Yes, open bar is included (except Lorraine and Caprice wines with lunch and dinner only). Once you arrive there is a lovely champagne reception to welcome you aboard. To accompany meals, a wide range of regional wines are offered. Tea, coffee and nonalcoholic beverages are also available.
If relaxing or exploring on your own sounds more interesting, the crew will be happy to see to your comfort on the boat or share ideas of where to explore on foot or a supplied bicycle.
Once you complete our preference form, asking about any food allergies, likes and dislikes, we then pass this information on to the Chef. The Chef can prepare special meals as long as we know in advance. As for drinks, we can accommodate your brand preferences when available (some brands are not possible for the barges to obtain). If you would like to order Premium wines, champagnes or specific liquors at your expense, this is possible (depending on availability).
If your barge and cruise date is available we can place a one week option on your vessel and email or send you a booking form with the complete terms and conditions. You will need to return this form signed and dated with the required deposit (normally 25% of the cruise cost) before your hold expires. Your reservation is now secure. You then receive cruise documents for your booking.
Once the final payment is due we ask you to complete a questionnaire to assist with planning your specific cruise, such as dietary requests, beverage requests, bedding configuration, arrival and departure information. Once we receive this form with the final payment we send the final cruise documents including boarding pass, emergency contact numbers, vessel information and helpful guides and maps. We normally send these final cruise documents four to six weeks prior to departure.
Since we represent such a large number of barges, the next step in booking a vacation will be to narrow the selection. Once we know which departure date, area of cruising, number of travelers and budget you have in mind we then check the availability and give you the best choices.
The barges cruise at a slow pace, about five miles per hour. You can easily cycle along the tow path and keep up with the barge, and even go ahead and explore small villages, then wait for the barge to catch you up.
Most cruises are of six nights, seven days. We have select barges that offer shorter three or four night cruises (Alegria, Alouette, Le Papillon).
Very few of the barges have internet access. La Nouvelle Etoile and Elisabeth are two of the few that do. You can bring your Blackberry or IPhone (coverage is normally pretty good). If you would like to email from a cyber café, let the crew know and they will advise the locations during the excursions.
All cabins have private, nicely appointed bathrooms with showers, storage for clothes and luggage. You will find bicycles on board, small library of books and games and sound system. Many of our four or five star barges offfer Jacuzzis or small pools on deck. Some have TV/DVD players, internet access, exercise equipment and grand pianos.
Personal travel insurance, cancellation insurance, baggage insurance
Airfares to and from the country of the cruise
Optional hot-air ballooning (where available)
Items of personal nature (any purchases made)
Crew gratuities – normally 5% to 10%
Gratuities should be given to the Captain on the last night, who distributes it amongst the crew (local currency only – no credit cards)
Any meals or snacks taken off the barge when specified
In France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy and southern Ireland it’s the Euro. In England and Scotland it’s the British Sterling Pound.
People usually dress casually and comfortably. If cruising in the south of France, bring a hat, sunglasses, several short sleeved shirts and shorts for the men, and summer dresses, shorts, skirts and breathable summer tops for women. Comfortable shoes are highly recommended. You may wish to bring a pair of light cotton trousers and a warm sweater or fleece for the evenings, as the nights can be a bit chilly. Layered clothing is best. If you’re cruising in cooler areas then trousers, light sweater or shirts, plus a light raincoat is recommended (just in case). You may wish to bring something more formal for the Captain’s Dinner on the last evening, when everyone says their farewells. Men normally wear a blazer and ladies wear a nice coordinated outfit.
Normally there are one or two guided excursions daily to historic and cultural sites of the region. Specific interests, such as cycling, golf, and tennis are also accommodated (normally charter only). Each barge has an air-conditioned mini-van or bus that travels with it, used for daily excursions.
An escort from the barge will transfer you up from a pre-arranged pick-up point and take you to where the barge is moored. For Burgundy, Upper Loire and Champagne the normal pick-up location is Paris. Some Burgundy cruises are met in Dijon, a simple train journey from the centre of Paris (about an hour and a half.) For southern France cruises you are usually meet in Montpellier, Carcassonne, Beziers, Avignon or Toulouse depending on the barge. For more specific information about pick-up locations, please contact us.
Yes, most all the barges have CD players and more and more are supplying IPOD Docks. Some have TV’s in your cabin (Marjorie II, Meanderer & La Nouvelle Etoile). DVD players and collection of movies are often supplied, along with a library of books, and sometimes a small selection of games and cards.