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La Renaissance Practical Information

From: A Barge Cruise in France

Amy and Cheryl

ABOVE: Amy, the housekeeper, joins Cheryl Imboden in watching the latter's husband steer the barge.

Rates and booking information

The per-diem rate for a trip on La Renaissance is about the same as for a voyage with a luxury ocean-cruise line like Silversea or Seabourn, and at first glance, it may seem that you're getting less for your money: You're covering less distance, the suites don't have bathtubs or private balconies, you'll feel silly if you come to dinner in a tuxedo or ball gown, you can't order Champagne and caviar from room service at 3 in the morning, and there are no Las Vegas-style production numbers or dance bands to entertain you before bedtime.

What you're paying for is personal attention, including a chef who's cooking for a maximum of eight guests. If you can afford the rates (about US $1,000-$1,100 a day in 2012), a barge vacation on La Renaissance is the next best thing to owning a yacht.

If you can't afford the rates--or if you're too thrifty to splurge on the most luxurious of hotel barges--you might want to consider one of the less expensive barges from European Waterways. Some of the company's vessels are 30 to 40 percent cheaper than La Renaissance, and you'll get the full barging experience for less money (albeit with smaller cabins). To compare rates, or to make reservations, visit GoBarging.com.

Clothing, laundry, and sundries

Barging is an informal pursuit, and there's no need to worry about dress codes. European Waterways does suggest that men wear a jacket to the captain's dinner on the last night of the cruise, but that's as formal as things get.

Laundry service isn't available, although Amy--our housekeeper--did offer to toss underwear and other small items in with the crew wash during the cruise. We'd suggest bringing enough clothes for a six-night trip, except for items that can be washed in the bathroom. The barge's electrically-heated towel racks work well for drying socks and underwear, and you can hang drip-dry clothes in the shower stall. (We managed to fit all of our clothes into his-and-her 22" carry-on bags.)

La Renaissance provides soap, shampoo, and shower gel, but if you need other sundries, you can find them in the larger towns along the route, such as Montargis (which has a Leader Price hypermarket in the town center), Nemours, and Moret-sur-Loing.

Tipping

European Waterways suggests tipping 5 to 10 percent of the fare. Just place the cash in an envelope and give it to the captain; the crew will divide the money equally after the cruise.

We recommend tipping in euros, which you can get from ATMs in Paris and in larger towns along the cruise route such as Nemours and Montargis. (It's a good idea to withdraw cash on several different days, since banks often have limits on how much money can be withdrawn in a 24-hour period.)

Web links

The European Waterways Web site is at www.gobarging.com, with a special section devoted to La Renaissance.

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