In this fast paced world quality family time is becoming even more precious. Even when we are home it’s not uncommon for both adults and children to be glued in front of computer screens or televisions, usually in different rooms. Inside or out, we are at the mercy of our cell phones and the world of text-messaging. Sometimes it is best to take the family and get away from it all. Choosing Europe as a vacation destination is not only exciting, it is educational. One way to explore this interesting continent is on a family barge vacation.
Imagine cruising past fertile farmlands or ancient walled forts and then docking at villages that pre-date the founding of the United States. Introduce your children to the delights of fine French cooking, borrow one of the on-board bicycles and race the barge to the next bridge, tunnel or lock. Do some shopping at an open-air market. Visit ruins and bridges that have been around since the Romans occupied much of the continent. All of this and more is possible on your family barge vacation.
The Barge Connection has been specializing in European barge cruises since 1998 and they are considered experts in their field. The staff regularly experiences the cruises and offers first-hand knowledge about the barges, the entertainment, cuisines and itineraries. By taking information such as the ages of your children, their food likes and dislikes and interests, The Barge Connection can match your family with the perfect barge cruise.
Fully Crewed Hotel Barge Family Vacations
Take your family on a hotel barge cruise and leave the driving, or in this case the navigating, to a professional crew. These full-service barges act as floating boutique hotels and are all-inclusive. That means on-board meals, beverages and guided excursions are included in the price. Barges accommodate families of 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 21. Most cruises are six nights, seven days, beginning on either Saturday or Sunday. Cruising season is usually late-March until the latter part of October.
All barges have well appointed cabins with private bathrooms, lounge with library and bar as well as a sundeck area. Bicycles are available for passenger use. This can be fun for the kids because you hop off the barge while it slowly moves along the riverbank. Then peddle alongside the barge to the next jumping-on spot. Some of the more deluxe barges offer small pools or hot tubs on deck, exercise equipment and even grand pianos. Your on-board chef creates meals of gourmet quality, accompanied by fine wines. Food preferences are taken into account if advised prior to your cruise.
One barge that specializes in family cruises is the Savoir Fair. It offers six cabins that can accommodate up to 12 passengers. The three-deck barge offers not only a sun deck, but a second deck in the back and an observation deck that takes up almost half of the top section. Family cruises are offered from June through August on itineraries that run from St Florentin to Ancy le France. Some of the family-friendly activities on the Savoir Fair include Popcorn & Movie Night, a Pirate Treasure Hunt, and a Family Quiz Night. Learn to make your own pizza at the Savoir Faire Sizzling Pizza Session or create a sweet treat at the Cookie Competition. Learn glass or T-shirt painting, or how to play the French game of Petanque & Pastis.
Self-Drive Barge Family Vacations
If your family is the adventurous type that prefers to explore destinations on their own, perhaps a self-drive barge vacation is best for you. Self-drive barges carry up to 10 passengers depending on the vessel; have fully equipped galleys, cabins with private bathrooms, all linen and bedding, life-jackets, safety equipment and waterway guides. These houseboat-like barges cruise quietly along at about five miles per hour. No license is needed, with only a few exceptions in Germany. You will get a demonstration before departure and there is technical support available 24/7.
Rentals are usually for week long periods. Longer and shorter cruises are offered based on availability. Fill the barge with fuel, stock up on food and head off along a quiet canal. Moor anywhere you wish. Bicycles are for rent, perfect for exploring the local villages. Lanterns and barbeque’s are also offered. Drop a line in the water and do a bit of fishing and then cook your catch on-board. Your self-drive barge cruise makes you Captain of your own barge.
One five star self drive barge, the Vision 4 Hybrid, operates along the Canal du Midi and other interesting areas in France. It offers four cabins that can sleep up to eight people. This family-friendly barge offers an extra large sun deck, an electric barbeque and an icebox that can be taken ashore for picnics. There is enough space for bicycles. Whether you decide to take a hotel barge trip or venture out on a self-drive barge vacation, the idea is to get away with the family and reconnect. Suddenly you are exploring new places, sampling new foods and immersing yourself in a culture that has been around for centuries. The canals and rivers of Europe, with their storybook style villages and walled castles that might just be hiding a dragon or two, will no doubt be the source of family stories for generations to come.