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Hotel Barge Cruises in Europe

La Renaissance in France

ABOVE: La Renaissance of European Waterways Ltd. on a canal in Burgundy.


Barge Charters in Europe
A private cruise on a hotel barge isn't cheap, but it can offer better value than per-person fares on luxury cruise lines if you're traveling with family or friends. (Some smaller barges also have special honeymoon charters.)

Independently owned barges and riverboats

Serenity Barge
Claire (from the UK) and Graeme (a New Zealander) bring their own vision to barge cruising, with affordable fares and a chance to sample local restaurants most evenings during the barge's itinerary in the Champagne region of France. All meals, drinks, excursions, and roundtrip transportation from Paris are included in the price. The owners live on board, and their two cats--Salt and Pepper--supplement the four-person crew.

English Holiday Cruises
The Edward Elgar is a 22-passenger "riverboat hotel," not a barge, but it offers a bargelike cruising experience on the River Severn in the Cotswolds.

Lady Teal
This purpose-built luxury "boutique hotel boat" cruises the canals of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and other areas in Northern England. Nick is at the helm, and Gina prepares the food. Fares include secure parking and return to your departure point by chauffeured car.

Owners John and Penny Liley have 50+ years of hotel-barge cruising between them, and John is the author of France--the Quiet Way, a book about the French canal and river system. Under its previous name of Palinurus, the Luciole was featured in Emily Kimbrough's best-selling travel book, Floating Island. The barge accommodates 14 passengers and cruises the scenic Canal du Nivernais in Burgundy.

Barge Nilaya carried potatoes and other cargo from 1922 until the 1980s. After serving as a houseboat for nearly two decades, Nilaya was acquired in 2004 by Kevin Hartwell, a Briton who converted the vessel into a luxury hotel barge that accommodates four guests on river and canal cruises in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Shannon Princess
The 10-passenger barge MV Shannon Princess offers 7-day/6-night cruises on the longest river in Ireland or the British Isles. Recently, the company introduced "walking cruise itineraries" with walks led by professional guides.

Roar down the canals and rivers of England and Wales at 3 mph on a traditional steel-hulled narrowboat with one double cabin and two singles.

The hotel barge Johanna carries up to six passengers on cruises in France and Belgium. Seven-night itineraries vary with the season. (Some cruises begin or end in Paris, and in winter, the barge operates as a B&B in Bruges, Belgium)

Barge companies

European Waterways
This British company has eight- and twelve-passenger barges that cruise in England, France, Holland, Ireland, Italy, and Scotland.

The Barge Connection
Choose from deluxe and first-class cruises in France, Holland, England, Scotland, and Ireland. Self-drive barges are also available.

Belmond Afloat in France
This luxury barge-cruising company, which dates back to 1958, is now part of the Orient-Express Collection. It has five hotel barges in France, plus offices in the U.S., England, and Germany.

Caledonian Discovery
Explore Scotland's Caledonian Canal and inland lochs with either of two 12-passenger barges: Fingal of Caledonia or Ros Crana. Itineraries include the standard 7-day "classic cruise" plus cruises built around themes such as walking, biking, canoeing, and music.

France Cruises
In addition to barge cruises, this firm offers river cruises and land packages.

French Country Waterways
Five luxury barges with English-speaking crews tour seven routes in France and the Moselle Valley of Germany. A hot-air balloon ride is optional.