La Renaissance: The Barge
From: A Barge Cruise in France
A river yacht for eight passengers
La Renaissance began its life in 1960 as a French cargo barge. In 1997, the vessel was converted to a hotel barge, and it underwent another refit in 2006. After its acquisition by European Waterways in 2007, the barge was taken to a shipyard in Belgium for inspection, maintenance, and updating.
The barge measures 128 feet long by 17 feet 6 inches wide, or just over 51 by 5 meters. It was built to fit the locks of the canals in central France, which are smaller than river locks but larger than the locks in the Canal du Midi. For a layman, it's impressive to watch the captain and pilot squeeze La Renaissance into a 19th Century lock that offers just inches of clearance on either side.
La Renaissance has two decks:
Thehas an open bow, with a partial roof that shields the eight-person round table from sun or rain. The rest of the bow is uncovered, with a hot tub just behind the anchor winch.
Just aft of the bow area is a huge public room that's divided into two sections: the main saloon or living room, and a dining area with a large round table. Passengers can take soft drinks, mineral water, beer, or spirits from the bar without charge at any hour of the day. (A door at the back of the dining room leads to the kitchen, which guests are free to visit.)
From the saloon, stairs lead down to the, which has four two-person staterooms. (The cabins on La Renaissance aren't wheelchair-accessible; if you can't manage steps, you may want to consider a cruise on another European Waterways barge, La Reine Pedauque, which has lifts, two suites with wheelchair facilities, and a lift-equipped minibus for shore excursions.)
The helm, where the pilot steers the barge, is just behind the kitchen. (La Renaissance has a top speed of 10 knots, or 11.5 mph / 18.5 km/h), but most of the time it cruises at the canal speed limit of 6 km/h or 4 mph.) Crew quarters are aft and all the way forward; most of the crew live on board, although--on our cruise--the chef went home to his wife and baby most nights.
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