and European Waterways and will help you find your perfect journey.
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